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Eggs for Your Breakfast / Country Life

[ Roud 1752 , 6297 ; Master title: Eggs for your Breakfast ; G/D 8:1667 ; Ballad Index DTcountr , Grd81667 , Grg169b ; DT COUNTRYL ; Mudcat 47543 ; trad. / Harry Linn]

Everyman’s Book of English Country Songs

The Watersons sang Country Life on their 1975 Topic record For Pence and Spicy Ale, their first album with Martin Carthy in the group. This track was also included in the World Music Network anthology The Rough Guide to English Roots Music. They also sang Country Life live in June 1977 at the 6. Folkfestival auf der Lenzburg but in this version they swapped their two verses. A.L. Lloyd noted on the original album:

Idyllic songs, praising country pleasures, mostly belong to a time before the agricultural revolution of the 18th and early 19th centuries turned the smallholders into a rural proletariat with grievances. The Watersons got this one from Mick Taylor, a sheepdog trainer of Hawes in Wensleydale.

There was some discussion in the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Req: Country Life / Hurrah for the Country Life whether the chorus should have the line “Merrily upon the laylum” or “Merrily upon the layland” with layland meaning fallow ground according to the Webster dictionary. Eliza Carthy cleared this up with a short but resolute: “They sing laylum and take it to mean chorus.”

Folly Bridge learned I Like to Rise from the singing of the Watersons and recorded it in 1991 for their WildGoose cassette All in the Same Tune. This video shows them at a one-off reunion, on the occasion of Graham Metcalfe’s 70th birthday, in November 2015 at Eynsham, Oxfordshire:

Eliza Carthy sang Country Life with the Oysterband in 2004 on The Big Session Vol. 1. (On this CD there is another completely different song with the same title; Steve Knightley sings lead on this track. This song seems to be the title track of Show of Hands’s album Country Life.) This video shows Jon Boden, John Spiers, Eliza Carthy, Steve Knightley, Maclaine Colston, Saul Rose, Jim Moray, and Paul Sartin singing Country Life at the Folk Against Fascism launch in Sidmouth on 7 August 2009:

Jon Boden sang Country Life as the 22 August 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He commented in the project’s blog:

Mike Waterson’s greatest hit? Probably as far as social singing goes it is. You can’t beat the Watersons’ harmonies either—many have tried and all have failed.

The Teacups sang A Country Life in 2013 on their Haystack album One for the Pot.

Andy Turner sang Country Life as the 8 February 2020 entry of his blog A Folk Song a Week.

Derek, Dorothy and Nadine Elliott sang a distant relative of this song called The Old Cock Crows on their 1976 Traditional Sound album, Yorkshire Relish, and on the 2001 Fellside anthology of English traditional songs, Voices in Harmony. The latter’s notes commented that “it’s a piece of nonsense, of course, but great fun to sing. The Elliotts got it from a BBC archive recording of Kit Jones of Redmire, Yorkshire.” Their version is also printed in Roy Palmer’s Everyman’s Book of English Country Songs.

Walter Pardon sang a third song called A Country Life at home in a recording made by Mike Yates in 1975-78. It was published in 1982 as the title track of his Topic LP A Country Life and in 2000 on his Musical Traditions anthology Put a Bit of Powder on It, Father. This song was written by music hall singer Harry Linn and is quite different from the Watersons’s song which rather commemorates the passing of the seasons. But both songs have some common elements: They share some phrases, and Pardon’s verses are similarly built to the Watersons’ chorus. A.L. Lloyd commented in Pardon’s album’s sleeve notes:

A Country Life, or Eggs for Your Breakfast in the Morning to use its alternative title, was written by the Victorian music hall singer Harry Linn, who, together with J.W. Rowley and E. Cummingham, made it into something of a hit in the 1870s. The words appeared in several song books of the period, including March’s Music Club, printed by Richard March & Co., London, and Pearson’s New Series Song Book, number 85, printed by Thomas Pearson of Manchester. Copies of these publications—which each contain about fifty songs and were monthly issued for 1d—survive in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library in London.

George Dunn sang this song as Eggs for Breakfast in a recording made by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger in 1971 that was included in 2002 on his Musical Traditions anthology Chainmaker. The album’s booklet commented:

A song written by Harry Linn in the 1870s and, aside from George, only Walter Pardon is known to have sung it in the oral traditions, as A Country Life.

Chris Bartram sang I am John the Farmer on his 2005 album of traditional songs from England, Yorkie.

Whapweasel sang Country Life on their 2012 album Festivalis. They noted:

A song from the late Mike Waterson. A prolific and exceptional songwriter and performer.

Banter sang Country Life in 2021 on their Mrs Casey album Three. They noted:

This is our anthemic take on the ever popular singaround song. It’s a celebration of the joys and simplicity of rural life and the delights to be found in the rolling of the seasons. This past year we’ve all yearned to get out of the house and step away from the rat race to a simpler, more mindful existence. Also known as Eggs for Your Breakfast in the Morning (Roud 1752), it’s a well loved and many-time recorded song including The Watersons (1975) who got it from Mick Taylor, a Wensleydale sheepdog trainer.


The Watersons sing Country Life

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
I like to rise when the sun she rises
Early in the morning,
I like to hear them small birds singing
Merrily upon the laylum.
And hurrah for the life of a country boy
And to ramble in the new-mown hay.

In spring we sow, at the harvest mow,
And that is how the seasons round they go.
But if all the times if choose I may
’t would be rambling through the new-mown hay.

[ In summer when the summer is hot
We sing, and we dance, and we drink a lot.
We spend all night in sport and play
And go rambling in the new-mown hay. ]

[ In autumn when the oak trees turn
We gather all the wood that’s fit to burn.
We cut and stash and stow away
And go rambling in the new-mown hay. ]

In winter when the sky is grey
We hedge and ditch our times away;
But in the summer when the sun shines gay
We go rambling through the new-mown hay.

[ Oh Nancy is my darling gay
And she blooms like the flowers every day.
But I love her best in the month of May
When we’re rambling through the new-mown hay. ]

[ I like to hear the Morris dancers
Clash their sticks and drink our ale
I like to hear those bells a-ringing
As we ramble in the new-mown hay. ]


The Digital Tradition lists the shown six verses and attributes them to the Watersons. But Mike Waterson only sings the spring and the winter verse on their album, and the winter and the spring verses at the Lenzburg Festival.

I do not know the origin of the verses in brackets, only that Doug Olsen (of the 1973-2013 San Francisco Bay Area trio Oak Ash & Thorn) told me in a private email that he wrote the Nancy verse, although he rewrote it by now as there isn’t now-mown hay in May even if it rhymes:

October ale’s my constant friend
From harvest time til winter’s end.
But Nancy is me darlin’ gay
When we’re ramblin’ thru the new-mown hay.

Yorkshire Relish sing The Old Cock Crows

Behold in me a jolly farmer
That lives in the fields so green,
And I like to rise in the morning
When the pretty little violets are seen.
Yes, I like to rise up early
And merrily follow the plough.
I likes to watch the dairy
And go milking the old dun cow.

Chorus (twice after each verse):
I like to hear the old cock crow
Early in the morning,
I like to stroll through the bright green fields
Just as the day is dawning.
I likes to hear them little birds
Sing their merry lay.
Hoorah for a life in the country
And to ramble in the new-mown hay

I like to live in the country,
Yes, I like to live at me farm.
And I shouldn’t like the city
For a country life’s so charmed.
And I like to watch the girls in the dairy
Making butter and cheese,
I like to hear me own girl Mary
Telling tales ’neath the apple trees.

Walter Pardon sings A Country Life

I love to roam through the bright green fields,
I love to live on the farm.
I love to take a stroll where the primroses grow,
For the country life’s a charm.
I love to wander through the old farm yard,
Round by the old stacks,
And listen to the cackle of the chickens and the chucks,
While the pretty little ducks quack quack,

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Quack, quack, quack, go the pretty little ducks.
The hens chuck, chuck, gives you warning.
When the old cock crows then everybody knows
There’s an egg for your breakfast in the morning.

I love to gaze on the ripe yellow corn,
I love to roll in the grass.
I love to take a ramble through the new-mown hay
With a pretty little country lass.
I love to wander by the old mill stream
And catch every breeze that blows;
And see the lambs as they gamble in the fields
In the morning when the old cock crows.

I love to live on the little white farm,
With ivy twining round the door.
I love to hear the lark when it soars on high
And listen to the old bull’s roar.
I love to hear the milkmaid’s song,
The humming of the busy little bee.
You can have your cities, you can have your towns,
But a country life for me.


Garry Gillard transcribed the Watersons’ Country Life.