The original poems for Songs of the Iron Men

From the pages of Iron-Men Album to song


| August 2009



These are the original poems that were featured on Christian Williams' 12-song folk album Songs of the Iron Men. In order to fit these poems to music, Williams rearranged some of the lines and omitted others. The following are the unedited poems as they ran in Iron-Men Album. The lyrics as heard on the album can be found at ChristianWilliams.net.

Untitled (titled "Dreaming of Steam" on Songs of the Iron Men)
Chester Phalor; from the May/June 1967 issue of Iron-Men Album
Upon my cottage porch I sit
and dream of happy days,
when old steam threshers rolled along
the lanes and dusty ways.
The smoke I see a rolling high
and hear that engine still
a puffing, hissing, sputtering
when climbing up the hill.
I liked to watch those clouds of steam,
and loved the whistles tone.
I liked to hear the drive wheels ring
when they would crush a stone.
And when it turned into our lane
with dignity and pomp,
it gave me such a happy thrill
that I would shout and romp.
I’d meet it half way up the lane
and walk along beside.
And I’d envy my big brother
as he ran the thing with pride.
The engine seemed to have pride too,
as though it were alive.
It seemed to try to please him,
and would purr when he would drive.
I thought I could not wait until
the time I'd grow to be
a first class enginner,
I hoped as good as he.
But after while the time did pass
and I have had my day.
But when that little tractor came
the steamer passed away.
The little modern combine has
replaced the threshing crew.
But modern harvests do not have
the romance that we knew.
So when our task on earth is done
and we are called above,
I hope to meet that threshing crew
that I had learned to love.
And surely, when St. Peter finds
that we are standing by,
he'll send us out to thesh some wheat,
some barley, oats and rye.
And when we get out to the field
I know that we shall find
an engine with full head of steam
and a thresher hitched behind.

Vanished Days
Eva K. Anglesburg; from the April 1957 issue of Iron-Men Album
So you like this country, stranger? Well, I wish you could have seen it
in the nineties when the land was new and we were raising wheat;
When the Valley of the Red was one great sea of fife and bluestem,
raising grain enough to furnish bread for all the world to eat.

It was nothing like this modern sort of farming with its turkeys,
and its sheep and hogs, and cows and hens, and beets and spuds, and hay.
It was something big and splendid like the swing and sweep of seasons.
Seems as if the Lord intended men to farm that grander way.

Those were the days of genuine thrashing - yes, I used to own a “steamer.”
Nothing like those modern tractors with their sharp, staccato bark.
Oh, to hear an engine chugging, and a blower’s hollow moaning.
And at dusk and dawn the whistles as they talked across the dark!

We’d start thrashing in September, when the lazy winds were sleeping,
and the air was still and balmy, and a purple haze was spread
over all the distant landscape. Evenings stillness brought the eerie
minor chant of far off blowers as the sun sank round and red.