> Folk Music > Songs > Early, Early in the Spring

Early, Early in the Spring / One Morning in the Spring / The Single Sailor

[ Roud 152 ; Master title: Early, Early in the Spring ; Laws M1 ; G/D 1:51 ; Ballad Index LM01 ; VWML RVW2/3/48 ; trad.]

Marrow Bones Folk Song in England Folk Songs collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams Down Yorkshire Lanes Twenty-One Lincolnshire Folk Songs Vaughan Williams in Norfolk

Robert Cinnamond sang ’Twas Early Early All in the Spring to Sean O’Boyle in August 1955, probably in Co. Antrim. This recording was included in 1975 on Cinnamond’s Topic album of traditional ballads and songs from Ulster, You Rambling Boys of Pleasure, and in 1998 on the Topic anthology As Me and My Love Sat Courting (The Voice of the People Series Volume 15). Proinsias Ó Conluain noted on the original album:

This line might introduce in Ireland such songs as The Croppy Boy, My Boy Willie or The Sailor Boy, but in fact the song sung here is most unusual not only in Ireland but in its country of origin. How unusual it is may be gathered from a reference to it by A.L. Lloyd in Folk Song in England (Lawrence and Wishart, 1967): “But of all the ballads relating to the War of Jenkins’ Ear … the song that remained green right up to our own century was the non-topical, quite un-factual, completely traditional romance which Vaughan Williams recorded … some sixty years ago, to a handsome Sol-mode tune that so interested the collector that he neglected to take more than the first verse of the text, so we have filled the narrative out from broadsides.” If only A.L. Lloyd had met Robert Cinnamond, he could have dispensed with broadsides!

Bob Roberts sang The Single Sailor on his 1960 Collector EP, Stormy Weather Boys!, and in a recording made at Ryde, Isle of Wight, in August 1977 by Tony Engle on his Topic album Songs From the Sailing Barges. A.L. Lloyd noted on the latter album:

The Single Sailor is an oldish piece too. It’s usually called Early, Early in the Spring, and some versions refer to Caribbean sea battles of 1739-40, but Bob’s set has been so much trimmed that much of the original story is lost.

Peggy Seeger sang So Early, Early in the Spring in 1962 as the title track of her Topic EP Early in the Spring. This track was also included in 1996 on her Fellside anthology Classic Peggy Seeger. Angela Carter commented in the EP’s liner notes:

A sailor leaves his love with many protests of affection and returns to find her married to a richer man. This song can be traced back to various nineteenth century British broadsides, and the theme is found in innumerable versions both in America and Britain.

Cyril Tawney sang One Morning in the Spring on Topic’s 1964 anthology of sea songs and shanties, Farewell Nancy, and its 1993 expanded CD reissue Blow the Man Down. A.L. Lloyd noted:

Vaughan Williams heard this fine tune from a Norfolk singer, but he neglected to take all the words. [VWML RVW2/3/48] . Later, his widow filled out the text with verses from a set found by Cecil Sharp in North Carolina. Versions have turned up in various parts of Britain, from Aberdeen to Somerset, and at least one example has the hero present at the battle of Cartagena in 1739 (there’s an account of the battle in Smollett’s Roderick Random). The tune (a mixolydian-type hexatonic) became important in America, and variants have served for Black Is the Colour of My True Love’s Hair and The Trail to Mexico.

Tina Greer sang Early, Early in the Spring in May 1965 to Ralph Rinzler and Daniel Seeger. This recording was included in 1977 on the Rounder and Topic albums of the Watson Family, The Watson Family Tradition.

Danny Spooner sang The Sailor Deceived on the 1968 album Soldiers and Sailors (Folksingers of Australia Volume 2) and on his 2002 CD Launch Out on the Deep. He noted on the first album:

This three verse lament, from the Hammond and Gardiner collection, is a fragment of a far longer ballad. Despite its brevity, few songs on the theme of the jilted sailor capture the heartbreak so completely.

and in his CD notes:

Frank Purslow included this in his selection from the Hammond and Gardiner MSS for the EFDS publication Marrow Bones (1965). While the three verses form a poignant and complete story in themselves, they do appear as part of a longer ballad noted by Gavin Greig in Folk-Song of the North-East.

Bob Davenport sang Early, Early in the Spring on his 1971 Trailer album with the Marsden Rattlers, Bob Davenport and the Marsden Rattlers.

Roisín White sang It Was Early, Early in the Spring on her 1992 Veteran Tapes cassette The First of My Rambles.

Tom Spiers sang The Sailor Deceived in 2001 on his Tradition Bearers album of Scots songs and ballads, Allan Water. He noted:

From the Greig-Duncan Folksong Collection, Vol. 1, no. 51. The tale of a sailor being jilted by his sweetheart, which some may find a refreshing change. I have used the tune from a version of the Border Widows’s Lament rather than those printed in Greig-Duncan.

John Jones sang One Morning in the Spring in 2009 on his Westpark album Rising Road. He noted:

From James Whitby of Tilney All Saints. I have long known this song from A.L. Lloyd’s Folk Song in England but it was touring with Seth [Lakeman] and Benji [Kirkpatrick] which made this one come alive for me. June Tabor tells me it is about the War of Jenkin’s Ear. I believe her.

Akron/Family sang One Spring Morning, basically the verses Cyril Tawney sang in 1964, on the 2006 album of pirate ballads, sea songs and chanteys, Rogue’s Gallery.

Linde Nijland sang So Early in the Spring on her 2014 album I Am Here.

Janice Burns and Jon Doran sang Early Early on their 2022 CD No More the Green Hills. They noted:

A song we learned from Dellie Norton, one of Jon’s favourite source singers. Dellie hailed from the Blue Ridge Mountains and sang beautifully in the traditional Appalachian style. She was supposedly overlooked by Sharp and Karples when they came to her region to collect songs such as our opening track False True Love, as they favoured the older singers. However, when the second folk revival came around, she was highly respected amongst folklorists and collectors and had her chance to immortalise her songs in tape and film.


Robert Cinnamond sings ’Twas Early, Early All in a Spring

It was early, early all in a spring
I went on board for to serve the king,
I’d left my dearest dearie behind,
That often told me her heart was mine.

I dreamt last night I was in my love’s arms,
And that she gave me ten thousand charms,
Ten thousand charms and kisses sweet.
We were to be married next time we’d meet.

Wen I was sailing on the salt sea,
Still looking for an opportunity,
I, too, sent letters for my dear,
But one answer from her I’d ne’er could hear.

“Ah, you sent letters all over the town.
I avow and swear that I ne’er got one.
’Twas my father’s fault, love, and none of mine.
You need not speak hard of womankind.”

I went down into her father’s hall.
On my true love loudly I did call.
Her father answered, made this reply,
“Your true love, young man, I must deny.”

“Come tell me quickly what do you mean?
Come tell me quickly, tell me the truth.”
“She has got married to a rich man for life.
I’d have you to go and choose some other wife.”

Now, my curse on gold and on silver, too.
And to all false lovers that won’t be true,
To all false lovers that would vows make
And marry others for riches’ sake.

Now, since all bad fortune has on me frowned,
Since all bad fortune has on me frowned,
I will sail the seas to the day I die
And I’ll topple those waves that roll mountains high.

Cyril Tawney sings One Morning in the Spring

It was one morning in the spring
I went on board to serve the king,
I left my dearest dear behind,
Who oftimes told me her heart was mine.

When I came back to her father’s hall,
Inquiring for my jewel all,
Her cruel old father this replied,
Her momma says, oh if you deny.

Oh, she has married another man,
A richer man for all his life.
A richer man for all his life
Oh, and he has made her his lawful wife.

Oh, God curse gold and silver too
And all false women that won’t prove true.
For some will take and then will break,
All for the sake of richery.

Oh, stop young man, don’t talk too fast,
The fault is great but none of mine.
The fault is great but none of mine,
Don’t speak so hard of the female kind.

If I had gold you might have part
As I have none you have gained my heart
You’ve gained it all with a free good will
So keep my vows and hold them still.

Oh, since hard fortune around me frowns
I’ll sail this ocean aound and round.
I’ll sail this ocean until I die
I’ll quit my ways on a mountain high.

Danny Spooner sings The Sailor Deceived

As I was walking on London Street
I found a letter betwixt my feet.
Down to the bottom these lines was wrote,
A single sailor is soon forgot.

Oh, I did go to my true-love’s door,
And for my sweetheart love did call.
Her father asked me what I did mean
’Tis many a long year since she’s married been.

I have no gold nor have I crown
But I’ll sail these oceans all round and round.
I’ll sail these oceans until I die,
I care not where my poor body lie.