A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief
This song is NOT in the public domain. For this reason, I did not include the complete lyrics to even a single measure. The measures are laid out exactly as they are in Hymns (1985 edition, “the green hymnal.”) I have included the first word of each measure, to make it easier for the guitarist who is not a fluent tab reader to keep his or her place.
The rhythm is counted out in 6/8 time, just as in the hymnal, but the key has been changed to C, to make playing easier. This does not make much of a difference, if you are playing it as a guitar solo. If you are accompanying a singer, you will probably want to use a capo to raise the key to one a little easier to sing.
To reach the key of Ab, as written in Hymns, you would have to place the capo in the eighth space (capo: VIII), which would make playing impossible. A good compromise is to play in D (capo: II), which is both playable and singable.
The counting is a bit difficult, as all the notes are sixteenth-notes. This forces the musician to count the 6/8 time as, “ONE and two and three and FOUR and five and six and,” for each measure. The counting would have been simpler if I could have recast the piece in waltz time, but this would have necessitated splitting each of the measures in two. I have done exactly that for my own use, when I can use the lyrics to keep time, and it works well. For publication though, I can't use the lyrics, so I have chosen to keep the stucture of the song almost exactly as in the hymnal.
The single structural difference in this song is that the last measure is different in the final verse, where I have added a final measure consisting only of the high C. Unless you are playing an electric guitar, or a very good classical guitar, you will need to tremolo this note to sustain it for the entire count. Try not to succumb to the temptation to slide up to this note. It sounds much better without the slide, though it's a bit harder to play.
To bring out the melody, you will need to play some of the chords a little different than usual, flattening the index finger in the C chord, to pick up the F note on the first string, for example, or playing the G chord as 32003x. There are arpeggios (broken chords) in almost every measure. The best way to play them (and the easiest) is as a slow strum with the thumb for the first three notes, then pluck the higher strings with the fingers.
This song has a brilliant, 19th Century sound when played with the fingernails of the right hand, classical guitar style. In fact, it sounds a lot like a harpsichord, but I like the mellower, sweeter feeling when it's played “finger style.” Sometimes I combine styles, playing the whole song finger style, slowing for the next to last measure, then hitting the final note classical style and holding it with a strong tremolo as long as possible. Makes people cry.