Rutebeuf’s Hard Times Blues
from the French
Hard times, hard times, don’t get me started
on how my money’s clean departed.
God almighty, King of France,
hear my tale of woes and wants
and spare a copper – spare a hatful –
and make this poor boy oh so grateful.
For a good life I find the trick
is buying everything on tick,
even if you end up owing
cash to every huckster going.
If only you were round the place
I’d tell you all this to your face.
To what have I not been reduced
by these hard times, so sore traduced?
With these tightwads it’s a sure thing
no one spares you one brass farthing.
Look at me: I’m some bum you’d blank.
I do my banking at the food-bank.
While you’ve been off on your crusades
death has stripped me of my mates.
For a king so battle-scarred
you’d think you’d fix your own backyard
but no, I suffer while you blast
your way around the Middle East.
If my prayer is unavailing
it won’t be the only thing here failing:
where’s the life left worth the living
now we’ve voted May and Gove in?
I wheeze with cold and yawn with hunger:
my list of ailments just gets longer.
I’ve no sheets but no bed either
and sleep rough like a desert father.
Where’s a boy like me to go?
A barn’s the only bed I know.
The straw bed where you’ll see me huddle
is this pauper’s Ritz Hotel.
This is the song of a hungry bard
who can’t shell out for a crust of bread.
Britain, my life’s in the toilet
but you don’t bat a snobby eyelid.
Our Father, I pray, but what a laugh –
Our Father Who Hath Buggered Off,
pulled a fast one – you dirty rogue –
pinched my stuff and left me broke.
The truth is I’ve not got a prayer.
I’m sick and I’m sore and I’m sad and I’m poor.
David Wheatley is the author of various collections of poetry, including A Nest on the Waves (Gallery Press). He lives in rural Aberdeenshire.