> Steeleye Span > Songs > A Calling-On Song

A Calling-On Song

[Ashley Hutchings]

A Calling-On Song is the introductory track from Steeleye Span’s first album, the 1970 Hark! The Village Wait, sung by Maddy Prior, Gay Woods, Tim Hart and Terry Woods. A live recording from The Forum, London on 2 September 1995 was released in 1999 on the CD The Journey. The original album’s sleeve notes said:

Songs similar to this one are used by the leaders of rapper and long sword dance teams to preface the dancing and to drum up a crowd. The duration of these songs depended on how long it took for a satisfactory audience to assemble. It was customary to introduce each member of the team as the son of a famous person such as Bonaparte, Nelson, Wellington, etc. This, however is our own “calling-on”, the tune and the basis for the words coming from the captain’s song of the Earsdon Sword Dance Team.

Ashley Hutchings: “It’s a completely contemporary song, but in traditional style, which I wrote especially for the album.”

Steeleye Span also used to introduce the band to their live audience with the song Beg Your Leave; but sadly they never recorded it.

Compare to this the Watersons’ Ye Noble Spectators on their album A Yorkshire Garland,
the Watersons’ Earsdon Sword Dance Song on their album Frost and Fire,
Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne’s Ripon Sword Dance and Song on his album Outway Songster,
and John Kirkpatrick’s Sword Dance Song & Tune on the CD celebrating an Engish Midwinter, Wassail!.


Steeleye Span sing A Calling-On Song

Good people, pray heed our petition,
Your attention we beg and we crave.
And if you are inclined for to listen
An abundance of pastime we’ll have.

We have come to relate many stories
Concerning our forefathers’ times.
And we trust they will drive out your worries,
Of this we are all in one mind.

Many tales of the poor and the gentry,
Of labour and love will arise
There are no finer songs in this country
In Scotland or Ireland likewise

There’s on thing more needing mention:
The dances we’ve danced all in fun.
So now that you’ve heard our intention,
We’ll play on to the beat of the drum.