> Coope Boyes & Simpson > Songs > The Ploughboy's Dream

The Ploughboy's Dream

[ Roud 1545 ; Ballad Index GrD3491 ; trad.]

Coope Boyes & Simpson sang The Ploughboy's Dream in 2005 on their CD Triple Echo: Songs collected by Vaughan Williams, Butterworth and Grainger. They commented in their album notes:

In his first month of folksong collecting in 1903, Vaughan Williams noted this psychedelic piece from Mr Garman of Forest Green in Surrey. (It seems to have represented a theme in Mr Garman's repertoire—he sang The Child's Dream to Vaughan Williams as well.) A dire warning to farm labourers to moderate their language and treat their employers' horses better, the song's combination of hellfire and animal rights chimed equally well with the contemporary Evangelical movement and publishers of popular broadsides in Seven Dials. It was also a great favourite of the early folksong collector, the Reverend John Broadwood—Mr Garman told Vaughan Williams that Broadwood would request it regularly and pay half a crown for a performance. Whether or not Vaughan Williams took the hint, he seems to have found the song rather less attractive and only notated two verses of Mr Garman's text. He felt quite differently about the tune, however, and when compiling The English Hymnal, used it under the name Forest Green to replace Lewis Redner's ploddingly saccharine original music for O Little Town of Bethlehem. The text we sing is mainly from Roy Palmer's excellent Folk Songs Collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Hannah James and Sam Sweeney sang Ploughboy's Dream in 2009 on their CD Catches & Glees. Their source is George Gardiner who collected the song from Daniel Wigg of Preston Candover, Alresford, Hampshire, in July 1907, as printed in Frank Purslow's book Marrow Bones: English Folk Songs from the Hammond and Gardiner Manuscripts.

Lyrics

I dreamt I drove my master's team with Dobbin, Bald and Star,
Before a stiff and handy plough, as all my master's are.
I found the ground was baked so hard 'twas more like bricks than clay;
I could not cut my furrow through, nor would my beasts obey.

Now Dobbin lay down, both Bald and Star they kicked and snorted sore;
The more I lashed and cursed and swore, the less my cattle stir.
Then lo! above me a bright youth did seem to hang in air,
With purple wings and golden hands as angels painted are.

“Give over, cruel wretch,” he cried, “nor thus thy beasts abuse
Think, if the ground was not as hard, would they their work refuse?
Besides, I heard thee curse and swear, as if dumb beasts could know,
What all thy oaths and curses meant, or better for them go.

But though they know not there is one who knows thy sins full well,
And what shall be thine after doom another shall thee tell.”
No more he said, but, light as air, he vanished from my sight;
And with him went the sun's bright beams, and all was dark as night.

The thunder roared from underground, the earth did seem to gape;
Blue flames broke forth, and in those flames, a dire, gigantic shape.
“Soon shall I call thee mine,” it cried, with voice so drear and deep,
That, quivering like an aspen leaf, I wakened from my sleep.

Hannah James sings Ploughboy's Dream

I am a ploughboy stout and tall as ever drove a team,
And three years since as I lay in bed I had a dreadful dream.
I dreamt I drove my master's team, both Dobbin, Belle and Star,
Before a stiff and armoured plough as all my master's are.

I found the ground was baked so hard, it was more like bricks than clay;
I could not cut my furrow through, nor would my beasts obey.
The more I whipped them, slashed and swore, the less the horses tried;
Dobbin lay down, and Belle and Star ignored my threats and cries.

Till lo! above me appeared a youth, he seemed to hang in air,
And all around a dazzling light which made my eyes to stare,
“Give over, cruel wretch,” he cried, “Do not thy beasts abuse
For, if the ground was not so hard, would they their work refuse?

“Besides, I heard you curse and swear, as if dumb beasts could know
What all thy oaths and cursing meant; it's better far than gold
That you should know that there is one who knows thy sins full well,
And what shall be thy after doom another shall thee tell.”

No more he said, but, light as air, he vanished from my sight,
And with him went the sun's bright beams, 'twas all as dark as night.
Then thunder roared from underground, the earth it seems agape;
Blue flames broke forth and in those flames appeared an awful shape.

“I soon shall call you mine,” he cried, in a voice so clear and deep,
And, quivering like an aspen leaf, I woke out of my sleep.
So ponder well, you ploughboys all, this dream that I have told
And if your work goes well with you, it's worth your weight in gold.

Links

See also the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Req: Ploughboy's dream.