When This Old Hat Was New

Melody -

I am a poor old man in years,
Come listen to my song,
Provisions now are twice as dear
As when that I was young.
It was when this old hat was new
And stood upon my brow,
Oh, what a happy youth was I
When this old hat was new.

It is but four score years ago
The truth I will declare,
When men they took each other's words,
They thought it very fair,
No oaths or bonds they did require,
Men's words were so true,
This was in my youthful days,
When this old hat was new.

When the time of harvest came
And we went out to shear,
H[ow o]ften we were merry made
With brandy, ale and beer.
[And when] the corn it was brought home
And put upon the [mow]
[Laboure]rs' paunches were well filled
When this old hat was new.

[The farmer] at the board head stood
The table for to grace,
[And gree]ts all as they came in
All took their proper place.
[The wife] she at the table stood
To give each man his due,
[And O] wha' plenty did abound
When this old hat was new.
  But now the times are altered,
The poor are quite done o'er,
They give to them their wages
Like beggars at the door.
Into the house we must not go
Although we are but few,
It was not so when Bess did reign
And this old hat was new.

The commons they are taken in
And the cottages pulled down,
Moll has got no wool to spin
Her linsey-wolsey gown.
The weather's cold and clothing thin
And blankets are but few,
But we were clothed both back and skin
When this old hat was new.

When Romans in this land did reign
The commons they did give
Unto the poor in charity
To help them for to live,
But now the poor is quite done o'er,
We know it to be true.
It was not so when Bess did reign
And this old hat was new.

Good Hospitalitie was
Cherisht then of many,
Now poore men starve and die,
And are not helpt by any:
For Charitie waxeth cold,
And Love is found in few:
This was not in time of old,
When this old Cap was new.

The song was 'very popular among the Lincolnshire peasantry during the last twenty years of the eighteenth century'. The last verse stems from 'Time's Alteration', written in about 1624 by Martin Parker, which looks back to still earlier times, 'when this old cap was new'.

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