Faces on the Stair.

A poem by Joyce Moon, set to music by Rupert Kirby.

Click to hear the tune

Joyce Moon

‘Tis a brave face that they wear when their souls are steeped in sorrow,
‘Tis a smile through gritted teeth when there’s no work on the morrow.
‘Tis a strike they have to bear while the bosses’ cups o’erflow’
From the working man’s mean wages and the long dark hours below.

Tis a fight they have to win for the sake of sons to follow,
But the bleeding of their hearts leaves a bitter pain to swallow.
For the cries of hungry children make them wish to be - bar none,
Where the cold and damp feels warmer than the rays of summer sun.

But the dust upon their tongues tasted sweeter than despair.
And the blackness in their lungs breathed easier than cool air.
And the weight upon their backs was a lighter cross to bear
Than the pale and hungry faces on the stair.

‘Tis the empty working hands that lie heavy on the chest.
And reflections in the windows of the soul that bring no rest
For the pride in working men does feel better in the place
Where the coughing choking darkness is fresh breeze upon the face.

Tis a strength that they must show, when tomorrow brings no dawn;
When the grate burns cold with ashes and another soul to mourn.
And the eyes he cannot close, for the dreams he knows are lost,
And the faces on the stair bear witness to the cost.

But the dust upon their tongues tasted sweeter than despair.
And the blackness in their lungs breathed easier than cool air.
And the weight upon their backs was a lighter cross to bear
Than the pale and hungry faces on the stair.

‘Twas a brave face they did wear, though their souls were hung with shame,
As cap in hand they nodded to the bosses’ waiting game,
The engines once more turning, though their hearts were dragged with lead,
For the sons that come tomorrow and the want of daily bread.

But the dust upon their tongues tasted sweeter than despair.
And the blackness in their lungs breathed easier than cool air.
And the weight upon their backs was a lighter cross to bear
Than the pale and hungry faces on the stair.

A song of the mining industry.

Joyce writes about the song.. 'The chorus is full and meaningful, sounds like all the miners, down the ages, joining in, and those deep notes could be coming from the bowels of the earth and echoing through the chambers of the mines'.