Friday, November 20, 2015

Hard Times Come Again No More

I first learned the beautiful song "Hard Times Come Again No More" from Emmylou Harris. It was written (in case you don't know -- I didn't until recently) by Stephen Foster, the wonderfully prolific 19th century songwriter who also penned "Beautiful Dreamer," "I Dream of Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair," "My Old Kentucky Home," "Camptown Races," and "O! Susana!"

Oh, and "Slumber my Darling," which you really need to hear here, performed by Alison Kraus with Yo-Yo Ma, Mark O'Connor, and Edgar Meyer. 

The sweet girl and I were listening to Foster's music today as part of her 1850s history unit. We played the Emmylou Harris version, of course, but we also listened to the deep, rich tones of Mavis Staples and the gravely gravity of Johnny Cash.

This is a song that travels well.

And I don't know -- but on top of all the heartbreaking news recently regarding Syrian refugees and escalating terror attacks in so many places -- I heard this song with a bigger lump in my throat than ever before. Those first two lines feel like a siren call to prayer.

Hard Times Come Again No More
(Stephen Foster)

Let us pause in life's pleasures and count its many tears,
While we all sup sorrow with the poor;
There's a song that will linger forever in our ears;
Oh! Hard times come again no more.
'Tis the song, the sigh of the weary,
Hard Times, hard times, come again no more
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door;
Oh! Hard times come again no more.

While we seek mirth and beauty and music light and gay,
There are frail forms fainting at the door;
Though their voices are silent, their pleading looks will say
Oh! Hard times come again no more.

There's a pale drooping maiden who toils her life away,
With a worn heart whose better days are o'er:
Though her voice would be merry, 'tis sighing all the day,
Oh! Hard times come again no more.

'Tis a sigh that is wafted across the troubled wave,
'Tis a wail that is heard upon the shore
'Tis a dirge that is murmured around the lowly grave
Oh! Hard times come again no more.

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