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Origins: Sergeant Tally-Ho / Targin Tallyho

Lighter 02 Aug 22 - 07:14 PM
Joe Offer 02 Aug 22 - 09:26 PM
Lighter 02 Aug 22 - 09:39 PM
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Subject: Origins: Sergeant Tally-ho
From: Lighter
Date: 02 Aug 22 - 07:14 PM

In California in 1938-39, collector Sidney Robertson Cowell recorded some 80 songs from lumberman Warde H. Ford, of Crandon, Wisconsin. Among them was an otherwise unknown, two-stanza bawdy item he called “Sergeant Tally-ho” (Roud 15494).

Ford sings it at


Oh, I am a rough and a rambling youth,
      In America now I do reside,
And for the courtin' of these pretty girls,
      I've traveled this country far and wide;
I’ve been over America,
      I’ve traveled in England, France, and Spain,
And I have been in Germany,
      And now, by gosh, I’m going home.

    Ly tilly fal lal fal looral leer.
    Ly tilly fal lal fal laddy O.
Now the colonel’s wife she’d heard of me
    And heard I was a willing youth,
And begged of me most earnestly
    If she could see the naked truth;
So I pulled out my lusty pin,
   As much as her two hands could span.
Right to the bedroom she led me, saying,
    You shall be my handy man.”

    Ly tilly fal lal fal laddy O,
    Ly whack fal lal fal looral leer.

An anonymous broadside from the National Library of Scotland is clearly the progenitor (or close to the progenitor) of Ford’s fragment. The NLS site dates this to probably “1880-1890.” I seriously doubt this; see notes below.) The text seems to be defective. All spellings, short lines, etc., are as in the original:

A New Song

I am the king of sporting blades,
    In Dublin City used to abide,
For courting the pretty fair maids
    Far and near;
I have been in Italy and,
    I have been in France and Spain,
Sicily and Germany,
    And now I am back home again.

First when I did enlist,
      A bold recruit about sixteen,
I had a play boy like my wrist,
      That made the lasses fond and keen.
The Colonel’s Lady fancied me,
       Abroad with her to come and go,
When she heard I had the fusee,
       They call the Targin Tallyo.

But she fain would know or feel the truth,
       I pull’d out my rusty blade,
Which my two hands could scarcely spang.
       With trembling voice she thus replied,
Ha’ ha’ ye’ll be my waiting man,
       Straight to the colonel she went,
This request to her was granted,
       In servant’s livery I was drest.
Abroad with my Mistress to come and go,
       Because she knew I had the long fuze,
They call the Targin Tally o’
But when the colonel come
       Of this sad news to know
He lodg’d a bullet in my groin
       Which graz’d my Targin Tallyo,

The pretty maids and widowed wives
         They all flock round me in a row
And filthy gades crying alas!
         Alas! poor Tallyo
Six weeks I lay then on my back
         Till at length my wound began to mend
And Tallyo he got that stiff
         He scarce would bend
I was oblig’d to tye him to my thigh
         For fear that he should master grow
He cock’d his head and the tye he broke
         And there’s an end to my Tallyo.

A date of ca. 1806-1816 or earlier seems most likely to me for these reasons:

A “fuzee” was a “light musket or firelock”; common in the 18th century, the word seems to have fallen from ordinary use by 1830 or so as the weapon itself became obsolete. Oxford observes that the spelling “tye” disappeared around 1800. Italy, Germany, France, and Spain suggest Napoleonic campaigns; Napoleon, moreover, proposed to invade the independent Kingdom of Sicily in 1807. Sicily merged with the Kingdom of Naples in 1816.

“Tail” is recorded as an occasional synonym for penis since the 1480s. The last line puns on “tail” and “tale.” “Play boy” in this sense is unique.

Since the hero is a soldier and the word “targin” is nonsensical, the change to “Sergeant Tally-Ho” makes perfect sense. (Forde’s version, of course, never mentions “Sergeant Tally-ho,” which suggests that he knew more of the song than he recorded.

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Subject: RE: Origins: Sergeant Tally-Ho / Targin Tallyho
From: Joe Offer
Date: 02 Aug 22 - 09:26 PM

This is interesting stuff, Lighter. Instead of adding new information, I used my magic edit button and linkified items in your post. Hope you don't mind.

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Subject: RE: Origins: Sergeant Tally-Ho / Targin Tallyho
From: Lighter
Date: 02 Aug 22 - 09:39 PM

No prob, Joe. Glad somebody's interested!

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