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Sussex Drinking Song

[Hilaire Belloc, early 20th century]

Martyn Wyndham-Read set Hilaire Belloc's poem Sussex Drinking Song to the Irish tune of The West's Awake and sang it in 1984 on his Greenwich Village album A Rose from the Bush. He returned to this song in 2008 on his album Jackeroo.

Finest Kind sang the Sussex Drinking Song on their 1996 album Lost in a Song. They noted:

The text of this song is a poem by the turn of the century writer Hillaire Belloc, for whom Sussex was evidently more than just home. Martyn Wyndham-Read married the spectacular tune of the Irish rebel song, The West's Awake, to the poem, and recorded it on his album A Rose from the Bush. As he says, the Irish and the English have been stealing each other's tunes for years, so if it's larceny, at least it's traditional larceny. Ian [Robb] recalls an evening spent poring over a map of Sussex with his late singing partner David Parry, trying to decipher all the place names in the song. It is sung here for David's son, Richard.


Martyn Wyndham-Read sing the Sussex Drinking Song

On Sussex Downs, where I was bred,
In rains where autumn lanes are red,
Where Aran tumbles in his bed
And dusty gales go by.

Where branches, bare on vert and glen
And merry hills are whitening then;
I drink strong ale with gentle-men,
𝄆 Which no one can deny, deny. 𝄇

In cold November off I go,
And turn my face against the snow;
And watch the wind where ere it blow,
Because my heart is high.

'Till I settle me down in Steyning to sing
Of the girls I've met in my wandering;
And all I mean to do in Spring
𝄆 Which no one can deny, deny. 𝄇

'Tho times be hard and fortunes tough,
The ways be foul and the weather rough;
We are of stout south country stock
Who cannot have strong ale enough.

From Crowborough Top to Ditchling Down,
From Hustpierpont to Arundel town,
The girls are fine, the ale is brown;
𝄆 Which no one can deny, deny. 𝄇