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The Lark in the Morning

[ Roud 151 ; Ballad Index ShH62 ; Bodleian Roud 151 ; Wiltshire Roud 151 ; trad.]

Ralph Vaughan Williams collected the tune and first verse of The Lark in the Morning on April 24, 1904 from Mrs Harriet Verrall, of Monk’s Gate, Horsham in Sussex and published in the Folk Song Journals. Roy Palmer added further verses from a printed broadside when he included it in his book Folk Songs Collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Bob and Ron Copper sang The Lark in the Morning in a recording made by Peter Kennedy that was published in 1963 on their EFDSS LP Traditional Songs from Rottingdean. All tracks from this LP were included in 2001 on the Copper Family's Topic anthology Come Weite Me Down.

Paddy Tunney sang The Lark in the Morning in a recording made by Bill Leader on his 1966 Topic album The Irish Edge. This track was also included in 1998 on the Topic anthology Come All My Lads That Follow the Plough (The Voice of the People Series Volume 5).

Dave and Toni Arthur recorded this song in 1968/9 as the title track of their Topic album The Lark in the Morning.

Steeleye Span recorded The Lark in the Morning in 1971 for their second album, Please to See the King. They also performed it live on the BBC radio programme “Peel's Sunday Concert” on September 15, 1971. This programme was included as bonus CD on the 2006 reissue of Ten Man Mop or Mr Reservoir Butler Rides Again. Another live recording from The Forum, London on September 2, 1995 was released on the CD The Journey. And a further live version recorded in December 1996 was released on the CD reissue of the album Sails of Silver.

Maddy Prior recorded this song again 30 years later in 2001 for her solo album Arthur the King. This track was later included in the Park Records anthology Women in Folk and on the Maddy Prior anthology Collections: A Very Best of 1995 to 2005. Maddy Prior commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

This deceptively simple song has been in my repertoire longer than any other folk song. It has that total Arcadian sweep that puts it in the style of tune that Vaughan Williams loved and used in his own writing, and is a delight to sing.

Tony Rose sang The Lark in the Morning with double tracked voices on his 1971 LP Under the Greenwood Tree. His quite different verses were collected by Hammond. Tony Rose commented in his album sleeve notes:

The Lark in the Morning is another widespread song extolling the perks which were supposed to accompany the rural life. It's not really surprising that songs of this kind were common, because in the majority of cases the life itself was a hard one. This treatment is jointly inspired by two fine pairs of singing brothers—the Coppers and the Everlys.

The Taverners sang The Lark in the Morning in 1973 on their Trailer album Blowing Sands.

Jackie Oates recorded Lark in the Morning in 2008 for her second album, The Violet Hour. She also sang it in 2010 on The Imagined Village's CD Empire and Love. This video shows her in a Songs from the Shed session in 2010 supported by Jim Causley and The Scottish Falsetto Puppet Theatre:

Magpie Lane learned The Lark in the Morning from Roy Palmer's book and recorded it for their 2011 CD The Robber Bird. Andy Turner used this track as the April 21, 2012 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

Lisa Knapp sang Lark in the Morning on her 2017 CD Till April Is Dead. She commented:

From a recording of one of my favourite singers, Paddy Tunney.

This recording is so evocative of early summer full of green with its nesting birds and rural setting, all this innocence around such euphemistic musings belies its playful subject. Pete [Flood] plays wooden spoons on here (castanet style) which are used in Turkish Karagoz puppet theatre.


Steeleye Span's version of The Lark in the Morning

“Lay still my fond shepherd and don't you rise yet
It's a fine dewy morning and besides, my love, it is wet.”

“Oh let it be wet my love and ever so cold
I will rise my fond Floro and away to my fold.”

“Oh no, my bright Floro, it is no such thing
It's a bright sun a-shining and the lark is on the wing.”

Oh the lark in the morning she rises from her nest
And she mounts in the air with the dew on her breast
And like the pretty ploughboy she'll whistle and sing
And at night she will return to her own nest again

When the ploughboy has done all he's got for to do
He trips down to the meadows where the grass is all cut down.


Tony Rose sings The Lark in the Morning

As I was walking one morning in the spring
I met a fair damsel, so sweetly she did sing.
And as we was a-walking she unto me did say,
“Now there's no life like the ploughboy's all in the month of May.”

Oh the lark in the morning she rises from her nest
And flies all up into the air with the dew upon her breast.
And like the pretty ploughboy she'll whistle and she'll sing
And at night she will return to her home once again.

When the ploughboy has done all that he has got to do,
Perhaps unto the country way go walking he will go.
And there with his lassie he will drink and he will sing
And at night they will return to their home once again.

And as they return from the wake of the town,
The meadows being mown and the grass it being cut down;
If they by chance should tumble all on the new-mown hay,
Oh, it's “Kiss me now or never,” this pretty maid would say.

And it's twenty long weeks being over and being past,
Her mother did ask her the reason why she thickened around the waist.
“Oh, it was the pretty ploughboy,” the damsel she did say,
“Who caused me for to tumble all along the new-mown hay.”

So good luck to the ploughboy wherever he may be
Who loves to take his lassie and sit her on his knee,
With a jug of the good strong beer he'll whistle and he'll sing
For the ploughboy is as happy as a prince or as a king.