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The Ranter

[ Roud 2530 ; trad.]

Chris Foster recorded this song for his 1977 Topic album Layers. He was accompanied by Nic Jones on fiddle.


It’s of a sly ranting parson, for preaching he lived in great fame;
In the town of Rover did dwell, though I dare not to mention his name.
Likewise a jolly young farmer, a neighbour living close by;
Soon on the wife of the Farmer the Ranter he cast a quick eye.

While the Farmer was minding his business and rose with the lark in the morning,
The Ranter was forming a plan how to crown the young Farmer with horns;
And he oft to the farmer’s did go, to pray for the good of his soul,
But when you have heard of the joke, I warrant you’ll say it was droll.

The Ranter if you had but seen you would think he was free from evil;
As pure as snow-driven without, but within was as black as the Devil.
One day when the Farmer was out he said, “I will have my desire”,
And straight to the house he did go and he sat himself down by the fire.

Then he said, “My good woman, I’m told that your husband won’t be home tonight;
I value not silver or gold if I could but enjoy my delight”.
Then she replied with a smile, “My husband is gone for a week”,
And little the Ranter did think how she meant to play him a trick.

When all things were silent at night, she whispered these words in his ear:
“The best bed it stands in the parlour, and you must go to it my dear;
When you are safe up to bed, my dear, I will come with all speed.”
“Alright”, said the Ranter, “Make haste”; and so was the bargain agreed

And the Ranter got into bed and he lay there as snug as you please
And the lady went into the garden and fetched back a fine hive of bees.
And she carried them into the parlour and put them down slap on the floor;
So nimbly then she ran out and on him she lockèd the door

And the bees began buzzing about and the Ranter he jumped on the floor,
So sweetly he capered and danced as they stung him behind and before;
And then he got out of the window, since no other way could he find;
His clothes he ne’er stopped for to take, but was glad for to leave them behind.

All smarting and sore with the stings, he ran home to his wife in his shirt,
Such a figure of fun for to see, all besmeared with mud and with dirt;
And the Farmer came home the next morning and after the truth had been told,
In one of the Ranter’s side pockets found thirty bright guineas in gold.

And the Ranter got into disgrace and the farmer he laughed at the joke,
To think how the Ranter would look without trousers, waistcoat or cloak.
The Ranter he frets and he pines all for the loss of his money;
The Farmer, though he lost his bees, thinks he is well paid for his honey.


Thanks to Garry Gillard.