A Night in a London Workhouse (song)
All you that dwell in Lambeth, listen for awhile,
To a song to enlighten and amuse you,
In the workhouse only mark, there’s queer doings after dark.
And believe me it is true I now tell you;
It’s of the ups and downs, of a pauper’s life,
Which are none of the best you may he sure sir.
Strange scenes they do enact, believe me, it’s a fact,
In Lambeth workhouse among the casual poor, sir.
Oh my, what a rummy go, oh crikey, what a strange revelation,
Has occurred in Lambeth workhouse a little while ago,
And through the parish is causing great sensation.
Now a gent, with good intent, to Lambeth workhouse went,
The mystery of the place to explore, sir,
Says he, without a doubt, I shall then find out,
What treatment they give the houseless poor, sir.
So he went through his degrees, like a blessed brick,
Thro’ scenes he had never seen before, sir,
So good luck to him, I say, for ever and a day,
For bestowing a thought upon the poor, sir.
Says he, when you go in, in a bath you are popt in,
To flounder about just like fishes,
In water that looks like dirty mutton broth,
Or the washings of the plates and the dishes;
Then your togs are tied up tight, to make sure all is right,
Like parcels put up for a sale, sir,
A ticket then you get, as if you are for a trip,
And a-going a journey by the rail, sir.
Then before you go to bed, you get a toke of bread,
Which, if hungry, goes a small way to fill you,
And if not too late at night, you may chance to be all right,
To wash it down with a draught of skilley;
Some they will shout out, Daddy, mind what you are about,
And tip me a comfortable rug now,
And be sure you see it’s whole, for I’m most jolly cold,
And mind you don’t give us any bugs now,
Then you pig on a dirty floor, if you can, you’ll have a snore,
And pass away time till the morning.
Then you’re muster’d up pell mell, at the crank to take a spell,
Just to give your cramp’d up body a good warming.
Thou see them all in rows in their torn and ragged clothes,
Their gruel and their bread they swallow greedy,
Then through London streets they roam, with neither friends or home,
It’s the fate of the suffering and the needy.
Now a word I’ve got to say, to all you who poor rates pay,
Tho’, of course, offence to none is intended
Before you your poor rates pay, just well look to the way,
And inquire how your money is expended;
Do as you’d be done to, that is the time of day,
And with me you’ll agree, I am sure now,
As you high taxes pay, it is but fair I say,
To look a little to the comforts of the poor now.
Source: Curiosities of Street Literature, Reeves and Turner, 196, Strand, 1871