Don’t You Go A Rushing

Leggi in italiano

The “enigmas” or “riddles” are part of some popular songs in dealing with the supernatural, be it a magical or diabolical creature, and more generally they represent a weapon of defense to avert a danger or obtain a benefit, so in the fairy tales, young people of humble origins obtain advantageous marriages or kingdoms for having been able to solve the enigmas or to have accomplished impossible tasks. However, the risk was very high, even if sometimes they were helped by creatures or magical beings, because the counterpart in case of failure was death (often by beheading). In the ancient courtship ballads the riddles become the surrogate of impossible enterprises, or they are obstacles to overcome to get the bride’s hand, but in the Celtic world there are also many examples of the opposite, it is the girl who has to prove to be a good wife, above all in terms of unquestioned loyalty.

The echo of these ancient forms of courtship, turn into a romantic words to make a declaration of love.


The first text dates back to around 1430 (British Museum – Sloane MS 2593, “I have a yong suster”) and is antecedent or at least contemporary to “The Devil’s Nine Questions” found always transcribed in a manuscript of about 1450.

The ballad is also found in many nineteenth-century Nursery Songs with the titles: “Perrie, Merrie, Dixie, Dominie”, “I have four sisters beyond the sea”, “I had Four Brothers Over the Sea”, “My true love lives far from me “, where the overseas sweetheart who sends” enigmatic” gifts is trasformed into the four sisters, the four brothers or the four cousins. In fact, the song lends itself to being a children song, both as a lullaby and as a game – riddle in which the children sing the answers together with their mother.

John Fleagle from Worlds Bliss – Medieval Songs of Love and Death, 2004 

I have a yong suster
Fer biyonde the see;
Peri meri dictum domine
Manye be the druries (1)
That she sente me.
Partum quartum pare dicentem,
Peri meri dictum domine (2)

She sente me the cherye
Withouten any stoon,
And so she dide the dove
Withouten any boon.
She sente me the brere
Withouten any rinde;
She bad me love my lemman (3)
Withoute longinge.
How sholde any cherye
Ben withoute stoon?
And how sholde any dove
Ben withoute boon?
How sholde any brere
Ben withoute rinde?
How sholde I love my lemman
Withoute longinge?
Whan the cherye was a flowr,
Thanne hadde it non stoon;
Whan the dove was an ey,
Thanne hadde it non boon.
Whan the brere was unbred,(4)
Thanne hadde it non rinde;
Whan the maiden has that she loveth,
She’s withoute longinge.

1) Druries: love-gifts
2) latin words non-sense like perry merry dixie or Pitrum, partrum, paradisi tempore or Piri-miri-dictum Domini
3) Leman: sweetheart
4) Unbred: unborn. in the nursery rhyme “I had four brothers over the sea” they carry: a goose without a bone, a cherry without a stone, a blanket without a thread, a book that no man could read, that is an egg, a cherry tree, a sheep to shear and a typographic matrix to be printed.


The most widespread version in the United States and Canada is a “modernization” of the medieval ballad “I have a yong suster” a romantic turn of words to make a declaration of love!

as a sweet lullady

Doc Watson 1966 (magical voice and amazing guitar)

I gave my love a cherry
that had no stone;
I gave my love a chicken
that had no bone;
I gave my love a baby
with no crying,
And told my love a story
that had no end.
How can there be a cherry
that has no stone?
How can there be a chicken
that has no bone?
How can there be a baby
with no crying?
How can you tell a story
that has no end?
A cherry when it’s blooming,
it has no stone(1);
A chicken when it’s pipping,
there is no bone(2);
A baby when it’s sleeping,
there’s no crying(3),
And when I say I love you,
it has no end(4).
1) the cherry blossom is not yet a fruit
2) a freshly fertilized hen’s egg is a hen’s embryo
3) a child who is not yet born is sleeping and therefore can not cry
4) the most beautiful declaration of love ..


This song is contained in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book (called Queen Elizabeth’s Virginal Book, although in reality Queen Elizabeth never owned the manuscript) a collection of dance music dating back to the early 1600s. It is also found in the Brimington Mummers’ Play script. [Derbyshire, 1862] that the Mummers represented during the Christmas celebrations (see).
With the title “Go no More a-Rushing” the melody was probably already popular at the time of Queen Elizabeth I (composed or arranged by William Byrd) and it is found in various versions in some manuscripts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
The “Riddle song” is superimposed with a prelude (as a warning song) in which young girls are discouraged to go alone in the woods to collect rushes / ferns because they could lose their virginity.
Once ago the rushes were spread on the floors of the houses, they made roofs, beds, chairs, pots and fishing nets, cheese-sieves and much more, even today with the rushes they intertwine baskets, hats are made and Bride’s cross for Imbolc.

Reg Hall Archives Jim Wilson of Sussex 

Go no more a-rushing,
maids, in May
Go no more a-rushing,
maids, I pray
Go no more a-rushing,
or you’ll fall a-blushing(1)
Bundle up your rushes
and haste away.
You promised me a cherry
without any stone,
You promised me a chicken
without any bone,
You promised me ring
that has no rim at all,
And you promised me a bird
without a gall.
How can there be a cherry
without a stone?
How can there be a chicken
without a bone?
How can there be a ring
without a rim at all?
How can there be a bird
that hasn’t got a gall?
When the cherry’s in the flower
it has no stone;
When the chicken’s in the egg
it hasn’t any bone;
When the ring it is a making
it has no rim at all;
And the dove it is a bird
without a gall(2)
1) or “to get a brushing” going on the moor or in the woods to collect stalks and grasses could be very dangerous for the girls because they risked encounters with little recommendable elves see more
2) the dove symbol of peace and love was considered a very pure animal. When we speak of a good person we say that it is “without gall as the dove” because this animal is without a gall bladder.

Lisa Knapp from Till April Is Dead ≈ A Garland of May 2017
Conserved through the oral transmission up to the version collected by Cecil Sharp by Mrs. Eliza Ware in Over Stowey, Somerset on January 23, 1907

Don’t You Go A Rushing Maids In May
Don’t you go a-rushing, maids in May
Don’t you go a-rushing, maids I say
For if you go a-rushing
They’re sure to get you blushing
They’ll steal your rushes away
I went a-rushing it was in May
I went a-rushing maids I say
I went a-rushing
They caught me a-blushing
They stole my rushes away
He promised me a chicken without any bone
Promised me a cherry without any stone
He promised me a ring without any rim
He promised me a babe with no squalling
How can there be a chicken without any bone?
How can there be a cherry without any stone?
How can there be a ring without any rim?
How can there be a babe with no squalling?
When the chicken’s in the egg it has no bone
When the cherry’s blooming it has no stone
When the ring is melting
It has no rim
When the babe is in the making
There’s no squalling


The Pleasant Month of May

Leggi in italiano

“The haymaker’s song” aka “The Pleasany Month of May”, ‘”Twas in the Pleasant Month of May” or ” The Merry Haymakers” is in the Family Copper’s collection of traditional songs from Sussex (see): in the season of haymaking, starting in May, the farmers went to make hay, cutting the tall grass, with the scythe, putting it aside as fodder for livestock and courtyard’s animals . While hay cutting was a mostly masculine task, women and children used the rake to collect grass in large piles, which were then loaded onto the cart through the use of pitchforks.

George Stubbs - Haymakers 1785 (Wikimedia)
George Stubbs – Haymakers 1785 (Wikimedia)

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. 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.” (from here)

After the hard work, however, it’s time to have fun and so all the workers are dancing in the middle of the haystacks on the melodies of a piper !!

William Pint & Felicia Dale
from Hartwell Horn 1999 
Jackie Oates from Hyperboreans 2009 
Lisa Knapp from Till April Is Dead ≈ A Garland of May 2017

‘Twas in the pleasant month of May,
In the springtime of the year,
And down in yonder meadow
There runs a river clear.
See how the little fishes,
How they do sport and play;
Causes many a lad and many a lass
To go there a-making hay.
Then in comes the scythesman,
That meadow to mow down,
With his old leathered bottle
And the ale that runs so brown.
There’s many a stout and a laboring man
Goes there his skill to try;
He works, he mows, he sweats, he blows,
And the grass cuts very dry.
Then in comes both Tom and Dick
With their pitchforks and their rakes,
And likewise black-eyed Susan
The hay all for to make.
There’s a sweet, sweet, sweet and a jug, jug, jug(1)
How the harmless birds do sing
From the morning to the evening
As we were a-haymaking.
It was just at one evening
As the sun was a-going down,
We saw the jolly piper
Come a-strolling through the town.
There he pulled out his tabor and pipes(2)
And he made the valleys ring;
So we all put down our rakes and forks
And we left off haymaking.
We called for a dance
And we tripped it along;
We danced all round the haycocks
Till the rising of the sun.
When the sun did shine such a glorious light,
How the harmless birds did sing;
Each lad he took his lass in hand
And went back to his haymaking.

1) sounds that recall the trill of birds: they are the verses that imitate birds singing
2) pipe and drum, in a combination called tabor-pipe: the three-hole flute allows the musician to play the instrument with one hand, while with the other he strikes the tambourine with a shoulder strap. If the combination was very versatile and well suited to street performances of the jester, it was also perfect for the performance of the dances and then in the ancient iconography convivial images are often frequent in the presence of dancers. ((see more)

L’allodola e il cavallante nel mese di Maggio


Lark in the Morning

Leggi in italiano

The irish song “The Lark in the Morning” is mainly found in the county of Fermanagh (Northern Ireland): the image is rural, portrayed by an idyllic vision of healthy and simple country life; a young farmer who plows the fields to prepare them for spring sowing, is the paradigm of youthful exaltation, its exuberance and joie de vivre, is compared to the lark as it sails flying high in the sky in the morning. Like many songs from Northern Ireland it is equally popular also in Scotland.
The point of view is masculine, with a final toast to the health of all the “plowmen” (or of the horsebacks, a task that in a large farm more generally indicated those who took care of the horses) that they have fun rolling around in the hay with some beautiful girls, and so they demonstrate their virility with the ability to reproduce.

The Plougman – Rowland Wheelwright (1870-1955)

The Dubliners

Alex Beaton with a lovely Scottish accent

The Quilty (Swedes with an Irish heart)

The lark in the morning, she rises off her nest(1)
She goes home in the evening, with the dew all on her breast
And like the jolly ploughboy, she whistles and she sings
She goes home in the evening, with the dew all on her wings
Oh, Roger the ploughboy, he is a dashing blade (2)
He goes whistling and singing, over yonder leafy shade
He met with pretty Susan,, she’s handsome I declare
She is far more enticing, then the birds all in the air
One evening coming home, from the rakes of the town
The meadows been all green, and the grass had been cut down
As I should chance to tumble, all in the new-mown hay (3)
“Oh, it’s kiss me now or never love”,  this bonnie lass did say
When twenty long weeks, they were over and were past
Her mommy chanced to notice, how she thickened round the waist
“It was the handsome ploughboy,-the maiden she did say-
For he caused for to tumble, all in the new-mown hay”
Here’s a health to y’all ploughboys wherever you may be
That likes to have a bonnie lass a sitting on his knee
With a jug of good strong porter you’ll whistle and you’ll sing
For a ploughboy is as happy as a prince or a king
1) The lark is a melodious sparrow that sings from the first days of spring and already at the first light of dawn; it is a terrestrial bird which, however, once safely in flight, rises almost vertically into the sky, launching a cascade of sounds similar to a musical crescendo.
Then, closed the wings, he lets himself fall like a dead body until he touches the ground and immediately rises again, starting to sing again . see more
2) blade= boy, term used in ancient ballads to indicate a skilled swordsman
3) The story’s backgroung is that of the season of haymaking, starting in May, when farmers went to make hay, that is to cut the tall grass, with the scythe, putting it aside as fodder for livestock and courtyard’s animals . While hay cutting was a mostly masculine task, women and children used the rake to collect grass in large piles, which were then loaded onto the cart through the use of pitchforks.. see more

George Stubbs – Haymakers 1785 (Wikimedia)

Lisa Knapp from Till April Is Dead ≈ A Garland of May 2017, from Paddy Tunney (only I, II) (Paddy Tunney The Lark in the Morning 1995  ♪), the most extensive version comes from the Sussex Copper family, but Lisa further changes some verses.

The lark in the morning she rises off her nest
And goes whistling and singing, with the dew all on her breast
Like a jolly ploughboy she whistles and she sings
she comes home in the evening with the dew all on her wings
Roger the ploughboy he is a bonny blade.
He goes whistling and singing down by yon green glade.
He met with dark-eyed Susan, she’s handsome I declare,
she’s far more enticing than the birds on the air.
This eve he was coming home, from the rakes in town
with meadows been all green and the grass just cut down
she is chanced to tumble all in the new-mown hay
“It’s loving me now or never”, this bonnie lass did say
So good luck to the ploughboys wherever they may be,
They will take a sweet maiden to sit along their knee,
Of all the gay callings
There’s no life like the ploughboy in the merry month of may



This version was collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1904 as heard by Ms. Harriet Verrall of Monk’s Gate, Horsham in Sussex, but already circulated in the nineteenth-century broadsides and then reported in Roy Palmer’s book “Folk Songs collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams”. Became into the English folk music circuit in the 60s the song was recorded in 1971 by the English folk rock group Steeleye Span with the voice of Maddy Prior.

The refrain is similar to that of the previous irish version, but here the situation is even more pastoral and almost Shakespearean with the shepherdess and the plowman who are surprised by the morning song of the lark, but with the reversed parts: he who tells her to stay in his arms, because there is still the evening dew, but she who replies that the sun is now shining and even the lark has risen in flight. The name of the peasant is Floro and derives from the Latin Fiore.

Steeleye Span from Please to See the King – 1971

Maddy Prior  from Arthur The King – 2001

“Lay still my fond shepherd and don’t you rise yet
It’s a fine dewy morning and besides, my love, it is wet.”
“Oh let it be wet my love and ever so cold
I will rise my fond Floro and away to my fold.
Oh no, my bright Floro, it is no such thing
It’s a bright sun a-shining and the lark is on the wing.”
Oh the lark in the morning she rises from her nest
And she mounts in the air with the dew on her breast
And like the pretty ploughboy she’ll whistle and sing
And at night she will return to her own nest again
When the ploughboy has done all he’s got for to do
He trips down to the meadows where the grass is all cut down.

1)plow the field but also plow a complacent girl


“Lark in the morning” is a jig mostly performed with banjo or bouzouki or mandolin or guitar, but also with pipes, whistles or flutes, fiddles ..
An anecdote reported by Peter Cooper says that two violinists had challenged one evening to see who was the best, only at dawn when they heard the song of the lark, they agreed that the sweetest music was that of the morning lark. Same story told by the piper Seamus Ennis but with the The Lark’s March tune

Moving Hearts The Lark in the Morning (Trad. Arr. Spillane, Lunny, O’Neill)

Cillian Vallely uilleann pipes with Alan Murray guitar

Peter Browne uilleann pipes in Lark’s march