The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #6967   Message #491593
Posted By: Malcolm Douglas
25-Jun-01 - 03:00 PM
Thread Name: Origins: The Mower
Subject: Lyr Add: THE MOWER^^
Since this thread has been summoned back from the Great Beyond, I may as well answer part of the original question:


(Tune traditional, noted by Sabine Baring Gould from James Parsons; words by Baring Gould)

A mower in the month of June
With tarring scythe am I.
To left, to right, I sweep and smite,
Before the dew is dry.
The daisy and the buttercup
Before me bow the head,
What blooméd fair in summer air,
Lies withered, cold, and dead.

There's one doth mow, full well I know,
That passeth through the land,
With scythe more keen, he mows the green,
And letteth little stand.
Me unforgot, he sought my plot
Where blooméd babies three,
And pretty wife, there with his knife
He shore them all from me.

At fall of e'en, when skies are green,
Above the sun's decline,
I there behold blow flowers of gold,
And think those flowers are mine.
On scythe I stoop, in humble hope,
That mower'll ease my pain.
In Eden sweet, I then shall greet
My pretty flowers again.

From A Garland of Country Song, S. Baring Gould and H. Fleetwood Sheppard, 1895 (reprinted Llanerch Publishers, 1998). Baring Gould commented:
"The Mower is a song that exists in several versions, as The Buxom Lass by Jackson, of Birmingham, as The Little Farm by Paul, of St. Andrew's St., London, as The Weary Ploughman, as The Mower by Catnach and Hodges. They vary much, but all are objectionable, and I have therefore entirely re-written the song. The melody is without much character, yet this song is a very favourite one throughout England, and we have included the air for that reason, and that alone."

Links are to copies of the broadsides cited, at Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads; there are plenty of others from other printers there, too.

In fairness to Baring Gould, no respectable publisher at that time would have printed the original text, though the Broadside printers were bound by no such considerations; though to today's eyes it seems innocent enough, the sexual metaphor was meat too strong for the drawing-room. Baring Gould retained the original text in his manuscripts, and Martin Graebe quotes it in his introduction to the reprint cited above. As for the tune, judge for yourselves; a midi goes to The Mudcat Midi Pages; as a temporary measure it can be heard via the South Riding Folk Network site:

The Mower (1895)


(As originally noted by Sabine Baring Gould from James Parsons)

As I walked out one morning fair, the fourteenth of July
I met a maid, she asked my trade, I made her this reply
It is my occupation, love to ramble up and down
And with my scythe in order, love, to mow the meadow down

She said, my pretty young man, a mower if you be
I'll find you some employment if you'll go along with me
My mother hath a meadow, that's (kept) for you in store
It's on the dew, I tell you true 'twas never mowed before

All in my little meadow, you'll find nor hills nor rocks
I pray you do not leave me 'till my hay is all in pokes
O mower man you promised me, you promised me that day
You would not bear your scythe elsewhere 'till you had cut my hay

I answered fairest maiden I can no longer bide
For I must go across the hills far, far away and wide
But if the grass be all cut down in the country where I go
Then I'll return to you again, your meadow for to mow

Now summer being overpast, and harvest being o'er
The mower gone, I'm left alone my folly to deplore
And where he's gone, I cannot tell, 'tis far beyond the hill
And I must yield and quit the field where the grass is growing still