> John Kirkpatrick > Songs > God Speed the Plough

The Farmer's Toast / God Speed the Plough

[ Roud 1603 ; Ballad Index OLoc030 ; trad., tune Eric Winter]

This song, probably from early in the 19th century, is known under various titles: The Farmer's Toast, Success to the Farmer, Jolly Farmer, and God Speed the Plough. The well-known tune Speed the Plough (played by e.g. The Morris Motor Band in a historic recording on Tap Roots: A History of the New Wave of English Country Dance Music, the Albion Band on Lark Rise to Candleford, and Spiers & Boden on Vagabond) is not related to this.

Muckram Wakes sang The Farmer's Arms in 1976 on their eponymous Trailer album, Muckram Wakes. Eric Winter commented in the sleeve notes:

I first found the words of the chorus and third verse of this song on a jug belonging to my grandmother, and they were commonly used as a decoration in Victorian times. All famous ironstone makers produce pieces bearing some or all of the text in patterns of varying quality to this day. A full version may be found in print in Colm O'Lochlainn's Irish Street Ballads. The tune, as it appeared in this volume, did not appeal to me at all, and the one now commonly used by English revivalist singers was composed on the way to work one morning, between West Bere Road and Kilburn underground station.

Folly Bridge sang The Farmer's Toast in 1991 on their WildGoose cassette All in the Same Tune. Claire Lloyd commented:

A celebration of a farmer's life, in the days before agribusiness and the Common Agricultural Policy. It is also known as The Jolly Farmer and God Speed the Plough.

Originally published as a broadside in the early 19th century, the verses can be found on plates and mugs produced at the time, and I've even seen it on a stone plaque somewhere. Nobody knows who wrote it, but he was probably not a farmer.

Jon Boden sang The Farmer's Toast as the June 25, 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

John Kirkpatrick sang God Speed the Plough as the title track of his 2011 CD God Speed the Plough.

Danny Spooner and Duncan Brown sang The Farmer's Anthem in 2016 on their CD of songs of the working life, Labour and Toil. The album's notes commented:

An idyllic picture of the pleasures of farming life in the 18th century (whilst not mentioning the tough work and hardships of the profession!). Danny learned this at school and was reminded of it by the English singer Martyn Wyndham-Read in the 1980s.

Dick Lewis accompanied by Meg Larson and Alan Shusterman sang Long Life and Success to the Farmer at the pub sing at the Caldera Public House in Portland, Oregon:

Lyrics

Folly Bridge sing The Farmer's Toast Jon Boden sings Farmer's Toast

Come all jolly fellows who delight in being mellow
Attend unto me I beseech you
For a pint when it's quiet, come boys let us try it
For thinking will drive a man crazy

Come each jolly fellow who seeks to be mellow
Attend unto me and sit easy
For a pint when it's quiet, my lads, let us try it
For thinking will drive a man crazy

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
I have lawns, I have bowers, I have fields, I have flowers
And the lark is my daily alarmer
So jolly boys now, here's God speed the plough
Long life and success to the farmer

Chorus (after every other verse):
I have lawns, I have bowers, I have fruit, I have flowers
And the lark is my morning alarmer
So my jolly boys now here's good luck to the plough
Long life and success to the farmer

Come sit at my table, all those who are able
And I'll hear not one word of complaining
For the tinkling of glasses all music surpasses
And I long to see bottles a-draining

Draw near to my table, my lads, if you're able
Let me hear not one word of complaining
For the tinkling of glasses all music surpasses
And I love to see bottles a-draining

For here I am king, I can laugh, drink and sing
And let no man approach as a stranger
Just show me the ass who refuses a glass
And I'll treat him to hay in a manger

For here I am king, I will dance, drink and sing
Let no man appear as a stranger
And show me the ass who refuses a glass
And I'll treat him to hay in a manger

Let the wealthy and great roll in splendour and state,
I envy them not, I declare it
For I eat my own ham, my own chickens and lamb
And I shear my own fleece and I wear it

Let the wealthy and great roll in splendour and state,
I envy them not, I declare it
For I eat my own ham, my own chicken and lamb
I shear my own fleece and I wear it

Were it not for my seeding you'd have but poor feeding
I'm sure you would all starve without me
But I am content when I paid my rent
And I'm happy when friends are about me.

By ploughing and sowing, by reaping and mowing
King nature affords me aplenty
I've a cellar well stored and a plentiful board
And a garden affords every dainty

Links and Acknowledgements

See also the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Req: Farmer's Toast / Godspeed the Plough.

Thanks to Garry Gillard for Jon's lyrics.