THEREBY HANGS A TALE
 
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Poets weave romances of a glowing kind
In a London 'Dosshouse' none of it you'll find
Stripped of all their glamour, things are what they seem
Life in all its phases is no idle dream
Men who've lost their chance, one by one advance
Faces drawn and pale, let each tell his tale.

Refrain: That chap is a lawyer, or he used to be
He gives all the lodgers, legal knowledge free
Once, they say his fame was noised all o'er the town
As a special pleader in his wig and gown
'What is that you're asking? I assist your plot?
Become a common burglar? most distinctly not
God knows I've come low enough in the social scale.'
Forging was his line, they say, but thereby hangs a tale.

Rather than be parted at the workhouse door
Comes an aged couple, all their life dream o'er
They have drifted downward, been of all bereft
Business, home, and children - only love is left
Death alone can part faithful heart from heart
Failure, loss and shame, hand in hand the same

Refrain: 'Come, cheer up my darling, don't you fret for me
Sit there lass and I will beg a nice warm cup of tea
Try and take heart darling, brighter days will come
She'll be all right directly, she will think about home
Take a sup of this now, thank you kindly sir
I wouldn't care, sir, for myself, if it were not for her
We had such a home once, how did I come to fail?
To save our boy from prison, ah, but thereby hangs a tale.

Muttering in a corner o'er a crust of bread
Crazy Sal they call her, sits with palsied head
Hear her dreary laughter, see her skinny hands
As the drink fiends gather round in grissly bands
Hear her shriek and say, 'Devils get away
Look how they laugh and grin, Oh for God's sake, Gin,'

Refrain: 'Give me drink my dearie - do I ask in vain?
Don't be too hard on me - just one little drain
I was handsome, courted, in the long ago
These grey locks were golden, these hands white as snow
Oh, it drives me mad now when I come to think
I'd sell my very soul just to stifle thought of drink
When the face grows wrinkled, faithless lovers fail
Yet he swore he loved me once, but thereby hangs a tale.'

Who is this comes bounding three stairs at a time
'Tis a London Arab born and bred in crime
Picking up the 'toppers' and ends of cigarettes
Selling lights and papers, he a living gets
Hungry he may be, still he sings with glee
Does a step or two that none like he can do.

Refrain: 'Hullo! what-cher Ginger! don't I do it tall?
Bone side of a haddick, nicked it off a stall
Mind where you're a shoving, now just you look at that
Been and made me drop my bread in Sally bacon fat
Got it! ain't it lovely? cheap at half the price.'
Cunning as a monkey, artful in device
'What is that you're saying? have I been in jail?
Why I'm a blooming nobleman, but thereby hangs a tale.'

 
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Written and composed by Fred Bowyer & John S. Baker - 1889
Performed by Jenny Hill (1849-1896)
From monologues.co.uk Music Hall Lyrics Collection
 
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