> Folk Music > Songs > One Morning in May / To Hear the Nightingale Sing / The Soldier and the Lady

One Morning in May / To Hear the Nightingale Sing / The Soldier and the Lady

[ Roud 140 ; Laws P14 ; TYG 34 ; Ballad Index LP14 ; Bodleian Roud 140 ; Wiltshire Roud 140 ; trad.]

Frederick Cantwell (73) and Raymond Cantwell of Standlake, Oxfordshire, accompanied (by Frederick's son Raymond?) on melodeon, sang The Soldier and the Lady in 1956 to Peter Kennedy. A two-verse snippet of this was included on the anthology Songs of Seduction (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 2; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1968); the album's booklet prints two more verses. The Rounder CD re-issue from 2000 has another version with only Frederick Cantwell singing to his son's melodeon accompaniment. This version is four verses long, and the booklet again gives an additional verse. Kennedy's Folktracks cassette Blackbirds and Thrushes and his book Folksongs of Britain and Ireland attribute this song to Raymond and John Cantwell. I don't know if this is a mis-naming or a third version.

Jim ‘Brick’ Harber of Three Bridges, Sussex, sang The Bold Privateer in 1959 to Ken Stubbs. The latter printed this version in 1970 in his EFDS book The Life of a Man.

Charlie Carver sang The Grenadier and the Lady to John Howson at Tostock Gardeners' Arms in 1960. This recording was included in 1993 on the Veteran anthology of traditional music making from Mid-Suffolk, Many a Good Horseman. John Howson commented in the album's liner notes:

This 19th century ballad that warns of the unreliability of soldiers does not seem to have reached Scotland or Ireland, yet was extremely prevalent in America and Canada. In England it seems to have been mainly found in southern counties, particularly in the west country: Cecil Sharp collected it from no less that nine different singers in Somerset between 1904 and 1907 and H.E.D. Hammond noted it down four times in Dorset around the same time.

The Ian Campbell Folk Group sang To Hear the Nightingale Sing in 1963 on their Transatlantic album This Is the Ian Campbell Folk Group.

Tom and Claudia Paley sang The Fiddling Soldier in 1964 on their Topic album with Peggy Seeger, Who's Going to Shoe Your Pretty Little Foot?.

Tina Greer of the Watson Family sang One Morning in May in May 1965 to Ralph Rinzler and Daniel Seeger. This recording was released in 1977 on the Rounder/Topic album The Watson Family Tradition.

Isla Cameron sang The Bold Grenadier on the soundtrack of the 1967 Richard Rodney Bennett film Far from the Madding Crowd (after the Thomas Hardy novel). This recording was also included in 1987 on the BBC anthology Through Bushes and Briar.

Queen Caroline Hughes sang The Soldier and the Lady in her caravan near Blandford, Dorset, on April 19, 1968 to Peter Kennedy. This recording was included in 2012 on the Topic anthology of Southern English gypsy traditional singers, I'm a Romany Ray (The Voice of the People Series, Volume 22). An earlier recording titled The Lady and the Soldier, and made by Ewan MacColl, Peggy Seeger and Charles Parker in 1963 or 1966, was included in 2014 on her Musical Traditions anthology Sheep-Crook and Black Dog.

George Dunn sang a fragment of Hear the Nightingale Sing on May 24, 1971 to Roy Palmer. This recording was included in 2002 on Dunn's Musical Traditions anthology Chainmaker.

James Taylor sang One Morning in May with Linda Ronstadt on his 1972 album One Man Dog. His version is quite near to the one of Caroline Hughes.

The Broadside from Grimsby sang The Bold Grenadier in 1973 on their Topic album of songs and ballads collected in Lincolnshire, The Moon Shone Bright. They commented in their liner notes:

[…] from the singing of Luther (Luke) Stanley of Barrow-on-Humber [as collected by Ethel Rudkin in 1957]. It is often called The Soldier and the Lady. Freud would have been interested in its symbolism. Luke's tune is a member of the Polly Oliver family. John Conolly sings it here in the ornamented style of Joseph Taylor.

Len Graham sang One Morning in May on his 1977 Topic album of traditional songs, ballads and lilts, Wind and Water. He commented in his sleeve notes:

This is yet another song I learnt from the late John McGrath. There is a modest seduction scene—modest as with most Irish songs, the seduction isn’t too explicit. In this case “When the birds sang so sweet, this young man proved his deceit.”

Frank Hinchliffe sang Hear the Nightingales Sing on his 1977 Topic album of traditional songs from South Yorkshire, In Sheffield Park.

Arthur Howard sang this song as Water Rattle in a 1981 recording made by Ian Russell in Hazlehead, Yorkshire. It was included in the same year on his Hill & Dale album Merry Mountain Child. Steve Round included Howard's version as Bold Grenadier in 2012 in The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs.

Charles Pittman sang As I Was A-Walking on his and fellow Cornishman Tommy Morrissey's Veteran cassette Pass Around the Grog (VT122, ca. 1987). This track was also included in 2004 on the Veteran compilation of folk songs sung in the West Country, Old Uncle Tom Cobleigh and All. John Howson commented in the latter's liner notes:

Often known as The Grenadier and the Lady this a popular song in the West Country. H.E.D. Hammond collected five variants in Somerset and Dorset between 1905-7 including one from W. Barlett at Wimborne and in 1950 Peter Kennedy recorded Walter Haynes singing it in the bar of the Ilchester Arms at Abbotsbury. The song was also popular in other parts of the country and frequently turns up in America. It is a favourite with the Holme Valley Beagles in South Yorkshire where it’s called Where the Watter Rattles and George Dunn sang it in the Midlands under the title The Nightingale Sings.

John McCormick sang One Morning in May in 1998 on his CD Between Our Hearts.

A very young Hannah James sang The Bold Grenadier in 2006 on Kerfuffle's third CD, Links.

Viv Legg sang One Morning in May in 2006 on her Veteran CD Romany Roots.

Al O'Donnell learned One Morning in May from Jean Ritchie. He sang it in 2008 on his double CD Ramble Away.

Andy Turner learned The Nightingales Sing from the singing of Frederick and Raymond Cantwell. He sang it as the May 24, 2014 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

The Dovetail Trio sang The Lady and the Soldier in 2014 on their eponymous EP, The Dovetail Trio, and a year later on their CD Wing of Evening. Rosie Hood commented in their liner notes:

Also known as The Bold Grenadier and To Hear the Nightingales Sing, this version was collected in 1915 by Alfred Williams from Edward Kemble of South Marston, Wiltshire. Williams didn't collect tunes, which made his note of “The tune is very sweet, which accounted for its success” all the more frustrating.

This video shows them at Barnsley Acoustic Roots Day on March 30, 2014:

Lyrics

Frederick and Raymond Cantwell sing The Soldier and the Lady

As I was walking one morning in May,
I saw a sweet couple together at play.
O the one was a fair maid and her beauty shone clear,
And the other was a soldier and a brave grenadier.

Chorus (after each verse):
But they kissed to sweet and comforting as they pressed to each other,
They went (h)armin' along the road like sister and brother.
They went (h)armin' along the road till they came to a spring,
Then they both sat down together just to hear the nightingale sing. (whistle)

Then out of his knapsack he drew a long fiddle,
And he played to her such merry tunes that she (h)ever did hear;
And he played to her such merry tunes, caused the valleys to ring,
“Hark, hark,” replied the fair maid, “'Ow the nightingale sing.”

Frederick Cantwell sings The Soldier and the Lady

As I was a-walking one morning in May,
I saw a sweet couple together at play.
O the first was a fair lady, so beautiful and so fair,
And the other was a soldier, a brave grenadier.

Chorus (after each verse):
But they kissed to sweet and comforting as they pressed to each other,
They went (h)armin' along the road like sister and brother.
They went (h)armin' along the road till they came to a spring,
Then they both sat down together, love, to hear the nightingale sing. (whistle)

Then out of his knapsack he drew a long fiddle,
And he played to her such merry tunes that she (h)ever did hear;
Oh he played to her such merry tunes, caused the valleys to ring,
“Hark, hark,” replied the fair maid, “How the nightingale sing.”

“Now I'm going to India for seven long years, [I been there!]
Drinking wines and strong whisky instead of strong beers.
And if ever I should return again, 't will be in the spring,
Then we'll both sit down together, love, to hear the nightingale sing!”

Then up spake the fair lady, “So, soldier, tarry with me!”
“No, no,” replied the soldier, “How ever can it be?
For I've got a little wife at home in my own counterie,
And she is the fairest little woman that your eyes ever seen.”

Charlie Carver sings The Grenadier and the Lady

Oh as I walk-ed out one morning in May.
There I saw a couple together at play.
Oh one was a lady I'll vow and declare.
And the other a soldier, a bold grenadier.

“Oh now!” said the soldier, “Shall we walk together?”
He rapped his coat round her, to keep her from the weather.
They walked 'til they came down to yonder spring.
Where the small birds they whistle and the nightingales sing.

The soldier he caught up the lady by the middle.
And out of his knapsack he pulled out a fiddle.
And he played her such merry tunes caused the valleys to ring.
“Hark! Hark!” said the lady, “How the nightingales sing.”

“Oh now,” said the soldier, “It's time to give o'er.”
“Oh no.” said the lady, “Play me one tune more.”
“It's the charms of your music and the deeds of your strings.”
“Hark! Hark!” said the soldier, “How the nightingales sing.”

“Oh now,” said the lady, “ Won't you marry me?”
“Oh no.” said the soldier, “That never can be.”
“I've a wife and three children in the North country.
And a prettier woman did your eyes ever see?”

”And to the East Indies love, I am bound out.
To enjoy the sweet wine and the city brown stout.
But if ever I return again. It'll be in the spring.
When the small birds they whistle and the nightingale sing.”

Queen Caroline Hughes sings The Lady and the Soldier

Oh, as I were a-walking one morning in May,
Oh, a fair pretty couple I chanced for to meet.
Oh, one she were a fair maid, she were dressed all in blue,
And the other was a soldier, he’s a jolly dragoon.

“Oh, where now are you going, my fair purty maid,
Oh, where are you going so early this way?”
“Oh, for I am a-going down to yonder shady tree,
Oh, to set and watch the flowers grow and hear the nightingales sing.”

“Oh, may I come ‘long with you, my fair purty maid?
Oh, may I come ‘long with you so early your way?”
Now, we both walked on together, me boys,
‘Til we come to some old shady tree.

Oh, he throwed off his knapsack and he pulled out his flute.
He played her such music caused the valleys to ring,
“And ‘tis thus, me lovely fair maid, how a nightingale sing.”

“Oh now,” said the soldier, “It’s time to give o’er.”
“Oh no,” said the fair maid, “play me up one tune more.
Well, I would rather hear your fiddle play by the touch of its string
There I’d set and watch the flowers grow and hear the nightingale sing.”

“Oh now,” said the fair maid, “will you marry me?”
“Oh no,” said the soldier, “it won’t never be.
For I’ve got a little wife at home in my own counteree,
She’s called the cleverest little woman that your eyes ever see.”

“Well now,” said the fair maid, “Oh, what shall I do?
My apron strings won’t tie now, my gown won’t pull to.
And if ever I return again, it shall be in the spring,
Oh, to set and watch the flowers grow; hear the nightingale sing.
And if ever I return again, it shall be in the spring,
Oh, to set and watch the flowers grow; hear the nightingale sing.”

James Taylor sings One Morning in May

One morning, one morning, one morning in May
I spied a young couple they were making their way,
One was a maiden so bright and so fair
And the other was a soldier and a brave volunteer.

“Good morning, good morning, good morning,” said he.
“And where are you going my pretty lady?”
“I'm going out a-walking on the banks of the sea
Just to see the waters glide and hear the nightingale sing.”

Now they had not been standing but a minute or two
And out of his knapsack a fiddle he drew.
And the tune that he played made the valleys all ring.
“Oh hark,” cried the maiden, “hear the nightingale sing.”

“O maiden, fair maiden, 'tis time to give o'er.”
“Oh no, kind soldier, please play one tune more,
For I'd rather hear your fiddle and the touch of one string
Than to see the waters glide and hear the nightingale sing.”

“O soldier, kind soldier, will you marry me?”
“Oh no, pretty maiden, that never shall be.
I've a wife down in London and children twice three,
Two wives and the army's too many for me.

“Well I'll go back to London and I'll stay there for a year,
It's often that I'll think of you, my little dear.
And if ever I return it will be in the spring
Just to see the waters glide and hear the nightingale sing,
To see the waters glide and hear the nightingale sing.”

George Dunn talks on and sings Hear the Nightingale Sing

This one is about a soldier, he was from the north country, as he was a-walking it home—he'd been discharged from the army—and he was walking it home and he met this beautiful damsel—there was a lot of beautiful damsels! Her met her and he started to talk to her. He asked if he could take her in the wood where the pretty flowers grew—she told him that—in the wood where the pretty flowers grew and the nightingale sung; and 'er took him in the wood and showed him the stream and the flowers… They both sat down together, when out of his knapsack he pulled out a fiddle and he played her such a merry tune, made all the woods ring …

And he played her such a merry tune, made all the woods ring.
“Hark, hark,” says the fair maid, “how the nightingale sing.”

“Oh now,” said the fair maid, “can you marry me?”
“Oh no,” said the soldier, “that never can be,
For I have a wife of my in my own countery,
And as pretty a little woman as ever you did see.”

“Oh now,” said the fair maid, “you must marry me.”
“Oh no,” said the soldier, “that never can be;
But if ever I return again, it shall be in the spring,
For to see the pretty flowers grow and hear the nightingale sing.”

Arthur Howard sings Bold Grenadier

As I was out walking one fine summer's day
I met a young couple upon the highway.
One was a female and a beauty was she
And the other was a soldier in the Artillery.
There was one was a female and a beauty was she
And the other was a soldier in the Artillery.

Now the soldier and the female they strolled on together,
They strolled side by side till they came to the river.
And they sat themselves down by the side of the stream
For she loved to hear the water rattle and the nightingales sing.
And they sat themselves down by the side of the stream
For she loved to hear the water rattle and the nightingales sing.

Then the soldier took the female with his arms round her middle
He out with his string and he up with his fiddle.
And he played her a tune to the length of his string
For she loved to hear the water rattle and the nightingales sing.
And he played her a tune to the length of his string
For she loved to hear the water rattle and the nightingales sing.

Said the soldier to the female, “It's time to give o'er.”
Said the female to the soldier, “Just play me one more,
Just play one more tune to the length of your string
For I loved to hear the water rattle and the nightingales sing.
Just play one more tune to the length of your string
For I loved to hear the water rattle and the nightingales sing.”

Hannah James sings The Bold Grenadier

As I was a-walking one morning in May
I spied a young couple, a-making of hay.
One was a fair maid, her beauty shone clear,
The other was a soldier, a bold grenadier.

“Good morning, good morning, good morning,” said he,
“And where are you going, my pretty lady?”
“O I'm going a-walking by the clear crystal streams
To see cool waters glide and hear nightingales sing.”

“O soldier, o soldier, will you marry me?”
“O no, my sweet lady, that can never be.
I've got a wife at home in my own country;
Two wives in the army are too many for me.”

(repeat first verse)

Al O'Donnell sings One Morning in May

One morning, one morning, one morning in May
I met a young couple enquiring their way.
They stood and concluded to go by the stream
To see the water gilding, hear the nightingale sing.

And out of his knapsack he drew a fine fiddle
And played her sweet tunes that made the woods ring.
And played her sweet tunes there by the stream
To see the water gilding, hear the nightingale sing.

“Fair soldier, fair soldier, will you marry me?”
“O no!” cried the soldier, “That never could be.
For I have a wife in my own country
And she is the fairest little thing you ever did see.”

“I'm off to Kentucky, to fight for a while,
A-drinking strong whisky instead of strong beer.
And if ever I return it'll be in the spring
To see the water gilding, hear the nightingale sing.”

Acknowledgements

Thank you very much to Garry Gillard for telling me of and transcribing James Taylor's One Morning in May.