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Searching for Lambs

[ Roud 576 ; Henry H548 ; Ballad Index LO09A ; VWML CJS2/10/2916 ; trad.]

Shirley Collins' sang Searching for Lambs as part of her and her sister Dolly's Song Story which was one half of both their albums Anthems in Eden and Amaranth. Tony Rose recorded this song for his 1971 album Under the Greenwood Tree (which featured Dolly Collins too but not on this track, even though his concertina playing sounds very organ-like). Tony Rose commented in the sleeve notes:

Searching for Lambs is for me as near as one can get to the perfect folk song. When I say that it has a timeless quality about it, I mean that I cannot imagine a time when it would not give me pleasure to sing it.

June Tabor sang Searching for Lambs in March 1972 live at the Stagfolk Folk Club at Shackleford Social Centre, near Godalming. This performance was included in the Stagfolk Live Folk album. She recorded it again in 1988 for her album Aqaba.

Cyril Tawney sang Searching for Lambs in 1973 on his Argo album I Will Give My Love.

Peter Bellamy sang this “well-known ‘rustic idyll’ from the collection of Cecil Sharp” [liner notes] in 1975 on his eponymous US album, Peter Bellamy.

Martin Carthy recorded Searching for Lambs on September 7, 1976 for a BBC John Peel session that was broadcast on September 21, 1976.

Steeleye Span recorded Searching for Lambs in 1989 for their album Tempted and Tried.

Bob Lewis sang Searching for Lambs on the 1995 Veteran CD When the May Is All in Bloom. John Howson commented in the album notes:

A.L. Lloyd suggests in Folk Song in England that this beautiful tune is the kind that owes its form to the mingling of the art of the peasantry and the art of the townsfolk. It was a great favourite of Cecil Sharp and in Somerset he collected five versions between 1904 and 1909. He included it in a number of publications, some with piano accompaniment, and as such it was one of his chosen ‘English folk songs’ which became popular as a drawing-room song: It also appears in Novello's Schools Series which was compiled by Sharp and Baring-Gould in 1906 and in fact Bob learned it at school when he was 12 or 13 from a master who was interested in folk songs.

References to the song are infrequent and most published versions seem to be one of Sharp's, although Hammond did note down three versions in Dorset under the title Under the Moon Shines Bright and there is a text (1934) in Sam Henry's Songs of the People called One Morning Clear but the source is said to be ‘not given’ and although it has several similar lines it is a much fuller song.

Searching for Lambs should not be confused with Searching for Young Lambs [Roud 1437; Laws O9] which has been frequently collected, notably from George Spicer in Sussex.

Sue Brown and Lorraine Irwing sang Searching for Lambs in 1997 on their WildGoose CD Call & Cry.

Maggie Boyle sang Searching for Lambs in 1998 on John Renbourn's album Ship of Fools. This video shows her at Bedminster, Bristol, on May 3, 1995:

Nancy Kerr and James Fagan recorded Searching for Lambs for their 1999 Fellside CD, Steely Water.

Kerfuffle sang Searching for Lambs on their 2006 CD, Links.

Bella Hardy sang Searching for Lambs, accompanied by Emily and Hazel Askew, in 2007 on her first album Night Visiting.

The Maerlock sang Searching for Lambs in 2008 on their Fellside CD Sofa.

Emily Spiers sang Searching for the Lambs in 2010 on her CD The Half-Moon Lovers.

Martha Tilston learned Searching for Lambs from her step-mum Maggie Boyle and sang it in 2010 on her CD Lucy and the Wolves.

Jon Boden sang Searching for Lambs as the May 11, 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Lisa Knapp and Graham Coxon sang Searching for Lambs on her 2017 CD Till April Is Dead. She commented:

A real classic English folksong gem collected in Somerset by Cecil Sharp. I first heard this sung by legendary English folksinger Shirley Collins on one of her recordings. The beautiful almost aching melody gives this song such a depth and angle in relation to the story. Shirley is also my link with Graham Coxon, another long time fan of her work, and who generously lends his sensitive vocal and guitar to this piece.

Lyrics

Shirley Collins sings Searching for LambsJune Tabor sings Searching for Lambs

As I rode out one May morning,
One May morning betimes,
I met a maid, from home had strayed,
All as the sun did shine.

As I walked out one May morning,
One May morning betime,
I met a maid, from home had strayed,
Just as the sun she did shine.

“What makes you rise so soon, my love,
Your journey to pursue?
Your pretty little feet they tread so neat,
Strike off the morning dew.”

“What makes you rise so soon, my dear,
Your journey to pursue?
Your pretty little feet they tread so neat,
Strike off the morning dew.”

“I'm off to feed my father's flocks,
His young and tender lambs,
That over hills and over dales
Lie waiting for their dams.”

“I'm going to feed my father's flock,
His young and tender lambs,
That over hills and over dales
Lie waiting for their dams.”

“But stay, o stay, you handsome maid,
And rest a moment here.
For there is none but you alone
That I do love so dear.”

“O stay, o stay, you handsome maid,
And rest a moment here.
For there is none that you alone
That I do love so dear.”

“How gloriously the sun doth shine,
How lovely is the air.
I'd rather rest on my true love's breast
Than any other where.”

“How gloriously the sun doth shine,
How pleasant is the air.
I'd rather rest on a true love's breast
Than any other where.”

“Now thou art mine and I am thine,
And no man shall uncomfort me.
We'll join our hands in wedlock bands
And married we shall be.”

“For I am thine and thou art mine,
No man shall uncomfort me.
We'll join our hands in wedded bands
And married we shall be.”

 
Tony Rose sings Searching for Lambs Peter Bellamy sings Searching for Lambs

As I went out one May morning,
One May morning betime,
I met a maid, from home had strayed
Just as the sun did shine.

As I walked out one May morning,
One May morning betime,
I met a maid, from home had strayed
Just as the sun did shine.

“What makes you rise so soon, my dear,
Your journey to pursue?
Your pretty little feet they tread so sweet,
Strike off the morning dew.”

“What makes you rise so soon, my dear,
Your journey to pursue?
Your pretty little feet they tread so neat,
Strike off the morning dew.”

“I'm going off to feed my father's flock,
His young and tender lambs,
That over hills and over dales
Lie waiting for their dams.”

“I'm going in search of my father's flocks,
His young and tender lambs,
That over hills and over dales
Lie bleating for their dams.”

“O stay, o stay, you handsome maid,
And rest you here a while.
For there is none save you alone
That I do love so dear.”

“O stay, o stay, you handsome maid,
Rest but one moment here.
For there is none save you alone
That I do love most dear.”

“And how gloriously the sun do shine,
How pleasant is the air.
I'd rather rest on a true love's breast
Than any other where.”

“How gloriously the sun do shine,
How pleasant is the air.
I would rather rest on my true love's breast
Than any other where.”

“For I am thine and thou art mine,
No man shall uncomfort thee.
We'll join our hands in wedded bands
And married we will be.”

“For I am thine and thou art mine,
No man shall uncomfort thee.
We'll join our hands in wedded bands
And married we will be.”

Acknowledgements and Links

See also the Mudcat Café thread Help: Searching for Lambs recording.

Thanks to Patrick Montague for correcting the lyrics.