The Poor Cotton Weaver

This song was written in the early years of the nineteenth century, when weavers often worked on looms at home rather than in factories. It was popular for decades.


I'm a poor cotton weaver as many one knows
I've nowt to eat i' th' house an' I've wore out my cloasº >> note 1
You'd hardly give sixpence for all I have on.
My clugsº they are brossenº an' stockins I've none. >> note 3
      You'd think it wur hard to be sent into th'world
      To clemº an' do th'best ot you con. >> note 4

Our church parson kept tellin' us long,
We should have better times if we'd but hold our tongues.
I've houden my tongue till I can hardly draw breath.
I think i' my heart he means to clem me to death.
      I know he lives weel by backbitin' the de'il,
      But he never picked o'erº in his life. >> note 5

We tarried six week an' thought every day were t'last.
We tarried an' shifted till now we're quite fast.
We lived on nettles while nettles were good,
An' Waterloo porridgeº were best of us food. >> note 6
      I'm tellin' you true, I can find folks enewº >> note 7
      That er livin' no better than me.

Old Bill o' Dan's sent bailiffs one day,
For a shop score I owed him that I couldn't pay,
But he wur too late, for old Bill o' Bent
Had sent titº an' cart and taenº goods for rent. >> note 9
      We had nowt bur a stoo',º that wur a seat for two; >> note 10
      An' on it cowered Margit an' me.

The bailiffs looked round as sly as a mouse,
When they saw awº things wur taen out o' t'house. >> note 11
Says one to the other: All's gone, thou may see.
Aw sed: Lads, never fret, you're welcome to me.
      They made no more ado, but nipped up t'owd stoo',
      An' we both went wack upo' t'flags.º >> note 12

I geet howdº o' Margit, for hoo'reº stricken sick. >> note 14
Hoo sed hoo ne'er had such a bang sin hoo wur wick.º >> note 15
The bailiffs scoured off wi' owd stoo' on their backs.
They would not have cared had they brokken our necks.
      They're mad at owd Bent cos he's taen goods for rent,
      An wur ready to flay us alive.

I sed to our Margit as we lay upo' t'floor:
We shall never be lower in this world, I am sure.
But if we alter, I'm sure we munº mend, >> note 16
For I think i' my heart we are both at far end,
      For meat we have none, nor looms to weave on,
      Egad, they're as weelº lost as found. >> note 17

Then I geet up my piece,º an' I took it 'em back. >> note 18
I scarcely dare speak, mester lookit so black.
He said: You wur o'erpaid last time you coom.
I said: If I wur, 'twas for weavin' boutº loom. >> note 19
      In the mind as I'm in, I'll ne'er pick o'er again,
      For I've woven mysel to th'fur end.

Then aw coom out o' t'warehouse, an' left him to chew that.
When aw thought again, aw wur vext till aw sweat.
To think we mun work to keep him an' aw th'set,º >> note 20
All the days o' my life, an' then die in their debt!
      But I'll give o'er this trade, an' work with a spade,
      Or go an' break stones upo' th'road.º >> note 21

Our Margit declares if hoo'd cloas to put on,
Hoo d go up to Lundun an' see the young Queen,
An if things didn't alter when hoo had been,
Hoo swears hoo would fight, blood up to th'een.º >> note 22
      Hoo's nought agen t'queen, but hoo likes a fair thing,
      An' hoo says hoo can tell when hoo's hurt.

[Click on image to enlarge]

© 2010 W.W. Norton and Company :  Site Feedback   :  Help  :  Credits  :  Home  :  Top of page