'Tis of a bold thresherman lived down by the country side,
Who for his wife and family daily did provide,
He'd sixteen in his family, and most of them were small;
And by his daily labour he provided for them all.
As this poor man was returning from his labour one day.
He met a wealthy squire who thus to him did say;
"O thresherman! O thresherman! will you kindly tell to me
How you maintain your wife, and your large family?"
"I arise, Sir, every morning, at the break of the day,
I work like a slave, all for the smallest of pay,
And from hedging or from ditching to the milking of a cow,
There's nothing comes amiss to me from the harrow to the plough.
"When I go home at night, Sir, as tired as can be,
The youngest of my family he sits upon my knee;
And all the rest come prattling round me as I sing with joy,
And this is all the comfort that a poor man can enjoy.
"There's my wife, gentle creature, as faithful as can be,
We live like two turtledoves and never disagree.
But still the times grow harder, and I am very poor,
I hardly know how to keep the wolf from the door."
"Now since you have spoken so well of your wife,
I'll make you live happy the rest of your life,
Here's sixty acres of good land I'll freely give to thee,
To maintain your wife and your large family."
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Source: Lucy Broadwood and J A Fuller Maitland. 1893, English County Songs, Leadenhall Press, London
Lucy Broadwood wrote:
A version of the words called "The Nobleman and the Thresherman" is in Bell's Songs of the Peasantry. See also Sussex Songs, where another tune is given. Cappell, in Popular Music of Olden Time, gives a tune similar to this as "We are poor frozen-out gardeners." This tune is a variant of "Lazarus."
(Note: Lazarus has many tunes. The one referred to is often called "The Star of the County Down". See the Lazarus discussion thread for more information.)
See the related songs for the Copper Family version of the tune.
Roud: 19 (Search Roud index at VWML) Take Six
Related Songs: Dives and Lazarus (melodic) The Labourer (thematic)