MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada
Hard Times (Hard Hard Times)
Mike Kent NFLD 1 Tape 10A Track 7
Cape Broyle Audio:

Now I am intending to sing you a song,
About the poor people and how they get on,
They start in the spring and they work till the fall,
And when they clue up they have nothing at all,
And it's hard hard times.

It's out with the jigger's the first of the spring,
And over the gunwale you can hear the lines ring,
Perhaps now the jigger gets froze with the cold,
And the first of the starting of going in the hold,
And it's hard hard times.

Then out with the traps and the trawls likewise,
Perhaps get a quintal good start for a voyage,
You'll fill up with spirit and work with a will,
Next morning a drifting you're in the hole still,
And it's hard hard times.

When so much is caught it's put out for to dry,
And then comes the labour to keep off the flies,
They will buzz all around and make trouble for you,
And out comes the sun and splits it in two,
And it's hard hard times.

In comes the schooners go get your supply,
It's a good price this summer you'll make a good buy,
Seven dollars for large and five for your small,
Pick out your West Indies and wait till the fall,
And it's hard hard times.

Then comes the carpenter to build you a house,
He will build it so snug you can scarce see a mouse,
There's a hole in the roof and the rain it will pour,
The chimney will smoke and it's open the door,
And it's hard hard times.

Next comes the doctor the worst of them all,
He says what's the matter with you all the fall
He says I will cure you of all your disease,
And when he gets your money you can die if you please,
And it's hard hard times.

Now all you good people you'll work with a will,
For all of us soon will be hauled on the hill,
It's there they will lay us down deep in the cold,
And when you are finished you're in the hole still,
And it's hard hard times.


Sources: Mercer 130; Peacock 57; Blondahl 1964: 13; Doyle 1955:28; West 2: 22; for recordings by Dick Nolan, Omar Blondahl, Ed McCurdy, Alan Mills, Kenneth Peacock, Travellers, see Taft 82; Roud 876.

History: Philip Hiscock (in West 2: 56) notes that several "claims of authorship of the Newfoundland version have been made, including by Ambrose Suley and William James Emberley, both before about 1900." Related songs have been collected in many parts of North America. Indeed it seems to be such a prevalent type that Peacock mentions he must be careful "not to recollect them" (Peacock, 59).  

Text notes: Hard times songs recount how working people suffer dishonest dealing and cheating by those around them. The Newfoundland version is distinguished by the first verses about grades of fish, and the difficult lives of fishermen.

Tune notes: A Mixolydian tune in triple metre and "abcd" form. The last two lines elide into one long one.   The tune is a variant of the published ones (in Doyle, Peacock, and West).

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