> Maddy Prior > Songs > Harvest

Harvest Home

[ Roud 24147 ; VWML RoudFS/S363278 ; trad. / Steeleye Span]

Harvest Home is from the fifth act of the semi-opera King Arthur. It has a libretto by John Dryden and was set to music by Henry Purcell. It was premiered in 1691. This song forms part of the incantations of Merlin, and is sung by Comus and three peasants to Arthur and Emmeline. William Chapell printed Harvest Home in his 1859 Popular Music of the Olden Time, p.582 [VWML RoudFS/S363278] .

Steeleye Span sang Harvest on their 2019 CD Est'd 1969, which begins with Dryden's Harvest Home. The second half has probably been written by Steeleye. They noted:

When harvesting was done by hand, with many labourers, the end of the harvest was a time of note and celebration. In various parts of the country, as a sign that all was gathered, the whole company would stand and let out a loud cry, “The Neck!” whilst clutching the last piece of corn or hay. This haunting sound travelled over the fields and could be heard by their neighbours.

Also in times past, a tenth of the harvest was demanded by the all-powerful church. This song gives some indication of popular attitudes to that.

And at the end of harvest, before the advent of the tractor, there would still be a good amount of corn on the field. It was traditional for the poor to be allowed to collect whatever they could gather, and in times of agricultural depression this might be all that would keep them going through the winter. In some places the church bell was rung to start and finish the gleaning time.

Lyrics

Harvest Home in King Arthur

Comus: Your hay it is mow’d, and your corn it is reap’d;
Your barns will be full, and your hovels heap’d;
Come, boys, come; come, boys, come;
And merrily roar out Harvest Home.

Chorus: Come, boys, come; come, boys, come;
And merrily roar out Harvest Home.

1st man: We’ve cheated the parson, we’ll cheat him again,
For why should a blockhead have one in ten?
One in ten, one in ten,
For why should a blockhead have one in ten?

Chorus: One in ten, one in ten,
For why should a blockhead have one in ten?

2nd man: For prating so long, like a book-learn’d sot,
'Till pudding and dumpling do burn to th' pot?
Burnt to pot; burnt to pot;
'Till pudding and dumpling burn to pot.

Chorus: Burnt to pot; burnt to pot;
'Till pudding and dumpling burn to pot.

3rd man: We’ll toss off our ale till we cannot stand,
And heigh for the honour of Old England,
Old England, Old England,
And heigh for the honour of Old England.

Chorus: Old England, Old England,
And heigh for the honour of Old England.

Steeleye Span sing Harvest

The neck! The neck! The neck!

:𝄆 Your hay it is mow'd, your corn it is reap’d
Your barns will be full and your hovels heap’d 𝄇
𝄆 Come, boys, come, come, boys, come, 𝄇
𝄆 And we’ll roar out, roar out, roar out our harvest home 𝄇

𝄆 We’ve cheated the parson, we’ ll cheat him again
Why should the blockhead have one in ten? 𝄇
𝄆 One in ten, one in ten, 𝄇
𝄆 And we’ll roar out, roar out, roar out our harvest home 𝄇

𝄆 For prating so long, like a book-learn'd sot
‘Til puddin’ and dumplin' burn to the pot 𝄇
𝄆 Burn to the pot, burn to the pot, 𝄇
𝄆 And we’ll roar out, roar out, roar out our harvest home 𝄇

𝄆 We’ll toss off our ale, ‘til we cannot stand
Then heigh for the times of Old England 𝄇
𝄆 Old England, Old England, 𝄇
𝄆 And we’ll roar out, roar out, roar out our harvest home 𝄇

(repeat frst verse)

The neck! The neck! The neck!

Hard faced' dames in hoods make haste
To cram their lap bags with the barley waste
Before the rout, the leveret darts
Bawled at by boys in blundering carfs

Scorched, there in the heat of the sun
The dinner hour their leisure won
Sweet, now the small beer goes
In hardwood bottles, we all knows

Chorus (after every other verse):
Start of the day, the church bells knell
And fear to hear the gleaning bell
We’ll toil all day in the last of the hay
We’ll scratch our days away

Beside the hedge, the baby sleeps
While far the footsore rabble creeps
Dogs are left to mind the farm
But knaves slouch out to steal the grain

Pigs, they all rootle there
The fields are full of din and blare
Time passes, as they glean
The hobby-horse whirls round and round

Stumbling now the gleaning's done
The farmer’s fat hares, slung upon his gun
Gives goodnight, as home they pull
In creaking handcarts bursting full

Stacked, well out of mischief’s way
To thrash and dress another day
Wives, full of weary pride
With such small riches satisfied

The neck!