“Hares on the Mountains” was collected by Cecil Sharp in nine different versions, a love hunt perhaps derived from “The Two Magicians“
Some believe that the text was written by Samuel Lover (1797-1865) because he appears in his novel “Rory o ‘More”. But the theme of this love-hunting is antecedent and recalls an ancient initiation ritual if not a true enchantment of transformation (or concealment) fith fath.
Still popular in England, we find “Hares on the Mountains” more sporadically in Ireland, the United States and Canada, but in the 60s and 70s it was very popular in folk clubs, less widespread, however, the version from the male point of view.
Steeleye Span from Parcel of Rogues 1973: a sweet lullaby
|HARES ON THE MOUNTAIN|
Young women they’ll run
Like hares(1) on the mountains,
Young women they’ll run like hares on the mountains
If I were but a young man I’d soon go a hunting,
To my right fol diddle de ro, To my right fol diddle dee.
Young women they’ll sing
Like birds in the bushes,
If I were but a young man,
I’d go and bang those bushes.
Young women they’ll swim
Like ducks in the water,
If I were but a young man,
I’d go and swim after
1) hare, birds and duck are animals associated with the three kingdoms, the middle world (Earth), above (Heaven) and below (Sea)
Hares on the Mountains: OH SALLY, MY DEAR
The same pattern of “Hares on the Mountains” is taken up in a ballad called with the same title or “Oh Sally my dear” of which we know mainly two melodies. Here the textual part is rendered as a blow and a response between the two lovers.
“Oh Sally, my dear, it’s you I’d be kissing,
Oh Sally, my dear, it’s you I’d be kissing,”
She smiled and replied,”you don’t know what you’re missing”.
“Oh Sally, my dear, I wish I could wed you,
Oh Sally my dear, I wish I could bed you”
She smiled and replied, “then you’d say I’d misled you”.
“If all you young men were hares on the mountain,
How many young girls would take guns and go hunting?
If the young men could sing like blackbirds and thrushes,
How many young girls would go beating the bushes?
If all you young men were fish in the water,
How many young girls would undress and dive after?”
“But the young men are given to frisking and fooling(1),
Oh, the young men are given to frisking and fooling,
So I’ll leave them alone and attend to my schooling”
1) to take relationships with the girls lightly, without serious intentions. In this version the ballad has become a warning song on the old adage that man is a hunter
Hares on the Mountains: THE BLACKBIRDS AND THE THRUSHES
|BLACKBIRDS AND THRUSHES|
If all the young ladies were blackbirds (1) & thrushes
If all the young ladies were blackbirds & thrushes
Then all the young men would go beating the bushes
Rye fol de dol diddle lol iddle lye ay
If all the young ladies were ducks on the water..
Then all the young men would go swimming in after
If all the young ladies were rushes a-growing..
Then all the young men would get scythes and go mowing
If the ladies were all trout and salmon so lively
Then divil the men would go fishing on Friday(2)
If all the young ladies were hares on the mountain
Then men with their hounds would be out without counting
1) In the Celtic tradition: The blackbird (druid dhubh) is associated with the goddess Rhiannon. Legend has it that the birds of Rhiannon are three blackbirds, which are perched and sing on the tree of life on the edge of the otherworldly worlds. Their song, puts the listener in a state of trance, which allows him to go to the parallel worlds. (from here) see more
2) the expression perhaps refers to the fact that in the weekend you go fishing or that on Friday you eat fish