Spirit & Heritage In Song – ‘Hard Times Come Again No More’ – 1854


This old song written in the American antebellum period reflects the turmoil that roiled the nation preceding the Civil War. From the growing differences and violence between the states over slavery and abolition, the crush and natural conflict of European and Asian immigrants on the East and West coasts, disrupted homes and families unsettled by westward expansion, the boom and bust of the Gold Rush all set the stage for the lyrics of the song.

The author Stephen C. Foster in 1854 never consciously anticipated the intensity of the gathering storm, the conflict, sorrow and hard times that would sweep America less than a decade later. Foster was a songwriter not a prophet, but his words were prescient of a woe that would knock on the door of many a humbled home during the Civil War. The song popular in the North and South for obvious reasons has had manifold, poignant relevance in subsequent years at difficult times in America’s history – not the least for many in the current era.


Union soldiers in trenches before storming Marye's Heights at the Second Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia, May 1863.


Dorothea Lange's Migrant Mother depicts destitute pea pickers in California, centering on Florence Owens Thompson, age 32, a mother of seven children, in Nipomo, California, March 1936.

“Hard Times Come Again No More”, sometimes called “Hard Times,” is a popular American song written by Stephen C. Foster during 1854. Well-known and popular in its day, both in America and Europe, it was a favorite of both sides in the American Civil War.

The first audio recording was a wax cylinder by the Edison Company (Edison Gold Moulded 9120) during 1905. It has been recorded and performed numerous times since.

“Hard Times Come Again No More” begins with “Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears while we all sup sorrow with the poor,” and portrays sympathy for those who are impoverished. The refrain begs, “Hard times, come again no more.”

Source – “Hard Times Come Again No More” –Wikipedia



Some good renditions of the song.

“Hard Times Come Again No More” Mavis Staples (With soul)
Images of the Great Depression


During the Depression bankers became so unpopular that bank robbers, such as Bonnie and Clyde, became folk heroes.

Robert Benoit – Hard Times Come Again No More
Images of the Civil War, best setting for the inspiration of the song


Bennett buggies, or "Hoover wagons", cars pulled by horses, were used by farmers too impoverished to purchase gasoline.

Hard Times, Come Again No More – Thomas Hampson
Images of the Great Depression and Dust Bowl


Plow & Hearth


See other songs of the American Spirit in history


Stephen Foster


Stephen Foster’s original lyrics:

Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears,
While we all sup sorrow with the poor;
There’s a song that will linger forever in our ears;
Oh Hard times come again no more.
Tis the song, the sigh of the weary,
Hard Times, hard times, come again no more
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door;

Confederate dead of General Ewell's Corps who attacked the Union lines at the Battle of Spotsylvania, May 19, 1864.

Oh hard times come again no more.
While we seek mirth and beauty and music light and gay,
There are frail forms fainting at the door;
Though their voices are silent, their pleading looks will say
Oh hard times come again no more.
There’s a pale drooping maiden who toils her life away,
With a worn heart whose better days are o’er:
Though her voice would be merry, ’tis sighing all the day,
Oh hard times come again no more.

Family during the Great Depression, California, 1936.

Tis a sigh that is wafted across the troubled wave,
Tis a wail that is heard upon the shore
Tis a dirge that is murmured around the lowly grave
Oh hard times come again no more.


Marais des Cygnes massacre of anti-slavery Kansans. May 19, 1858.




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