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The Brisk Young Ploughboy / The Brave Ploughboy

[ Roud 1205 ; Bodleian Roud 1205 ; Wiltshire Roud 1205 ; trad.]

The Brisk Young Ploughboy is a harvest supper song from the repertoire of the Copper Family. Bob and Jim Copper sang it in a BBC recording made by Brian George on March 1, 1951 (BBC archive 16063); this was included on the Topic CD Come Write Me Down: Early Recordings of the Copper Family of Rottingdean. Bob and John Copper sang it in 1971 on the Trailer 4 LP box A Song for Every Season and, in a recording from May 1974 at the Lewes Arms, Mount Place, Lewes, Sussex, on the Transatlantic album The Brave Ploughboy. The Copper Family sang it live at Will Noble's barn in Denby Dale, Yorkshire on September 27, 1986; this was published on the EFDSS cassette Wills' Barn. Finally, they sang it on their 1988 EFDSS LP Coppersongs: A Living Tradition.

The Watersons sang this song as The Brave Ploughboy with Mike Waterson in lead on their 1981 album, Green Fields. A.L. Lloyd commented in the liner notes:

This piece, common enough, is sung here in the version printed by the Rev. John Broadwood, squire of Lyne, near Dorking, as far back as 1843. His collection of Old English Songs was the first to be published for the sake of the tunes, and apparently most if not all of them were heard by him at Christmas time, sung by singers “who go about to the neighbouring houses singing, or ‘wassailing’, as it is called, at that season.” Brave Ploughboy isn't a typical wassail piece, rather more like the sort of things sung at the ceremonial boozing parties after harvest time, but wassailers were seldom fussy about their repertory.


The Watersons sing The Brave Ploughboy

Come all ye jolly ploughboys come listen to me lays
And join with me in chorus, and I'll sing the ploughboy's praise
My song is of the ploughboy's fame
And unto you I'll relate the same
He whistles, sings, and drives his team, the brave ploughing boy

So early in the morning, the ploughboy he is seen
He hastens to the stable, his horses for to clean
Their manes and tails he will comb straight
With chaff and corn he does them bait
And he'll endeavour to plough straight, the brave ploughing boy.

Now all things being ready and the harness that's put to
All with a shining countenance his work he will pursue
The small birds sing on every tree
The cuckoo joins in harmony
To welcome us, as you may say, the brave ploughing boy.

So early in the morning to harrow, plough, and sow
And with a gentle cast, me boys, we'll give the corn a throw
Which makes the valleys thick to stand
With corn to fill the reaper's hand
All this, you well may understand, comes from the ploughing boy.

Now the corn it is a-growing, and seed-time that's all o'er
Our master he does welcome us and unlocks the cellar door
With cake and ale we'll have our fill
Because we've done our work so well
There's none here can excel the skill of the brave ploughing boy.

Now the corn it is a-growing, and the fields look fresh and gay
The cheerful lads come in to mow, while damsels make the hay
The ears of corn they now appear
And peace and plenty crowns the year
So we'll be merry whilst we are here, and drink to the brave ploughing boy.


Thanks to Greer Gilman for the transcription.