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Hard Times

by Eugene J. Hall

From the noise of the busy workshop, at the close of a winter day,
Josiah Johnson started, and went his homeward way;
His face was black and dusty, his hands were cold and bare,
And through the holes in his garments, he felt the frosty air.
Weary and worn, he grumbled, at the hardness of his lot;
He came at last to his dwelling, a low and cheerless cot,
The broken panes of the windows were filled with wads of straw,
The kitchen was damp and smoky, the old stove would not draw.
His wife was pale and sickly, she never had been stout,
He found her hardly able to labor or be about;
He looked at her haggard features, he gazed at her faded gown,
He hung his hat on a rusty nail and, with a sigh sat down.
Then, looking up at his wife, he said, in a melancholy way:
"What is the use I'd like to know, o'workin' from day to day?
Nothin' comes o' my labor, but a pittance mean an' poor,
Hardly enough to keep the wolf away from our humble door.
I don't believe there's a man in town that works more hours than me,
An' yet I'm ragged an' pinched an' poor, an' wretched as I can be.
I never have been lazy, I never have loafed around,
A steadier man than I have been, 'aint nowhere to be found;
But I never seem to prosper, however hard I try,
An' there's nothin' left for me to do, but to dig along, an' die.

"I don't know what is a comin', I wouldn't think it strange
If our country should go to ruin, unless there comes a change.
It is loaded down with public debts, an' I am much afraid
That none o' our children's children will live to see 'em paid.
Our cities an' towns are bonded for more than they can bear,
An' the people are pinched an' worried with taxes everywhere;
From the coast o' Californy to the piney woods o' Maine,
Our debts grow like a torrent in the time of a heavy rain.
"Where has the money gone to? It isn't hard to tell!
Go into our city councils an' look a leetle spell;
Go visit our legislatures wherever they may be,
An' lookin' under the surface jest see what you can see;
Regard the pitiful picter an' turn in shame away,
Nor wonder that our loved country is a goin' to decay.

"The standard o' public honor, is gittin' mighty low,
While truth an' patriotism are things o' the long ago.
Our laws are made by loafers, to sudden greatness grown.
Whose intimate acquaintance I'd be ashamed to own;
Who load the people with burdens they cannot well endure,
Who vote themselves the moneys, exacted from the poor.

"A man who runs for office, is covered with mud an' slime,
By half o' the worthless idlers an' loafers o' his time;
He must spend his money freely, an' give the lion's share
O' the spoils o' his public office to the half who send him there.
He must visit the vilest places, an' listen to curses loud,
And pay for plenty o' liquor to treat a drunken crowd;
He must stand at the pollin' places when election day comes 'long,
An' beg an' buy an' dicker for the votes of a vulgar throng.
An' all o' the money he squanders in bribin' these greedy knaves,
He steals ag'in from the people when he gits the place he craves.
No man o' truth an' honor will stoop to things so low,
If ever he runs for office he don't have any show.
So fellers are sent to congress, to vote themselves more pay,
An' the times keep gittin' harder an' harder every day.
Hard times! hard times! is the common cry in every place I go,
Bread an' butter are gittin' high an' wages are gittin' low;
Our business men are a breakin' up, our banks are goin' to smash,
An' everybody is deep in debt an' greatly in need o' cash.
A hard, cold winter is comin' on with all of its want an' woe,
God pity the poor an' the hungry ones, with nowhere on earth to go."

Then, after thinking a minute, Josiah Johnson's wife
Put down her pan of potatoes and laid aside her knife,
And standing up by the table, she said in a cheerful way,
"The times are a growin' better an' better every day;
It's only the worthless bottom that's fallen out o' things,
That's got up this commotion among financial rings.
'Tis goin' to be a blessin', it'll stop those frauds an' crimes,
An' reckless speculations that have helped to make hard times;
An' the day is swiftly comin', when things that are bought an' sold,
Will be paid for in hard money, in silver an' in gold.
An' as to the politicians that have plundered the land so long,
You may be right in some things an' in most may not be wrong,
The only way for to reach 'em an' humble their guilty souls,
Is to go with your feller workers an' face 'em at the polls.
Stand up for men o' honor on every election day,
An' tend to your daily duties an' labor an' hope an' pray.
Remember when you are weary, that hard times come no more,
When the troubles o' life are over, an' we walk on the golden shore."

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