‘The Postman’s Knock’

House Music at Your House

The introduction of colour television to Australian households in 1975 was life changing, and the arrival of coloured illustrated sheet music covers, over a century earlier, probably felt quite similar to music consumers 

With the invention of the upright piano in England in the 1820s, households around the world rapidly acquired a relatively cheap and reliable source of entertainment. Like radio or TV in the following century, it wasn’t the appliance itself that was entertaining but rather what you played on it. Earlier in the 1800s, sheet music offering the latest tunes tended to have simple black and white covers limited to a description of the contents in a decorative typography. Some publications would include an illustration on the cover, but it wasn’t until the late 1830s with the invention of colour lithography (images drawn on a flat stone with a crayon and then inked) that sheet music would be transformed as a product.

British coloured sheet music arrived in Sydney soon after this printing innovation, but surviving illustrated music covers at Rouse Hill Estate show that music printed in Australia, even in the 1850s, continued to be produced using black and white lithography. This reflected the limited expertise available locally at the time and was also cheaper to produce.

The copy of ‘The Postman’s Knock’ at Rouse Hill Estate, composed by W.T Wrighton, was published in Sydney by Jeremiah Moore in 1856 and has a charming cover of a postman knocking on a door in town. This lithograph illustration by Archibald Alexander Park (1801-1863) is based on the cover of a London edition of the song published a year earlier

‘The Postman’s Knock’, Sydney: J. Moore, 1856. Sydney Living Museums.

‘The Postman’s Knock’, London: Robert Cocks & Co., 1855. Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection, John Hopkins University.

Watch the performance

Listen to Amy Moore share her performance of ‘The Postman’s Knock’. We have also added other versions to inspire you further, and illustrate how some parlour songs have evolved into folk songs over time.

You can meet the musicians, find links to the music and lyrics below, listen to some more examples and perform and share your own version.


Share your musical or creative response

We invite you to share your response with us, and we’ll share the best responses across our website and social media. We want to highlight the ways in which music making at home is for everyone, by everyone – just as it has always been. The more ‘homely’ and amateur your recordings are, the better! 

Make your version in any style or format you like – perform it straight or turn it into blues, country, rap, hip-hop, slam poetry, K-pop, Bollywood or any other style; rearrange it for different instruments, voices or electronics; sing it, play it, dance it, write about it, photograph it or paint it. 

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Meet the performers

Amy Moore

Lyric soprano Amy Moore moved to Australia from the UK in 2015.  An accomplished soloist and ensemble singer, Amy enjoys a broad repertoire, with a particular focus on Baroque and contemporary music.

Learn more about Amy.

Lyrics

‘Postman’s Knock’

What a wonderful man the postman is, 
As he hastens from door to door, 
What a medley of news his hands contain, 
For high, low, rich, and poor; 
In many a face he joy doth trace, 
In as many grief can see, 
As the door is op'd to his loud rantan, 
And his quick delivery. 
Every morn, as true as the clock, 
Somebody hears the postman's knock. 
Number 1 he presents with the news of a birth, 
With tidings of death Number 4, 
At 13 a bill, of a terrible length, 
He drops through the hole in the door, 
A cheque, or an order, at 15 he leaves, 
At 16 his presence doth prove, 
While 17 does an acknowledgment get, 
And 18 a letter of love. 
Every morn, as true as the clock, 
Somebody hears the postman's knock. 
May his visits be frequent to those who expect 
A line from the friends they hold dear; 
But rarely, we hope, that compell'd he will be, 
Disastrous tidings to bear. 
Far, far be the day when the envelope shows 
The dark border shading it o'er; 
Then long life to Her Majesty's Servant, we say, 
And oft may he knock at our door. 
Every morn, as true as the clock, 
Somebody hears the postman's knock. 


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