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The Single Man's Warning / Be Careful in Choosing a Wife

[ Roud 4744 ; Ballad Index ReSh095 ; trad.]

The Young Tradition sang The Single Man's Warning in 1967 on their second album, So Cheerfully Round. Heather Wood commented in the album liner notes:

When prowling round Cecil Sharp House I discovered that they have all the Sharp Manuscripts on microfilm. It's a tiring process—his writing is somewhat illegible and the cracks on the film become confused with the lines on which the music is writ—but it can be rewarding. The Single Man's Warning is from this source. It was collected in 1903 from Tom Sprachlan of Hambridge, Somerset [ Roud S251887 ]. I think Tom must have had matrimonial problems; several of his songs are on this theme. This was a song I thought to sing as a solo, but it was not to be. One of the trials of being in a group, I suppose.

Sharp found no other versions, and did not publish the song; the text first appeared in James Reeves' The Idiom of the People (1958).

Compare to this Martin Carthy's I Was a Young Man and Tony Rose's longer version Poor Man's Sorrow. (Roud 1572).

Lyrics

Tom Sprachlan sings The Single Man's Warning The Young Tradition sing The Single Man's Warning

Come all you young men that are going to be wed
Don't be trapped like a bird with a small bit of bread
I'd have you be careful in choosing of a wife
O, for when you are trapped you remember it through life
    With fol di diddle di do, fol di diddle day.

Come all you young men that are going to be wed:
Don't be caught like a bird with a small piece of bread.
I will have you be careful in choosing a wife
For when you are trapped you'll remember it through life.
    Right fol di diddle di do, fol di diddle day

O when that you are wed and a squaller it is born
A poor man may work his fingers to the bone
He hears a midwife and a nurse, and a gossiping crew
And a poor man can hardly pull himself through
    With fol … (chorus after each verse)

O when you are wed and a squaller is born
A poor man may work his fingers to the bone.
He hears a midwife and a nurse, and a gossiping crew
And a poor man can hardly pull himself through.
    Right fol … (chorus after each verse)

When I go home to breakfast, to breakfast at eight
The devil of a spark of a fire in the grate
And the turk of a sign of a breakfast for me
And my wife she lay a-snoring like a pig all in the stye

When I come home to breakfast, to breakfast at eight,
There's the devil of a spark of a fire in the grate
And the turk of a sign of a breakfast for me
And my wife she lies a-snoring like a pig in the sty.

If I asked her to rise, she'd fly in a pet
And bawl out by God there's time enough yet
Get the breakfast thee self and be off to thee work
Don't bide here for to idle and lurk.

If I asked her to rise, she will fly in a pet
And bawl out, “By God, well, there's time enough yet.
Get your breakfast yourself and be off to your work
And don't just bide here for to idle and lurk.”

When dinner time come to home I repair
And a hundred to one if I find my wife there
She's gossipin' about with the child upon her knee
And the turk of a sign of a dinner for me.

When dinner time comes to my home I repair
But a hundred to one if I find my wife there.
She's a-gossipin' around with the child on her knee
And the turk of a sign of a dinner for me.

When I go home at night sadly tired from my work
When I open the door she'll let fly like a Turk
Take the squalling young brat and get him off to sleep
For all the day long no peace I can get.

O but if I should offer the job to refuse
With the tongs and the poker she will me abuse
And if these are the comforts attending of our life
Good luck to the man that has got such a wife

And O if I could be but single again
The finest of ladies should never me trepan
Single I'd remain all the days of my life
Good luck to the man that has got such a wife

O if I could be but single again
The finest of ladies would never me trepan.
Single I'd remain all the days of my life,
How happy is he that avoided a wife.

Acknowledgements

For more information on this song see the Mudcat Café thread Single Man's Warning.