> The Copper Family > Songs > The Pleasant Month of May

The (Pleasant) Month of May / The Haymakers / Tumbling Through the Hay

[ Roud 153 ; Henry H697 ; Ballad Index HHH697 ; Wiltshire 119 , 120 ; trad.]

The Copper Family Song Book Everyman's Book of English Country Songs The Constant Lovers Sam Henry's Songs of the People Songs of the West The Life of a Man

This song from the repertoire of the Copper Family is printed in The Copper Family Song Book. Bob and Ron Copper sang this song as The Merry Haymakers on the LP Jack of All Trades (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 3; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1968) and as The Month of May in 1963 on their EFDSS LP Traditional Songs from Rottingdean; which was reissued in 2001 on the Topic CD Come Write Me Down: Early Recordings of the Copper Family of Rottingdean. Bob and John Copper sang Pleasant Month of May in 1971 on their Leader box A Song for Every Season. Another generation, John and Jill Copper, sang The Month of May in 1998 on their CD Coppersongs 3: The Legacy Continues. And Mark Barratt and Tom Copper from the most recent Copper Family generation sang Pleasant Month of May in 2008 on the Young Coppers's CD Passing Out.

Sam Larner sang Merry Month of May in a recording made by Philip Donnellan for the BBC in Larner's home in Winterton, Norfolk in 1958/59; this was published in 1974 on his Topic LP A Garland for Sam and in 1998 on the Topic anthology Come All My Lads That Follow the Plough (The Voice of the People Volume 5).

Levi Smith sang this song as The Haymakers in a recording made by Mike Yates near Epsom, Surrey, in May 1974. It was published in 1975 on the Topic LP of gypsies, travellers and country singers, Songs of the Open Road, and in 1998 on the Topic anthology My Father's the King of the Gypsies (The Voice of the People Volume 11). Mike Yates noted on the first album:

The Haymakers stems from a long blacklister broadside, The countrey peoples Felicitie, or A brief Description of Pleasures, first licenced to the printer Francis Grove on 12 March 1656. It has lasted well in tradition, having been noted by most collectors in southern England. Levi Smith has the song in a somewhat fragmentary form, although he insists that his version is complete. Grove’s broadside includes the following lines:

Sweet jug, jug, jug, jug, jug, jug, jug the nightingale did sing,
whose noble voice, made all rejoice; as they were hay-making.

which explains that the jug is the song of the nightingale and not the beer receptacle of Levi’s song.

Joe Holmes sang Tumbling Through the Hay in a recording made by Neil Wayne and Lyn Murfin in the north of Ireland in 1975. It was released a year later on his and Len Graham's Free Reed LP Chaste Muses, Bards and Sages. The liner notes commented:

Ireland doesn't boast many songs about work. Here's one which Jue got from his mother—it has, of course, a bit of play as well.

John Roberts, Tony Barrand, Fred Breunig and Steve Woodruff sang The Month of May on their 1980 album To Welcome In the Spring.

Graham and Sheila Nelmes sang The Merry Haymakers in 1983 on their Traditional Sound Recordings album High Is the Tower.

Bill Jones sang The Haymakers in 2003 on her CD Two Year Winter.

Jane and Amanda Threlfall sang Pleasant Month of May on their 2008 CD Sweet Nightingale. They noted:

This song is cemented into the repertoire of the Copper family. In his book, A Song for Every Season (Heinemann, 1971), Bob Copper describes the earlier pattern of farming his family enjoyed in the Sussex of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He relates it in a way that gives credence to the image of life being very much like this for many country people back then. That is said, not by straining it through some nostalgic gauze or framing it within an imagined idyll, but as the simple reality of a rural world devoid of any future version of itself.

Life was hard, maybe, but most could squeeze a fair amount of enjoyment from it. The singer of this song wouldn't have dared put voice to sentiments such as these, in front of his fellow workers, if he was likely to be pounced upon as a heretic. This is far removed from the world of Tolpuddle, members of the jury, and the song survives to tell the tale.

The Andover Museum Loft Singers, conducted by Paul Sartin, sang Pleasant Month of May, “another song from the Copper Family of Rottingdean”, in 2012 on their WildGoose album The Bedmaking.

Marylin Tucker and Paul Wilson sang Haymaking in 2012 on their WildGoose album of traditional songs from Devon and Cornwall from the collection of Sabine Baring-Gould, Dead Maid's Land. They noted:

Something like this song is found alive and well in the repertoire of several country singers like the Coppers of Sussex.

Jackie Oates sang The Pleasant Month of May in 2009 on her CD Hyperboreans.

Lisa Knapp sang The Pleasant Month of May, in 2012 on her EP Hunt the Hare (A Branch of May Volume One) and in 2017 on her CD Till April Is Dead. According to the EP's sleeve notes, it is “a traditional song most notably from the Copper Family repertoire […] here set in driving, contemporary style yet remains true to the original.”

Chris Sarjeant sang Haymaking in 2012 on his WildGoose album Heirlooms. He noted:

Again this popular Sussex song came from my parents [Derek Sarjeant and Hazel King].

Lyrics

The Copper Family sing The Month of May

'Twas in the pleasant month of May in the springtime of the year,
And down by yonder meadow there runs a river clear,
See how the little fishes how they do sport and play
Causing many a lad and many a lass to go there a-making hay.

Then in comes the scytheman that meadow to mow down,
With his old leathered bottle and the ale that runs so brown.
There's many a stout and labouring man comes here his skill to try,
He works, he mows, he sweats and blows and the grass cuts very dry.

Then in comes both Tom and Dick with their pitch-forks and their rakes
And likewise black-eyed Susan the hay all for to make.
There's a sweet, sweet, sweet and a jug, jug, jug, how the harmless birds did sing,
From the morning till the evening as we were a-haymaking.

It was just at one evening as the sun was a-going down,
We saw the jolly piper come a-strolling through the town.
There he pulled out his tabor and pipes and he made the valley ring,
So we all put down our rakes and forks and left off haymaking.

We callèd for a dance and we trippèd it along,
We danced all round the haycocks till the rising of the sun.
When the sun did shine such a glorious light and the harmless birds did sing,
Each lad he took his lass in hand and went back to his haymaking.

Joe Holmes sings Tumbling Through the Hay

It being in the month of July in the rosy time of the year,
Down by yon flowery meadows where the waters does run clear,
Where the lambs and little fishes do merrily sport and play,
And the lads and the lasses they go tumbling through the hay.

Chorus (after each verse):
La de dee die de tol da lee
La de dee die la de die
La de dee die de tol da lee.

Then up came lovely Johnny with a pitchfork and a rake,
And up came lovely Molly the hay then for to make,
For they timed their notes so merrily as the nightingale did sing,
And from morning until evening they were at their haymaking.

Then up came the mowers the hay for to cut down,
With their scythes upon their shoulders and their hair a lovely brown,
Then up came the labourers the hay for to shake out,
And when they had it all cut down they tossed it all about.

Beinh coming up to Saturday and all would get their pay,
And all these jolly haymakers were feeling blithe and gay,
The number of these haymakers as near as I can say
Were five and twenty boys and girls tumbling through the hay.

When one short year were over and all was past and gone,
There were five and twenty fair maids making their sad moan,
Singing, Hush-la ba-baby, these fair maids did say,
And many's a time they wished they ne'er had tossed among the hay.

Levi Smith sings The Haymakers

For it's all in the pleasure of month of May in the springtime of the year,
For over yonder meadow, boys, there runs a river clear.
For you see those little fishes, for you see those sport and play,
But there's many lads and bonny lads, we was brought to making hay.

Now, there comes Paul and Peter with their pitchforks and their rakes,
For likewise dark-eyed Susan, for the hay we had to make.
For she pulled out the pipe of ivory and this is what she reply,
But we all chucked down our forks and rakes, and we left off making hay.

Chorus
Oh, jug, oh, sweet jug, oh, drink to the morning's dew,
That we all chucked down our forks and rakes, and we left off making hay.

John Roberts and Tony Barrand sing The Month of May

It was in the pleasant month of May in the springtime of the year,
And down by yonder meadow there runs a river clear.
See how the little fishes, how they do sport and play,
Causing many a lad and many a lass to go there a-making hay.

Then in comes the scythesman that meadow to mow down,
With his old leathered bottle and the ale that runs so brown.
There's many a stout and a labouring man goes there his skill to try.
He works, he mows, he sweats, he blows and the grass cuts very dry.

Then in comes both Tom and Dick with their pitchforks and their rakes,
And likewise black-eyed Susan the hay all for to make.
There's a sweet, sweet, sweet and a jug, jug, jug, how the harmless birds do sing,
From the morning to the evening as were a-haymaking.

It was just at one evening as the sun was a-going down
We saw the jolly piper come strolling through the town.
There he pulled out his tabor and pipe and he made the valleys ring,
So we all put down our rakes and forks and we left off haymaking.

We called for a dance and we tripped it along,
We danced all round the haycocks till the rising of the sun.
When the sun did shine such a glorious light and the harmless birds did sing,
Each laddie took his lass in hand and went back to his haymaking.