> The Copper Family > Songs > Babes in the Wood
> Shirley Collins > Songs > Babes in the Wood / Lost in a Wood
> Tim Hart & Maddy Prior > Songs > Babes in the Wood

Babes in the Wood / Lost in a Wood

[ Roud 288 ; Laws Q34 ; Ballad Index LQ34 ; Bodleian Roud 288 ; Wiltshire Roud 288 ; trad.]

Babes in the Wood is a song from the repertoire of the Copper Family. It originated from a story dating back to 1601 or before but the version sung today was written by William Gardiner early in the nineteenth century. Bob and Ron Copper sang it on their 1963 EFDSS LP Traditional Songs from Rottingdean; this recording was included in 2001 on Come Write Me Down: Early Recordings of the Copper Family of Rottingdean. The Copper Family also sang this song at Will Noble's barn in Denby Dale, Yorkshire on September 27, 1986. This event was released a year later on the VWML cassette Will's Barn. And they recorded it again in 1998 for their CD Coppersongs 3: The Legacy Continues.

Shirley Collins sang Babes in the Wood in 1967 for her album The Sweet Primeroses with the Young Tradition joining in on the chorus. She commented in the album's notes on the Copper's legacy:

After the Copper family lost their sheep-farm on the Sussex downs to suburban speculators, their songs were just about all they had left. Bob Copper, who first recorded me and my family in Hastings, now owns a pub in Peacehaven, on the outskirts of Brighton. He is widely famous for his duets sung in company with his cousin Ron, another publican. This song is one of the most moving in their repertoire. Its sentimentality is unabashed, but it triumphs by virtue of the sweet dignity of its words and tune.

Shirley Collins later rewrote this song into a new version she called Lost in a Wood. She recorded it in 2002 with Iris Bishop (duet concertina) and Gary Holder (bass) for the album Song Links: A Celebration of English Traditional Songs and Their Australian Variants. The corresponding Australian version of Babes in the Wood was sung by Martyn Wyndham-Read and Cathie O'Sullivan with the same accompaniment of Iris Bishop and Gary Holder. Shirley Collins' recording was also included as the closing track of her anthology Within Sound.

Tim Hart and Maddy Prior recorded Babes in the Wood in 1968 for their first duo album Folk Songs of Old England Vol. 1.

Alison McMorland sang Babes in the Wood in 1977 on her album with The Excelsior Band (featuring Pete Bullock), The Funny Family. The Old Fashioned, again with Pete Bullock, sang it in 2016 on their CD Strawberry Leaves.

Magpie Lane sang Babes in the Wood on their 1995 CD Wassail! A Country Christmas and Andy Turner sang it as part the December 24, 2012 entry of his blog A Folk Song a Week.

Paul and Liz Davenport sang Babes in the Wood in 2006 on their Hallamshire Traditions CD Under the Leaves. They commented in their liner notes:

A short but lovely song which appeared in broadside form over a long period. Here Liz uses the familiar Copper family melody set to the older words to be found in William's Folk-Songs of the Upper Thames. It is generally held that the ballad tells a true story, but then, didn't they all?

Tim van Eyken sang Babes in the Wood in 2006 on his Topic CD Stiffs Lovers Holymen Thieves.

Jon Boden learned sang Babes in the Wood from Tim Hart and Maddy Prior's album. He sang it as the December 1, 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Lyrics

The Copper Family sing Babes in the Wood

O, don't you remember a long time ago
Those two little babies their names I don't know,
They strayed away one bright summer's day,
Those two little babies got lost on their way.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Pretty babes in the wood, pretty babes in the wood,
O, don't you remember those babes in the wood?

Now the day being done and the night coming on
Those two little babies sat under a stone.
They sobbed and they sighed they sat there and cried,
Those two little babies they lay down and died.

Now the robins so red how swiftly they sped,
They put out their wide wings and over them spread.
And all the day long in the branches they throng,
They sweetly did whistle and this was their song.

Shirley Collins sings Babes in the Wood

Now don't you remember, a long time ago,
Those two little babies, their names I don't know?
They strayed away one bright summer's day,
These two little babies got lost on their way.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Pretty babes in the wood, pretty babes in the wood,
Oh, don't you remember those babes in the wood?

Now the day being long and the night coming on
These two little babies laid under a stone.
They wept and they cried, they sobbed and they sighed;
These two little babies they laid down and died.

Now the robins so red, oh swiftly they sped,
They spread out their wide wings and over them laid.
And all the day long on the branches they thronged;
They sweetly did whistle and this was their song.

Tim Hart and Maddy Prior sing Babes in the Wood

Oh, don't you remember, a long time ago,
Those two little babies, their names I don't know?
They strayed far away one bright summer's day,
These two little babies got lost on their way.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Pretty babes in the wood, pretty babes in the wood,
Oh, don't you remember those babes in the wood.

Now the day being long and the night coming on
These two little babies sat under a stone.
They sobbed and they sighed, they sat down and cried;
These two little babies they laid down and died.

Now the robins so red, so swiftly they sped,
They put out their wide wings and over them spread.
And all the day long on the branches did throng;
They sweetly did carol and this was their song.

Shirley Collins sings Lost in a Wood

My dears, don't you know how a long time ago
There were two little babies whose names I don't know?
They were stolen away on a bright summer's day
And were lost in a wood, as I've heard people say.

Now beneath the blue sky under yonder trees high
They gathered wild flowers and heard the birds cry.
Then on blackberries fed and strawberries red
And when they were weary, We'll go home, they said.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Pretty babes in the wood, sweet babes in the wood
And it's oh the sad tale of the babes in the wood?

And when it was night so sad was their plight,
Oh the sun it went down and the moon gave no light.
They wept and they cried, they sobbed and they sighed
And long before morning they lay down and died.

And when they were dead, the robins so red
Brought strawberry leaves and all over them spread.
And all the day long, the green branches among,
They sweetly did whistle and this was their song.

Links

See also the Mudcat Café thread Origins: Poor Babes in the Woods .