A poem by G.B. 1933

He bore a swag of papers, for he slept in the Domain,
That he rarely changed his linen and but seldom washed was plain;.
And his clothes hung down in tatters as he walked, a wraith, within.
Like the outline of a human–only rags, and bones, and skin.

He spoke: "I want no 'clobber' and I do not ask for rings,
Nor for gaiters, gloves, an' collars, nor a heap of useless things
Which the swells consider needful; an' I do not care for show,
The pleasures that are social, or for people nice to know;

The thing for which I'm longin'–longin' till I'm nearly daft,
Is a chance to earn a livin' at a decent bit o' graft;
For, my feet are sore wi' trampin' down the streets an' through the slums,
An' my eyes are dim wi' watchin' for the job that never comes.

" 'I'm a loafer!' Yes, they say so, but I somehow have a doubt,
An' I always feel unhappy for to know I'm rustin' out,
I would tackle any billet–those soft hands might bleed an' smart,
'Twould be sweeter than the achin' o' a bruised an' bleedin' heart.

"For I wasn't born lazy, an' I wasn't born tired,
But I've dropped into a world where I never am required;
An' I wasn't born dirty, no, nor full o' tricks an' sin–
All those things were added to me by the world I am in.

"For it's hard to get new clothin' when you've got no bloomin' cash
An' you're apt to look untidy when you've got no place to wash,
When your boots are on their 'uppers,' an' you haven't got no sox,
An' you've got to root your rations from the cinders in a box.

"I am faint from want of tucker, I am , weak for need o' sleep;
An' through lyin' in the open, I'm so stiff, I scarce can creep;
An' I'm shakin' wi' the ague, an' collapsing wi' the chills;
I'm near crazy wi' rheumatics; an' a hundred other ills;

"I'm empty as a funnel an' feelin' fit to sink,
But when they see me stagger, then they say, 'He's full o' drink!'
It's the way they treat the workless drives a number to the bad,
For there are no billets vacant for the dirty, weak, ill-clad !

"So far I've worked no swindle an' I've been too proud to steal,
But a belly has no morals when it clamors for a meal,
An' if I take to thievin' an' to every kind o crime,
You must blame the world for it–'Twas agin me all the time !"


From Railroad 10 December 1933. Published in the middle of the 1930s depression in a railway workers' paper some of the phrases suggest a familiarity with railway culture - "empty as a funnel" for example. The poem squarely pins the blame for unemployment on the social conditions of the time - a world that was "agin me all the time !" and "a world where I never am required".

In some ways it is reminiscent of the famous contemporaneous American depression song which starts with the words "Once I built a railroad" and has the refrain "Brother can you spare a dime"

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