> Danny Spooner > Songs > Jolly Good Ale and Old

Jolly Good Ale and Old / The Beggar

[ Roud 1573 ; Ballad Index ShH78 ; VWML CJS2/9/1304 ; Bodleian Roud 1573 ; trad.]

Dave Burland sang The Beggar on his 1971 Trailer album A Dalesman's Litany.

Roy Harris sang The Beggar's Song on his 1975 Topic album Champions of Folly. A.L. Lloyd commented in the liner notes:

Cecil Sharp got this song from 86-year old Robert Parish at Exford, Somerset, in 1907 [VWML CJS2/9/1304] . Mr Parish could only remember a couple of verses and the refrain. The rest of the words are from a Devon version found by Rev S.  Baring-Gould. Particular interest attaches to the refrain, which is much older than the song. Indeed, the refrain probably wasn’t new when it first appeared in print as a drinking song in a pre-Shakespeare comedy, Gammer Gurton’s Needle (1575). The rest of the words of The Beggar’s Song belong to the beginning of the 18th century. Roy Harris can’t remember where he got it, but it’s printed in Sharp’s English Folk Songs.

Canterbury Fair sang Jolly Good Ale and Old on their eponymous 1977 album Canterbury Fair. They noted:

This to coin a well-used phrase, is ‘a bottler’ of a song, and goes under many titles, not the least of them, I Cannot Eat But Little Meat. It is, as will quickly be apparent, another song in praise of the “Amber Fluid”, as Australians like to call their beer. The song is, of course, English, and stems from the time when it was customary to close each act of the early dramas with a song. This song was sung in “a pithy, pleasant and merry comedy”—Gammer Gurton's Needle, an English farce printed in 1575. Someone said that it was “the first drinking song of any merit in our language” but we think it rather a dubious statement, having some small knowledge of early English drinking habits.

James Findlay sang The Beggar in 2012 on his Fellside CD Another Day Another Story.

Pete Morton, Chris Parkinson and Emily Sanders sang The Beggar in 2016 on their Fellside album The Magical Christmas Tree.

Lyrics

Canterbury Fair sing Jolly Good Ale and Old

I cannot eat but little meat,
My stomach is not good;
But I do think that I can drink
With him that wears the hood.
Though I go bare, take ye no care
I am never cold;
I stuff my skin so full within
Of jolly good ale and old.

Chorus (after each verse):
Let back and sides go bare,
Both hand and foot go cold,
But belly, God send thee good ale enough,
Whether it be new or old!

I love no roast but a nut-brown toast,
And a crab laid in the fire.
My belly I stuff with the good brown ale,
Much bread I never desire.
No frost, nor snow nor wind, I trow
Can hurt me if it would,
While I am wrapped and thoroughly lapped
In jolly good ale and old.

I care right nought, I take no thought
For clothes to keep me warm;
Have I good drink, I surely think
That none can do me harm.
For truly then I fear no man,
Though they be never so bold,
While I am armed and thoroughly warmed
With jolly good ale and old.

So now let them drink till they nod and wink
Even as good fellows should do,
They shall not miss to have all the bliss
Good ale doth bring them to.
And all good souls that scour black bowls
And them hath lustily trolled
God save the lives of them and their wives
Whether they be young or old!