Hard, Hard Times

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"Hard, Hard Times" is a traditional Newfoundland folk song/ballad. There is an earlier version, from England, called "Rigs of the Times". The later version was written in 1936 at the time of the Great Depression by William Emberley of Bay de Verde and performed by Dick Nolan.

Emberley's verses, which passed quickly into tradition, are a local application of a pattern established by an 18th-century English broadside which ridiculed certain trades and later was often adapted to describe hard times. "Rigs of the Times" has been recorded by Shirley Collins, Martin Carthy, Maddy Prior and others. Steeleye Span recorded a related song from England after the Napoleonic Wars: "Hard Times of Old England".


So now I'm intending to sing you a song,
About the poor people how they get along.
They start in the spring and they work till the fall,
And when they clew up they've nothing at all,
And it's hard, hard times.

Poor fishermen, we been out all the day.
Come home in the evening full sail up the bay.
There's Kate in the corner with a wink and a nod,
Saying, "Jimmy or Johnny, have you got any cod?"
And it's hard, hard times.

It is out with the jiggers the first of the spring,
And over the gunnel you can hear the line ring;
Perhaps lose a jigger, get froze with the cold,
And that's the first starting of going in the hole,
And it's hard, hard times.

When so much is caught it's put out for to dry,
'Twill take all your time for to brush off the flies;
They'll buzz all around and make trouble for you,
Then out comes the sun and it all splits in two,
And it's hard, hard times.

First comes the merchant to see your supply,
Saying, "The fine side of fishing you'll have by and by."
Seven dollars for large, six-fifty for small.
Pick out your West Indie, you've nothing at all,
And it's hard, hard times.

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

The baker has loaves, grow smaller each week.
The same for the butcher that weighs up your meat.
The weights they fly up and the scales they fly down,
And when it's all over you're short half a pound,
And it's hard, hard times.

Then come the doctor, the worst of them all,
Saying, "What's been the matter with you all the fall?"
He says he will cure you of all your disease.
When your money he's got, you can die if you please,
And it's hard, hard times.

The best thing to do is to work with a will,
For when it's all over you're hauled on the hill.
Hauled up on the hill, put down in the cold,
And when it's all over you're still in the hole,
And it's hard, hard times.

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