Sunday, November 14, 2010

"HARD TIMES COME AGAIN NO MORE"

My long-time friend The Blog Fodder recently drew my attention to Stephen Collins Foster's plaintive "Hard Times Come Again No More."

It's s song of hope amidst hopelessness, I think. While the song dates from 1854, the images connected to Mavis Staples rendition come from the 1930s in the U.S.A. But as Da Blog Fodder notes, "I could find pictures every bit as tragic today here in rural Ukraine or any part of the FSU" (Former Soviet Union).

The song is posted on You Tube.  The words by themselves are cause for reflection.

If Stephen Foster's name seems familiar to you, I'm not surprised. You would associate him with such songs as, "Oh, Susanna," "Camptown Races," "Beautiful Dreamer," "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair," as well as "Old Black Joe," Old Kentucky Home," and "Old Folks at Home" (often called "Suwannee River").

Foster was born in Pennsylvania in 1826, and lived all his life in the Northern States. While he had some education, he never finished college. Though he did some musical writing during his youth, it wasn't until he became bookkeeper for this brother's steamship line in 1846 that he began to focus on his music.

Foster eventually married and moved to New York. Yet he made little money, as publishers often paid him nothing for his work that they printed. His wife, with their daughter, eventually left him, and he died with three pennies in his pocket, at the age of 37, in 1864.

Ironically, in 1854, the same year as Foster's song, British author Charles Dickens began work on his tenth novel, which he published in serial form that year. In it, Dickens described the effect of The Industrial Revolution on the life of England's poor, the working conditions of those who laboured in what William Blake called "the dark Satanic mills," and the massive gap between the life styles of factory owners and those who made the fortunes for those owners. It was the beginning of the industrial gap between "the rich" and "the rest of us" — the gap which still plagues our world today. 

Dickens' novel: Hard Times.

13 comments:

Natalie said...

That is very sad, Bearet.

The Blog Fodder said...

Thank you for putting into words what I tried to say.

Some folks seem to think they were good times as the American Republicans and Canadian Conservatives want to take us back to those days.

Rob-bear said...

® Natsy: It really is sad, especially in today's context.

® BF: Interesting political analysis; also extremely sad. You gave me a great idea; I just ran with it.

Diana said...

How very interesting Rob-Bear! Yes it is a shame that we still live in a world of "Have" and "Have nots".
From all that I've seen of the haves, I think I'd rather stay a have not!
There were some very interesting stories that came from the industrial revolution. Love Di ♥

potsoc said...

No, we never learn, do we. Rich get richer, poor get poorer.
Al Jazeera, this morning, has an article on the Hadjj: how the rich have it easier than the poor even though everybody, technically, has to be treated equally during the Hadjj.
They must be singing; "Going home, going home...".

Nancy said...

Not much has changed, has it? I've been reading Tales of Tahoe over the last few days - mostly about Snowshoe Thompson and the gold and silver rush of the 1800's. Life was pretty unbearable. Some things change and some things never do.

lakeviewer said...

Ah, you speak eloquently, my friend.

Rob-bear said...

® Diana, potsoc, & Nancy: We are (I think) so fearful, and (thus?) selfish, that we really don't know how to share.

® lakeviewer: Thank you; you're very kind.
Thirty years of putting ideas on paper; old habits die hard. As I said to Da Blog Fodder, "You can take the man out of the newsroom, but you can't take the newsroom out of the man."

Teacher's Pet said...

Hi Rob...
Always good to visit you here.
Our pastor preached on "wealth" on Sunday...and reminded us that we are indeed wealthy beyond measure. I'm not saying that we have riches untold...but we are so blessed...personally: a roof over my head...more food and clothes than I need....(could share most of what I have with the less fortunate and probably wouldn't suffer one bit)...and think of those people in 3rd world countries that work for $2 per day...and work hard to get that...and who live in unbearable conditions. I am thankful for all of God's blessings....and pray for those who are less fortunate...hoping that I can make a difference somehow....in some way.
Smiles to you, my friend...
Jackie

Rob-bear said...

® Teacher's Pet: Thanks, Jackie.
Trying to make a difference, yes. It seems so simple, but is a world that is so structurally messed up, it is hard to figure out where to start.
We all do what we can, where we can. But it seems so small, so little!

Reasons said...

I am sorry to disagree here Rob Bear but in England a lot has changed since then. I know the gap is wide but we have a benefit system in this country which has attracted people from far and wide (albeit under threat now due to abuse) and none of us can possibly imagine what it must have been like to suffer and be poor back in those times. But I think it was much worse than it is now.

dana said...

Whenever I see photos of the dust bowl and the Great Depression, I'm reminded of the hard-scrabble life my dad lived during that time.

ain't for city gals said...

I just finished the book The Worse Hard Times about the dustbowl and why...greed...tear out all the grasslands so they could plant more more and more wheat to sell...then collapse of the wheat market...I actually think the rich share quite a bit but we just don't know about it or want to think so...if it were not for the generosity of the rich the have nots would be far worse off ....