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The Hunt Is Up

[William Gray / trad.]

The King's Hunt Is Up is a poem by William Gray of Reading († 1557) printed in Ernest W. Dormer, Gray of Reading: a 16th-century controversialist and ballad writer (Reading, 1923). The University of Toronto's Representative Poetry Online notes:

This ballad, by one of the most popular professional ballad writers of the reign of Henry VIII, is referred to in The Art of English Poesy (1589): “And one Gray, what good estimation did he grow unto with the same king Henry … for making certain merry ballads, whereof one chiefly was The Hunt is up.” The abbreviation “Hunt's up” was at first used of the song sung or played on the horn to awaken huntsmen in the morning, and then extended (as in Shakespeare) to mean any song intended to arouse in the morning.

Swan Arcade sang The Hunt Is Up with a few minor variations from Grey's poem in 1973 on their eponymous album Swan Arcade.

The Albion Dance Band recorded The Hunt Is Up at a dance held in Olympic Studios in September 1976 with Shirley Collins and Eddie Upton singing. This was published in 1977 on their album The Prospect Before Us and later on Shirley Collins' anthology Within Sound. The original album's liner notes commented:

A tune for dancing known as early as the first part of the 16th century. The verses sunge here come from the time of Henry VIII. A “hunt's up” came to be the name given to any tune intended to arouse in the morning. The old Christmas good luck visiting custom in Cumberland, Westmorland and the Isle of Man was known as “hunsupping”, doubtless due to the combination of music, cacophany and the unsociable hours of the visit.

Jon Boden sang The Hunt Is Up as the July 2, 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. Muzza added his home recording of The King's Hunt to YouTube in June 2011:

Lyrics

William Grey's poem The King's Hunt is upSwan Arcade sing The Hunt Is Up

The hunt is up, the hunt is up,
And it is well nigh day;
And Harry our king is gone hunting,
To bring his deer to bay.

The hunt is up, the hunt is up,
And it is well nigh day;
And Harry our king is gone hunting,
To bring his deer to bay.

The east is bright with morning light,
And darkness it is fled;
And the merry horn wakes up the morn
To leave his idle bed.

The east is bright with morning light,
And darkness it is fled;
The merry horn wakes up the morn
To leave his idle bed.

Behold the skies with golden dyes
Are glowing all around;
The grass is green, and so are the treen,
All laughing with the sound.

Behold the skies with golden dyes
Are glowing all around;
The grass is green, and so are the treen,
All laughing with the sound.

The horses snort to be at the sport,
The dogs are running free;
The woods rejoice at the merry noise
Of hey taranta tee ree.

The horses snort to join the sport,
The dogs are running free;
The woods rejoice all at the noise
Of hey tantara tee ree.

The sun is glad to see us clad
All in our lusty green,
And smiles in the sky as he riseth high
To see and to be seen.

The sun is glad to see us clad
All in our lusty green,
And smiles in the sky as he riseth high
To see and to be seen.

Awake all men, I say again,
Be merry as you may;
For Harry our king is gone hunting
To bring his deer to bay.

Awake all men, I say again,
Be merry as you may;
For Harry our king is gone hunting
To bring his deer to bay.

The Albion Dance Band's The Hunt Is UpJon Boden sings The Hunt Is Up

The east is bright with morning light,
And darkness it is fled;
The merry horn wakes up the morn
To leave his idle bed.

The east is bright with morning light,
And darkness away is fled;
And the merry horn wakes up the morn
To leave his idle bed.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
The hunt is up, The hunt is up,
And it is almost day;
And Harry our king is hunting gone
To bring his deer to bay

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Awake all men, arise, arise!
Be merry as you may;
For Harry our king is a-hunting gone
To bring his deer to bay

The horses snort to be at sport,
The dogs are running free;
The trees are glad to see us spread
All in their hunting glee.

The horses snort to be at the sport,
The dogs are running free;
And the woods rejoice to the merry noise
Of hey taranta tee ree.

Arise all men!
Be merry as you may;
And if it's in bed with another man's wife
His timing was away.

The sun is glad to see us clad
All in our lusty green;
And he smiles in the sky as he rides so high
To see and to be seen.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Garry Gillard for transcribing Jon's verses