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Ballad Of The Harp Weaver

Johnny Cash

Son, said my mother
When I was knee-high
You've need of clothes to cover you
And not a rag have I

There's nothing in the house
To make a boy breeches
Nor shears to cut a cloth with
Nor thread to take stitches

There's nothing in the house
But a loaf-end of rye
And a harp with a woman's head
Nobody will buy
And she began to cry

That was in the early fall
When came the late fall
Son, she said, the sight of you
Makes your mother's blood crawl

Little skinny shoulder-blades
Sticking through your clothes!
And where you'll get a jacket from
God above knows

It's lucky for me, lad
Your daddy's in the ground
And can't see the way I let
His son go around!
And she made a queer sound

That was in the late fall
When the winter came
I'd not a pair of breeches
Nor a shirt to my name
I couldn't go to school
Or out of doors to play
And all the other little boys
Passed our way

Son, said my mother
Come, climb into my lap
And I'll chafe your little bones
While you take a nap

And, oh, but we were silly
For half an hour or more
Me with my long legs
Dragging on the floor

A-rock-rock-rocking
To a mother-goose rhyme!
Oh, but we were happy
For half an hour's time!

But there was I, a great boy
And what would folks say
To hear my mother singing me
To sleep all day
In such a daft way?

Men say the winter
Was bad that year
Fuel was scarce
And food was dear

A wind with a wolf's head
Howled about our door
And we burned up the chairs
And sat upon the floor

All that was left us
Was a chair we couldn't break
And the harp with a woman's head
Nobody would take
For song or pity's sake

The night before Christmas
I cried with cold
I cried myself to sleep
Like a two-year old

And in the deep night
I felt my mother rise
And stare down upon me
With love in her eyes

I saw my mother sitting
On the one good chair
A light falling on her
From I couldn't tell where

Looking nineteen
And not a day older
And the harp with a woman's head
Leaned against her shoulder

Her thin fingers, moving
In the thin, tall strings
Were weav-weav-weaving
Wonderful things

Many bright threads
From where I couldn't see
Were running through the harp-strings
Rapidly

And gold threads whistling
Through my mother's hand
I saw the web grow
And the pattern expand

She wove a child's jacket
And when it was done
She laid it on the floor
And wove another one

She wove a red cloak
So regal to see
She's made it for a king's son
I said
And not for me
But I knew it was for me

She wove a pair of breeches
Quicker than that!
She wove a pair of boots
And a little cocked hat

She wove a pair of mittens
She wove a little blouse
She wove all night
In the still, cold house

She sang as she worked
And the harp-strings spoke
Her voice never faltered
And the thread never broke
And when I awoke

There sat my mother
With the harp against her shoulder
Looking nineteen
And not a day older

A smile about her lips
And a light about her head
And her hands in the harp-strings
Frozen dead

And piled beside her
And toppling to the skies
Were the clothes of a king's son
Just my size

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