Friday, 21 October 2011

1810s: Song “The Hand-loom Weavers’ Lament.” Lancashire

Kevin Binfield includes this song in his excellent book 'Writings of the Luddites'. He uses it as an example of folk song which illustrated the distress suffered by the weavers in the period of Lancashire Luddism. The wages of a Lancashire Weaver had declined from 25 Shillings in 1800 to 14 Shillings in 1811. Binfield dates the song roughly the 1810 decade, sometime after 1807 and the American Embargo Act and the collapse in trade with South America and changing to include the exile and death of Napoleon Bonaparte. Binfield also points out that the references to 'old prices' may have meant the song was influential to another well-known song which was yet-to-emerge. The song is sung to the tune of 'A Hunting We Will Go'.

The Hand-loom Weavers’ Lament

You gentlemen and tradesmen, that ride about at will,
Look down on these poor people, it s enough to make you crill;
Look down on these poor people, as you ride up and down,
I think there is a God above will bring your pride quite down.

You tyrants of England, your race may soon be run,
You may be brought unto account for what you’ve sorely done

You pull down our wages, shamefully to tell;
You go into the markets, and say you cannot sell;
And when that we do ask you when these bad times will mend
You quickly give an answer, "When the wars are at an end."

When we look on our poor children, it grieves our hearts full sore,
Their clothing it is worn to rags, while we can get no more,
With little in their bellies, they to work must go,
Whilst yours do dress as manky as monkeys in a show.

You go to church on Sundays, I'm sure it's nought but pride,
There can be no religion where humanity's thrown aside,
If there be a place in heaven, as there is in the Exchange,
Our poor souls must not come near there, like lost sheep they must range.

With the choicest of strong dainties your tables overspread,
With good ale and strong brandy, to make your faces red;
You call d a set of visitors—it is your whole delight—
And you lay your heads together to make our faces white.

You say that Bonyparty he's been the spoil of all,
And that we have got reason to pray for his downfall;
Now Bonyparty’s dead and gone, and it is plainly shown
That we have bigger tyrants in Boneys of our own.

And now, my lads, for to conclude, it’s time to make an end;
Let s see if we can form a plan that these bad times may mend;
Then give us our old prices, as we have had before,
And we can live in happiness, and rub off the old score.

 Binfield (2004, pp.194-195)

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