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Lyr Add: The Reaphook and Sickle

05 Mar 98 - 09:30 AM (#23054)
Subject: ADD: The reaphook and sickle
From: Wolfgang Hell

The Albion band (with Martin Carthy) sings this song. The slightly different version here comes from R. Palmer, Everyman's Book of English Country songs. I have also added a part of his notes.

The Reaphook and Sickle

1. Come all you lads and lassies, together let us go
into some pleasant cornfield our courage for to show,
with the reaphook and the sickle so well we clear the land,
the farmer says, ‘Well done, my lads, here’s liquor at your command.’

2. By daylight in the morning when birds so sweetly sing -
They are such charming creatures they make the valley ring -
We will reap and scrape together till Phoebus do go down,
With the good old leathern bottle and beer that is so brown.

3 Then in comes lovely Nancy the corn all for to lay,
She is my charming creature, I must begin to pray;
See how she gathers it, binds it, she folds it in her arms,
Then gives it to some waggoner to fill a farmer's barns.

4 Now harvest's done and ended, the corn secure from harm,
All for to go to market, boys, we must thresh in the barn.
Here's a health to all you farmers, likewise to all You men,
I wish You health and happiness till harvest comes again.

reaphook: heavy variety of sickle.

Phoebus: the sun

Harvesting was both arduous and joyful Richard Jefferies in an essay, 'Walks in the Wheatfields' (published in Field and Hedgerow, 1889), paints a harrowing picture of the reapers: 'The breast-bone was burned black, and their arms, tough as ash, seemed encased in leather. They grew visibly thinner in the harvest-field, and shrunk together - all flesh disappearing, and nothing but sinew and muscle remaining....’

05 Mar 98 - 05:16 PM (#23087)
Subject: RE: ADD: The reaphook and sickle
From: Jerry Friedman

"Nothing but sinew and muscle" is the goal of a lot of modern exercisers. Those harvesters didn't know how healthy they were!

05 Mar 98 - 07:37 PM (#23105)
Subject: RE: ADD: The reaphook and sickle
From: Bruce O.

The song was reprinted (with music) from Heywood Sumner's 'The Besom Maker' in Broadwood & Fuller Maitland's 'English County Songs', 1893 (reprinted without date).

05 Mar 98 - 08:44 PM (#23112)
Subject: RE: ADD: The reaphook and sickle
From: therapon

No kidding, Jerry. The most in-shape men I've ever seen were not in a weight room, but in the bean fields of western Crete. You understand why when you try to do their work. Muscles which have never even announced themselves to you with a whisper suddenly scream and die. It makes you realize what an amazing physical specimen Leadbelly must have been, if he was able to pick even half of the 1000 lbs of cotton a day which have been attributed to him.

06 Mar 98 - 10:12 AM (#23161)
Subject: RE: ADD: The reaphook and sickle
From: Jon W.

I read that Leadbelly was a large powerful man, which also helps explain his guitar-playing prowess. He was able to fret and hammer-on forcefully because of his strength. I'm afraid sitting at a computer keyboard all day has me at a disadvantage.