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The Grey Hawk / Little Grey Hawk

[ Roud 293 ; Ballad Index ChWII149 ; trad.]

Bob Roberts sang The Grey Hawk in an EFDSS recording made by Peter Kennedy on the 1960 Collector EP Stormy Weather Boys! and in a recording by Tony Engle from August 1977 on his Topic LP Songs from the Sailing Barges. A.L. Lloyd commented in the latter album's sleeve notes:

Among Bob's older folk songs his version of The Grey Hawk is remarkable. Better known as My Bonny Boy, this song usually ignores any references to birds and is sung to a handsome variant of the Henry Martin tune. But originally it was a Restoration ballad (c. 1675) called Cupid's Trepan, beginning “Once did I love a bonny, bonny bird”, and unlike other traditional survivals of the song, Bob's version—uniquely, as far as I know—keeps close to the original tune as printed some three hundred years ago.

Bob Blake sang The Grey Hawk in a recording made by Mike Yates between 1972 and 1975 on the Topic album When Sheepshearing's Done: Countryside Songs from Southern England.

Mick Ryan and Pete Harris sang The Grey Hawk in 2004 on their Wild Goose CD Something to Show.

Eliza Carthy and Norma Waterson sang Little Grey Hawk, accompanied by Eliza on fiddle and Martin Simpson on banjo, in 2010 on their Topic CD Gift. Norma Waterson commented in the liner notes:

Eliza carried a photocopied version of this song around in her fiddle case for a good couple of years, thinking it would be a part of Waterson:Carthy's repertoire, or a part of some repertoire soon—and now that it is, has lost the paper so couldn't tell you what book it was printed from. However, the lovely Derek Schofield tells us that it was collected by the Hammond brothers. The tune in the middle is pinched from the Watersons' repertoire and is called Furze Field.

Compare to this song its variant My Bonny Boy as sung by e.g. Anne Briggs, Shirley Collins, and June Tabor.

Lyrics

Bob Roberts sings The Grey Hawk

Once I had a grey hawk, a pretty grey hawk,
A sweet pretty bird of my own;
But she took a flight, she flew away quite
And nobody knows where she's gone, my brave boys,
And nobody knows where she's gone.

So through the green forest I rambled away,
And across the green fields I did stray;
I hollered, I whooped, I played on my flute
Not my sweet pretty bird could I find, my brave boys,
Not my sweet pretty bird could I find.

So over the green hills I rambled away,
And along the green parks I did stray;
Lo, there I did spy my sweet pretty bird
And close by the side of a man she did lay,
She was close by the side of a man.

Now he that has got her is welcome to her
To do the best with her he can;
But whilst he has got, and I have her not
I will hawk with her once now and then, my brave boys,
I will hawk with her once now and then.

So happy's the man who has a good wife,
Far happier is he who has none.
But cursed is who who courteth his friend's
When he has a good wife of his own, my brave boys,
When he has a good wife of his own.

Eliza Carthy and Norma Waterson sing Little Grey Hawk

Once I had a hawk, and a pretty grey hawk,
Oh, a sweet pretty bird of my own;
But she took a flight, she flew away quite
And there's nobody knows where she's gone, my brave boys,
And there's nobody knows where she's gone.

So it's over the forest I've rambled away,
And through the green fields I did stray;
I hollered, I whooped, I played on my flute
Not a sweet pretty bird could I find, my brave boys,
Not a sweet pretty bird could I find.

So it's over the forest I've rambled away,
And through the green parks I did stray;
Oh there I did spy my sweet pretty bird
She was close by the side of a man, my brave boys,
She was close by the side of a man.

Oh now that he's got her he's welcome to keep her
And do the best with her he can;
But while he has her, and I have her not
I will hawk with her once now and then, my brave boys,
I will hawk with her once now and then.

Though happy's the man that has a good wife,
Much better is he that's got none;
But bollocks to you that weds with another's
When you have a good wife of your own, my brave boys,
When you have a good wife of your own.