'Twas in the merry month of May in the Springtime of the year,
All down in yonders meadows there runs a river clear,
And to see those little fishes how they do sport and play,
Caused many a load and many a lass to go there a-making hay.
In comes three jolly scythesmen to cut those meadows down,
With a good leathern bottle and the ale that is so brown;
For there's many a smary young labouring man comes here his skill to try,
He whets, he mows, and he stoutly blows for the grass cuts devilish dry.
Then in come both Will and Tom with pitchfork and with rake,
And likewise black-eyed Susan the hay all for to make;
For the sun did shine most glorious and the small birds they did sing,
From the morning till the evening as we goes haymaking.
Then just as bright Phoebus the sun was a-going down,
Along comes two merry piping men approaching from the town.
They pulled out the tabor and pipes, which made the hay-making girls to sing,
They all threw down their forks and rakes and left off haymaking.
They called for a dance and they jigged it along,
They all lay on the haycocks till the rising of the sun.
With "jug! jug! jug! and sweet jug!" how the nightingale did sing!
From the evening till the morning as we goes haymaking.
abc | midi | pdf
Source: Purslow, F, (1972), The Constant Lovers, EDFS, London
Purslow's notes are as follow:
Gardiner Hp 348. Henry Lee, Whitchurch, Hants. May 1906, with verses 2 and 3 from Mrs Ash and Mrs Flood of Tauton, Somerset. (Hammond Sm 83)
The third lines of these two verse I have had to transpose as the singers had them in the wrong places. The tune is almost note for note that used by Bob and Ron Copper, the Sussex singers, including the characteristic bar of 6/4. However, in other collections I have seen the song noted in 4/4 throughout, the notes accompanying the word "fishes" being sung as equal quavers - two for each of the syllables - the rest of the bar being taken up with the two crochets for "how". Mr A. L. Lloyd ("Folk Song in England", p 234/5) traces a possible source to a broadside of 1695; collected versions seem more in the style of the 18th century and presumably stem from the late broadsides, of which there were one or two. The sharpened G at the end of the second line does not appear in the music manuscript, but I added it as the tune almost insists on it being there.
Found in tradition mainly in the South and South East of England, the exception being Huntington, Sam Henry's Songs of the People (1990) which has an unprovenanced set, Tumbling Through the Hay, presumably noted in Ulster.
The broadside referred to by Lloyd was The merry hay-makers, or Pleasant pastime, between the young- men and maids, in the pleasant meadows, issued around 1720 (Bodleian) or 1695 (Lloyd) by S. Bates, in Gilt-spur-street, London. Copies can be seen at Ã?Â Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads, but they bear only a general resemblance to the song in question:
The merry hay-makers
A transcription appears in Pinto and Rodway, The Common Muse, 1957, and a shorter version, The Country Wake, with music, in Pills to Purge Melancholy, IV, p. 196, 1719-20.
Later broadside editions (presumably those referred to by Purslow) are listed in the Madden collection, beginning "In the merry month of May" and "In the merry month of June". The Merry Haymakers at the Bodleian seems to be unrelated, though dealing with the same general subject.
Roud: 153 (Search Roud index at VWML) Take Six