> Steeleye Span > Songs > Four Nights Drunk
> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > Shickered As He Could Be

Our Goodman / Four Nights Drunk / Coming Home Late / Shickered As He Could Be

[ Roud 114 ; Child 274 ; G/D 7:1460 ; Ballad Index C274 ; trad.]

Ewan MacColl sang Our Goodman in 1956 on his and A.L. Lloyd's Riverside anthology The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (The Child Ballads) Volume I (reissued in 2009 on his Topic anthology Ballads), and in 1961 on his Folkways anthology The English and Scottish Popular Ballads: Vol. 1—Child Ballads. Kenneth S. Goldstein commented in the album's notes:

Modern variants of Our Goodman, on of the most popular humorous ballads in the Child collection, tend to be ribald and bawdy. The earliest known text was printed in Herd's Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs, 1776. An English broadside of a slightly later date was translated into German before the end of the 18th century, was circulated as a broadside and became part of the popular tradition of the continent, spreading from Germany to Scandinavia, Hungary, and elsewhere.

American texts maintain the Scottish form in essence, but have partly rationalised the cuckolding of the husband by making him a drunkard.

MacColl's version was learned from his father.

Stan Staggles of Rattlesden, Suffolk, sang Our Goodman in 1959 to Desmond and Shelagh Herring. This recording was included in 1993 on the Veteran cassette of traditional music making from Mid-Suffolk, Many a Good Horseman.

Harry Cox of Catfield, Norfolk, Mary Connors of Belfast, and Colm Keane of Glinsk, Co. Galway sang Our Goodman in a composite recording on the anthology The Child Ballads 2 (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 5; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1968).

Jack Elliott of Birtley sang The Blind Fool in 1961 on the Folkways album The Elliotts of Birtley and in a later recording on his posthumous album of 1969 Jack Elliott of Birtley.

George Belton sang My Old Man in 1967 on his EFDSS album All Jolly Fellows ….

The Halliard sang Seven Nights Drunk in 1967 on their Saga album It's the Irish in Me.

John Fleming of Myroe, Co. Londonderry, sang The Hillman on July 19, 1969 to Hugh Shields. This recording was included in 1975 on the Leader album drawn from the Hugh Shields collection, Folk Ballads from Donegal and Derry.

Charlie Wills of Bridport, Dorset, sang Our Goodman in January 1971 to Bill Leader. This recording was published a year later on his Leader album, Charlie Wills.

Martin Carthy sang Four Nights Drunk accompanied by fiddler Peter Knight in 1971 on Steeleye Span's third album Ten Man Mop or Mr Reservoir Butler Rides Again. At the end the whole band joins into a furious jig. The record's sleeve notes said:

Another side of the coin … a lightbulb in a chamber pot I've never seen before … anyone who doesn't want to know the tune title don't ask Mick Moloney … the recording debut of Marcus Robertson … there's no horns on the Dubliners.

Steeleye Span also recorded Four Nights Drunk live for the BBC radio programme “Peel's Sunday Concert” on September 15, 1971. This programme was included as bonus CD on the 2006 reissue of Ten Man Mop.

George Spicer sang this song as Coming Home Late to Mike Yates at home in Selsfield, West Hoathly, Sussex, in between 1972 and 1974. This recording was released in 1974 on his Topic LP Blackberry Fold: Traditional Songs and Ballad and in 1998 on the Topic anthology They Ordered Their Pints of Beer and Bottles of Sherry (The Voice of the People Series Volume 13).

Cameron Turriff of Fetterangus, Aberdeenshire, sang Hame Drunk Cam I at the Kinross Festival on September 7-9, 1973. This recording was published in the same year on the festival's album Scots Song and Music.

Harold Gill from Devon sang Seven Nights Drunk to Sam Richards, Tish Stubbs and Paul Wilson in between 1974 and 1976. This recording was included in 1979 on the Topic anthology Devon Tradition.

Alice Francombe of Cam, Goucestershire, sang The Old Drunken Man in 1980 to Mike Yates. This recording was included in 2004 on the Musical Tradition anthology of songs from the Mike Yates Collection, The Birds Upon the Tree. Rod Stradling commented in the album's booklet:

Versions of this well-known ballad are found all over Europe. The story seems simple enough. A man returns home to find another man's horse, dog, boots etc, where his own should be. There follows a formulaic exchange between the man and his wife, who explains that her husband's eyes are deceiving him, and the story ends without rancour, revenge or remorse. It's a bit of a joke, to be sung in the pub on a Saturday night, although a version collected from George Spicer of Sussex ends with the spoken comment, “I stayed home Saturday night!” And yet, there seems to be something unsaid. A.L. Lloyd, quoting the Hungarian folklorist Lajos Vargyas, mentions a possible connection between this ballad and one from Hungary, Barcsai (which has parallel versions in the Balkans, France and Spain). Here a couple are caught in an adulterous act by a returning husband, who promptly kills both his rival and his wife. There are even Mongol versions of Barcsai, so who can say where the story really come from?

George Spicer's version is available on the Topic CD They Ordered Their Pints of Beer and Bottles of Sherry and the Mainer Family from North Carolina sing an American version on Voices from the American South (Rounder CD 1701). This is one of the few Child ballads to have entered the Black American musical tradition—see, for example, Cat Man Blues by Blind Boy Fuller (Document DOCD 5091 & 5092), or Blind Lemon Jefferson's Cat Man Blues (JSP 7706D).

Mabs Hall of Horsham, Sussex, sang Coming Home Late in the 1980s to Mike Yates and John Howson. This recording was included in 2008 on her and her son Gordon Hall's Veteran CD As I Went Down to Horsham. Yates and Howson commented in the album notes:

First printed in the eighteenth century as Our Goodman and also known as Old Cuckold, it was published in both Scotland and England, it then crossed into Ireland, spread into Germany and then into other parts of Europe. This amusing song has always been popular with traditional singers in England and often as here in a fragmented form. In the twentieth century it entertained soldiers and there is a version from Gordon Hall under the title of Seven Drunken Nights in Roy Palmer's What a Lovely War (Michael Joseph 1990). Also in it's bawdiest form it has entered into the realms of the Rugby Song. In the past forty years the song has gained huge popularity after it was recorded by the Irish folk group The Dubliners and reached number 7 in the UK pop charts in 1967. Mike Yates recorded the song from several singers in Sussex including Fred Welfare of North Chailey and George Spicer from Selsfield (They Ordered Their Pints of Beer…). In Ireland Elizabeth Cronin from Macroom, Co. Cork sang it (Songs of Elizabeth Cronin, 2000) and Mary Connors from Belfast can be heard on [The Child Ballads 2]. The latter CD also includes a version from Norfolk's Harry Cox, and another version from East Anglia is that from Stan Steggles of Rattlesden, Suffolk on VTDC8CD Many a Good Horseman.

Kate Rusby sang The Good Man on her 2003 CD Underneath the Stars and on her 2004 live DVD Live from Leeds.

Sara Grey sang Five Nights Drunk in 2005 on her Fellside CD A Long Way from Home.

Brian Peters sang Six Nights Drunk in 2008 on his CD Songs of Trial and Triumph.

A.L. Lloyd sang an Australian variant of this song, Shickered As He Could Be, in 1966 on his album #First Person; he was accompanied by Alf Edwards on concertina and Dave Swarbrick playing fiddle. This is one of two tracks from this album that have never been reissued on CD. Lloyd commented in the album's sleeve notes:

What ancient tale of trickery and revenge lies behind this jokey song, common all over Europe and turning up frequently in America and Australia. In the ballad books it's called Our Goodman, but singers usually give it some such title as Five Nights Drunk. In Australia, “shickered” means drunk; the term comes from Yiddish. A man comes home to find another man's horse, sword, cloak, etc. where his should be. Like an epic hero he asks in formular fashion: Whose horse is this? Whose sword? Whose cloak? Each time the adulterous wife insists that his eyes deceive him, and that the objects are really a cow, a spit, a bed-sheet, etc. Only at the end of the ballad does the husband's rival appear, as the head on the pillow. No struggle takes place; there is no retribution; a joke's a joke and that's that. Yet somehow in the form and atmosphere of the song, there's a sense of something beyond the joke, something that suggests important things had happened before the song begins and that perhaps terrible events may occur after the song has ended. What is now a comic song may be but a portion of another ballad, an old and tragic tale of adultery and revenge, whose most formal, most memorable passage has broken off and now lives on as a burlesque. The Australian version here is brief, cut to the bone, shorn of its “classical” trimmings of horse and cow, cloak and bed-sheet, etc., but acquiring native accessoires of stockwhip and mousing-snake. The latter may need explanation: In parts of the outback, mice are plentiful but cats are few. So some people take snakes as household pets, to keep the mice down; they snuggle in comfort, drink milk from a saucer, work by night.

Lyrics

Ewan MacColl sang Our Goodman

Hame cam' oor gudeman at e'en, and hame cam' he,
And he saw a muckle horse where nae horse should be.
“How cam' this muckle horse here, how cam' this to be?
How cam' this muckle horse here wi'oot the leave o' me?”
“A horse?” quo' she. “Ay, a horse,” quo' he.
“Ye auld blin' doited carle, for unco blin' ye be,
It's but a bonnie milk coo my minnie sent to me.”
“O, far hae I traivelled, and far'er hae I been,
But a saddle on a milk coo saw I never nane.”

Hame cam' oor gudeman at e'en, and hame cam' he,
Saw a pair o' muckle shoon where nae shoon should be.
“What's this and wha's this, how cam' this to be?
How cam' these muckle shoon here wi'oot the leave o' me?”
“Shoon?” quo, she. “Ay, shoon,” quo' he.
“Ye auld, blin' doited carle, and blin'er may ye be,
It's but a pair o' water stoups my minnie sent to me.”
“Far hae I traivelled, and far'er hae I been,
But siller spurs on water stoups saw I never nane.”

Hame cam' oor gudeman at e'en, and hame cam' he,
And he saw a braw plaidie where nae plaidie should be.
“How's this, and what's this, how cam' this to be?
How cam' this braw plaid here, wi'oot the leave of me?”
“A plaidie?” quo' she. “Ay, a plaidie,” quo' he.
“Ye auld blin' doited carle, and blin'er may ye be,
It's just a bonnie blanket my minnie sent tae me.”
“Far hae I traivelled and far'er hae I been,
But a blanket o' sic muckle worth saw I never nane.”

Hame cam' oor gudeman at e'en, and hame cam' he,
And he saw a hielan' bonnet where nae bonnet it should be.
“How's this and what's this, how cam' this to be?
How cam' this hielan' bonnet here wi'oot the leave of me?”
“A bonnet?” quo' she, “Ay, a bonnet,” quo' he.
“Ye auld blin' doited carle, and blin'er may ye be,
It's but a tapp't clockin is hen my minnie sent to me.”
“Far hae I traivelled and far'er hae I been,
But a white cockade on a clockin' hen saw I never nane.”

Hame cam' oor gudeman at e'en, and hame cam' he,
And he got a man into the bed where nae man should be.
“How's this and what's this, how cam' this to be?
How cam' this man here wi'oot the leave o' me?”
“A man?” quo' she, “Ay, a man,” quo' he.
“Ye auld blin' doited carle, and blin'er may ye be,
It's but a bonnie milkmaid my minnie sent tae me.”
“Far hae I traivelled, and far'er hae I been,
But whiskers on a milkmaid saw I never nane.”

Stan Staggles sings Our Goodman

Strolling home one evening, without my horse and cart.
I then espied another man's face, in bed, instead of mine.
I asked my wife, “Whose face is that? Whose ever can it be?”
She said, “It is a baby dear my mother sent to me.”

For it's thousands miles I've travelled, A thousand miles and more.
But a babies face with whiskers on I never saw before!

Mabs Hall sings Coming Home Late

I walked into the stable, a strange thing standing there.
“What ever is that standing in the stable."
“Why don't you know that's a milking cow my mumma sent to me?”

“Oh many a miles I've travelled, some thousands miles or more.
And I've never seen a milking cow with a saddle on before.”

I walked into the parlour, A strange face laying there.
“Who ever is that laying on the sofa?”
“Why don't you know that's a baby that my mumma sent to me?”

“Oh many a miles I've travelled, some thousands of miles or more.
And I've never seen a babies face, with whiskers on before.”

Martin Carthy sings Four Nights Drunk

Now as I come home so drunk I couldn't see, oh
There I saw a horse, no horse should be there
I says unto me wife, tell this to me, oh
How come the horse there, no horse should be there
You old fool, you silly fool, can't you plainly see, oh
Nothing but a milk cow me mother sent to me, oh
Miles I have travelled a thousand miles and more, oh
Saddle on a milk cow I've never seen before

And as I come home so drunk I couldn't see, oh
There I saw boots, no boots should be there
I says unto me wife, tell this to me, oh
How come the boots there, no boots should be there
You old fool, you silly fool, can't you plainly see, oh
Nothing but a flower pot me mother sent to me, oh
Miles I have travelled a thousand miles and more, oh
Laces on a flower pot I've never seen before

And as I come home so drunk I couldn't see, oh
There I saw a hat, no hat should be there
I says unto me wife, tell this to me, oh
How come the hat there, no hat should be there
You old fool, you silly fool, can't you plainly see, oh
Nothing but a chamber pot me mother sent to me, oh
Miles I have travelled a thousand miles and more, oh
Sweat-band on a chamber pot I've never seen before

And as I come home so drunk I couldn't see, oh
There I saw a man, no man should be there
I says unto me wife, tell this to me, oh
How come the man there, no man should be there
You old fool, you silly fool, can't you plainly see, oh
Nothing but a baby me mother sent to me, oh
Miles I have travelled a thousand miles and more, oh
Whiskers on a baby I've never seen before

Alice Francombe sings The Old Drunken Man

Late home came I one night, and late home came I,
And o'er there on my table another man's hat did lie.
“Whose hat is this, my love, or whose might it be?”
“My love it is a band-box your mother have left for thee.”
“Oh, I have travelled, ten thousand miles or more,
But never have seen a band-box with ribbon round before.”

Late home came I one night, and late home came I,
And o'er there on my door another man's coat did lie.
“Whose coat is this, my love, or whose might it be?”
“My love it is a blanket your mother have left for thee.”
“Oh, I have travelled, ten thousand miles or more,
But never have seen a blanket with button-holes down before.”

Late home came I one night, and late home came I,
And o'er there in my corner another man's stick did lie.
“Whose stick is this, my love, or whose might it be?”
“My love it is a poker your mother have left for thee.”
“Oh, I have travelled, ten thousand miles or more,
But never have seen a poker with notches down before.”

Late home came I one night, and late home came I,
And o'er there by the bed another man's boots did lie.
“Whose boots is this, my love, or whose might it be?”
“My love it is coal-boxes thy mother have left for thee.”
“Oh, I have travelled, ten thousand miles or more,
But never have seen coal-boxes with lace-holes down before.”

Late home came I one night, and late home came I,
And o'er there in my bed another man did lie.
“What man is this, my love, or who might it be?”
“My love it is a baby thy mother have left for thee.”
“Oh, I have travelled, ten thousand miles or more,
But never have seen a baby's face with whiskers round before.”

A.L. Lloyd sings Shickered As He Could Be

A bloke I know came rolling home as shickered as he could be,
He saw a pair of riding boots where his boots ought to be.
And he said, “Oh wife, my darling wife, now come and tell to me,
Whose are those boots there under the bed where my boots ought to be?”
She said, “You damned fool, you are a fool, and can't you plainly see?
It's nothing but a pair of German dogs my momma she sent to me.”
“Well all the miles I travelled in a million miles or more,
And gooseneck spurs on a German dog I never saw before.”

This bloke I know came rolling home as shickered as he could be,
He saw a stockwhip on the wall where his stockwhip should be.
And he said, “Oh wife, my darling wife, now come and tell to me,
Whose is that twelve-foot stockwhip there where my stockwhip should be?”
She said, “You damned fool, you are a fool, and can't you plainly see?
It's nothing but a mousing-snake my momma she sent to me.”
“Well all the miles I travelled in a million miles or more,
And a cracker on the tail of a mousing-snake I never saw before.”

This bloke I know came rolling home as shickered as he could be,
He saw a head there in the bed where his head ought to be.
And he said, “Oh wife, my darling wife, now come and tell to me,
Whose is this head here in the bed where my old head should be?”
She said, “You damned fool, you are a fool, and can't you plainly see?
It's only my pommy serving girl my momma she sent to me.”
“Well all the miles I travelled in a million miles or more,
Ginger whiskers on a pommy girl I never saw before.”