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Songs and recitations in the workhouse (2) – ‘Home Sweet Home’


Here is another post on songs and recitations in the workhouse (relating to the performance of the Orpheus glee club at the opening of Dearnley workhouse in Rochdale in 1877 – see ‘Songs and recitations in the workhouse – ‘A Fine Old English Gentleman’ blog post below). Given that we know that the Orpheus glee club performed glees written by Henry Rowley Bishop, might they have sung what was his most well-known glee ‘Home Sweet Home’ written to lyrics by J.H Payne in 1821? Perhaps not at the performances in the workhouse (it might have been a little insensitive?) – but nonetheless, the glee has an interesting relationship to the poor law that is worth recounting here.

Bishop was a well-known glee writer, who wrote for the theatre and was also the first songwriter to be knighted (he was knighted because Queen Victoria loved this song, according to Professor Scott – see link below). William Barrett, writing in 1886, stated that Henry Bishop was a poor man all his life, and was one of a trio, including Henry Purcell and Thomas Arne, who perfected the art of the glee (English glees and part-songs: an inquiry into their historical development, London: Longmans, Green & Co. p306). You can hear Professor of Critical Musicology, Derek B Scott (University of Leeds) give a marvellous rendition, to his own accompaniment, of part of ‘Home Sweet Home’ here – http://www.victorianweb.org/mt/parlorsongs/2.html

Here are the full lyrics of ‘Home Sweet Home’:

Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home;
A charm from the sky seems to hallow us there,
Which, seek through the world, is ne’er met with elsewhere.

Home, home, sweet, sweet home!
There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home!

An exile from home, splendor dazzles in vain;
Oh, give me my lowly thatched cottage again!
The birds singing gayly, that came at my call
Give me them and the peace of mind, dearer than all!

Home, home, sweet, sweet home!
There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home!

I gaze on the moon as I tread the drear wild,
And feel that my mother now thinks of her child,
As she looks on that moon from our own cottage door
the woodbine, whose fragrance shall cheer me no more.

Home, home, sweet, sweet home!
There’s no place like home, oh, there’s no place like home!

How sweet ’tis to sit ‘neath a fond father’s smile,
And the caress of a mother to soothe and beguile!
Let others delight ‘mid new pleasure to roam,
But give me, oh, give me, the pleasures of home,

Home, home, sweet, sweet home!
There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home!

To thee I’ll return, overburdened with care;
The heart’s dearest solace will smile on me there;
No more from that cottage again will I roam;
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.

Home, home, sweet, sweet home
There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home!

The tune was set to some bitingly satirical lyrics which directly critique the poor law of 1834, with the new version called ‘The New Poor Law and the Farmer’s Glory’. This version is attributed to Edward Lamborn, a recipient of poor relief in Farringdon Poor Law Union in the 1830s – as reported in James Hepburn’s Book of Scattered Leaves: Poetry and poverty in Broadside Ballads of the Nineteenth-Century England (p163-65). The lyrics are published in Hepburn’s book but I’ve taken the lyrics below from the really interesting Beastrabban\’s blog, which gives a useful explanation of some of their resonances – http://beastrabban.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/radical-balladry-and-tunes-for-toilers-the-new-poor-law-and-the-farmers-glory-2/

Here are the lyrics of ‘The New Poor Law’ –

I was forced as a stranger to wander from home
And all through the parishes to Faringdon to come
There to have my head shaved, which filled me with woe
And many a poor creature they have served also.

Home, home, sweet home,
There’s no place like home.

At six in the morning the bell it doth ring,
When every man’s allowance of ocum doth bring,
And if we do not pick it just as the keeper please,
He will be sure to stint you of your small bread and cheese,

Home, home, sweet home etc.

When the corn they do bring, to grinding we must go.
Both pease and both beans, and barley also;
And if we do but grumble, or even seem to gloom,
Full well we know the consequence, the blindhouse is our doom.

Home, home, sweet home, etc.

At seven in the evening, the bell it doth ring
When every man up stairs is obliged to swing,
Upon the iron bedsteads there he’s forced to lie,
Some a grieving, some a groaning, until the break of day.

Home, home, sweet home, etc.

And many more things, which I know to be true.
Such as parting man and wife, and children also,
O! what heathens and what brutes, are in our civil land,
For breaking the good laws which were made by God and man.

Home, home, sweet home, etc.

Beware, you blow’d out farmers, you noblemen beside,
Though you may laugh and sneer, and at the poor deride,
How will you bear your sentence, upon the day of doom,
When you will call for water, to cool your parching tongue.

Home, home, sweet home, etc.

Perhaps you wont believe me, or care not what I say,
I will be bound that you will all upon a future day;
For I know that some judgment will soon you overtake,
Either in this world, or in the burning lake.

Home, home, sweet home, etc.

For those who made the poor laws they are the spawn of hell,
And of those that do uphold them the truth to your I’ll tell,
For the devil is their master, who put it in their heads,
And this they will prove all on their dying beds.

Home, home, sweet home etc.

So now I will conclude, and finish my sad tell,
I’ve given you all warning, before you are in hell;
And if you wont believe me, you will find it is true,
For God has declar’d it to oppressors as is their due.

Home, home, sweet home, etc.

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