Even for the able-bodied, jobs were often scarce and the futility and disillusionment Hill tried to convey in "The Tramp" were probably the common experience of many.
Gibbs M. Smith, Labor Martyr Joe Hill, New York, NY, 1969, p. 35.
If you all will shut your trap,
I will tell you 'bout a chap,
That was broke and up against it, too, for fair
He was not the kind that shirk,
He was looking hard for work,
But he heard the same old story everywhere:CHORUS:He walked up and down the street,
Tramp, tramp, tramp, keep on a-tramping,
Nothing doing here for you;
If I catch you 'round again,
You will wear the ball and chain,
Keep on tramping, that's the best thing you can do.
'Till the shoes fell off his feet,
In a house he spied a lady cooking stew,
And he said, "How do you do,
May I chop some wood for you?"
What the lady told him made him feel so blue:
'Cross the street a sign he read,
"Work for Jesus," so it said,
And he said, "Here is my chance, I'll surely try,"
And he kneeled upon the floor,
'Till his knees got rather sore,
But at eating-time he heard the preacher cry:
Down the street he met a cop,
And the Copper made him stop,
And he asked him, "When did you blow into town?
Come with me up to the judge."
But the judge he said, "Oh, fudge,
Bums that have no money needn't come around."
Finally came that happy day
When his life did pass away,
He was sure he'd go to heaven when he died,
When he reached the pearly gate,
Santa Peter, mean old skate,
Slammed the gate right in his face and loudly cried:
In despair he went to Hell,
With the Devil for to dwell,
For the reason he'd no other place to go.
And he said, "I'm full of sin,
So for Christ's sake, let me in!"
But the Devil said, "Oh, beat it! You're a 'bo!"