> Eliza Carthy > Songs > Little Birds

Little Birds / Hawk and Crow / Leatherwinged Bat

[ Roud 747 ; Ballad Index K295 ; Mudcat 2266 ; trad.]

Maud Long of Hot Springs, Madison County, North Carolina sang The Bird Song in September 1950 to Maud Kerpeles. This recording was included in 2017 on the Musical Traditions anthology of historic recordings of Appalachian singers and musicians 1927-1955, When Cecil Left the Mountains. Mike Yates and Rod Stradling noted:

Talking birds feature in a number of songs and ballads. Maud Long's song is related to at least two 17th century songs, The Birds Harmony (“Oh! Says the cuckoo, loud and stout”), also called The Woody Queresters, and The Bird's Lamentation, both of which were also printed in the 18th century.

The verse about the Blackbird and the Crow (“What makes the white folk hate us so?”) probably comes from the Minstrel Stage of the mid-1800's. Maud Long's tune is associated with one which is often used for the song The Young Man Who Wouldn't Hoe Corn (Roud 438).

Other recordings: Clint Howard (TN). Smithsonian-Folkways SF 40029/30, as The Old Man at the Mill. Virgil Sandage (Indiana), Dust-to-Digital DTD-12.

Liam O'Connor of Pomeroy, Co. Tyrone, sang The Hawk and the Crow to Peter Kennedy in 1953. This recording, “enhanced” by Kennedy's banjo playing, was included in 1995 on the Saydisc album Traditional Songs of Ireland. Kennedy noted:

This was a rare find. Previously I'd only come across this Birdie Song in Cecil Sharp's collection from the Southern Appalachians, made during the First World War, from North Carolina and Virginia, so we were delighted to encounter this version in its probable place of origin.

Kevin Mitchell sang Two Strings on a Bow on his 1977 Topic album of Irish traditional songs and ballads, Free and Easy. John Moulders commented in the album's sleeve notes:

American singers call this song The Bird’s Courtship or The Leather Winged Bat—it’s quite common there but only once has it been collected in the British Isles; Peter Kennedy and Sean O’Boyle obtained it from Liam O’Connor of Pomeroy, Co. Tyrone. (Kennedy, Folk Songs of Britain and Ireland, no. 295). Kevin’s version, again given him by Anne Brolly (see The Magherafelt May Fair), shows only slight verbal differences from Liam O’Connor’s and it’s possible that Anne, reared in Coalisland, only 12 miles from Pomeroy, has the song from him. Kevin has changed the tune of the chorus so that the air as a whole is that of the hornpipe The Cuckoo’s Nest—a not inappropriate combination of tune and words.

Lucky Bags sang Leatherwinged Bat in 1998 on their Fellside album Delight in Disorder.

Sean Doyle sang The Hawk and the Crow on his 2004 CD The Light and the Half-Light. He noted:

This is an Ulster song I got from Traditional Songs of the North of Ireland by Derek Bell and Liam Ó Conchubhair. Apparently it is also known as The Birds Courting Song. The oldtimey accompaniment would seem to be appropriate as John Herrmann tells me there is an Appalachian version of this song known in North Carolina.

Elisabeth LaPrelle sang The Bird's Courting Song on her 2001 CD Birds' Advice. She noted:

From the singing of Maud Long. Some listeners may recognize Leatherwing Bat—without the bat, or Some Old Man, Working at the Mill—without the old man. This version has a kind of deceptive simplicity and seamless phrasing that I admire very much. The title of the album comes from this song—when I had forgotten the real title, “Birds' Advice” is what I called it.

Megson sang The Leatherwing Bat in 2012 on their album of children's folk songs, When I Was a Lad…. They noted:

Also known as The Bird's Courting Song or The Hawk and the Crow, this ballad tells the stories of various birds in their courting expeditions and how they have succeeded and failed.

The Outside Track sang The Hawk and the Crow in 2012 on their CD Flash Company. They noted:

Peter Kennedy collected this song from Liam O'Connor in 1953 and published it in Folksongs of Britain and Ireland. Thanks to Brian Hart and Brian Miller for bringing this song to our attention.

Lucy Farrell with Eliza Carthy, Bella Hardy and Kate Young sang Little Birds in 2013 on Carthy Hardy Farrell Young's album Laylam. She noted:

Little Birds was from a Cecil Sharp collection of American Songs [English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians, Volume 2, p. 304, collected from Mrs. Jane Gentry at Hot Springs, N.C., 12 September 1916]… from a time that I only sang songs that had birds in…

Emily Smith sang Hawk and Crow in 2014 on her album Echoes.

Maz O'Connor sang Bird Song in 2014 on her album This Willowed Light. She commented:

This song was collected by Cecil Sharp in the Appalachians. My friend Jack [Harris] has given it a beautiful new tune.

You Are Wolf (Kerry Andrew) sang The Bird's Courting Song on her 2014 album Hawk to the Hunting Gone. She referred to W.C. Robey as her source, “with some new words here and there”.

Andy Turner learned The Hawk and the Crow from Kevin Mitchell's album and sang it as the 2 September 2016 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

Said the Maiden sang The Birds' Courting Song on their 2017 CD Here's a Health. They noted:

This song describes the acquisition of characteristics for a number of species of winged creature. We learned it from the Muppets.

Lyrics

Maud Long sings The Bird Song

Said the robin as he flew,
“When I was a young man I'd choose two.
If one didn't love me the other one would
And don't you think that notion's good?”

Said the blackbird to the crow,
“What makes white folks hate us so?
For ever since old Adam was born
It's been our trade for to pull up corn.”

“Hoot,” said the owl with his head so white,
“A lonesome day and a lonesome night,
Thought I heard some pretty girl say,
She'd court all night and sleep next day.”

“No, no, no,“ says the turtle dove,
“That's no way for to gain her love.
If you want to gain her heat's delight
Keep her awake both day and night.”

One for the money and two for to go,
And I want another string to my bow, bow, bow.
One for the money and two for to go.
And I want another string to my bow, bow, bow.

Liam O'Connor sings The Hawk and the Crow

Said the hawk unto the crow one day,
“Why do you in mourning stay?”
“I was once in love and I didn't prove fact
And ever since I wear the black.”

Chorus (repeating each verse's second half):
Singing: Ri-the-diddle ri-the-diddle ri-the-diddley dum,
Singing: Ri-the-diddle ri-the-diddle ri-the-diddley dum,
I was once in love and I didn't prove fact
And ever since I wear the black.

And next there spoke the Willie Wagtail,
“I was once in love and I did prevail,
I was once in love and I did prevail
And ever since I wag my tail.”

And next there spoke the little brown thrush
Who was sitting in yon holly bush,
“The way to court I've heard them say
Is to court all night and sleep the next day.”

And last there spoke the Jeannie Wran,
“Do you know what I'd do if I was a man?
For fear that one would wriggle and go
I would wear two strings upon my bow.”

Megson sing The Leatherwing Bat

Hi said the leatherwing bat,
“I'll tell you the reason that,
The reason that I fly by night,
I have lost my heart's delight.”

Chorus (after each verse):
Lil li low and a diddle-um-a-day,
Lil li low and a diddle-um-a-day,
Lil li low and a diddle-um-a-day,
Hey lee-lee and a-lye-li-lo.”

“Hi,” said the morning dove.
“I'll teach you to regain your love,
Court her night and court her day,
Never time to say you nay.”

“Hi,” said the owl with a head so white,
“Another day and a lonesome night,
Thought I heard a pretty girl say,
She'd court all night and sleep all day.”

“Hi,” said the blackbird sitting on a bench,
“Once I courted a handsome wench,
She got fickle and turned her back,
Ever since then I've dressed in black.”

“Hi,” said the bluebird as he flew,
“If I were a young man I'd have two,
If one got saucy and wanted to go,
I'd have a new string to my bow.”

“Hi,” said the jaybird sitting in a tree.
“When I was a young man I had three,
Two got saucy and took to flight,
The one that’s left don’t treat me right.”

Lucy Farrell sings Little Birds

Says the robin as he flew,
“When I was a young man I chose two.
If one didn't love me the other one would,
Don't you think my notion good?”

Says the blackbird to the crow,
“Why do the white folks hate us so?
For ever since old Adam he was born
It's been our trade to pull up corn.”

“Hoots!” says the owl with his head so white,
“It's a lonesome day and a lonesome night.
I thought I heard some pretty girl say,
She'd court all night and sleep all day.”

“No, no,” says the turtle dove,
“That's no way for to gain his love.
If you want to gain his heart's delight,
You must keep him awake both day and night.”

Emily Smith sings Hawk and Crow

Said the hawk unto the crow one day,
“Oh how can you in mourning stay?”
“I was once in love but I did prove slack
And ever since I wear the black.”

The next to speak was Willie Wagtail,
“I was once in love but I did prevail,
I was once in love but I did prevail
And ever since I wag my tail.”

Then up and spoke the little brown thrush,
She was sitting in yon holly bush,
“Oh the way to love I heard them say
Is to court all night and to sleep all day.”

And the last to speak was Jenny Wren,
“Do you know what I'd do if I were a man?
In case that one should wriggle and go
I'd wear two strings all upon my bow.”