Mudcat Café message #3295419 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #3772   Message #3295419
Posted By: Charley Noble
24-Jan-12 - 09:25 AM
Thread Name: Songs about the homeless
Subject: RE: Songs about the homeless
One of my favorite Cicely Fox Smith poems is focused on a "traveller" she encountered while fishing one evening on the Outer Wharf in Victoria, British Columbia, around 1912. In contrast to many of the songs posted above this poem celebrates "homelessness." I adapted her poem for singing and here are the lyrics and notes (copy and paste into WORD/TIMES/12 to line up chords):

Adapted for singing by Charles Ipcar, 2008
Tune: Charles Ipcar, 2008

The Traveller


Well, I ain't got folks an' I ain't got money, ain't got nothing at all,
Just a queer old thirst that keeps me movin', movin' on till I fall.

Now I've loops o' string in-stead o' buttons, I've mostly holes for a shirt;
My boots are bust an' my hat's a goner, I'm gritty with dust an' dirt;
But I'm sittin' here on this wharf a-watchin' the China ships go forth,
An' the little black tugs come a-glidin' with timber booms from the North;
Sittin' and seein' the broad Pacific break at my feet in foam
Me that was born with a taste for travel, miles an' miles from home. (CHO)

Now they sent me away when I was a nipper to the Board School in the slums,
An' some of them kids was good at spellin', some at figurin' sums;
But whether I went or whether I didn't, they learned me nothing at all,
For I'd be watchin' the flies a-walkin' all over the maps on the wall;
Strollin' over the lakes an' mountains, over the plains an' seas,
As if they was born with a taste for travel just the same as me! (CHO)

If I'd been born a rich man's son with lots o' money to burn,
It wouldn't ha' gone for marble mansions an' oriental urns;
I'd be sailin' in rakish yachts or rolling in plush Pullman cars,
I've seen 'em yachts a-lyin' at anchor, night-time under the stars;
I'd ha' paid my fare where I've beat my way (but I wouldn't ha' liked it more!),
Me that was born with a taste for travel the same if you're rich or poor. (CHO)

Now I've beat the ties an' rode the bumpers from sea to shinin' sea,
An' I've work'd like a Turk down in the stokehold, dined off duff an' tea;
An' many's the time I've been short o' shelter, an' many's the time o' grub,
But I got away from the rows o' houses, the streets, an' the corner pub;
So here by the side of a sea that's shinin' under a sky like flame
Me that was born with a taste for travel, need no other claim. (CHO)


From Sailor Town: Sea Songs and Ballads, edited by Cicely Fox Smith, published by George H. Doran Co., New York, US, 1919, pp. 120-122. First appeared in Songs in Sail published by Elkin Mathews, 1914.

The poet describes this "traveller" in more detail in Sailor-Town Days, 1923, p. 170:

"The Pacific coast is a great place for rolling stones of every sort and description. I remember meeting what I should say was the very perfection of the type. He was sitting on the edge of the Outer Wharf it was in Victoria (BC) on a sort of coaming that runs along the edge, very comfortable to sit on, though given to exuding tar in very hot weather. His coat I don't think there was a shirt underneath was fastened together with string, being innocent of buttons. His knee showed through his trousers. His boots were ruins. But he spoke with the unmistakable accents of cultivation."

This poem was first adapted for singing by Charles Ipcar in 2008, as recorded on Sailortown Days, 2009.

And here is a link to a MP3 sample of how it's sung: click here for MP3 sample!

Charley Noble