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Bold Archer

[ Roud 83 ; Child 188 ; G/D 2:244 ; Ballad Index C188 ; trad.]

Harry Cox sang the Scottish raiding ballad Bold Archer in a recording made by Leslie Shepard from October 9, 1965 on his Topic anthology The Bonny Labouring Boy: Traditional Songs & Tunes from a Norfolk Farm Worker (2000). Steve Roud commented:

As befits its origin as a Scottish raiding ballad, the majority of known versions of this song were collected in Scotland, but it was also reported a handful of times in England and a number of times in North America. As Archie o' Cawfield, Child gives the two earliest known texts (from 1780 and 1791). Harry's is a severely trimmed version (Child's A text, for example, has forty-five verses), but all the essentials of the story are present.

Tony Rose sang Bold Archer in 1976 on his third album, On Banks of Green Willow. He commented in the album's sleeve notes:

Bold Archer, alias Archer of Cawfield, has the familiar modern ring of officialdom gone mad!—a red tape ballad, to coin a phrase. I've supplemented Sharp's fragment called The Burglar from Mrs. Glover of Huish Episcopi, Somerset, with an American text from Massachusetts.

John Kirkpatrick sang Bold Archer in 2009 on the Brass Monkey CD Head of Steam; they finished the track with the Morris tune Dearest Dicky. John Kirkpatrick commented in the sleeve notes:

Bags of swash and buckle in this Boys' Own yarn based on one of the items in the vast repertoire of the prolific Norfolk singer Harry Cox. The song is allegedly descended from one of the Scottish Mafia ballads, Archie o' Cawfield (Child No. 188), but our version is pleasantly ambiguous about time and place. As Dicky is clearly the hero of the day, we duly celebrate with the unique morris dance tune named in his honour, from Field Town in Oxfordshire.

Brass Monkey played Bold Archer live at The Electric Theatre Guildford in March 2009:

Jon Boden sang Bold Archer as the June 20, 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. he commented in the blog:

I think this is the only song I’ve learnt from Harry Cox—off the Bonny Labouring Boy double CD. Much as I enjoyed listening to it, this was the only one that demanded to be learnt. Evidently John Kirkpatrick thought the same as he recorded it with Brass Monkey shortly after I learnt it. It feels like it’s a very old song—makes me think of Border Reivers.

Danny Pedler and Rosie Butler Hall sang Bold Archer on their 2015 EP Bold.

Lyrics

Harry Cox sings Bold ArcherTony Rose sings Bold Archer

It was all in the month of June
Just as the flowers were in full bloom,
A castle was built upon Kanser green
All for to put Bold Archer in.

As I rode out one May morning,
All at the dawning of the day,
I heard two brothers making moan,
And listened a while to what they did say.

“So now our brother in prison do lay
Condemned to die is he.
If I had eleven such brothers as me
So soon a poor prisoner I'd set free.”

“We have a brother in prison,” said they,
“All in the prison lieth he.
If we had ten men like ourselves
We soon should set the prisoner free.”

“Oh, eleven,” said Richard, “is little enough,
Full forty there must be.
The chains and the bars will have to be broke
Before Bold Archer we can set free.

“Oh no, oh no, Bold Dickie,” he cried.
“Oh no, oh no, it never can be,
Forty men would be little enough
And I to ride in their company.

“Now ten for to stand by our horses' heads,
Ten for to guard us round about,
Ten for to stand by the castle door,
And ten for to bring Bold Archer out.”

“Ten to hold the horses in,
Ten to guard the city about,
And ten to stand at the prison door,
And ten to let Bold Archer out.”

So they mounted their horses and so rode they,
Who but they so merrily?
They rode till they came to the riverside
And there they alighted so manfully.

They mounted their horses and so swam they,
Who but they so manfully?
They swam till they came to the other side
And there they alighted so drippingly.

They mounted their horses and so rode they,
Who but they so gallantly!
Rode till they came to the prison door
And there they alighted so daringly.

“Oh Archer, oh Archer,” Bold Dickie he cried,
“Oh, look you not so mournfully
I've forty men in my company
And we are come to set you free.”

“Oh no, oh no,” poor Archer he cried,
“Oh no, oh no, it never can be,
I've forty weight of good Spanish iron
Between my ankle and my knee.”

Now Dickie broke locks and Dickie broke bars,
Dickie broke everything he could see.
He took Bold Archer under his arm,
Carried him out most manfully.

But Dickie broke locks and Dickie broke keys,
And Dickie broke everything he could see.
He took the Bold Archer under his arm
And carried him out so manfully.

They mounted their horses, away they did ride,
Bold Archer he mounted so merry and free.
They rode till they came to a far water side
Where they dismounted so manfully.

And they mounted their horses and so rode they,
Who but they so gallantly?
They rode till they came to the riverside
And there they alighted so daringly.

And there they ordered the music to play;
It played so sweet and joyfully,
And the very best dancer amongst them all
Was Bold Archer who they set free.

“Oh Dickie, oh Dickie,” Bold Archer he cried,
“Take my love to my wife and my children three,
My horse it is lame, he cannot swim,
And here I fear that I must die.”

They changed their horses and so swam they,
Who but they so gallantly?
Swam till they came to the other side,
And there they alighted so shiveringly.

“Oh look back, look back,” Bold Archer he cried,
“Look back, look back,”cried he,
“Here come the high shrieve on honoured Dundee
With a hundred man in his company.”

“Oh Dickie, oh Dickie,” Bold Archer he cried,
“Look you yonder there and see,
I think I see the old sheriff a-coming
A hundred men in his company.”

“Come back, come back,” now cried the high shrieve,
“Come back, come back,” cried he,
“If you don't return my irons to me,
Bold Archer a prisoner still must be.”

“Dickie, oh Dickie,” the sheriff he cried,
“You are the worst rascal that ever I see.
Give me back the iron you stole
And I will set the prisoner free.”

“No nay, no nay, that never can be,
No that can never be.
The iron will do our horses to shoe
The smith he do ride in our company.”

“I am like an owl that flies by night,
And I will fly from tree to tree.
The iron will do to shoe our horses:
The blacksmith rides in our company.”

So he wrote a letter home to his wife,
Unto his children three,
Saying, “My horse he is lame and I cannot swim,
So condemned this day I shall be.”

“Oh Dickie, oh Dickie,” the sheriff he cried,
“You are the worst rascal ever I see.”
”Thank you for nothing,” Bold Dickie he cried,
”And you are a fool for following me.”

Harry Cox sings Bold ArcherBrass Monkey sing Bold Archer

It was all in the month of June
Just as the flowers were in full bloom,
A castle was built upon Kanser green
All for to put Bold Archer in.

It was all in the month of June
Just as the flowers were in full bloom,
A castle was built upon the green
All for to put Bold Archer in.

I'm like the owl that flies by night,
The owl that flies from tree to tree,
On silent wings I swoop and glide
That's all to set Bold Archer free.

“So now our brother in prison do lay
Condemned to die is he.
If I had eleven such brothers as me
So soon a poor prisoner I'd set free.”

“Now our brother in prison do lie
And this very day condemned to die,
If I had eleven such brothers as we
So soon the prisoner right set free.”

“Oh, eleven,” said Richard, “is little enough,
Full forty there must be.
The chains and the bars will have to be broke
Before Bold Archer we can set free.

“Eleven,” said Dickie, “is little enough,
Oh little, oh little, that never can be.
Full forty fine fellows our party must be.
Before Bold Archer we can set free.

“Now ten for to stand by our horses' heads,
Ten for to guard us round about,
Ten for to stand by the castle door,
And ten for to bring Bold Archer out.”

“Ten for to stand by our horses' heads,
Ten for to guard us round about,
Ten for to stand by the castle door,
And ten for to bring Bold Archer out.”

Now Dickie broke locks and Dickie broke bars,
Dickie broke everything he could see.
He took Bold Archer under his arm,
Carried him out most manfully.

Well, Dickie broke locks and Dickie broke bars,
Dickie broke everything he could see.
And Dickie broke in where Bold Archer lay,
“Here's forty good men to set your free.”

“Oh brother, dear brother,” Bold Archer he said,
“On no, dear brother, that never can be,
I've fifty great pounds of good Spanish iron
Between my ankle and my knee.”

“Oh, fifty great pounds is little enough,”
Said Dickie, “Oh little, that never can be.”
And he's taken Bold Archer under his arm
And carried him out so manfully.

They mounted their horses, away they did ride,
Bold Archer he mounted so merry and free.
They rode till they came to a far water side
Where they dismounted so manfully.

They mounted their horses, away they did ride,
Bold Archer he mounted so merry and free.
They rode till they came to the far river side,
A rumbling roar as full as the sea.

“Oh brother, dear brother,” Bold Archer he said,
“My love to my wife and my children three.
My horse he is lame and I cannot swim o'er,
Condemned to stay I shall surely be.”

“Oh mount my mare,” Bold Dickie he said,
“Mount my mare and sat behind me.
She's beaten the devil this many long years,
She'll beat him again to set you free.”

And there they ordered the music to play;
It played so sweet and joyfully,
And the very best dancer amongst them all
Was Bold Archer who they set free.

So they have taken the water so wide,
The rumbling roar as full as the sea,
And fifty great pounds of good Spanish iron
That mare she bore as no more than a flea.

“Oh look back, look back,” Bold Archer he cried,
“Look back, look back,”cried he,
“Here come the high shrieve on honoured Dundee
With a hundred man in his company.”

“Look back, look back,” Bold Archer he cried,
“You little do think what I can see,
“Here comes the high sheriff, a (hothead?) beside
With a hundred man in his company.”

“Come back, come back,” now cried the high shrieve,
“Come back, come back,” cried he,
“If you don't return my irons to me,
Bold Archer a prisoner still must be.”

“Come back, come back,” the sheriff he cried,
“Oh come and return what's mine to me.
Swim back on your mare with my good Spanish iron,
Oh, Bold Archer a prisoner still must be.”

“No nay, no nay, that never can be,
No that can never be.
The iron will do our horses to shoe
The smith he do ride in our company.”

“No nay, no nay, that never can be,
You're greatly mistaken, high sheriff,” said he,
“The iron will do our horses to shoe
For the smith he do ride in our company.”

“That iron cost dear,” the sheriff he said,
“You're the damnedest young rascal I ever did see!”
“Why, thank you for nothing,” Bold Archer he cried,
“You're the damnedest old fool for following me!”

So he wrote a letter home to his wife,
Unto his children three,
Saying, “My horse he is lame and I cannot swim,
So condemned this day I shall be.”

And there they ordered the music to play;
It played so sweet and joyfully,
And the very best dancer amongst them all
Was Bold Archer who they set free.