> Folk Music > Songs > The Brave Old Oak / Sing to the Oak / Oak Tree Carol

The Brave Old Oak / Sing to the Oak / Oak Tree Carol

[ Roud 1281 ; Ballad Index WT203 ; Bodleian Roud 1281 ; Wiltshire Roud 1281 ; Henry Fothergill Chorley (1837)]

Alfred Williams collected The Brave Old Oak from Thomas Larkin of Shrivenham, Berkshire, and printed it in his book Folk-Songs of the Upper Thames (London 1923, p. 208).

Sam Larner sang a fragment of Sing to the Oak to Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger in 1958-60. This recording was included in 2014 on his Musical Tradition anthology Cruising Round Yarmouth. Rod Stradling commented in the accompanying booklet:

A song that, despite having 110 Roud entries, has only been collected from two other singers—Thomas Larkin (Berks) and W. Hemming (Hants)—and was said to be in the repertoire of Henry Burstow (Sussex); 90 of these entries refer to broadsides. A songster, Laurie’s Gems, in Frank Kidson’s collection indicates that it was written by W.  Chorley, with music by Loder.

The Dovetail Trio sang this song, calling it Oak Tree Carol, in 2015 on their CD Wing of Evening. Rosie Hood commented in their liner notes:

A celebration of our national tree, we arranged this song for a show at Chippenham Folk Festival 2013 based on the flora and fauna of its Island Park home. Alfred Williams collected this text from Thomas Larkin of Shrivenham, Berkshire, writing, “An old favourite, and one that is still popular in some places. It is one of the few that have been preserved in collections, and there is consequently little fear of its being forgotten or lost.” Despite this it was difficult finding any other versions or indeed a tune!

Lyrics

Thomas Larkin sings The Brave Old Oak The Dovetail Trio sings Oak Tree Carol

Here's a song to the oak, the brave old oak,
That hath ruled in the greenwood long,
Here's health and renown to his broad green crown,
And his fifty arms so strong;
There's fear in his frown when the sun goes down
And the fire in the West fades out,
And he showeth his might on a wild midnight,
While the storms through the branches shout.

Here's a song for the oak, the brave old oak,
That hath ruled in the greenwood long,
Here's health and renown to his long broad crown,
And his fifty arms so strong;
There's fear in his frown when the sun goes down
And the fire from the West fades out,
And he showeth his might on a wild midnight,
When storms through the branches shout.

Chorus (after each verse):
Then here's to the oak, the brave old oak,
That stands in his pride alone;
And still flourish he, a hale green tree,
When a hundred years are gone.

Chorus (after each verse):
So here's to the oak, the brave old oak,
Who stands in his pride alone;
And still flourish he, a hale green tree,
When a hundred years are gone.

In the days of old, when the spring with gold
Was lighting his branches grey,
Through the grass at his feet tripped maidens sweet
To gather the dews of May;
And all that day, to the rebeck gay,
They frolicked with lovesome swains;
They're gone, they're dead, in the churchyard laid,
But the tree it still remains.

In the days of old, when the spring with gold
Was lightening his branches grey,
Through the grass at his feet skipped maidens sweet
To gather the dews of May;
And all that day, to the rebeck gay,
They frolicked with lovesome swains;
They are gone, they are dead, in the churchyard laid,
But the tree it still remains.

He saw the rare times, when the Christmas chimes
Were a merry, merry sound to hear,
And the squire's wide hall and the cottage small
Were filled with good English cheer;
Now gold hath its sway, we all obey,
And a ruthless king is he,
But he never shall send our ancient friend
To be tossed on the stormy sea.

He saw the rare times, when the Christmas chimes
Were a merry, merry sound to hear,
From the squire's great hall to the cottage small,
They were filled with good English cheer;
Now gold hath its sway, we all obey,
And a ruthless king is he,
But he never shall send our ancient friend
To be tossed on the stormy sea.

Sam Larner sings Sing to the Oak

Oh, sing to the oak, the brave old oak
That stand in the greenwood long.
Here’s health and renown to its broad green crown
And its fifty arms so long.
And the fear and the frown, when the sun went down,
And the fire in the west fades out.

The dead they are gone, in the churchyard laid,
But the tree still flourish on.
So sing to the oak, the brave old oak
That stands in its pride alone.
But still flourish he, a hale green tree,
O’er a hundred years ago.

Twas the good old times when Christmas chimes
What a merry, merry sound you’d hear.
Well the squire’s wide hall and the cottages small
They ring out Old English cheer.
But gold had its sway, you must obey,
What a ruthless King is he
He never did send, his ancient friend,
To be tossed on the stormy sea.

So sing to the oak, the brave old oak
That stand in its pride alone.
But still flourish he, a hale green tree,
But a thousand years ago.