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The Ant and the Grasshopper

[ Roud - ; Mudcat 4389 , 48656 ; Leon Rosselson]

This is one of Aesop’s fables from about 500 B.C. Leon Rosselson set it to his own words and tune in the early 1970s. He sang The Ant and the Grasshopper with Roy Bailey on their 1975 album That’s Not the Way It’s Got To Be; with Leon and Martin Carthy playing guitar. This recording was reissued on Leon Rosselson’s CD Perspectives and on the 4CD Topic anthology The Acoustic Folk Box.

Roy Bailey and Martin Carthy sang The Ant and the Grasshopper in 1975 at the 4. Folk-Festival auf der Lenzburg. Martin Carthy also recorded it for his 1988 album Right of Passage; this track was re-released in 1993 on Rigs of the Time: The Best of Martin Carthy and in 2001 on the anthology The Carthy Chronicles. He also sang it live in studio in July 2006 for the DVD Guitar Maestros.

John Meed wrote his own lyrics of this fable and recorded them in 2006 for his second CD, Powder of the Stars.

Doug Eunson and Sarah Matthews sang The Ant and the Grasshopper in 2016 on their CD Song and Laughter.

Nancy Kerr sang The Ant and the Grasshopper on her 2021 CD of songs by Leon Rosselson, The Poor Shall Wear the Crown.


Leon Rosselson sings The Ant and the Grasshopper

The ant and the grasshopper, everyone knows how the story goes,
How the ant was diligent, never spent
Anything lightly, laboured wisely,
And gathered his store for tomorrow.

As for the grasshopper, clad in the summer sunshine,
Light as the wind on the broken water,
His song he gave to the summer days,
Singing, “Where the dance leads I’ll follow.”

Then came a hard winter, nothing grew, and the cold wind blew,
But the ant was safe and sound, underground.
Carefully counting his pile around him,
Dividing his time until tomorrow.

Now see the grasshopper, blown by the north wind’s fury,
Hungering for the easy summer,
Comes to the ant and says, “My brother, give me bread,
Now’s the dance that I must follow.”

“Why did you waste the summer, summers don’t last forever,
You’re just an idle beggar, you must pay the price, sacrifice.
You wouldn’t need me, you took life easy -
Take the punishment that follows.”

Now see the grasshopper reel like a dry leaf falling,
Weaving a dance that will last forever,
Back goes the ant to his nest to work, to feed, to rest,
For him there will always be tomorrow.

(repeat the first two verses)


Garry Gillard thanks The Digital Tradition and Wolfgang Hell—and especially Leon Rosselson!