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The Seasons Round / The Ploughshare

[ Roud 169 ; Master title: The Seasons Round ; Ballad Index BrMa143 ; trad.]

The Ploughshare, or, The Seasons Round is a song from the repertoire of the Copper Family. It is printed in The Copper Family Song Book. Bob and Ron Copper sang it in 1955 to Peter Kennedy; this recording was released in 1963 on their EFDSS LP Traditional Songs From Rottingdean and in 2001 on Topic’s Copper Family anthology Come Write Me Down. Bob and John Copper sang The Ploughshare in 1971 on the 4 LP Leader box set A Song for Every Season, and Bob, John, Jill and Lynne Copper and Jon Dudley sang it in 1988 on Coppersongs: A Living Tradition.

The Young Tradition sang this song as The Season Round in 1967 on their second album, So Cheerfully Round, which got its title from the second-to-last verse. Peter Bellamy commented in the album’s liner notes:

Perhaps because the first eighteen years of my life were spent on a farm, the simple agricultural almanac that is The Season Round is particularly dear to me. Of course the song dates from older times, when the pace, even on the farm, was slower and more peaceful.

The last verse—a protest song if ever I heard one—was probably added by Jim or John Copper, the fathers of Bob and Ron Copper from whom we learned the song. Perhaps still more verses should be added in the same vein—the menace of the tractor to the old ways seems trifling now, compared to the advent of the artificial sprays, the fertilisers and insecticides. It is sad to think that perhaps it will not be long before the whole song is as much a piece of quaint but obsolete history as The Jolly Waggoner.

(According to the Copper Family’s webpage of The Ploughshare, the last verse was added by Jim Copper.)

Dave and Toni Arthur sang this song as Green Grass in 1967 on their Transatlantic album Morning Stands on Tiptoe. They noted:

This song from Colve Carey’s 10 English Folk Songs gives a good description of the yearly cycle of farm life, a cycle the same when the Anglo-Saxons incanted,

Erce, Erce, Erce, Mother of Earth,
Hail to thee, Earth, Mother of Men!
Be fruitful in God’s embrace,
Filled with foot for the use of men.

and then took “every kind of meal, and had a loaf baked and laid it under the first turned furrow” as it is now, except that farmers now rely on modern fertilisers to produce good crops instead of spells.

The Copper Brothers of Rottingdean sing a version of this song under the title of The Season Round, the last verse of it is […] a comment of regret at the changing picture of country life.

Lucy Broadwood gives a version of this song called The Seasons of the Year in Country Songs, page 143.

The Taverners Folk Group sang The Seasons Roud in 1974 on their Folk Heritage album Times of Old England. They noted:

The great social change brought about by the industrial revolution in England, particularly in the North, almost obliterated the songs and traditions of the old agricultural order. Farming songs were changed or adapted to be sung about the new masters—coal, iron, cotton, mills and factories. Happily, however, some typically agricultural songs survived in isolated corners throughout the land.

The Seasons Round or The Green Grass as it is sometimes known is about the regularity of the seasons and the regularity of the work the seasons bring every year to the farm worker.

We learnt this song from the singing of the late Pete Munday and we would like to dedicate this track to his widow Frau Hanalora Munday and her family, for their kindness and hospitality to us when we were on tour in Germany.

Martyn Wyndham-Read sang Seasons of the Year in 1979 on his LP Andy’s Gone.

Nick Dow sang The Seasons of the Year on his 2011 CD My Love You’ve Won to Keep. He noted:

Not the Copper Family’s version, but a song published by Lucy Broadwood in English County Songs in the late nineteenth century. The song was collected in 1892 from a gamekeeper John Burberry. I am the Great Grandson of a Gamekeeper. I like to think he was once a poacher.

Josienne Clarke sang The Seasons in 2012 on her and Ben Walker’s CD Fire and Fortune.


The Young Tradition sing The Season Round

The sun has gone down and the sky it looks red
Down on my soft pillow where I laid my head,
As I open my eyes for to see the stars shine
Then the thought of my true love runs into my mind.

The sap has gone down and the leaves they do fall,
To hedging and ditching our farmers they’ll call.
We will trim up their hedges, we will cut down their wood,
And the farmers they’ll all say our faggots run good.

Now hedging being over then sawing draws near;
We will send for the sawyer those woods for to clear.
And after he has sawed them and tumbled them down
Then there he will flaw them all on the cold ground.

Now sawing being over then seed-time comes round,
See our teams they are already preparing the ground,
Then the man with his seed-lip he’ll scatter the corn
And the harrows they will bury it to keep it from harm.

Now seed-time being over then haying draws near,
With our scythe, rake, and pitch-fork those meadows to clear.
We will cut down their grass, boys, and carry it away,
We will clip it to the green grass and then call it hay.

Now haying being over then harvest draws near
We will send to our brewer to brew us strong beer,
And in brewing strong beer, boys, we will cut down their corn
We will take it to the barn, boys, to keep it from harm.

Now harvest being over bad weather comes on,
We will send for the thresher to thresh out the corn.
His hand-staff he’ll handle, his swingel he’ll swing,
Till the very next harvest we’ll all meet again.

Now since we have brought this so cheerfully round
We will send for the ploughman who ploughs up and down.
See the boy with his whip and the man to his plough
Here’s a health to the jolly ploughman who ploughs up the ground.

Now things they do change as the time passes on,
I’m afraid I will have occasion to alter my song.
You’ll see a boy with a tractor a-going like hell
And whatever farming is coming to there’s no tongue can tell.

Nick Dow sings The Seasons of the Year

The sun it goes down, the sky it looks red,
Down on my pillow I lay down my head.
I lift up mine eyes for to see the stars shine
And thoughts of my true love still run in my mind.

When the sap it goes up the trees they will flaw,
We’ll first branch ’em round, boys, then put in the saw;
When we have sawn them and tumbled them down
Then we will flaw them all on the cold ground.

When flawing is over haying draws near,
With our scythes and our pitchforks some grass for to clear.
And when we have cleared it and carried it away,
We first called it green grass, we now call it hay.

When haying is over harvest draws near,
We’ll call on the brewer to brew us some beer.
For to brew us strong beer for the hard-working man,
He works late and early till harvest will end.

When the sap it goes down then leaves they will fall,
And the farmer to his hedging and ditching will call.
Ah, but when it’s hard weather there’s no working there,
So it’s into the barn, boys, some corn for to clear.

When the Spring it comes on, the maid to her cow,
The boy to his whip, and the man to his plough.
And so we bring all things so cheerfully round:
Here’s success to the ploughman who ploughs up the ground!