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“A Motto for Every Man”

Then Pa said softly, ‘I feel like music, Laura.’ – Laura brought the fiddle box from its safe place under Ma’s bed. Pa took the fiddle from its nest and tuned it lovingly. Then they sang to the night and the stars… — By the Shores of Silver Lake, Chapter 18, “Moving Day”

A Motto for Every Man (also known as “Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel” or “Drive Dull Care Away”) was written by Harry Clifton in 1868 and published by him in St. Louis. Harry Clifton (1824-1872) wrote popular lyrics that always had a moral while being sentimental but not too “mushy;” he became known as the writer of Motto Songs. Born in London and orphaned at a young age, Clifton showed talent for music as a child and began to perform and write music as soon as he was able. While he wrote lyrics for over 500 songs, Clifton often borrowed well-known music to accompany them. Music for “A Motto for Every Man” was borrowed from the “Corn Flower Waltz.”


1. Some people you’ve met in your time no doubt,
Who never look happy or gay.
tell you the way to get jolly and stout,
If you’ll listen a while to my lay.
I come here to tell you a bit of my mind,
And please with the same if I can,
Advice in my song you will certainly find,
And a Motto for every man.

[chorus] So we will sing–
And banish melancholy
Trouble may come–
do the best we can.
To drive care away–
For grieving is a folly.
Put your shoulder to the wheel,
Is a Motto for every man.

2. We cannot all fight in this battle of life,
The weak must go to the wall.
So to do to each other the thing that is right,
For there’s room in this world for us all.
Credit refuse, if you’ve money to pay,
You’ll find it the wiser plan.
And a penny lay by for a rainy day,
That’s a Motto for every man.

3. A coward gives in at the first repulse,
brave man struggles again,
With a resolute eye and a bounding pulse,
To battle his way amongst men.
For he knows he has one chance in his time,
To better himself if he can,
So make your hay while the sun doth shine,
That’s a Motto for every man.

4. Economy study but don’t be mean,
A penny may lose a pound.
Through this world a conscience clean,
Will carry you safe and sound.
It’s all very well to be a face I’ll own,
To do a good turn when you can.
But charity always commences at home,
That’s a Motto for every man.

(from By the Shores of Silver Lake)

Oh, drive dull care away,
For weeping is but sorrow.
things are wrong today,
There’s another day tomorrow.

So drive dull care away
And do the best you can.
Put your shoulder to the wheel
Is the motto for every man.



Click on the above images to view a copy of sheet music of “A Motto For Every Man.”    


“A Motto for Every Man” (SSL 28)
     “Oh, drive dull care away, for weeping is but sorrow”