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The Snow It Melts the Soonest

[ Roud 3154 ; Ballad Index StoR120 ; trad.]

Anne Briggs popularised The Snow It Melts the Soonest in the 1960s and recorded it in 1971 for her Topic album Anne Briggs. Like all tracks from this album it was reissued on her two compilations Classic Anne Briggs and A Collection. It was also included in the Topic Sampler No 8, English Garland, and on The Folk Collection. A.L. Lloyd commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

We owe this to a good pioneer collector of North-Eastern song, the soap-boiler and lively Radical agitator Thomas Doubleday, who contributed it to Blackwood's magazine [under the pseudonym of Mr Shufflebotham] as long ago as 1821. He got the melody from a Newcastle street singer. In Northumbrian Minstrelsy (1882, repr. 1965) the tune is given as My Love Is Newly Listed.

Pentangle sang The Snows in 1972 on their album Solomon's Seal.

Tom Gilfellon sang The Snow It Melts the Soonest on his 1976 Topic album In the Middle of the Tune. He commented in the sleeve notes:

I still tend to the view that it might just be Male Chauvinist Pig Song of the Year… I recognise the arrogance of the words, and there I'll let it be. It has a most beautiful tune, however, which was collected by the Newcastle radical Thomas Doubleday from a street singer (It's not clear who wrote the words). I apologise to my female friends and to my wife Maggie in advance. The leopard cannot change his spots nor I my grunt but we can cunningly camouflage them if we're lucky!

Pat Ryan sang The Snows They Melt the Soonest in 1977 on her Folk Heritage album Leaboy's Lassie.

The New High Level Ranters (by then without Tom Gilfellon) sang The Snows They Melt the Soonest in 1982 on their eponymous Topic LP The New High Level Ranters.

Archie Fisher sang The Snows They Melt the Soonest in 1968 on his eponymous Transatlantic album Archie Fisher. Dick Gaughan sang it in 1981 on his Topic LP Handful of Earth, and he commented laconically:

Learned by osmosis from Archie Fisher (then osmosis taught me it). I wasn't aware that I actually knew it until I found myself singing it one night.

The Snow It Melts the Soonest was also sung by Eliza Carthy in 1998 on her Topic CD Rice; Saul Rose and Tristan Glover accompanied her on melodeon. This track was also included in 2001 on the Topic sampler A Woman's Voice.

Erica Smith sang The Snow They Melt the Soonest in 2001 on her eponymous CD Erica Smith.

James Yorkston sang The Snow It Melts the Soonest in 2004 on his CD Just Beyond the River and in 2009 on his CD+DVD Folk Songs.

Linde Nijland sang The Snows They Melt the Soonest in 2007 on her, Henk Scholte's and Bert Ridderbos' CD Winterliederen. She commented:

Een traditioneel Engels lied dat eerder onder meer schitterend werd uitgevoerd door de Schotse singer-songwriter Dick Gaughan.

Kerfuffle recorded The Snows They Melt the Soonest in 2008 for their fourth CD, To the Ground.

Jon Boden sang The Snow It Melts the Soonest as the January 11, 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Lyrics

Anne Briggs sings The Snow It Melts the Soonest

Oh the snow it melts the soonest when the winds begin to sing
And the corn it ripens fastest when the frosts are setting in
And when a young man tells me that my face he'll soon forget
Before we part, I'd bet a crown, he'd be fain to follow it yet

Oh the snow it melts the soonest when the winds begin to sing
And the swallow skims without a thought as long as it is spring
But when spring blows and winter goes my lad then you'd be fain
With all your pride for to follow me, were it 'cross the stormy main

Oh the snow it melts the soonest when the winds begin to sing
And the bee that flew when summer shone in winter he won't sing
And all the flowers in all the land so brightly there they be
And the snow it melts the soonest when my true love's for me

So never say me farewell here, no farewell I'll receive
You can meet me at the stile, you'll kiss and take your leave
And I'll wait it till the woodcock crows or the martin takes its leave
Since the snow it melts the soonest when the winds begin to sing

Dick Gaughan sings The Snows They Melt the Soonest

The snows they melts the soonest when the wind begins to sing
The corn it ripens fastest when the frosts are settling in
And when a woman tells me that my face she'll soon forget
Before we part, I'll wage a crown, she's fain to follow it yet

The snows they melt the soonest when the winds begin to sing
The swallow flies without a thought as long as it is spring
But when spring goes and winter blows my love then you'll be fain
For all your pride to follow me across the raging main

The snows they melt the soonest when the winds begin to sing
And the bee that flew when summer shone in winter cannot sting
And I've seen a woman's anger melt between the night and the morn
So it's surely not a harder thing to melt a woman's scorn

So don't you bid me farewell here, no farewell I'll receive
For you will lie with me, my lass, then you kiss and take your leave
And I'll wait here till the moorcock calls and the martin takes the wing
For the snows they melt the soonest when the winds begin to sing

Eliza Carthy sings The Snow It Melts the Soonest

Oh the snow it melts the soonest when the winds begin to sing
The corn it ripens fastest when the frosts are setting in
And when a young man tells me that my face he'll soon forget
Before we part, I'll tell him now, he'll be sure to follow yet

Oh the snow it melts the soonest when the winds begin to sing
The swallow skims without a thought as long as it is spring
But when spring goes and winter blows my love and you'll be fain
For all your pride to follow me, were it across the stormy main

And the snow it melts the soonest when the winds begin to sing
The bee that flew when summer shone in winter cannot sing
I've seen a young man's anger melt between the night and morn
And it's surely not a harder thing to tame a young man's scorn

So never say me farewell here, no farewell I'll receive
For you will set me to the stile, and kiss and take your leave
And I'll stay here till the woodcock comes and the martlet starts to sing
For the snow it melts the soonest when the winds begin to sing

Acknowledgements and Links

Eliza Carthy's singing transcribed by Kira White. Thanks also to Cíarilì O'Brien for corrections.

See also the Mudcat Café threads Origin: The Snow It Melts the Soonest and Origins: The Snows They Melt the Soonest.