*He's been the death of many, a poor man "Who's gonna kiss your rosy red cheek It's gonna be that steel drivin' man" what does these two mean? Both come from a gun club song "John Hardy" from the album "miami**

What I don't understand is that in the beginning of the song John Hardy killed a man only one and at the end of the song comes " he has been the death of many" which means he killed more than one person

  • @FumbleFingers pse turn your comment into an answer. It's really informative. – Ronald Sole Oct 23 '18 at 19:22

There's definitely no comma in the idiomatic usage many a poor man (which is a dated / stylised / poetic alternative to [he has caused the death of] many poor men).

For the second point, it refers back to who - it means that steel drivin' man is the one who will kiss your rosy red cheek. Where according to Wikipedia's article on this Johnny Cash song, I see that a steel-driving man means a man tasked with hammering a steel drill into rock to make holes for explosives to blast the rock in constructing a railroad tunnel.

  • "I've been the death of many a poor boy" suggests not only that he caused the death of many boys but also that he did so one at a time. He was a serial killer rather than a mass murderer. There's also the implication that he was convicted of one count of murder. The other deaths might not have been murder, or might simply have not been prosecuted. – Gary Botnovcan Oct 24 '18 at 19:19
  • @GaryBotnovcan: I think you might be "extrapolating by association" (from many a time) there. I can't find a written instance, but Many a good man died at Agincourt sounds fine to me as a reference to a single occasion when many died "at the same time". Plus I think that Past Perfect itself (I have seen many people) implies repeatedly, over time more strongly than Simple Past I saw many people. But I can't see what makes you think there's any implication that "he was convicted of one count of murder [etc., etc.]". – FumbleFingers Oct 25 '18 at 12:23
  • As OP mentions, the shooting on the West Virginia line is the only death mentioned until near the end of the song. The intervening line "But, there was no bail allowed for the murderin' man" makes the charge clear. The stanza containing "many a poor man" also says that he's ready to die, letting us know that the death sentence has already been imposed and he's just waiting for it to be carried out. Since he's going to be hanged anyway, it hardly matters what he confesses at that point. – Gary Botnovcan Oct 26 '18 at 3:04
  • As far as anyone can determine, John Henry was hired as a steel-driver for the C&O Railroad, a wealthy company that was extending its line from the Chesapeake Bay to the Ohio Valley. Steel drivers, also known as a hammer man, would spend their workdays driving holes into rock by hitting thick steel drills or spikes. The hammer man always had a partner, known as a shaker or turner, who would crouch close to the hole and rotate the drill after each blow. ibiblio.org/john_henry/analysis.html – Lambie Jan 22 '20 at 18:15

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