Will Carleton (1845-1912) “Farm Yard Ballads”

The Mortgage

We worked through spring and winter, through summer and through fall,

But the mortgage worked the hardest and steadiest of all:

It worked on nights and Sundays, it worked each holiday

It settled down among us, and it never went away;


Whatever we kept from it seemed almost as bad as theft

It watched us every minute and it ruled us right and left.

The rust and blight were with us sometimes and sometimes not

The dark-browed, scowling mortgage was for ever on the spot.


The weevil and the cutworm, they went as well as came,

The mortgage stayed for ever eating hearty all the same.

It nailed up every window, stood guard on every door,

And happiness and sunshine made their home with us no more.


Till with failing crops and sickness we got stalled upon the grade,

And there came a dark day on us when the interest wasn’t paid.

And there came a sharp foreclosure, and I kind of lost my hold,

And grew weary and discouraged, and the farm was cheaply sold.


The children left and scattered, when they hardly yet were grown;

My wife she pined and perished, and I found myself alone.

What she died of was a mystery, and the doctor never knew,

But I knew she died of mortgage just as well’s I wanted to.


If to trace a hidden sorrow were within the doctor’s art,

They’d have found a mortgage lying on that woman’s broken heart.

Worm or beetle, drought or tempest, on a farmer’s land may fall,

But for first class ruination trust a mortgage ‘gainst them all.


–         As reprinted in PROGRESS February 1928

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