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Reaphook and Sickle

[ Roud 1375 ; Ballad Index BrMa066 ; trad.]

The Albion Country Band recorded Battle of the Field in 1973 but thew album was shelved when the band folded. When it was finally released on Island's budget label HELP in 1976, one track (All of a Row) was deemed unfit for inclusion as the band were not particularly happy with it and anyway, Martin Carthy had by then re-recorded it in a different arrangement for his album Sweet Wivelsfield. As the original band could not be re-convened, John Kirkpatrick and Sue Harris quickly recorded a new track, Reaphook and Sickle, to fill the vacant slot on the album. They were assisted by Dave Mattacks on percussion and also hammered dulcimer tuning, according to John Kirkpatrick!

Waterson:Carthy with Norma Waterson in lead sang Reaphook and Sickle on their 2006 album, Holy Heathens and the Old Green Man. According to Martin Carthy's sleeve notes, they got the song from A.L. Lloyd “in the 1960s for possible inclusion on Frost and Fire” but was left out then only to be included in its logical successor.

Lyrics

John Kirkpatrick and Sue Harris sing Reaphook and Sickle

Now come all you lads and lasses and together let us go
Into some pleasant cornfield our courage for to show.
With the good old leathern bottle and the beer it shall be brown.
We'll reap and scrape together until Bright Phoebus does go down.

With the reaphook and the sickle, oh so well we clear the land,
And the farmer cries, “Well done, my lads, here's liquor at your command.”
With the good old leathern bottle and the beer it shall be brown.
We'll reap and scrape together until Bright Phoebus does go down.

Now by daybreak in the morning when the larks begin to sing
And the echo of the harmony make all the crows to ring
With the good old leathern bottle and the beer it shall be brown.
We'll reap and scrape together until Bright Phoebus does go down.

Then in comes lovely Nancy the corn all for to lay,
She is a charming creature and I must begin her praise:
For she gathers it, she binds it, and she rolls it in her arms,
She carries it to the waggoners to fill the farmer's barns.
With the good old leathern bottle and the beer it shall be brown.
We'll reap and scrape together until Bright Phoebus does go down.

Well now harvest's done and ended and the corn secure from harm,
Before it goes to market, lads, we must thresh it in the barn.
With the good old leathern bottle and the beer it shall be brown.
We'll reap and scrape together until Bright Phoebus does go down.

Now here's a health to all you farmers and likewise to all you men,
I wish you health and happiness till harvest comes again.
With the good old leathern bottle and the beer it shall be brown.
We'll reap and scrape together until Bright Phoebus does go down.

Waterson:Carthy sing Reaphook and Sickle

Come all you lads and lasses, together we will go
All in the golden cornfield our courage for to show.
With the reaping hook and sickle so well we clear the land,
And the farmer says, “Hoorah, me boys, here's liquor at your command.”

It's in the time of haying our partners we do take,
Along with lads and lasses the hay timing to make.
There's joining round in harmony and roundness to be seen,
And when it's gone we'll take your girls to dance Jack on the green.

It's in the time of harvest so cheerfully we'll go,
Then some we'll reap and some we'll sickle and some we'll size to mow.
But now at end we're free for home, we haven't far to go,
We're on our way to Robin Hood's Bay to welcome harvest home.

Now harvest's done and ended and the corn all safe from harm,
And all that's left to do, me boys, is thresh it in the barn.
Here's a health to all the farmers, likewise the women and men,
And we wish you health and happiness till harvest comes again.

Notes and Acknowledgements

”Bright Phoebus” is the sun—see also Mike and Lal Waterson's album Bright Phoebus. Thanks to Tony Rees for the notes above.