"Young people attention give And hear what I do say...." "hen I was young and in my prime I used to go so gay, For I did not think right of time But idled time away." The singer laments wasting time and going blind
Blind Man's Regret, The Complete text(s) *** A *** From J. H. Cox, Folk-Songs of the South, #154, pp. 448-449 Supplied by Evelyn Mathews; collected by 1917. Reportedly sung by Miss Mathews's father, who learned it from F. M. Bush. 1 Young people attention give And hear what I do say; I wish your souls with Christ to live In everlasting day. 2 Remember you are hastening down To death's dark, gloomy shade; Your joys on earth will soon be done, Your flesh in dust be laid. 3 When I was young and in my prime, I used to go so gay; For I did not think right of time, But idled time away. 4 But when too late, I thought of time, For time had passed and gone; For now I'm old and am quite blind, I cannot see my home. 5 Lost time is never found again, What we call time enough; For time and tide wait for no man, It proves quite small enough. 6 'Twas in the year of eighty-four My eyes became quite dim, For it has been twelve years or more Since I could see a hymn. 7 But now I'm getting old and gray, My way I cannot see, For I can scarcely see a day, And that is hard for me. 8 The birds and beasts around me play, Their sport I cannot see; For they rejoice in their own way Because of liberty. 9 The beauties of the earth are gone, That I can see no more, For soon I'll reach my long-sought home Beyond the other shore. 10 And now, kind friends, one thing I ask: Do not let time pass by; Although it may be a hard task, Please think when you are young. 11 And now, dear friends, farewell, farewell! We soon shall meet above, With saints and angels there to dwell In joy and peace and love.
I know of no other version of this song (though see the notes on "Young People, Take Warning"), and I don't find it surprising. There really isn't much plot; with the exception of a single stanza claiming that the singer went blind in the "year of eighty-four," there is no story. It's just a series of warnings and complaints, quite repetitious, mostly warning against wasting time.
Cox's informant claims that this is the story of a man who tried to avoid being involved in the Civil War, and so hid in a cave and damaged his sight. This is not impossible -- but the song does not give the theory any support (and note that the blindness did not strike until 1884). - RBW