> Tim Hart & Maddy Prior > Songs > Fly Up My Cock

Fly Up My Cock / True Lover John

[ Roud 179 ; Child 248 ; Henry H699 ; Ballad Index C248 ; trad.]

In Sam Henry's Songs of the People, p. 383, this song is called The Bonny Bushes Bright. Henry collected it on April 17, 1937 from Frank Thompson of Priestland, Co Antrim.

Joe Holmes and Len Graham sang this song as True Lover John to Neil Wayne and Lyn Murfin in 1975 in the north of Ireland. This recording was released a year later on their Free Reed album of traditional songs, ballads, lilts and fiddle tunes from the North of Ireland, Chaste Muses, Bards and Sages. The liner notes commented tersely:

The ‘night-visit’ theme enacted in a Co Antrim version of this ballad which, again, Joe learned from his mother.

Peta Webb and Ken Hall sang True Lover John, recorded by Mike Harding on February 18, 1999, on their 2000 Fellside album As Close As Close Can Be. They commented in their liner notes:

True Lover John, the old tale of betrayal in love but where the young woman picks up her life again with pride, is from the inspirational duo Joe Holmes and Len Graham, Co. Antrim. The first we learned together.

Tim Hart and Maddy Prior sang an abbreviated version of this as Fly Up My Cock in 1971 on their third duo album, Summer Solstice.

Robert Cinnamond sang the abbreviated Fly Up My Cock in August 1955 to Sean O'Boyle, probably in Co. Antrim. This was published in 1975 on his Topic album You Rambling Boys of Pleasure. Proinsias Ó Conluain commented in the liner notes:

Known also as The Grey Cock or Saw You My Father? (Child 248), this piece derives from the medieval aubade, the lovers' song of “night visiting” and parting at dawn with the crowing of the cock. The song is incomplete but it has affinities with The Lover's Ghost, no. 408 in Joyce's Old Irish Folk Music and Songs, in which the second stanza parallels the beginning of this. There is no mention in our song, however, of a revenant or ghostly lover. For a full discussion of this song and its genre, see Hugh Shields: “The Dead Lover Returns” in Modern English Ballad Tradition (Jahrbuch für Volksliedforschung, no. 17, Berlin, 1972).

Pilgrims' Way learned True Lover John from the singing of Peta Webb and sang it in 2016 on their Fellside CD Red Diesel. This video shows them recording a rough guide track in January 2015 or earlier:

Helen Diamond sang True Lover John on her 2018 eponymous first album Helen Diamond. She noted:

I picked up this song when I was very young from my Father singing it around the house. He learned it from a tape made by Len Graham and Joe Holmes: Chaste Muses, Bards and Sages. A beautiful recording and one of my favourites to this day.

Lyrics

Joe Holmes and Len Graham sing True Lover John Pilgrims' Way sing True Lover John

It happened for to be on a cold winter's evening,
A fair maid sat waiting alone,
She was thinking on her father, likewise her aged mother,
And also her true lover John.

It happened for to be on a cold and winter's evening,
A fair maid sat waiting all alone,
She was thinking on her father, likewise her aged mother,
And also her true lover John.

Young Johnny he was sweet and he promised her to meet,
But he tarried an hour too long.
He met with great delay which has caused him for to stray,
And I'm weary waiting all alone.

Young Johnny he was sweet and he promised her to meet,
But he tarried an hour too long.
And he's met with great delay which has caused him for to stray,
And her weary waiting all alone.

Young Johnny came at last and he found the door was fast,
And he slowly, slowly tinkled at the pin.
This fair maid she arose and hurried on her clothes
In order to let young Johnny in.

Young Johnny came at last and he found the door so fast,
And slowly, slowly, slowly rattled at the pin.
This fair maid she arose, she's hurried on her clothes
In haste for to let young Johnny in.

He took her in his arms and off to bed they went
And it's there they laid talking of their plan;
“I wish,” this maid says she, “this night would prove to be
As long since the world first began.

And it's round the waist he's caught her and onto bed he's brought her,
And he laid there a-talking of their plans;
“I wish,” this maid says she, “this night would prove to be
As long since the earth first began.

“Fly on, o fly on, my pretty little cock,
And don't crow until it breaks day,
And your cage it shall become of the very shining gold,
And your wings of the silvery grey.”

“Fly up, fly up, my pretty little cock,
And don't crow until it breaks day,
And your cage it shall be made of the very shining gold,
And your wings of the silvery grey.”

But this pretty little cock, so cruel as he was,
He crowd-ed an hour too soon;
And he sent my love away before the break of day,
It being only the light of the moon.

But this pretty little cock, so cruel as he was,
He crowed a full hour too soon;
And he sent her love away before the break of day,
It being only the light of the moon.

This fair maid she arose and quickly followed after,
“When will you come to see me?”
“When the fishes they do fly, the seas they all run dry,
And seven moons shine brightly o'er yon lea.”

This fair maid she arose, she's quickly followed after,
“When will you come to see me?”
“When the fishes they do fly, the seas they all run dry,
And sun and moon shine brightly o'er yon lea.”

There was once I thought my love was as constant unto me
As the stones that lie under yon ground.
But now since I do find he's altered his mind
I would rather live single as be bound.

Well it was once I thought my love was as constant unto me
As the rocks they are true unto the ground.
But since then I do find he's altered in his mind
I would rather live single than be bound.

Tim Hart and Maddy Prior sing Fly Up My Cock

“Fly up my cock,
You're my well-feathered cock,
But don't crow till the break of day.

“And your red rosy comb
Shall it be of the beaten gold
And your neck of the silvery grey.”

My cock he flew up
And my cock he flew down,
But he crowed one hour too soon.

And this young man arose
And he hurried on his clothes,
But it was only the light of the moon.

“Oh when will ye come back
My dear Jimmy,” she said,
“For to wed with a gay golden ring?”

“Seven moons,” said he,
“Shining over the lea
And the sky to yield up no more rain.”

For now I do see
Of the contrary way,
And I am forced to live single or be bound.