The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #147208   Message #3410627
Posted By: Artful Codger
26-Sep-12 - 05:13 PM
Thread Name: Origins: The Hunting Day / Fine Hunting Day
Subject: Origins: The Hunting Day / Fine Hunting Day
This well-known fox-hunting song was written and composed by William Williams. The original title appears to be "The Hunting Day", though it is now better known as "[A] Fine Hunting Day" or as "We'll All Go a-Hunting Today."

This is the earliest complete version I've found in an original printed source:


Song dedicated to the North Warwickshire Hunt, by W. Williams

   What a fine hunting-day!
   'Tis as balmy as May,
And the hounds to the village will come.
   Every friend will be there,
   And all trouble and care
Will be left far behind them at home.
   See servants and steeds on their way;
   The sportsmen their scarlet display:
      Let us join the glad throng
      That goes laughing along,
   And we'll all go a-hunting to-day.

         We'll all go a-hunting to day,
         For Nature is smiling and gay:
         So we'll join the glad throng
         That goes laughing along,
         And we'll all go a-hunting to-day.

   Farmer Hodge to his dame
   Says, "I'm sixty and lame;
Times are hard; and my rent I can't pay:
   But I don't care a jot
   If I make it or not,
For I must go a-hunting to day.
   There's a fox in the spinney, they say;
   We'll find him and get him away:
      I'll be first in the rush,
      And ride hard for the brush,
   So I must go a-hunting to-day."
         We'll all go, &c.

   There's the Doctor in boots,
   With a breakfast that suits
Him of strong home-brewed ale and good beef;
   And his patients in pain
   Say, "We're come once again
To consult you in hope of relief."
   To the poor he advice gave away,
   For the rich he prescribed and took pay;
      But to each one he said,
      "You will shortly be dead,
   If you don't go a-hunting to-day."
         You must go, &c.

   As the Judge sits in court
   He gets wind of the sport,
For the lawyers apply to adjourn,
   As no witnesses come,
   And there's none found at home,
They have followed the hounds and the horn.
   Says His Worship, " Great fines they must pay
   If they will not our summons obey;—
      Yet it's very fine sport,—
      So we'll break up the court,
   And we'll all go a-hunting to-day."
         We'll all go, &c.

   There is only one cure
   For all maladies sure,
That reaches the heart to its core,
   'Tis the sound of the horn
   On a fine hunting morn,
And where is the heart wishing more?
   It turneth the grave into gay,
   Makes pain unto pleasure give way,
      Makes the old become young,
      And the weak become strong,
   So we'll all go a-hunting to-day.
         We'll all go, &c.

Marlborough Upper School Songs [7th ed.], p.34. Marlborough: Printed at "The Times" office, 1901.

According to search snippets I was able to glean from Alexander Mackay-Smith's The Songs of Foxhunting (American Foxhound Club, 1974), Williams was born in 1805 and lived his early life in Wolverhampton, and he wrote the song in 1860. [I'm sure Mackay-Smith provided more information, I just don't have access to it.]

According to The hunting countries of England, their facilities, character and [so forth], Volume 1, p. 126, in addition to being a keen sportsman, Williams worked assiduously for the preservation of foxes and enjoyed watching them.

I also found parodies published in the mid-1890s and a corrupted, misattributed version of the song published in 1875.

Here are a couple of field recordings furnished to the British Library online traditional music collections by Steve Gardham:
George Jewell, The Fox and Hounds, Goldsborough, near Whitby, North Yorkshire, England, UK
Jack Breckhon, Esk Valley, North Yorkshire, England, UK