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> Frankie Armstrong > Songs > Hares on the Mountain

Hares on the Mountain / Blackbirds and Thrushes

[ Roud 329 ; Ballad Index ShH63 ; VWML CJS2/10/1129 ; Wiltshire Roud 329 ; trad.]

Hares on the Mountain is one of the best known light-hearted love song from Southern England and was published by Cecil Sharp in his Folk Songs from Somerset. Shirley Collins recorded this song twice: in 1959 for her first LP Sweet England and in 1964 together with Davy Graham for their album Folk Roots, New Routes. Here she sings two introductory verses.

Robin Hall and Jimmie MacGregor sang Hares on the Mountain in 1962 on their album Two Heids Are Better Than Yin!

The High Level Ranters sang Hares on the Mountain in 1969 on their Trailer album The Lads of Northumbria.

Steeleye Span sang Hares on the Mountain in 1973 on their album Parcel of Rogues.

Archie Fisher sang Blackbirds and Thrushes in 1976 on his Topic album Will Ye Gang, Love.

Maurice Fleming, an avid collector from Dundee, gave Archie the text of this song. The tune, which has an Irish flavour, is his own. The lyric is a flowery version of the well known English song Hares on the Mountain, which some (including B. H. Bronson) think is ultimately connected with the magic-transformation ballad called The Two Magicians. Remotely, perhaps.

Jeff Wesley sang Hares on the Mountain to John Howson in Whittlebury, Northamptonshire, in 1988. This recording was included in between 1987 and 1989 on a Veteran Tape cassette and in 2006 on the Veteran CD It Was on a Market Day—Two. John Howson commented in the album's notes:

At one time a highly popular song (Cecil Sharp alone collected nine separate versions) which is sometimes attributed to Samuel Lover (1797-1865), who included it in his novel Rory o’ More. However, it probably predates Lover's book and, according to Professor Bertrand Bronson, it could be related to the ballad The Two Magicians.

And Frankie Armstrong sang this in 1997 on her CD Till the Grass O'ergrew the Corn. She commented in the album sleeve notes:

It is widely accepted that this song is derived from the rare ballad The Two Magicians (Child #44), although the conceit is surely obvious enough to have been independently invented and all traces of magic (and story) have disappeared, leaving us with a genial day-dream of lyric. Robert Graves in his hugely influential (and more than a little dotty) book The White Goddess blithely informs us, on no real evidence at all, that The Two Magicians “is likely to have been the song sung at a dramatic performance of the chase at a witches' Sabbath”. He also remarks that before the triumph of patriarchy, it would have been the women in pursuit, so Frankie was pleased to come across a version in which they, rather than men, are doing the fantasising. Sharp noted it in 1904 from Mrs Lock of Muchelney Ham, in Somerset. Frankie has added a couple of standard verses to the existing three.

Ray Driscoll sang Hares on the Mountain to Gwilym Davies in between 1993 and 2002. This recording was published in 2008 on his anthology Wild, Wild Berry. Gwilym Davies commented:

Many versions of this song have been collected, mainly in England. It is not known where Ray learnt this song.

Chris Wood rewrote Hares on the Mountain and recorded it in 1995 for his and Andy Cutting's album Lusignac. This track was also included in 2009 on his anthology Albion. Patterson Jordan Dipper sang Chris Wood's version in 2002 on their CD Flat Earth.

This video shows Chris Wood and Andy Cutting at the Albert Hole Bedminster Bristol on February 21, 1996:

Coope Boyes & Simpson sang Hares on the Mountain in 2006 on their No Masters CD Private Peaceful.

Niamh Boadle sang Blackbirds and Thrushes on her 2010 CD Wild Rose. She noted:

A flirty ditty that I also picked up from the singing of Niamh Parsons.

Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrell sang Hares on the Mountain in 2010 on their EP The North Farm Sessions.

The Outside Track sang Blackbirds and Thrushes in 2010 on their CD Curious Things Given Wings. They commented in their liner notes:

Also called Hares on the Mountain or Sally My Dear. Norah [Rendell] learned this version of Blackbirds and Thrushes from Niamh Parsons. We've paired it with a slow waltz version of the Irish tune, The Maids of Galway.

Josienne Clarke sang Hares on the Mountain in 2011 on her and Ben Walker's CD The Seas Are Deep.

Rosie Upton sang Sally My Dear / Hares on the Mountain in 2014 on her CD Basket of Oysters. She noted:

Learnt after hearing it sung in the Three Stags Heads, Tideswell, in Derbyshire when I was a teenager. A different tune then bit I like this one collected by Cecil Sharp from William Davis of Porlock Weir [VWML CJS2/10/1129] . I've changed the words a bit and like the idea of the woman taking control here!

Danny Pedler and Rosie Butler Hall sang Hares on the Mountain on their 2015 EP Bold.

Note: See also the related song The Knife in the Window.

Lyrics

Shirley Collins sings Hares on the Mountain on Sweet England

If all you young men were hares on the mountain,
How many young girls would take guns and go hunting?
With a ri-fol-de-di, cal-ol-de-day, ri-fol-ai-de

If the young men could sing like blackbirds and thrushes,
How many young girls would go beating the bushes?
With a ri-fol-de-di, cal-ol-de-day, ri-fol-ai-de

If all you young men were rushes a-growing,
How many young girls would take scythes and go mowing?
With a ri-fol-de-di, cal-ol-de-day, ri-fol-ai-de

If all you young men were ducks in the water,
How many young girls would undress and dive after?
With a ri-fol-de-di, cal-ol-de-day, ri-fol-ai-de

But the young men are given to frisking and fooling,
I'll leave them alone and attend to my schooling
With a ri-fol-de-di, cal-ol-de-day, ri-fol-ai-de

Shirley Collins sings Hares on the Mountain on Folk Roots, New Routes

𝄆 Oh Sally, my dear, it's you I'd be kissing, 𝄇
She smiled and replied, you don't know what you're missing.

𝄆 Oh Sally, my dear, I wish I could wed you, 𝄇
She smiled and replied, then you'd say I'd misled you.

𝄆 If all you young men were hares on the mountain, 𝄇
How many young girls would take guns and go hunting?

𝄆 If the young men could sing like blackbirds and thrushes, 𝄇
How many young girls would go beating the bushes?

𝄆 If all you young men were fish in the water, 𝄇
How many young girls would undress and dive after?

But the young men are given to frisking and fooling,
Oh, the young men are given to frisking and fooling,
So I'll leave them alone and attend to my schooling

Steeleye Span sing Hares on the Mountain

𝄆 Young women, they run like hares on the mountain. 𝄇
And if I was a young man, I'd soon go a-hunting
With me right fol-de diddle de-ro right fol-de diddle-day

𝄆 Young women, they sing like birds in the bushes. 𝄇
If I was a young man I'd go beat them bushes
With me right fol-de diddle de-ro right fol-de diddle-day

𝄆 Young women, they swim like ducks in the water. 𝄇
If I was a young man I'd soon go swim after
With me right fol-de diddle de-ro right fol-de diddle-day

(Repeat first verse)

Frankie Armstrong sings Hares on the Mountain

If all those young men were rushes a-growin'
Then all those pretty maidens would get scythes, go mowing
Sing wack fol-de-dee fol-ol-de-day wack-fol-li-dee

If all those young men were hares on the mountain
Then all those pretty maidens would get guns, go hunting
Sing wack fol-de-dee fol-ol-de-day wack-fol-li-dee

If all those young men were duck in the water
Then all those pretty maidens would soon follow after
Sing wack fol-de-dee fol-ol-de-day wack-fol-li-dee

If all those young men were fish in the brooks-O
Then all those pretty maidens would be off with their hooks-O
Sing wack fol-de-dee fol-ol-de-day wack-fol-li-dee

If all those young men were blackbirds and thrushes
Then all those pretty maidens would soon beat the bushes
Sing wack fol-de-dee fol-ol-de-day wack-fol-li-dee
Sing wack fol-de-dee fol-ol-de-day wack-fol-li-dee

Chris Wood sings Hares on the Mountain

If all you young girls were like hares on the mountain
We'd soon get our boots on and go out a-walking.
But if all you young girls were like swans in the water
We'd soon take those boots off and dive in there after.

And if all you young girls were like stars in the dark
We'd chase round the world to avoid the dawn's spark.
And if all you young girls were like the sun in the morning
We'd sit bleary-eyed just to see the day dawning.

And if all you young girls were like rain from the sky
We'd stand out in T-shirts and shun all things dry.
And if all you young girls were like the hot August sun
Then we'd sit out with ice-cream and get nothing done.

And if all you young girls flew south like the swallow
There's be nothing for it but to up sticks and follow.
But if all you young girls were like my own true lover
Then all you young men would love them as I love her.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Rosie Marshall for correcting some embarrassing typos.