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Blow away the morning dew

Blow away the morning dew is a popular version of the folk ballad “Baffled Knight”. This ballad is reported in many text versions both in the eighteenth-century collections and in the Broadsides, as well as transmitted orally in Great Britain and America with the titles of “Blow (Clear) (Stroll) Away The Morning Dew”.

Blow away the morning dew

BAFFLED KNIGHT – Leggi in italiano
TITOLI: The Baffled Lover (knight), The Lady’s Policy, The Disappointed Lover, The (Bonny) Blow Ye Winds High-O, Clear Away the Morning Dew

Child #112 A (Tudor Ballad)
Child #112 B (Thomas D’Urfey)
Child #112 D ( Cecil Sharp)
Child #112 D (Shepherd Lad)
Blow Away The Morning Dew (sea shanty)

Blow away the morning dew

In the older version of the ballad known as The Baffled Knight, a young and inexperienced knight meets a girl in the fields and asks her to have sex, but the lady makes fun of her love inexperience and tricks him into a ploy.

In the most ancient version of the ballad The Baffled knight, a young and inexperienced knight meets a Lady in the fields and asks her to have sex. She makes fun of his inexperience in love and tricks him into a ploy. Throughout the centuries and the oral transmission the context of the ballad becomes more prosaic and the girl is no longer playing with fire, but she is all intent on preserving her virtue from a rape.

The novelty compared to the versions A and B already seen (here and here) is the refrain that, declined in a couple of variations, recalls an allusive morning breeze that sweeps away the night’s dew.

The Renaissance courtly ballad of the “Baffled Knight” is now transposed into a popular setting, linking it to an ancient Celtic auspicious and healthy ritual, still practiced by the peasants, that of the Bath in the dew of Beltane.(see more).


Geoff Woolfewrites “Cecil Sharp noted several versions of this song in his travels around Somerset in the early 1900s, and in 1916 published what became the ‘standard’ version later sung by many schoolchildren and choirs. Vaughan Williams used the tune for his folk song suite for military band in the 1920s. The text in Mrs Nation [Elisabeth Nation of Bathpool, Somerset]’s version is similar to most others; its meaning may have been lost on collectors and schoolchildren in more innocent times” (from here)

Oscar Brand & Joni Mitchell 1965: a still unknown Joni Anderson, but already refulgent. This video is part of the television series “Let’s Sing Out” conducted by Oscar Brand, which was recorded on various Canadian university campuses and aired on Canadian television from 1963 to 1966. The textual version of the ballad has been slightly retouched and reduced in the form of humorous song.

There was a young farmer(1)
Kept sheep all on the hill;
And he walk’d out one May morning(2)
To see what he could kill.(3)
And sing blow away the morning dew
The dew, and the dew.
Blow away the morning dew,
How sweet the birds they sing(4)
He looked high, he looked low,
He cast an under look;
And there he saw a pretty maid
that swimming in a brook.

“If you take to my father’s castle(6)
Which is walled all around,
And, you may have a kiss from me
And twenty thousand pound”(7).
When they got to her father’s gate,
quicly she ride in:
There is a fool without
And here’s a maid within.
There is a flower in the garden,
they call it Marigold(8):
And if you do not
when you’re young(9),
then you may not when you’re olde.

1) or “shepherd boy” in  Phyllis Marshall (which collected 26 popular songs between 1916 and 1917 from Bathpool and West Monkton, Somerset). In the Somerset Scrapbook, Bob and Jackie Patten write: “in 1916 and 1917 Miss Phyllis Marshall was collecting songs around West Monkton. Although only a small collection, her note books contain some choice material. This collection only came to light in the 1970s when it was found in a second-hand book shop and bought for a few pence“. Both the Oscar Brand and Phyllis Marshall versions are attributable to the “standard” one published by Cecil Sharp in 1916.
2) the verse is significant and clarifies the refrain: it is the May Day, when the sun of Beltane gives more power to the dew (see).
3) here the young man goes hunting for necessity, but initially he was a gentleman hunting for pleasure: it is evident the allusion to the woman as prey
4)the verse has been changed to make it more “winking”, The refrain reported by Cecil Sharp says:
And sing blow away the morning dew,
The dew, and the dew.
Blow away the morning dew,
How sweet the winds do blow.
5)in this version are missing a couple of verses as reported by Phyllis Marshall
“The dew’s all on the grass, it’ll spoil my wedding gown
Which cost my father out of his purse as many pounds as crowns”
“I’ll take off my riding coat and wrap it round and round
There is a wind come from the west which soon will blow it down”
The woman tries to dissuade the man with a pretext (and who sings does not seem to have doubts about the incongruity of the two just out of the stream where they were supposedly naked swimming), that of the dress that is rubbing (it is here is even a wedding dress , a Bride of May?) is a staple of the story that already in its seventeenth-century versions warned the inexperienced (in love) young men  “Spare not for her gay clothing, But lay her body flat on the ground”
6) normally it is a gate, I assume that Oscar Brand used the word “castle” to confirm the “ancient” origin of the ballad, (making a little effort to make it stand in the metric)
7) the girl boasts a rich dowry that could tempt the man not to go immediately to rape, but to aim at obtaining the consent of the parents (he can have money only in exchange for the marriage of course) the stanza collected by Phyllis Marshall, that it could be misunderstood if not included in the context, it says “And you shall see what I can do for fifty thousand pounds”
8) flower that already in the second half of 1600 was brought to America by the first settlers. The flower takes up the solar symbolism and was considered a protective plant. In this context it symbolizes the virtue of the girl
9) the maximum is softened

Eliza Carthy – Blow the winds from Red Rice 1998 (following The Game of Draughts)

There was a shepherd’s son,
He kept sheep on the hill.
He laid his pipe and his crook aside
And there he slept his fill.
And blow the winds high-o, high-o
Sing blow the winds high-o
Well he looked east and he looked west,
He took another look
And there he saw a lady gay
Was dipping in a brook.
She said: “Sir, don’t touch my mantle,
Come let my clothes alone.
I will give you as much bright money
As you can carry home.”
“I will not touch your mantle,
I’ll let your clothes alone,
But I’ll take you out of the water clear
My dear to be my own.”
He mounted her on a milk white steed,
Himself upon another,
And there they rode along the road
Like sister and like brother.
And as they rode along the road
He spied some cocks of hay,
“Oh look!” he says, “there’s a lovely place
For men and maids to play (1).”

And when they came to her father’s house
They rang long at the ring,
And who is there but her brother
To let the young girl in.
When the gates were opened
This young girl she jumped in,
“Oh, look!” she says, “you’re a fool without
And I’m a maid within!
IX (2)
“There is a horse in my father’s stable,
He stands behind the thorn,
He shakes himself above the trough
But dares not pry the corn.
“There is cock in my father’s yard,
A double comb (3) he wears,
He shakes his wings and he crows full loud
But a capon’s crest he bears.
“And there is a flower in my father’s garden,
It’s called the marigold,
The fool that will not when he can,
He shall not when he would.”
Says the shepherd’s son as he doffed his shoes,
“My feet they shall run bare
And if I ever meet another girl
I’ll have that girl, beware.”

1) curious inversion of roles now it is the girl to tease the boy that does not react
2) the two strophes are “veiled” insults, the girl insinuates that the boy is a powerless
3) review of cock’s crests (see more)

Clear Away the Morning Dew

Ian Robb from “Ian Robb and hang the Piper” 1979
In the notes Ian writes ” the bulk of the text and the tune coming from ‘This Singing Island’, MacColl and Seeger

As I walked out one morning fair,
To see what I could shoot,
I there espied a pretty fair maid
Come a-tripping by the road.
And sing, Hail the dewy morning’
Blow all the winds high-O.
Clear away the morning dew,
How sweet the winds do blow.
We both jogged on together
‘Till we came to some pooks of hay.
She said’ “Young man, there is a place,
Where you and I can lay”.
I put me arms around her waist
And I tried to throw her down.
She said “Young man, the dewy grass
Will rumple my silk gown. (1) “

“But if you come to me father ‘s house
There you can lay me down.
You can take away me maidenhead,
Likewise a thousand pounds.”
So I took her to her father’s house,
But there she locked me out.
She said’ “Young man, I’m a maid within,
And you’re a fool without! “
So it’s if you come to a pretty maid,
A mile outside of town,
Don’t you take no heed
of the dewy grass
Or the rumpling of her gown.

1) very curious the attitude of the girl who first teases him by proposing to lie down between the hay (with an obvious double meaning) and then complains when he hugs her

Dew Is on the Grass

From the field recording of Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1907 from the testimony of Jake Willisof Hadleigh, Suffolk, in Folk Songs Collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams (Roy Palmer 1983 )
Lisa Knapp from Wild & Undaunted 2007

As I walked out one midsummer’s morn
All in in the month of May, sir,
O there I beheld a fair pretty maid
Making of the hay, sir.
Fol de lie de lay
I boldly stepped up to her
Asked her to lay down, sir.
The answer that she gave to me
Was, “The dew is on the ground, sir.”
“O but if you come to my father’s house
You may lay in my bed, sir;
You can have my maidenhead
All on a bed of down, sir.”
But when we got to her father’s house,
It was walled in all around, sir.
And she ran in and shut the gate,
Shut the young man out, sir.

“O when you met with me at first
You did not meet a fool, sir;
Take your Bible under your arm,
Go a little more to school, sir.
“And if you meet a pretty girl
A little below the town, sir;
You must not mind her squalling
Or the rumpling of your gown, sir.
“There is a cock in my father’s garden
Will not tread the hen (1), sir;
And I do think in my very heart
That you are one of them, sir.
“There is a flower in my father’s garden
Called a marigold, sir,
And if you will not when you may
You shall not when you would, sir.”

1) now the insult is explicit: the boy is an impotent, in the Irish versions the most recurring phrase is:” when they got to bed upstairs, sure the bay he wasn’t able


Pubblicato da Cattia Salto

Amministratore e folklorista di Terre Celtiche Blog

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