[This is a very old ditty, and a favourite with the peasantry in
every part of England; but more particularly in the mining
districts of the North. The tune is pleasing, but uncommon. R. W.
Dixon, Esq., of Seaton-Carew, Durham, by whom the song was
communicated to his brother for publication, says, 'I have written
down the above, verbatim, as generally sung. It will be seen that
the last lines of each verse are not of equal length. The singer,
however, makes all right and smooth! The words underlined in each
verse are sung five times, thus:- They ad-van-ced, they ad-van-ced,
they ad-van-ced, they ad-van-ced, they ad-van-ced me some money, --
ten guineas and a crown. The last line is thus sung:- We'll be
married, (as the word is usually pronounced), we'll be married,
we'll be married, we'll be married, we'll be married, we'll be mar-
ri-ed when I return again.' The tune is given in Popular Music.
Since this song appeared in the volume issued by the Percy Society,
we have met with a copy printed at Devonport. The readings are in
general not so good; but in one or two instances they are
apparently more ancient, and are, consequently, here adopted. The
Devonport copy contains two verses, not preserved in our
traditional version. These we have incorporated in our present
text, in which they form the third and last stanzas.]
- It was one summer's morning, as I went o'er the moss,
- I had no thought of 'listing, till the soldiers did me cross;
- They kindly did invite me to a flowing bowl, and down,
- They advanced me some money, - ten guineas and a crown.
- 'It's true my love has listed, he wears a white cockade,
- He is a handsome tall young man, besides a roving blade;
- He is a handsome young man, and he's gone to serve the king,
- Oh! my very heart is breaking for the loss of him.
- 'My love is tall and handsome, and comely for to see,
- And by a sad misfortune a soldier now is he;
- I hope the man that listed him may not prosper night nor day,
- For I with that the Hollanders may sink him in the sea.
- 'Oh! may he never prosper, oh! may he never thrive,
- Nor anything he takes in hand so long as he's alive;
- May the very grass he treads upon the ground refuse to grow,
- Since he's been the only cause of my sorrow, grief, and woe!'
- Then he pulled out a handkerchief to wipe her flowing eyes, -
- 'Leave off those lamentations, likewise those mournful cries;
- Leave of your grief and sorrow, while I march o'er the plain,
- We'll be married when I return again.'
- 'O now my love has listed, and I for him will rove,
- I'll write his name on every tree that grows in yonder grove,
- Where the huntsman he does hollow, and the hounds do sweetly cry,
- To remind me of my ploughboy until the day I die.'
As formerly sung or said at Highgate, in the county of Middlesex.
[The proverb, 'He has been sworn at Highgate,' is more widely
circulated than understood. In its ordinary signification it is
applied to a 'knowing' fellow who is well acquainted with the 'good
things,' and always helps himself to the best; and it has its
origin in an old usage still kept up at Highgate, in Middlesex.
Grose, in his Classical Dictionary of the Vuglar Tongue, London,
1785, says, -
A ridiculous custom formerly prevailed at the public-houses of
Highgate, to administer a ludicrous oath to all the men of the
middling rank who stopped there. The party was sworn on a pair of
horns fastened on a stick; the substance of the oath was never to
kiss the maid when he could kiss the mistress, never to drink small
beer when be could get strong, with many other injunctions of the
like kind to all of which was added a saving clause - unless you
like it best! The person administering the oath was always to be
called father by the juror, and he in return was to style him son,
under the penalty of a bottle.
From this extract it is evident that in 1786 the custom was
ancient, and had somewhat fallen into desuetude. Hone's Year-Book
contains a very complete account of the ceremony, with full
particulars of the mode in which the 'swearing-in' was then
performed in the 'Fox under the Hill.' Hone does not throw any
light on the origin of the practice, nor does he seem to have been
aware of its comparative antiquity. He treated the ceremony as a
piece of modern foolery, got up by some landlord for 'the good of
the house,' and adopted from the same interested motive by others
of the tribe. A subsequent correspondent of Mr. Hone, however,
points out the antiquity of the custom, and shows that it could be
traced back long before the year 1782, when it was introduced into
a pantomime called Harlequin Teague; or, The Giant's Causeway,
which was performed at the Haymarket on Saturday, August 17, 1782.
One of the scenes was Highgate, where, in the 'parlour' of a public
house, the ceremony was performed. Mr. Hone's correspondent sends
a copy of the old initiation song, which varies considerably from
our version, supplied to us in 1851 by a very old man (an ostler)
at Highgate. The reciter said that the copy of verses was not
often used now, as there was no landlord who could sing, and
gentlemen preferred the speech. He said, moreover, 'that the
verses were not always alike - some said one way, and some another
- some made them long, and some cut 'em short.'
Grose was in error when he supposed that the ceremony was confined
to the inferior classes, for even in his day such was not the case.
In subsequent times the oath has been frequently taken by people of
rank, and also by several persons of the highest literary and
political celebrity. An inspection of any one of the register-
books will show that the jurors have belonged to all sorts of
classes, and that amongst them the Harrovians have always made a
conspicuous figure. When the stage-coaches ceased to pass through
the village in consequence of the opening of railways, the custom
declined, and was kept up only at three houses, which were called
the 'original house,' the 'old original,' and the 'real old
original.' Two of the above houses have latterly ceased to hold
courts, and the custom is now confined to the 'Fox under the Hill,'
where the rite is celebrated with every attention to ancient forms
and costume, and for a fee which, in deference to modern notions of
economy, is only one shilling.
Byron, in the first canto of Childe Harold, alludes to the custom
- Some o'er thy Thamis row the ribboned fair,
- Others along the safer turnpike fly;
- Some Richmond-hill ascend, some wend to Wara
- And many to the steep of Highgate hie.
- Ask ye, Boeotian shades! the reason why?
- 'Tis to the worship of the solemn horn,
- Grasped in the holy hand of mystery,
- In whose dread name both men and maids are sworn,
- And consecrate the oath with draught, and dance till morn.
- Canto I, stanza 70.]
Enter Landlord, dressed in a black gown and bands, and wearing an
antique-fashioned wig, followed by the Clerk of the Court, also in
appropriate costume, and carrying the Registry-Book and the Horns.
LANDLORD. Do you wish to be sworn at Highgate?
CANDIDATE. I do, Father.
The Landlord then sings, or says, as follows:--
- Silence! O, yes! you are my son!
- Full to your old father turn, sir;
- This is an oath you may take as you run,
- So lay your hand thus on the horn, sir.
Here the candidate places his right hand on the horn.
- You shall spend not with cheaters or cozeners your life,
- Nor waste it on profligate beauty;
- And when you are wedded be kind to your wife,
- And true to all petticoat duty.
The Candidate says 'I will,' and kisses the horn in obedience to
the command of the clerk, who exclaims in a loud and solemn tone,
'Kiss the horn, sir!'
- And while you thus solemnly swear to be kind,
- And shield and protect from disaster,
- This part of your oath you must bear it in mind,
- That you, and not she, is the master.
Clerk. 'Kiss the horn, sir!'
- You shall pledge no man first when a woman is near,
- For neither 'tis proper nor right, sir;
- Nor, unless you prefer it, drink small for strong beer,
- Nor eat brown bread when you can get white, sir.
Clerk. 'Kiss the horn, sir!'
- You shall never drink brandy when wine you can get,
- Say when good port or sherry is handy;
- Unless that your taste on spirit is set,
- In which case - you may, sir, drink brandy!
Clerk. 'Kiss the horn, sir!'
- To kiss with the maid when the mistress is kind,
- Remember that you must be loth, sir;
- But if the maid's fairest, your oath doesn't bind, -
- Or you may, if you like it, kiss both, sir!
Clerk. 'Kiss the horn, sir!'
- Should you ever return, take this oath here again,
- Like a man of good sense, leal and true, sir;
- And be sure to bring with you some more merry men,
- That they on the horn may swear too, sir.
Landlord. Now, sir, if you please, sign your name in that book,
and if you can't write, make your mark, and the clerk of the court
will attest it.
Here one of the above requests is complied with.
Landlord. You will please pay half-a-crown for court fees, and
what you please to the clerk.
This necessary ceremony being gone through, the important business
terminates by the landlord saying, 'God bless the King [or Queen]
and the Lord of the Manor;' to which the clerk responds, 'Amen,
N.B. The court fees are always returned in wines, spirits, or
porter, of which the Landlord and Clerk are invited to partake.
As now performed at Christmas, in the county of Durham.
[The late Sir Cuthbert Sharp remarks, that 'It is still the
practice during the Christmas holidays for companies of fifteen to
perform a sort of play or dance, accompanied by song or music.'
The following version of the song, or interlude, has been
transcribed from Sir C. Sharp's Bishiprick Garland, corrected by
collation with a MS. copy recently remitted to the editor by a
countryman of Durham. The Devonshire peasants have a version
almost identical with this, but laths are used instead of swords,
and a few different characters are introduced to suit the locality.
The pageant called The Fool Plough, which consists of a number of
sword-dancers dragging a plough with music, was anciently observed
in the North of England, not only at Christmas time, but also in
the beginning of Lent. Wallis thinks that the Sword Dance is the
antic dance, or chorus armatus of the Romans. Brand supposes that
it is a composition made up of the gleaning of several obsolete
customs anciently followed in England and other countries. The
Germans still practise the Sword Dance at Christmas and Easter. We
once witnessed a Sword Dance in the Eifel mountains, which closely
resembled our own, but no interlude, or drama, was performed.]
Enter Dancers, decorated with swords and ribbons; the Captain of
the Band wearing a cocked hat and a peacock's feather in it by way
of cockade, and the Clown, or 'Bessy,' who acts as Treasurer, being
decorated with a hairy cap and a fox's brush dependent.
The Captain forms with his sword a circle, around which walks.
The Bessy opens the ppoceedings by singing --
- Good gentlemen all, to our captain take heed,
- And hear what he's got for to sing;
- He's lived among music these forty long year,
- And drunk of the elegant spring.
The Captain then proceeds as follows, his song being accompanied by
a violin, generally played by the Bessy --
- Six actors I have brought
- Who were ne'er on a stage before;
- But they will do their best,
- And they can do no more.
- The first that I call in
- He is a squire's son;
- He's like to lose his sweetheart
- Because he is too young.
- But though he is too young,
- He has money for to rove,
- And he will spend it all
- Before he'll lose his love.
- Chorus. Fal Lal de Ral, Lal de Dal, Fal Lal de Ra Ral Da.
Followed by a Symphony on the fiddle, during which the introduced
actor walks around the circle.
The Captain proceeds --
- The next that I call in
- He is a tailor fine;
- What think you of his work?
- He made this coat of mine!
Here the Captain turns round and exhibits his coat, which, of
course, is ragged, and full of holes.
- So comes good master Snip,
- His best respects to pay:
- He joins us in our trip
- To drive dull care away.
Chorus and Symphony as above.
Here the Tailor walks round, accompanied by the Squire's son. This
form is observed after each subsequent introduction, all the new
comers taking apart.
- The next I do call in,
- The prodigal son is he;
- By spending of his gold
- He's come to poverty.
- But though he all has spent,
- Again he'll wield the plow,
- And sing right merrily
- As any of us now.
- Next comes a skipper bold,
- He'll do his part right weel -
- A clever blade I'm told
- As ever pozed a keel.
- He is a bonny lad,
- As you must understand;
- It's he can dance on deck,
- And you'll see him dance on land.
- To join us in this play
- Here comes a jolly dog,
- Who's sober all the day -
- If he can get no grog.
- But though he likes his grog,
- As all his friends do say,
- He always likes it best
- When other people pay.
- Last I come in myself,
- The leader of this crew;
- And if you'd know my name,
- My name it is 'True Blue.'
Here the Bessy gives an account of himself.
- My mother was burnt for a witch,
- My father was hanged on a tree,
- And it's because I'm a fool
- There's nobody meddled wi' me.
The dance now commences. It is an ingenious performance, and the
swords of the actors are placed in a variety of graceful positions,
so as to form stars, hearts, squares, circles, &c. &c. The dance
is so elaborate that it requires frequent rehearsals, a quick eye,
and a strict adherence to time and tune. Before it concludes,
grace and elegance have given place to disorder, and at last all
the actors are seen fighting. The parish clergyman rushes in to
prevent bloodshed, and receives a death-blow. While on the ground,
the actors walk round the body, and sing as follows, to a slow,
- Alas! our parson's dead,
- And on the ground is laid;
- Some of us will suffer for't,
- Young men, I'm sore afraid.
- I'm sure 'twas none of me,
- I'm clear of that crime;
- 'Twas him that follows me
- That drew his sword so fine.
- I'm sure it was not me,
- I'm clear of the fact;
- 'Twas him that follows me
- That did this dreadful act.
- I'm sure 'twas none of me,
- Who say't be villains all;
- For both my eyes were closed
- When this good priest did fall.
The Bessy sings --
- Cheer up, cheer up, my bonny lads,
- And be of courage brave,
- We'll take him to his church,
- And bury him in the grave.
The Captain speaks in a sort of recitative --
- Oh, for a doctor,
- A ten pound doctor, oh.
- Doctor. Here I am, I.
- Captain. Doctor, what's your fee?
- Doctor. Ten pounds is my fee!
- But nine pounds nineteen shillings eleven pence three farthings I
will take from thee.
- The Bessy. There's ge-ne-ro-si-ty!
The Doctor sings --
- I'm a doctor, a doctor rare,
- Who travels much at home;
- My famous pills they cure all ills,
- Past, present, and to come.
- My famous pills who'd be without,
- They cure the plague, the sickness and gout,
- Anything but a love-sick maid;
- If you're one, my dear, you're beyond my aid!
Here the Doctor occasionally salutes one of the fair spectators; he
then takes out his snuff-box, which is always of very copacious
dimensions (a sort of miniature warming-pan), and empties the
contents (flour or meal) on the clergyman's face, singing at the
- Take a little of my nif-naf,
- Put it on your tif-taf;
- Parson rise up and preach again,
- The doctor says you are not slain.
The Clergyman here sneezes several times, and gradually recovers,
and all shake him by the hand.
The ceremony terminates by the captain singing --
- Our play is at an end,
- And now we'll taste your cheer;
- We wish you a merry Christmas,
- And a happy new year.
- The Bessy. And your pockets full of brass,
- And your cellars full of beer!
A general dance concludes the play.
[Sword-dancing is not so common in the North of England as it was a
few years ago; but a troop of rustic practitioners of the art may
still be occasionally met with at Christmas time, in some of the
most secluded of the Yorkshire dales. The following is a copy of
the introductory song, as it used to be sung by the Wharfdale
sword-dancers. It has been transcribed from a MS. in the
possession of Mr. Holmes, surgeon, at Grassington, in Craven. At
the conclusion of the song a dance ensues, and sometimes a rustic
drama is performed. See post, p. 175. Jumping Joan, alluded to in
the last verse, is a well-known old country dance tune.]
The spectators being assembled, the Clown enters, and after drawing
a circle with his sword, walks round it, and calls in the actors in
the following lines, which are sung to the accompaniment of a
violin played outside, or behind the door.
- The first that enters on the floor,
- His name is Captain Brown;
- I think he is as smart a youth
- As any in this town:
- In courting of the ladies gay,
- He fixes his delight;
- He will not stay from them all day,
- And is with them all the night.
- The next's a tailor by his trade,
- Called Obadiah Trim;
- You may quickly guess, by his plain dress,
- And hat of broadest brim,
- That he is of the Quaking sect,
- Who would seem to act by merit
- Of yeas and nays, and hums and hahs,
- And motions of the spirit.
- The next that enters on the floor,
- He is a foppish knight;
- The first to be in modish dress,
- He studies day and night.
- Observe his habit round about, -
- Even from top to toe;
- The fashion late from France was brought, -
- He's finer than a beau!
- Next I present unto your view
- A very worthy man;
- He is a vintner, by his trade,
- And Love-ale is his name.
- If gentlemen propose a glass,
- He seldom says 'em nay,
- But does always think it's right to drink,
- While other people pay.
- The next that enters on the floor,
- It is my beauteous dame;
- Most dearly I do her adore,
- And Bridget is her name.
- At needlework she does excel
- All that e'er learnt to sew,
- And when I choose, she'll ne'er refuse,
- What I command her do.
- And I myself am come long since,
- And Thomas is my name;
- Though some are pleased to call me Tom,
- I think they're much to blame:
- Folks should not use their betters thus,
- But I value it not a groat,
- Though the tailors, too, that botching crew,
- Have patched it on my coat.
- I pray who's this we've met with here,
- That tickles his trunk wame?
- We've picked him up as here we came,
- And cannot learn his name:
- But sooner than he's go without,
- I'll call him my son Tom;
- And if he'll play, be it night or day,
- We'll dance you Jumping Joan.
[The following song was taken down some years ago from the
recitation of a country curate, who said he had learned it from a
very old inhabitant of Methley, near Pontefract, Yorkshire. We
have never seen it in print.]
[This song is very popular with the country people in every part of
England, but more particularly with the inhabitants of the counties
of Somerset, Devon, and Cornwall. The chorus is peculiar to
country songs of the West of England. There are many different
versions. The following one, communicated by Mr. Sandys, was taken
down from the singing of an old blind fiddler, 'who,' says Mr.
Sandys, 'used to accompany it on his instrument in an original and
humorous manner; a representative of the old minstrels!' The air
is in Popular Music. In Halliwell's Nursery Rhymes of England
there is a version of this song, called Richard of Dalton Dale.
The popularity of this West-country song has extended even to
Ireland, as appears from two Irish versions, supplied by the late
Mr. T. Crofton Croker. One of them is entitled Last New-Year's
Day, and is printed by Haly, Hanover-street, Cork. It follows the
English song almost verbatim, with the exception of the first and
second verses, which we subjoin:-
- When Harry the tailor was twenty years old,
- He began for to look with courage so bold;
- He told his old mother he was not in jest,
- But he would have a wife as well as the rest.
- Then Harry next morning, before it was day,
- To the house of his fair maid took his way.
- He found his dear Dolly a making of cheese,
- Says he, 'You must give me a buss, if you please!'
- She up with the bowl, the butter-milk flew,
- And Harry the tailor looked wonderful blue.
- 'O, Dolly, my dear, what hast thou done?
- From my back to my breeks has thy butter-milk run.'
- She gave him a push, he stumbled and fell
- Down from the dairy into the drawwell.
- Then Harry, the ploughboy, ran amain,
- And soon brought him up in the bucket again.
- Then Harry went home like a drowned rat,
- And told his old mother what he had been at.
- With butter-milk, bowl, and a terrible fall,
- O, if this be called love, may the devil take all!
- 'Last New-Year's day, as I heard say,
- Dick mounted on his dapple gray;
- He mounted high and he mounted low,
- Until he came to Sweet Raphoe!
- Sing fal de dol de ree,
- Fol de dol, righ fol dee.
- 'My buckskin does I did put on,
- My spladdery clogs, to save my brogues!
- And in my pocket a lump of bread,
- And round my hat a ribbon red.'
The other version is entitled Dicky of Ballyman, and a note informs
us that 'Dicky of Ballyman's sirname was Byrne!' As our readers
may like to hear how the Somersetshire bumpkin behaved after he had
located himself in the town of Ballyman, and taken the sirname of
Byrne, we give the whole of his amatory adventures in the sister-
island. We discover from them, inter alia, that he had found 'the
best of friends' in his 'Uncle,' - that he had made a grand
discovery in natural history, viz., that a rabbit is a fowl! - that
he had taken the temperance pledge, which, however, his Mistress
Ann had certainly not done; and, moreover, that he had become an
enthusiast in potatoes!
- Dicky of Ballyman
- 'On New-Year's day, as I heard say,
- Dicky he saddled his dapple gray;
- He put on his Sunday clothes,
- His scarlet vest, and his new made hose.
- Diddle dum di, diddle dum do,
- Diddle dum di, diddle dum do.
- 'He rode till he came to Wilson Hall,
- There he rapped, and loud did call;
- Mistress Ann came down straightway,
- And asked him what he had to say?
- ''Don't you know me, Mistress Ann?
- I am Dicky of Ballyman;
- An honest lad, though I am poor, -
- I never was in love before.
- ''I have an uncle, the best of friends,
- Sometimes to me a fat rabbit he sends;
- And many other dainty fowl,
- To please my life, my joy, my soul.
- ''Sometimes I reap, sometimes I mow,
- And to the market I do go,
- To sell my father's corn and hay, -
- I earn my sixpence every day!'
- ''Oh, Dicky! you go beneath your mark, -
- You only wander in the dark;
- Sixpence a day will never do,
- I must have silks, and satins, too!
- ''Besides, Dicky, I must have tea
- For my breakfast, every day;
- And after dinner a bottle of wine, -
- For without it I cannot dine.'
- ''If on fine clothes our money is spent,
- Pray how shall my lord be paid his rent?
- He'll expect it when 'tis due, -
- Believe me, what I say is true.
- ''As for tea, good stirabout
- Will do far better, I make no doubt;
- And spring water, when you dine,
- Is far wholesomer than wine.
- ''Potatoes, too, are very nice food, -
- I don't know any half so good:
- You may have them boiled or roast,
- Whichever way you like them most.'
- 'This gave the company much delight,
- And made them all to laugh outright;
- So Dicky had no more to say,
- But saddled his dapple and rode away.
- Diddle dum di, &c.']
(End of Dicky of Ballyman.)
Back to the Index of
Ancient Poems, Ballads and Songs
- Last New-Year's day, as I've heerd say,
- Young Richard he mounted his dapple grey,
- And he trotted along to Taunton Dean,
- To court the parson's daughter, Jean.
- Dumble dum deary, dumble dum deary,
- Dumble dum deary, dumble dum dee.
- With buckskin breeches, shoes and hose,
- And Dicky put on his Sunday clothes;
- Likewise a hat upon his head,
- All bedaubed with ribbons red.
- Young Richard he rode without dread or fear,
- Till he came to the house where lived his sweet dear,
- When he knocked, and shouted, and bellowed, 'Hallo!
- Be the folks at home? say aye or no.'
- A trusty servant let him in,
- That he his courtship might begin;
- Young Richard he walked along the great hall,
- And loudly for mistress Jean did call.
- Miss Jean she came without delay,
- To hear what Dicky had got to say;
- 'I s'pose you knaw me, mistress Jean,
- I'm honest Richard of Taunton Dean.
- 'I'm an honest fellow, although I be poor,
- And I never was in love afore;
- My mother she bid me come here for to woo,
- And I can fancy none but you.'
- 'Suppose that I would be your bride,
- Pray how would you for me provide?
- For I can neither sew nor spin; -
- Pray what will your day's work bring in?'
- 'Why, I can plough, and I can zow,
- And zometimes to the market go
- With Gaffer Johnson's straw or hay,
- And yarn my ninepence every day!'
- 'Ninepence a-day will never do,
- For I must have silks and satins too!
- Ninepence a day won't buy us meat!'
- 'Adzooks!' says Dick, 'I've a zack of wheat;
- 'Besides, I have a house hard by,
- 'Tis all my awn, when mammy do die;
- If thee and I were married now,
- Ods! I'd feed thee as fat as my feyther's old zow.'
- Dick's compliments did so delight,
- They made the family laugh outright;
- Young Richard took huff, and no more would say,
- He kicked up old Dobbin, and trotted away,
- Singing, dumble dum deary, &c.