Inspired by a little-known picture book from the pen of Bethany Tudor, this is a diary, of sorts, where I document some of my thoughts, activities, and ideas as I explore the challenges met by the characters in the story: hard work, the care and nurture of others, housekeeping skills, life changes, charity, community, and cooperation, among others. Like Samuel and Samantha, the ducks in the tale, I struggle and succeed, cope and celebrate, work and play, handling the tasks that come my way. I invite you to join me on my journey.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Housewife’s Lament

This year, for Christmas, my daughter received a CD of American music entitled Behold That Star by the Christmas Revels. One of the songs on the album is “The Housewife’s Lament.” Apparently, the lyrics were found in the diary of a Victorian homemaker. The tune (which you are not privy to here, unfortunately) can be found in many traditional melodies of Irish and Scottish descent. I find the whole thing to be rather amusing; yet, for the woman who wrote these words, life may have been quite depressing. The last two verses do describe what I imagine Hell might be like for a homemaker. If you are feeling a bit blue about your household tasks this New Year, you may wish to lament with this housewife for a while, but remember, in Christ, our picture of everlasting life is much more uplifting.
One day I was walking,
I heard a complaining,
I saw a poor woman
The picutre of gloom.
She gazed at the mud
On her doorstep (‘twas raining),
And this was her song
As she wielded her broom:

“O life is a toil,
And love is a trouble,
Beauty will fade
And riches will flee,
Wages will dwindle
And prices will double
And nothing is as I
Would wish it to be.”

“There’s too much of worriment
Goes to a bonnet,
There’s too much of ironing
Goes to a shirt.
There’s nothing that pays for
The time you waste on it,
There’s nothing that lasts us
But trouble and dirt.”


“In March it is mud,
It’s slush in December,
The midsummer breezes
Are loaded with dust.
In fall the leaves litter,
In muddy September
The wallpaper rots
And the candlesticks rust.”


“There are worms on the cherries
And slugs on the roses,
And ants in the sugar
And mice in the pies.
The rubbish of spiders
No mortal supposes,
And ravaging roaches
And damaging flies.”


“It’s sweeping at six
And it’s dusting at seven,
It’s victuals at eight
And it’s dishes at nine.
It’s potting and panning
From ten to eleven.
We scarce break our fast
Till we plan how to dine.”


“With grease and with grime
From corner to centre,
Forever at war
And forever alert.
No rest for a day
Lest the enemy enter,
I spend my whole life
In the struggle with dirt.”


“Last night in my dreams
I was stationed forever,
On a far distant rock
In the midst of the sea.
My one task of life
Was a ceaseless endeavor,
To brush off the waves
As they swept over me.”


“Alas! ‘Twas no dream ---
Ahead I behold it,
I see I am helpless
My fate to avert!”
She lay down her broom,
Her apron she folded.
She lay down and died
And was buried in dirt.

For a sample of this song, click here.

1 comment:

DB said...

How oddly strange that 200 years later with every conceivable cleaning device we are still battling the same thing- dirt in our homes and in our souls