Poverty Knock

According to “Victoria’s Inferno”, Jon Raven (1978), the text and melody are from the singing of a Tom Daniel (d. 1970, ae 76), a Batley, Yorkshire weaver, and had been collected from him by A. E. Green in 1965.

Poverty poverty knock, my loom it is saying all day
Poverty poverty knock, Gaffer’s too skinny[1] to pay
Poverty poverty knock, keeping one eye on the clock
I know I can guttle[2] when I hear me shuttle go
Poverty poverty knock

Up every morning at five,
It’s a wonder that we keep alive!
Tired and yawning on the cold morning
And back to the dreary, old drive.

Oh dear, I’m going to be late!
Gaffer[3] is stood at the gate,
With his hands in his pockets our wages he’ll dock us;
We’ll have to buy grub on the slate.


We have to wet our own yarn
by dipping it in yonder tarn.[4]
It’s cold and it’s soggy, it makes me feel groggy,
And there’s rats in that dirty old barn.

Sometimes a shuttle flies out
And gives some poor woman a clout.
She lies there bleeding while nobody’s heading;
Who’s going to carry her out?


The tuner[5] should tackle my loom,
But he just sits there on his bum!
He’s always busy a-courting our Lizzie
And I just can’t get him to come.

And Lizzie’s so easily led;
I reckon he takes her to bed.
She used to be skinny, now look at her pinny,[6]
It’s just about tied by a thread.


Oh my poor head how it sings,
I should have woven three strings!
The threads they keep breaking, my poor heart is aching;
Oh God, how I wish I had wings!

And when our wages they’ll bring
We’re often short of a string.
While we are fratchin’[7] with gaffer for snatchin’,
We know to his brass he will cling.



[1] In this case, cheap or stingy

[2] eat

[3] foreman

[4] A small lake or pond, or in this case, likely a barrel or such of collected water.

[5] Maintenance man

[6] Pinafore, or sleeveless garment often worn as an apron.

[7] arguing

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