> Steeleye Span > Songs > The Beggar

The Beggar

[words trad., music Bob Johnson]

This track with Gay Woods, vocals; Peter Knight, violin & vocals; Tim Harries, bass; Bob Johnson, guitar & vocals; Dave Mattacks, drums; was released on Steeleye Span's CD Bedlam Born. Bob Johnson commented in the liner notes:

There were many songs in the mid-seventeenth century concerning drinking, begging & madness. The distinction between alcoholism and insanity was very blurred and Bethlehem Mental Hospital (Bedlam) was full of society's rejects. On a lighter note, this song could be thought of as the folk-rock equivalent of the Hollywood musical song “We're a couple of swells—we dine at the best hotels—etc.”


I'd rather be a beggar than a king
Tell you the reason why:
A king can't swagger, nor drink like a beggar,
Nor be half so happy as I.

Chorus (repeated after every other verse):
Let the back and side go bare
Let the hands and feet go cold
Give to the belly beer enough
Whether it be new or old

Sometimes we lie like hogs in a sty
In a flock of straw on the ground
Sometimes eat a crust that's rolled in the dust
And are thankful it can be found.

Sometimes we call at a rich man's hall
To beg for bread and beer.
Sometimes we're lame, sometimes we're blind,
Sometimes too deaf to hear.

From the hag and hungry goblin
That into rags would rend you
And the spirits that stand by the naked man
In the book of moons defend you

That of your five sound senses
You never be forsaken
Nor travel from yourselves with me
Abroad to beg your bacon