> Shirley Collins > Songs > A Keeper Went Hunting

The Keeper / A Keeper Went Hunting

[ Roud 1519 ; Ballad Index ShH79 ; Bodleian Roud 1519 ; trad.]

Shirley Collins sang the funny A Keeper Went Hunting in 1959 on her first LP, Sweet England. The album's notes comment laconically:

An English lyric song from Sharp's English Folk Songs.

The Ian Campbell Folk Group sang The Keeper in 1964 on their Transatlantic album Across the Hills. The album's sleeve notes commented:

The hunting of the doe in this song originally symbolised sexual pursuit, although this implication is quite lost on the children who now sing this song at school. Cecil Sharp had to bowdlerise this song for inclusion in Novello's School Songs, even so the symbolism is still quite clear.

The Settlers sang The Keeper on the 1965 Decca anthology Folk Now.

Rosie Hood told in an interview by Jon Wilks that one the first folks song she learned was

The Keeper, which, it turns out in hindsight, is not about catching deer! [Laughs] It probably wasn’t a suitable song to be teaching six and seven year-olds. However, I sang it in the middle bar at Sidmouth when I was seven and my mum tells me they gave me The Future of Folk award, which I think they probably invented for me at that moment.

Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys sang The Keeper on their 2017 CD Pretty Peggy. They noted:

A traditional English song about a gamekeeper chasing and catching deer, maybe a tad euphemistic…


Shirley Collins sings A Keeper Went Hunting

A keeper he would hunting go,
Under his arm he carried a bow
All for to shoot a merry little doe
Among the leaves so green-o.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Hey down down, hey down ho down, derry down down
Among the leaves so green-o
Catch him boy, faster, very well, master
Hey down ho down, derry down down
Among the leaves so green-o

The first doe he shot at he missed,
The second doe he swore he kissed,
The third doe would by nobody be missed
Among the leaves so green-o.

The fourth doe ran across the plain,
The keeper chased her back again,
Where she is may she remain
Among the leaves so green-o.

The fifth doe ran across the brook,
The keeper chased her back with his crook,
Where she is you may go and look
Among the leaves so green-o.