> Eliza Carthy > Songs > Benjamin Bowmaneer

Benjamin Bowmaneer

[ Roud 1514 ; Ballad Index VWL020 ; trad.]

Benjamin Bowmaneer is a song from The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. Eliza Carthy sang it in 1998 on her album Rice, accompanying herself on the piano.

Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll sang Benjamin Bowmaneer on their 2009 CD Beneath the Black Tree.

Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer sang Benjamin Bowmaneer in 2013 on their CD Red House. They noted:

A song which, in various guises, is thought to date back at least 400 years. This version is loosely based on the entry [in] The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. Literally, this version is about a man's fight with a mouse. Allegorically it is about politics, new money, abuse of the poor and general misery. Nice to know it's also a bit angry—and not just whiney.

Kate Rusby sang Benjamin Bowmaneer on their 2016 CD Life in a Paper Boat.

Lyrics

Eliza Carthy sings Benjamin Bowmaneer

Have you heard how the wars began,
    Benjamin Bowmaneer?
Have you heard how the wars began?
    Castors away!
Have you heard how the wars began
When England fought to a man?
And the proud tailor rode prancing away

Of his shear board he made a horse,
    Benjamin Bowmaneer
Of his shear board he made a horse,
    Castors away!
Of his shear board he made a horse
For him to ride across.
And the proud tailor rode prancing away

Of his scissors made bridle bits,
    Benjamin Bowmaneer
Of his scissors made bridle bits,
    Castors away!
Of his scissors made bridle bits
To keep the horse in his wits.
And the proud tailor rode prancing away

As the tailor rode o'er the lea,
    Benjamin Bowmaneer
As the tailor rode o'er the lea,
    Castors away!
As the tailor rode o'er the lea,
He spied a flea on his knee.
And the proud tailor rode prancing away

Of his needle he made a spear,
    Benjamin Bowmaneer
Of his needle he made a spear,
    Castors away!
Of his needle he made a spear
To prick that flea through his ear.
And the proud tailor rode prancing away

Of his thimble he made a bell,
    Benjamin Bowmaneer
Of his thimble he made a bell,
    Castors away!
Of his thimble he made a bell
To ring that flea's funeral knell.
And the proud tailor rode prancing away

Was this how the wars began,
    Benjamin Bowmaneer?
Was this how the wars began?
    Castors away!
Was this how the wars began
When England fought to a man?
And the proud tailor rode prancing away

Acknowledgements

Transcribed by Kira White.