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Lyr Add: Over the Hill to the Poorhouse

WyoWoman 09 Sep 00 - 08:18 PM
Oversoul 09 Sep 00 - 11:51 PM
Cap't Bob 10 Sep 00 - 12:39 AM
WyoWoman 10 Sep 00 - 12:50 AM
Oversoul 10 Sep 00 - 01:28 AM
Cap't Bob 10 Sep 00 - 09:42 AM
Jim Dixon 22 Jul 05 - 11:14 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 23 Jul 05 - 12:29 AM
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From: WyoWoman
Date: 09 Sep 00 - 08:18 PM

Over the Hill to the Poorhouse
Lester Flatt/Earl Scruggs

Oh how can it be they have driven
Their father so helpless and old,
God can their crimes be forgiven,
To bear us out here in the cold?

CHORUS: I'm old, I'm helpless, I'm feeble
And the days of my youth have gone by
And over the hills to the poorhouse,
I must wander alone there to die.

Long years since my Mary was taken,
My faithful, affectionate wife.
Since then I've been alone and forsaken,
The light has died out of my life.


I gave them the house they were born in
The deed to the barn and more
I gave them the place that they lived in
And now I am turned from its door


Oh me, on the doorstep of yonder,
I said to my babes on my knee
No father so happy or fonder
Than I of my little ones three


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Over the Hill to the Poorhouse
From: Oversoul
Date: 09 Sep 00 - 11:51 PM

According to my records (and cassettes!) this song dates back to the 1850's. I see (and hear) before me a version by the Case Brothers which is a tribute to the 1951 version by Flatt and Scruggs. I might add this has been a favorite at my home for many years, from what I gather the original F/S recording featured E. Lily. Need lyrics or just an echo of mutual appreciation? Either way, I have 'em and dig 'em too. American sentimental panache at its very best, ya know?

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From: Cap't Bob
Date: 10 Sep 00 - 12:39 AM

This song reminds me of a poem written years ago by William Carlton "Over the Hill to the Poor House":

Will M. Carleton

1. OVER the hill to the poorhouse I'm trudgin' my weary way—
I, a woman of seventy, and only a trifle gray—
I, who am smart an' chipper, for all the years I've told,
As many another woman, that's only half as old.

2. Over the hill to the poorhouse—I can't make it quite clear!
Over the hill to the poorhouse—it seems so horrid queer!
Many a step I've taken a toilin' to and fro,
But this is a sort of journey I never thought to go.

3. What is the use of heapin' on me a pauper's shame?
Am I lazy or crazy? am I blind or lame?
True, I am not so supple, nor yet so awful stout,
But charity ain't no favor, if one can live without.

4. I am willin' and anxious an' ready any day,
To work for a decent livin', an' pay my honest way;
For I can earn my victuals, an' more too, I'll be bound,
If anybody only is willin' to have me round.

5. Once I was young and han'some—I was, upon my soul—
Once my cheeks were roses, my eyes as black as coal;
And I can't remember, in them days, of hearin' people say,
For any kind of reason, that I was in their way.

6. 'Taint no use of boastin', or talkin' over free,
But many a house an' home was open then to me;
Many a han'some offer I had from likely men,
And nobody ever hinted that I was a burden then.

7. And when to John I was married, sure he was good and smart,
But he and all the neighbors would own I done my part;
For life was all before me, an' I was young an" strong,
And I worked the best that I could in tryin' to get along.

8. And so we worked together; and life was hard but gay,
With now and then a baby, for to cheer us on our way;
Till we had a half a dozen, an' all growed lean and neat,
An' went to school like others, and had enough to eat.

9. So we worked for the child'r'n, and raised 'em every one;
Worked for 'em summer and winter, just as we ought to've done,
Only perhaps we humored 'em, which some good folks condemn,
But every couple's childr'n's a heap the best to them.

10. Strange how much we think of our blessed little ones!
I'd have died for my daughters, I'd have died for my sons;
And God He made that rule of love; but when we're old and gray,
I've noticed it sometimes somehow fails to work the other way.

11. Strange, another thing; when our boys an' girls was grown,
And when, exceptin' Charley, they'd left us there alone,
When John he nearer an' nearer come, an' dearer seemed to be,
The Lord of Hosts he came one day an' took him away from me.

12. Still I was bound to struggle; an' never to cringe or fall—
Still I worked for Charley, for Charley was now my all;
And Charley was pretty good to me, with scarce a word or frown,
Till at last he went a courtin', and brought a wife from town.

13. She was somewhat dressy, an' hadn't a pleasant smile—
She was quite conceity, and carried a heap o' style:
But if ever I tried to be friends, I did with her I know;
But she was hard and proud, an" I couldn't make it go.

14. She had an eddication, an' that was good for her;
But when she twitted me on mine 'twas carryin' things too fur:
An' told her once 'fore company (and it almost made her sick),
That I never swallowed a grammar, or 'et a 'rithmetic.

15. So 'twas only a few days before the thing was done—
They was a family of themselves, and I another one;
And a very little cottage for one family will do,
But I have never seen a house that was big enough for two.

16. An' I never could speak to suit her, never could please her eye,
An' it made me independent, an' then I didn't try,
But I was terribly staggered, an' felt it like a blow.
When Charley turned ag'in me, an' told me I could go.

17. I went to live with Susan, but Susan's house was small.
And she was always a-hintin' how snug it was for us all;
And what with her husband's sister, and what with childr'n three,
"Twas easy to discover that there wasn't room for me.

18. An' then I went to Thomas, the oldest son I've got,
For Thomas' buildings'd cover the half of an acre lot;
But all the childr'n was on me—I couldn't stand their sauce—
And Thomas said I needn't think I was coming there to boss.

19. An' then I wrote to Rebecca—my girl who lives out West,
An' to Isaac, not far from her—some twenty miles at best;
And one of 'em said 'twas too warm there, for any one so old.
And t'other had an opinion the climate was too cold.

20. So they have shirked and slighted me, an' shifted me about—
So they have well nigh soured me, an' wore my old heart out;
But still I've borne up pretty well, an' wasn't much put down,
Till Charley went to the poormaster, an' put me on the town.

21. Over the hill to the poorhouse—my children dear, good-bye!
Many a night I've watched you when only God was nigh;
And God Ml judge between us; but I will al'ays pray
That you shall never suffer the half I do to-day.

There is also a shortened version if I remember correctly. He was born in Hudson Michigan ~ my hometown.

Cap't Bob

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Over the Hill to the Poorhouse
From: WyoWoman
Date: 10 Sep 00 - 12:50 AM

Wow. That's quite a saga. It does fit with the tune of the Flatt & Scruggs song, by the way ...


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Over the Hill to the Poorhouse
From: Oversoul
Date: 10 Sep 00 - 01:28 AM

Cap't Bob, That was too much! Probably the most mournful tale I have ever heard from an "apple knocker". Seriously though, that was a great poem/song. I wonder if it pre-dates the song in question? It is hard to imagine a time when people shared melodic lines as a vehicle for regional and "personal" adaptation. As a people we have lost something through copyrights and ownership of what is really universal. I'm on very thin ice with that idea!

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Over the Hill to the Poorhouse
From: Cap't Bob
Date: 10 Sep 00 - 09:42 AM

I just dug out my book "Reflections on the Bean". The "Bean" refers to the name of a small creek that ran through Hudson. If the song predates the l850's then possibly it may have influenced Will Carlton to write his poem "Over the Hill to the Poor House". Will Carlton was born in l845 and passed away in l912.

According to the book... "A movie was made about the poem "Over the Hill to the Poor House" in l917, something rare in those days. The film with Mary Carr was a hit. In l920 and l931 other film versions were made."

Cap't Bob

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From: Jim Dixon
Date: 22 Jul 05 - 11:14 PM

This seems to be the original that Flatt and Scruggs' version was based on.

From Duke University's 'Historic American Sheet Music' collection:

(It has a beautiful engraved cover.)

Song and Chorus
Written and composed expressly for and sung
Mr. James W. McKee,
Character and Comic Vocalist
Words by George L. Catlin. Music by David Braham.

1. What, no! It can't be that they've driven
Their father so helpless and old
(O God, may their crime be forgiven!)
To perish out her in the cold!
O heavens! I am saddened and weary!
See the tears, how they course down my cheeks!
Oh, this world it is lonely and dreary
And my heart for relief vainly seeks.

CHORUS: For I'm old and I'm helpless and feeble.
The days of my youth have gone by.
Then over the hill to the poor-house;
I wander alone there to die.

2. Ah me! On that old doorstep yonder
I've sat with my babes on my knee.
No father was happier or fonder
Than I of my little ones three:
The boys, both so rosy and chubby,
And Lily with prattle so sweet,
God knows how their father has loved them,
But they've driven him out in the street!

3. It's long years since my Mary was taken,
My faithful, affectionate wife.
Since then, I'm forlorn and forsaken
And the light has died out of my life.
The boys grew to manhood. I gave them
A deed for the farm, aye, and more.
I gave them this house they were born in,
And now I'm turned out from its door.

4. Oh, children, loved children, yet hear me:
I have journeyed along on life's stage
With the hope that you all would be near me
To comfort and cheer my old age.
My life-blood I'd gladly have given
To shield and protect you, but hark!
Through my heart breaks, I'll say it's you've driven
Me out here to die in the dark.

5. But perhaps they'll live happier without me.
Farewell, dear old home, ah, farewell!
Each pathway and tree here about me
Some memory precious can tell.
Well, the flowers will bloom bright as ever,
And the birds sing as sweet to the morn;
Then over the hill from the poor-house
Next spring the old man shall be borne.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Over the Hill to the Poorhouse
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 23 Jul 05 - 12:29 AM

A sequel, "Out From the Poorhouse," was written in 1879 by John Chadsey. Sheet music at American Memory.

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