> Martin Carthy > Songs > The Hare’s Dream

The Hare’s Dream / The Hare’s Lament

[ Roud 3574 ; Henry H172 ; Ballad Index HHH032A ; Mudcat 25026 ; trad.]

The Hare’s Dream is printed in Gale Huntington’s Songs of the People, a collection of Ulster folk songs from the Sam Henry Collection.

Martin Carthy sang The Hare’s Dream in a radio broadcast that was available, undocumented, from Napster before its decline in early 2001. As far as I know, he never recorded it for an official album though.

Len Graham sang The Hare’s Lament in 1979 on Joe Holmes’ and his Topic album of traditional songs, ballads and lilts from the North of Ireland, After Dawning. He noted:

This is one of several Ulster hunt songs, which depicts the hare’s side of the hunt. The action centres around the borders of the counties Antrim and Derry. The ‘Staghan’ mentioned is the townland of Moneystaghan, Co. Derry.

Hare coursing is very popular in the North of Ireland and in some parts the ‘grew’ (greyhound) population exceeds the human. Alongside this, in some mountainy areas, they hunt the hare on foot with beagles.

I learnt this song from Ned Henry, Knockloughrim and Paddy Joe Kelly, Rocktown –both in the Co. Derry.

Julie Henigan sang The Hare’s Dream on her 1993 cassette American Stranger. She noted:

Learned from John Moulden’s Songs of the People, a sampling of Ulster folksongs from the Sam Henry Collection. This is a hunting song from the victim’s point of view. For Sue Ward.

Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer sang The Hare’s Lament in 2005 on their WildGoose album Scatter Pipes. They laconically noted:

The story of a hare’s struggle for life in a hunt.

John Doyle accompanied by Liz Carroll sang The Hare’s Lament in 2009 on their CD Double Play. This video shows them at Lafayette College on 7 April 2009:

Peter and Barbara Snape sang The Hare’s Lament on their 2011 CD Revel & Rally. Barbara Snape noted:

Written completely from the perspective of the hare. From the Sam Henry collection, Ulster.

Ye Vagabonds sang The Hare’s Lament in 2019 as the title track of their River Lea album The Hare’s Lament. They noted:

Len Graham and Joe Holmes’s album After Dawning became a favourite of ours when we discovered it a few years back and we’ve been inspired hugely by what they were doing with regard to singing and lilting together in unison and harmony. We love this song because it’s sung from the point of view of a small furry wild animal. We don’t condone hare hunting or coursing or any other blood sports. It’s not nice. The modality of the melody of this song sort of slipped naturally as we sang it over time, something which we have noticed happening with a number of traditional songs that we sing. Geordie Hanna recorded a fragment of a similar song with a different minor melodic twist that he remembered from his father.


Martin Carthy sings The Hare’s Dream

On the 20th of January and in the 70th year,
The morning being beautiful, charming, bright and clear,
I being disturbed by dreams as I lay in my den,
I dreamed of heathery mountain, high rock and low glen.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
To my hark, tallyho! Hark over yon brow.
“She’s over,” cries the huntsman, “See, yonder she’ll go.”

As I sat in my form for to view the plains round
I being trembling and shaking for fear of the hounds
And seeing no danger appearing to me
I quickly walked out to the top of the slee.

They hunted me up and they hunted me down;
At the loop of the burn they did me surround.
When up come the huntsman to end all the strife,
He says, “Leave the hare down and give her play for her life.”

Bad luck to all sportsmen, to Bowman and Ringwood,
They sprinkled the plain with my innocent blood.
They let Reynard go free, that cunning old fox,
That ate up all the chickens, fat hens and game cocks.

It’s now I’m for dying, but I know not the crime;
To the value of sixpence I ne’er robbed mankind.
I never was given to rob or to steal,
All the harm that ever I done was crop the heads of green kale.


Transcribed by Garry Gillard. Thanks to Bob Hudson.