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Sir Richard’s Song

[ Roud - ; DT ENGLTAKE ; Mudcat 79612 ; notes on Sir Richard’s Song at the Kipling Society; words Rudyard Kipling, music Peter Bellamy]

Sir Richard’s Song is a poem from Rudyard Kipling’s book Puck of Pook’s Hill. Peter Bellamy sang it on his first album of songs set to Kipling’s poems, Oak, Ash & Thorn. He noted:

The hero of Young Men at the Manor is Sir Richard Dalyngridge, a young Norman Knight in the army of the Conqueror, who after Hastings took seizing of a manor in Sussex. Unlike many of his fellow countrymen, he falls in love with the land, the people, and the Saxon lady whose lands he won. The tune is patterned after that of the Scots ballad The Gardener Child.

As the original album wasn’t available anymore, Peter Bellamy re-recorded this and other songs with the help of Nigel Schofield, probably in the mid-1980s. The new version was finally included on the Fellside compilation Mr Bellamy, Mr Kipling & the Tradition. A live recording at the Corbett Theatre, Debden, on 14 July 1974 was included in 2002 on the anthology Down River Recordings Volume 1. Another recording from a 1986 session for Pennine Radio, Bradford, was included on Peter Bellamy’s Free Reed anthology Wake the Vaulted Echoes.

John Roberts and Tony Barrand sang Sir Richard’s Song in 1998 on their album of songs of Rudyard Kipling, Naulakha Redux. They noted:

Soldiering is soldiering, whenever and wherever it occurs. Kipling was just as much in touch with the feelings of a soldier fighting and perhaps dying in a far away country when writing about the Norman conquest. Setting by Bellamy.

A 1998 recording of Terry Docherty singing Sir Richard’s Song was included in 2018 on the Fellside anthology Destination.

Nancy Kerr and James Fagan sang Sir Richard’s Song in 1999 on their CD Steely Water.

The Demon Barbers sang Sir Richard’s Song in 2002 on their CD Uncut.

Barry Lister sang Sir Richard’s Song in 2006 on his WildGoose album Ghosts & Greasepaint, accompanied by Jackie Oates on viola and Ed Rennie on guitar.

Trembling Bells sang Sir Richard’s Song on Folk Police Recordings’ 2011 album of songs from Kipling’s “Puck” stories, Oak Ash Thorn.

Janice Burns & Jon Doran sang Sir Richard’s Song in 2020 on their eponymous EP, Janice Burns & Jon Doran. They noted:

Originally a poem by Rudyard Kipling, the words were set to music by Peter Bellamy. We learned this song from James Fagan and our arrangement retains a lot of features from his version with Nancy Kerr. It was the first song we ever sang together as a duo and has remained a favourite.

This is a short snippet of Janice Burns & Jon Doran singing Sir Richard’s Song at The Playhouse Sessions on 9 August 2019:


Sir Richard’s Song

I followed my Duke ere I was a lover,
To take from England fief and fee;
But now this game is the other way over—
But now England hath taken me!

I had my horse, my shield, my banner,
And a boyish heart, so whole and free;
But now I sing in another manner—
But now England hath taken me!

As for my Father all in his tower,
Asking news of my ship at sea;
He’ll remember his own hour—
Tell him England hath taken me!

As for my Mother all in her bower,
That rules my Father so cunningly;
She’ll remember a maiden’s power—
Tell her England hath taken me!

As for my Brother in Rouen city,
A nimble naughty page is he;
But he will come to suffer and pity—
Tell him England hath taken me!

As for my little Sister waiting
In the pleasant orchards of Normandie;
Tell her youth is the time of mating—
Tell her England hath taken me!

As for my Comrades in camp and highway,
That lift their eyebrows scornfully;
Tell them their way, well, it is not my way—
Tell them England hath taken me!

You Kings and Princes and Barons famed,
You Knights and Captains in your degree;
Hear me a little before I’m blam-ed—
Seeing England hath taken me!

And howso great man’s strength be reckoned,
Yet there are two things that he cannot flee;
Love is first, and Death is second—
And Love, in England, hath taken me!