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(from the diary of Mrs. Sara A. Price, written between 1850 and 1900)

(music here)

As I was a-walking I heard a complaining,
I spied an old woman the picture of gloom.
She stared at the mud on her doorstep, 'twas raining,
And this was her song as she wielded her broom.
    Life is a toil and love is a trouble,
    Beauty will vanish and riches will flee,
    Pleasures will dwindle and prices they double,
    And nothing is as I would wish it to be.

There's too much of worriment goes into a bonnet,
There's too much of ironing goes into a shirt.
There's nothing that's worth all the time you spend on it,
There's nothing that lasts us but trouble and dirt.
    Life is a toil (etc.)

In March it is mud, it is snow in December,
The midsummer breezes are loaded with dust.
In fall the leaves litter, in rainy September
The wallpaper rots and the candlesticks rust.
    Life is a toil (etc.)

There are worms in the cherries and slugs on the roses,
There are ants in the sugar and mice in the pies.
The rubbish of spiders no mortal supposes
And ravaging roaches and damaging flies.
    Life is a toil (etc.)

It's sweeping at six and it's dusting at seven,
It's vittles at eight and it's dishes at nine.
It's potting and panning from ten till eleven,
We scarce break our fast till we plan how to dine.
    Life is a toil (etc.)

From floor to the ceiling and from corner to center,
Forever at work and forever alert,
No rest for a day lest the enemy enter,
I spend my whole life in a battle with dirt.
    Life is a toil (etc.)

Last night in my dreams I was stationed forever,
On a far little rock in the midst of the sea.
My one chance of life was a ceaseless endeavor
To sweep off the waves as they swept over me.
    Life is a toil (etc.)

(added later)

Alas, 'twas no dream, ahead I behold it,
I see I am helpless my fate to avert.
She laid down her broom, and her apron she folded,
She laid down and died and as buried in dirt.
    Life is a toil (etc.)

(from miriam berg's folksong collection)