> Folk Music > Songs > I’d Rather Be Tending My Sheep

I’d Rather Be Tending My Sheep

[probably by Ruth Tongue]

Lucy Farrell of The Furrow Collective sang I’d Rather Be Tending My Sheep on their 2014 album At Our Next Meeting. She commented in the album notes:

This song comes from Ruth Tongue’s book The Chime Child [ or, Somerset Singers (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1968)]. She allegedly collected it from someone called ‘Old Shepherd’. I love the song's disavowal of riches for the simple life.

Ruth L. Tongue wrote that Tending the Sheep was composed and sung by ‘Old Shepherd’ from The Blackdown Hills, 1870-1900, but Malcolm Douglas commented in the Mudcat Café thread Lyr/Tune Add: The Gay Green Gown in 2004 about another song from this book:

[The Gay Green Gown] is one of the surprising songs that appeared in Ruth L. Tongue's engaging book The Chime Child. Although they were presented as having been collected from various (pseudonymous) singers in Somerset in the early part of the 20th century, all but one have never been found anywhere else, and internal evidence suggests that many of them were written by the same person; quite possibly Miss Tongue herself, though it is impossible to be sure. With the caveat that they may be fakes and not real traditional songs, they are nevertheless interesting and unusual, and well worth attention.

Marry Waterson made a beautiful video of the Furrow Collective's song:

Lyrics

Tending the Sheep in
Ruth Tongue's The Chime Child
The Furrow Collective sing
I’d Rather Be Tending My Sheep

If I were the King of Tan'ton town
I'd wear a sword and a golden crown.
I'd ride on afore when we went to the war
With soldiers to follow, a hundred or more!

If I was the King of Taunton town
I'd wear a sword and a golden crown.
I'd ride on afore when we went to the war
With soldiers to follow, a hundred or more!

But I'd rather be tending my sheep,
Yes, I'd rather be tending my sheep;
My ewes and my rams and my little young lambs,
I'd rather be tending my sheep.

But I'd rather be tending my sheep,
Yes, I'd rather be tending my sheep;
My ewes and my rams and my little young lambs,
I'd rather be tending my sheep.

If I were a Bristol merchant-man,
With silver to collar and silver to hem,
And fine chests of gold, a sight to behold.
The thieves and the robbers they'd soon make me old.

If I was a Bristol merchant-man,
With silver to collar and silver to hem,
And fine chests of gold, a sight to behold.
The thieves and the robbers they'd soon make me old.

So I'd rather be watching my sheep,
Yes, I'd rather be watching my sheep;
My ewes and my rams and my little young lambs,
I'd rather be watching my sheep.

So I'd rather be tending my sheep,
Yes, I'd rather be tending my sheep;
My ewes and my rams and my little young lambs,
I'd rather be tending my sheep.

A shepherd I been all the days I have seen,
When the fields they're white, when the leaves they are green.
I do meet with my foe when the cold wind do blow,
And they voxes so cunning hide down in the snow.

A shepherd I've been all the days that I've seen,
When the fields they're white and the fields they are green.
And I do meet my foe when the cold wind does blow,
When the foxes so cunning hide down in the snow.

But I'd rather be guarding my sheep,
Yes, I'd rather be guarding my sheep;
My ewes and my rams and my little young lambs,
I'd rather be guarding my sheep.

And I'd rather be tending my sheep,
Yes, I'd rather be tending my sheep;
My ewes and my rams and my little young lambs,
I'd rather be tending my sheep.