'Toil of an empire' was inspired by L. S. Lowry, one of my favourite artists. He is famous for painting the industrial landscapes of the North-west of England in the 1930's and the people that inhabited those towns. Just type his name into Google Images if you are unfamiliar with his work. He saw beauty in what most people thought was ugly and, with the mills and chimneys now mostly replaced by shopping malls, his work is an invaluable historical record of the North's industrial heritage.

Capo 4

        D                        G                D                A
Bitter cold, sky a sombre grey, tells of rain, just like yesterday.
           D                      G                           D                      A       
Terraced town, houses huddle tight, row on row, reaching out of sight.
                 D                    G                   D               A
Neighbours chat idly in the street, children play at their mothers’ feet.
           D                               G                            D                 A
Bustling crowds, watched with gentle eyes, sees the light in their humdrum lives.
       G              D                 G               D                Em           G                A7           A
The meanest of wretches are captured in sketches, the briefest of scratches of pencil on pad.
   G         D          G         D               Em           Bm         A7    A
In soft isolation, amidst all creation, the joy and privation in stark lines…

       D               G              D            D             A7            A
So bring me the poor of an empire, I’ll sing of the broke and denied
   D              G           D          Bm          Em              A7                 D
Bring me the toil of an empire, but for the grace of god there might go I.


Shuts the door to an empty home, hangs his hat, gives his hair a comb.
Pot of tea brewing on the stove, feels the warmth in his fingers grow.
Sits alone on a weary chair, sips his tea, keeps a silent stare.
Lost in thought, vistas lately seen. Feel and form etched in reverie.
And wiping his glasses, stairs creak as he passes. The artist of masses in paint-spattered suit.
Simple and forthright, he labours ‘til midnight, a bystander’s insight on harsh life…

Factory walls frame a canvas pale. Cobbled streets make a winding trail
To the gates of the cotton mills, towers of stone, ‘tween the placid hills.
A cityscape blighted, dejected and slighted, yet Lowry ignited the pride of the North.
The children and old folk in flat caps and worn coats, rendered in brush-strokes for all time…