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The Banks of the Mossem/Mossom/Mossing

[ Roud 1646 ; Ballad Index CoSB242 ; trad.]

Bob Copper collected The Banks of the Mossem in The Woodman's Arms, Hammerpot, Sussex, on October 30, 1954 from Harold “Jim” Swain and added it to his book (1973) and subsequent album (1977) Songs and Southern Breezes. This recording was also included with the title The Banks of Sweet Mossing on the 1998 Topic anthology Who's That at My Bed Window? (The Voice of the People Volume 10).

The following versions all seem to have this sole recording as its source; it's strange how all of them heard it differently and thus created the titles of The Banks of the Mossen/Mossem/Mossom/Mossing. Andy Turner is his blog noted below cites Mike Tristram's explanation of this word in a Tradsong discussion:

‘Mossen’ by the way in my understanding is a saxon plural i.e. ‘mosses’, rather than the name of a river, in other words it is ‘mossy banks’ good for lambs and love, rather [than] riverbanks.

Shirley Collins sang this song as The Banks of the Mossom in 1974 on her album Adieu to Old England. The song then finishes with the melody played by Bill Molan, melodeon, John Harrington, concertina, and Geoff Singleton, fiddle. This track was also included in 1992 on the Fellside anthology of English traditional songs, Voices and in 2002 on her anthology Within Sound. Shirley Collins commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

Another song from the BBC sound archives, collected in the 1950s by Bob Copper, from Jim Swain of Angmering, Sussex, who said he learnt it from a shepherd near Felpham. The words are a little confused, but that's part of the charm, so I didn't attempt to change them. I loved Jim's singing so much that I pass the song on pretty much as I heard it.

Malcolm Douglas noted in the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Req: Banks of the Mossen:

Evidently Bob Copper and Shirley Collins have understood the song differently, hence all on through happy spring (Bob) versus that long true happy spring (Shirley) and, for that matter, Shirley's Mossom.

Jon Boden sang the “very Sussex” Sweet Mossom as the March 8, 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Andy Turner sang The Banks of Sweet Mossen as the April 14, 2012 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

The Dovetail Trio sang The Banks of Mossing in 2015 on their CD Wing of Evening. Matt Quinn commented in their liner notes:

Bob Copper recorded Jim Swain singing this at The Woodman's Arms in Hammerpot, Sussex, in 1954 and the recording is on The Voice of the People Volume 10: Songs of Love and Amorous Encounters. There appears to be no clear definition of the word ‘mossing’, nor does there seem to be a river with that name, so I take ‘banks of mossing’ to be another way of saying ‘mossy banks’.

This video shows the Dovetail Trio at Cecil Sharp House, London, in December 2015:

Cyril Tawney sang Nancy in 1973 on his Argo album I Will Give My Love. The sleeve notes just give Hampshire as the song's origin but have no more details. This song might be one of the original versions of The Banks of the Mossom; the latter seems to have picked up its verses from this, and then have the chorus added.

Lyrics

Jim Swain sings The Banks of Sweet Mossing

As I was a-walking down by some shady grove,
Down by some shady fancy, my heart, my soul delight.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Young lambs they were a-playing all on the banks of sweet mossen,
All on the banks of sweet mossing all on through happy spring,
The lark all in the air she rises in the morning
And brings me joyful tidings of Nancy my dear.

The song birds on the branches is now sat down to rest
I'll write to lovely Nancy, my heart, my soul delight.

Oh, give me ink and paper, I may sit down to write
I'll write to lovely Nancy, my heart, my soul delight.

Shirley Collins sings The Banks of the Mossom

As I was a-walking down by some shady grove,
Down by some shady Nancy, my heart, my soul's delight.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Young lambs they were a-playing all on the banks of sweet Mossom,
All on the banks of sweet Mossom that long true happy spring.
The lark all in the air she rises in the morning
And brings me joyful tidings of Nancy my dear.

The song-birds in the branches is now sit down to rest
I'll write to lovely Nancy, my heart, my soul's delight.

Oh, give me ink and paper, I may sit down to write
I'll write to lovely Nancy, my heart, my soul's delight.

Cyril Tawney sings Nancy

'Twas down in a valley by the side of a grove,
By a clear crystal fountain I saw my true love.
When flowers they were springing, young lambs was all playing,
'Twas down all on the banks where sweet violets did grow.

The first time I saw my love she did my heart surprise,
By the blooming of her cheeks and the sparkling of her eyes.
Young Cupid so cruelly directed a dart,
And the loss of young Nancy hath wounded my heart.

Bring me pen, ink and paper, that I may go and write
To my own dearest Nancy, my joy and heart's delight.
Young Nancy is so charming, most beautiful and fair
There's no one in this country can with my love compare.

The birds on the branches are blessed with their mates
And the dove she is mourning for my unhappy fate;
And the lark she is mounting in the high lofty air
To bring me gad tidings of Nancy my dear.

So now in these torments I'm forced to remain
Like a thief that is fettered and bound in some chains.
No peace night or day can my heart ever find,
For the loss of young Nancy hath troubled my mind.

Fare you well my dearest Nancy, since parted we must be,
I'm off to yon green mountain where no one shall me see.
Where rocks they shall hide me and bring me to my grave
Fare you well, dearest Nancy, since you I cannot have.

Links

See also the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Req: Banks of the Mossen.