My banjo arrangment of a traditional English song I heard on a Critics Group album.
The song dates from around the time of the Napoleonic Wars but it’s central message hasn’t aged a day. You can read more about the song here – https://mainlynorfolk.info/folk/songs/thelabouringman.html
You Englishmen of each degree,
A moment listen unto me:
From day to day you all may see
The poor are frowned on by degree.
To please you all I do intend,
So listen to the lines I’ve penned;
By them, you know who never can
Do without the labouring man.
In former days, you all must know,
The poor man cheerful used to go.
Quite clean and neat, upon my life,
With his children and his darling wife.
And for his labour it was said,
A fair day’s wages he was paid.
But now to live he hardly can—
May God protect the labouring man.
There is one thing we must confess,
When England find they’re in a mess,
And has to face the daring foe,
Unto the labouring men they go
To fight their battles, understand,
Either on sea or on the land;
Deny the truth we never can,
They call upon the labouring man.
Some for soldiers they will go,
And jolly sailors do we know,
To guard Old England day and night,
And for their country boldly fight.
But when they do return again
They’re looked upon with great disdain;
Now in distress throughout the land
You may behold the labouring man.
When Bonaparte and Nelson too,
And Wellington at Waterloo.
Were fighting both by land and sea,
The poor man gained these victories!
Their hearts are cast in honour’s mould,
The sailors and the soldiers bold.
And every battle, understand
Was conquered by the labouring man.
The labouring man will plough the deep,
Till the ground and sow the wheat,
Fight the battles when afar,
Fear no dangers or a scar;
But still they’re looked upon like thieves
By them who bide at home at ease,
And everyday throughout the land
They try to starve the labouring man.
Now if wars should rise again,
And England be in want of men
They’ll have to search the country round
To find the lads that plough the ground,
Then to some foreign land they’ll go
To fight and dub the daring foe;
Do what they will, do what they can,
They can’t do without the labouring man.