> Shirley Collins > Songs > Mowing the Barley

Mowing the Barley / A Lawyer Bold

[ Roud 922 ; Master title: Mowing the Barley ; Ballad Index ShH60 ; Wiltshire 133 ; trad.]

New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs The Second Folk Review Record

A Lawyer Bold is a song about a rejected seduction from the repertoire of the Copper Family. Bob Copper sang it in a BBC recording (BBC 21544) made by Peter Kennedy at the Central Club, Peacehaven, on 2 February 1955, and John Copper sang it in 1971 on the Copper Family’s four-album box on the Leader label, A Song for Every Season.

A variant called Mowing the Barley is from Cecil Sharp’s book English Folk Song. Shirley Collins recorded Mowing the Barley in a two-day session in London in 1958 that resulted in her 1960 LP False True Lovers. Alan Lomax commented in the album’s sleeve notes:

[This song], often called Lawyer Lee, may be a lyricised variant of The Baffled Knight, in which a clever girl outwits her would-be seducer and keeps her maidenhead. In this southern English variant, however, the virgin seems to have wearied in the chase. Miss Collins learned the song from her mother, and is not sure whether it derives from Sharp or not.

George Dunn sang a fragment called Here’s Fifty Guineas to Roy Palmer on 5 June 1971. It was included in 2002 on his Musical Traditions anthology Chainmaker.

Martyn Wyndham-Read sang The Lawyer’s Wife on the 1976 fundraiser album The Second Folk Review Record. According to the sleeve notes it was

Printed in A Dorset Book of Folk Songs (ed. Brocklebank and Kindersley) and taken from the singing of Mrs Basket of Wareham.

Walter Pardon sang The Lawyer (Mowing the Barley) to Mike Yates on 2 August 1978. This recording was included in 2000 on Pardon’s Topic anthology A World Without Horses.


Bob and John Copper sing A Lawyer Bold

A lawyer bold the other day
Came riding from the city
When he beheld a most handsome fair,
So charming sweet and pretty.

“Good morning to you my fair pretty maid,
And pray where are you going?”
“Down in yonder green meadow, green meadow,” cried she,
“My father’s there a-mowing.”

“I’ll take you up to London town
And honour you like a lady,
Fine dresses and gowns you shall put on,
Fine ribbons and fine silken laces.”

“O, I want none of your London town,
Or any other such places,
Nor do I want your fine dresses or gowns,
Fair ribbons and fine silken laces.”

And now she is a poor man’s wife
And he does dearly love her.
She lives a sweet contented life,
No lady in town’s above her.

Shirley Collins sings Mowing the Barley

“Where are you going to, my pretty dear,
Where are you going, my honey?”
“Over the meadow, kind sir,” she said,
“To my father a-mowing the barley.”

“May I go with you, my pretty dear,
May I go with you, my honey?”
“Yes, if you want, kind sir,” she said,
“To my father a-mowing the barley.”

The lawyer told a story bold,
Together they were going
Till she quite forgot the barley field
And left her father a-mowing.

And now she is the lawyer’s wife
And dearly the lawyer loves her.
She’s living a happy, contented life,
Well into a station above her.

George Dunn sings Here’s Fifty Guineas

Here’s fifty guineas all in bright gold
I’ll give to you quite freely
If you’ll come over the hill with me
And I will buy your barley.