MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada
The Shabby Genteel
Leo Martin NFLD 2 Tape 10A Track 3
Trepassey Audio:
Ballad

I have heard it asserted a dozen times o'er
That a man may be happy in rags
That a prince is no more, is no more in his carriage of four
Than a pauper who tramps on the flags

As l chance to be neither I cannot describe
What a prince or a pauper may feel
I belong to that highly respectable tribe
Known as the shabby genteel

Too proud for to beg and too honest to steal
I know what it is to be wanting a meal
My tatters and rags l will try and conceal
I am one of the shabby genteel

I’m a party in fact that has known better days
But their glory is faded and gone
I have started in life in a lot of odd ways
But I’ve not found a way to get on

There are only t'ree roads I'm afraid that are left
I will have to beg, borrow or steal
But l don't quite encourage that notion for theft
Though I’m awfully shabby genteel

Too proud for to beg and too honest to steal
I know what it is to be wanting a meal
My tatters and rags l am trying to conceal
I am one of the shabby genteel

I am dressed in my best dough I cannot pretend
For my costume is to common ___________
You’ll observe that my watch has been left wit’ a friend
My gloves are unfitted for show.

I’ve got traces of wear on my elbows and knees
My boots are run down at the heels
But it’s cruel to criticise matters like this
When a man has grown shabby genteel

Too proud for to beg and too honest to steal
I know what it is to be wanting a meal
My tatters and rags I will try and conceal
I am one of the shabby genteel

Still I try to be cheerful in all my distress
To bear my hard luck like a man
If I can’t have my way as to feeding and dress
I’ll still do the best that I can

Remember good people that fortune today
Wit' one turn of her treacherous wheel
Can reduce one of you in the very same way
To the levels of shabby genteel


Notes


Text: A poor man who is neither beggar not prince describes his lot in life as a “shabby genteel.” He describes his old and wore clothes and worries that he may yet be compelled to “beg, borrow or steal.” He warns the listener not to take their position for granted as they could easily become a shabby genteel in a turn of misfortune.

Tune: Text form is verse, verse, chorus but the melody is repeated throughout. The last word is spoken. Speaking, instead of singing a final word or phrase is generally thought to indicate Irish influence on the singer or song. The meter is 6/8 and the key is E major with a range of an octave on C#.

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