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Reynard the Fox

[ Roud 358 , 1868 ; Ballad Index K243 ; Bodleian Roud 358 ; Wiltshire Roud 358 ; trad.]

Ewan MacColl sang Reynard the Fox in a recording that was issued in probably 1958 on A.L. Lloyd and his Riverside album Champions and Sporting Blades, in 1962 on their Topic EP Gamblers and Sporting Blades, and in 1998 on their Topic CD Bold Sportsmen All.

Sweeney's Men sang Reynard the Fox in 1968 on their eponymous Transatlantic album Sweeney's Men.

Nic Jones sang Reynard the Fox in 1970 on his first solo album on the Trailer label, Ballads and Songs. This track was also included in the same year on the Trailer anthology The Folk Trailer. Nic Jones commented in his album sleeve notes:

One interesting factor which has contributed to the development of folksongs throughout the years has been the desire of singers to localise their songs. Where a town is mentioned, or a person, a public house or even a regiment, local names will be used. Witness The White Cockade, Dido Bendigo, Uncle Tom Cobleigh, and The Rambling Soldier. It seems highly probable that this has occurred in the case of Bold Reynard the Fox where Jerry Balsam, farmer (Simon) Stewart and the Dolphin are names used to fit the song to a particular area. The tune used in this song is not the one usually given with the words. It is a dance tune called May Day Morning, sung by a blind man on the Isle of Man named Tom Kermode.

Frank Beaumont sang Some Gentlemen Take Great Delight at the Village Hall of Upperthong, Yorkshire, on March 24, 1973. This recording was included in 1975 on the Leader album of songs of the Holme Valley Beagles, A Fine Hunting Day.

Joe Jones of St Mary Cray, Kent, sang The Bold Reynolds in a recording made by Mike Yates in 75 that was included in 2003 on the Musical Traditions anthology of Gypsy songs and music from South-East England, Here's Luck to a Man.

June Tabor sang Reynard the Fox in 1977 on her second solo album, Ashes and Diamonds. Nic Jones played the fiddle on this track.

And Martin Carthy recorded Reynard the Fox for his 1982 album, Out of the Cut. He commented in the record's sleeve notes:

Fox or hare hunting on foot is nowhere near as common as the posher horse variety these days, and is on the decline apart from the Lake District parts of Yorkshire and Gloucestershire and the six counties of Northern Ireland. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of hunting it is true to say that there is in the best hunting songs a dignity, even nobility that it would be stupid to deride or ignore.

Reynard the Fox is memorable among other things for its use of the first person and is a Sussex version song which, considering the name—“Gaffer Ghylls”, probably has a more northern location. I learned it from Vic Gammon.

Magpie Lane sang Death of the Fox in 1994 on their Beautiful Jo CD Speed the Plough. They commented in their liner notes:

[The song's] lyrics are from a 19th-century broadside in the Bodleian Library. A multitude of jolly huntsman's songs have survived; this is more sombre, taking up the voice of the dying fox.

Lyrics

Nic Jones sings Reynard the Fox

You gentlemen who take delight
In hunting bold Reynard the Fox:
On yonder stoney common I lived
And I had my dinner on the geese and ducks.

I kept myself on all these fine things
Not thinking soon that I should die,
Chased by a pack of bloody hounds
They causèd me my country to fly.

Throughout the wild country I rambled
And living at a fine old rate.
On sheep and lambs I had my dinner
And the farmers all around they did me hate.

So the Lord for the King's hounds he did send
and Jerry Balsam, he swore I should die.
I left three brothers all behind
That love young lambs much better than do I.

And it's down for the stoney valleys I run
And the bloody dogs they followed me;
Made me old coat stand on end
For to hear the bold huntsman, his loud "Hussa!"

And its often times I have been chased
By the dogs that run I don't know how;
In the whole course of me life
I never had such a chase and half until now.

And it's forty-five miles I have run;
I've run it in three hours space.
Strength that begins all for to fail
And the dogs they got forward on me a-pace.

And it's down by farmer Stewart's I run
And the keeper shot me in me thigh.
Curse you, huntsman, and your hounds
For this fatal wound; I know that I shall die.

And it's down to the stoney fields where they caught him
They caused poor Reynard's for to die.
Lord, they dragged him and then they tore him
And they caused his own fur jacket all to fly.

And it's now bold Reynard's he is dead
And they'll turn to the ale house and they'll dine.
Dip his old paw in the bumper
And drink me Lord's health in both ale and wine.

June Tabor sings Reynard the Fox

A good many gentlemen take great delight
In hunting poor Reynard the Fox
For the very best food he does eat in the night
And lives upon fat geese and ducks.
In Ashendon Copse I did lie
And I lived an extraordinary rate,
A-cracking the bones in young lambs' tails,
The farmers they all did me hate.

Oh for my lord's horses and hounds they did send
And the huntsmen they swore I must die
Which made all the hair on my coat stand on end
And caused me from my young ones to fly.
All down Stony Lane they did run me
And I gave 'em a very good race
When I entered the woods I did rest then,
The hounds they run forward and bays.

All through the wild woods they gave chase and gave game
And the gameskeeper saw me go by.
He chased me out onto the wide-open plain.
It was then that he fired at my thigh.
All on stony fields they did kill me
And bloodthirsty dogs did me follow.
They tore me old coat all in pieces
Which caused the glad huntsmen to hollow.

Oh pardon, dear huntsmen, for I've spoiled your game,
And the keeper has caused me to die,
But I leave little brothers and sisters behind
Who love little else better than I.
And now that bold Reynard is dead,
We'll go to the Dolphin and dine.
Now we'll dip his fore-foot in a bumper
And drink up his health in good wine.

Martin Carthy sings Reynard the Fox

Most gentlemen take great delight
In a-hunting bold Reynard the Fox
Twas by Gaffer Ghylls I did lie
Where I lived upon fat geese and ducks
By Gaffer Ghylls I did lie
Not thinking how soon I should die
I was chased by a pack of fresh hounds
That caused me from my country to fly

Twas by Gaffer Ghylls I did lie
And I lived at a plentiful rate
Young lambs I plucked on their bones
And the farmers 'gan for me to hate
Lord Jones for the king's hounds did send
Tommy Bosun he swore I should die
And I left three brothers behind me
That loves young lambs far better than I

It's forty long miles I rambled
And I done it in three hours space
It made my old coat stand on end
As the hounds followed on me apace
For it's oftentimes I've been pursued
By hounds that would run like a cow
But in the whole course of my lifetime
Never had such a breathing till now

By Simon Sturt's I did ramble
Where the gamekeeper shot through my thigh
Oh pardon dear huntsmen and hounds
But for this fatal wound I must die
My old coat it lay close to my back
To hear how the hounds they did holler
My sweat dropped like dew in the morning
For to hear how the huntsmen did holler

It was in Stony Fields where they killed me
Oh the bloodthirsty hounds how they followed
They tore my old jacket to pieces
Good Lord how the hounds they did holler
And now that bold Reynard is ended
To the tavern they'll go down to dine
They'll dip my fore-paw in a bumper
And they'll drink their lord's health in good wine

Acknowledgements and Links

Transcription from the singing of Martin Carthy begun by Garry Gillard. Many thanks to Ed Pellow and his Martin Carthy: A Guitar in Folk Music which helped greatly to complete the task.

See also the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Req: Reynard the Fox (from June Tabor).