> Steeleye Span > Songs > Who's the Fool Now? / Well Done Liar!

Soo Sewin' Silk / Wha's Fu' / Who's the Fool Now? / Well Done Liar!

[ Roud 473 ; G/D 8:1703 ; Ballad Index WB022 ; Bodleian Roud 473 ; Wiltshire Roud 473 ; trad.]

Jeannie Robertson sang Soo Sewin' Silk on her 1960 Prestige album Scottish Ballads and Folk Songs.

Tim Hart and Maddy Prior sang Who's the Fool Now? in 1968 on their first duo album Folk Songs of Old England Vol. 1. The record's sleeve notes comment:

The first printed version of this song appeared in Deuteromelia which was the second part of Pleasant Roundelayes, Delightful Catches, Freeman's Songs published by Thomas Ravenscroft of the Seven Dials in 1609. The theme is the degradation of drink, the master drinking out of the can and telling tall stories, whilst his servant drinking from the cup mocks him. In verse 2 the “Man in the Moon” is King Henry VIII and the man standing in St. Peter's shoes is the Pope. To clout in Old English means to mend; thus it was unlikely so see Henry VIII patching up his differences with the Pope as it was to see a cheese eat a rat.

And Steeleye Span—at that time not with Tim Hart and Maddy Prior any more—recorded a variant of this song called Well Done Liar! with words adapted by Bob Johnson. This recording was released in 2000 on their CD Bedlam Born. Bob Johnson commented in the album's sleeve notes:

This song comes from the sixteenth century and is thought to be a satire on those who tell wonderful stories “to make other idiots laugh and wise men to cry ‘Who's the fool now?’” As such, it is a reflection of the way in which I have perceived my role on stage over the past 28 years; that is to say, as a teller of wonderful stories. Thank you for listening.

The Valley Folk sang Who's the Fool Now? live at the Towersey Village Festival on the August/September bank holiday weekend 1968. This recording was included in the following year on the festival anthology Festival at Towersey.

Robin and Barry Dransfield sang Who's the Fool Now? in 1970 on their first album, The Rout of the Blues.

Roy Palmer included Who's the Fool Now in his book Room for Company (Cambridge University Press, 1971).

John Roberts and Tony Barrand sang Martin Said to His Man in 1971 on their first album, Spencer the Rover Is Alive and Well. They commented in their sleeve notes:

William Chappell, in Popular Music of the Olden Time, gives a text of this drinking song, which dates back to the 16th century. he supposes it to be a satire on those who tell wonderful stories: we tend to think of it as a political allegory, though we have not yet made up the folklore to go with this theory.

The Clutha sang this song as Wha's Fu' on their 1974 Topic album Scots Ballads, Songs & Dance Tunes.

Lizzie Higgins sang Soo Sewin' Silk in 1975 on her Topic album Up and Awa' Wi' the Laverock and on her 2006 Musical Traditions anthology In Memory of Lizzie Higgins. Peter Hall commented in the sleeve notes:

In George Kinloch’s Ballad Book (1827) there appears a song called The Man in the Moon, with the following lines:

I saw a sow sewing silk,
And the cat was kirning milk;
And we’re a’ blind drunk, bousing jolly fou, my jo.

It is at least 200 years old and is still sung nowadays in much the same form. Like the English Martin said to his Man it makes drunkenness the excuse for fantasy which often contains political or sexual symbolism. In the same publication are the similar upside-down pieces Four and Twenty Cripple Tailors and, closer to Lizzie’s version, Hey the Mantle. The last song is still quite well known in Aberdeenshire and is a descendant of Fayr luf, lent thow me thy mentil, joy published in The Complaynt of Scotland (1549).

Jim Moray sang Who's the Fool in 2006 on his eponymous album Jim Moray.

Sylvia Barnes sang Soo Sewin' Silk on her 2007 Greentrax album The Colour of Amber. She commented in her liner notes:

From Lizzie Higgins. More than 20 versions of this nonsense song have been collected from Scotland, England and the USA. Of Lizzie's version, the first two verses are from her mother Jeannie Robertson. Andy Hunter added the remainder.

Steve Tilston sang Martin Said to His Man in 2013 on the Steve Tilston Trio's CD Happenstance. He commented in the liner notes:

An arrangement of a very old traditional song that probably dates back to the 16th century, playing out with a couple of goes round the Elizabethan Serenade, from the pen of the immortal Roland Binge.

Kate Rusby sang Martin Said in 2014 on her CD Ghost.

The Macmath Collective sang I Saw the Snail in 2015 on their CD Macmath: The Silent Page.

Lyrics

Tim Hart and Maddy Prior sing Who's the Fool Now? Roberts & Barrand sing Martin Said to His Man

Oh, Martin said to his man,
    Fie, man, fie,
Martin said to his man,
    Who's the fool now?
Oh, Martin said to his man,
Fill thou the cup and I the can,
    Thou hast well drunken man, who's the fool now?

Oh, Martin said to his man,
    Fie, man, fie,
Oh, Martin said to his man,
    Who's the fool now?
Martin said to his man,
Fill thou the cup and I the can,
    Thou hast well drunken man, who's the fool now?

I saw the man in the moon
Clouting of St. Peter's shoon.

I saw the man in the moon
Clouting on St. Peter's shoon.

I saw the hare chase a hound,
Twenty miles above the ground.

I saw the hare chase the hound,
Forty miles above the ground.

I saw a goose wring a hog,
Saw a snail bite a dog.

I saw a mouse chase the cat,
I saw a cheese wat a rat.

I saw the cheese eat the rat,
Saw a mouse chase a cat.

I saw a flea heave a tree
Twenty miles out to sea.

I saw a snail drive a nail
From Penzance up to Hale.

I saw a maid milk a bull,
Every pull a bucket full.

Oh, Martin said to his man,
Fill thou the cup and I the can.

Martin said to his man,
Fill thou the cup and I the can.

Steeleye Span sing Well Done Liar! Lizzie Higgins sings Soo Sewin' Silk

I saw a snail drive a nail
I saw a snail drive a nail
Well done liar!

I saw a hare chase a hound
Twenty miles above the ground
Well done liar!

Chorus:
Who's the fool now?
Tell me who's the fool now?
So fill the cup and I the can
Who's the fool now?

I saw the man in the moon
A-wearing of St. Peter's shoon
I saw a wren kill a man
With a dagger in his hand
Well done liar!

Chorus

Soo sewin silk—fa's fou, fa's fou?
Soo sewin silk an the young one's churnin milk
An wir aa blin drunk and the jolly man's fou.

Loose chasin puss—fa's fou, fa's fou?
Loose chasin puss in the barn an the hoose,
An wir aa blin drunk an the jolly man's fou

Caffie's laid an egg – fa's fou, fa's fou?
Caffie's laid an egg aa doun the fairmer's leg,
An wir aa blin drunk an the jolly man's fou.

Fairmer's went tae ploo—fa's fou, fa fou?
Fairmer's went tae ploo, wi a turkey an a coo,
An wir aa blin drunk an the jolly man's fou.

Kye are in their bed—fa's fou, fa's fou?
Kye are in their bed, an the bairn's in the shed,
An wir aa blin drunk an the jolly man's fou.

Its a tapsalteerie sang—fa's fou, fa's fou?
Tapsalteerie sang, as broad as it is lang,
An wir aa blin drunk an the jolly man's fou.