The cocks is crowing, song

John Butcher senior, singing in English
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Oh, the cocks are crowing, daylight’s appearing
It’s drawing nigh to the break of day
Arise, my charmer, out of your slumber
And listen unto what your true-love says.

He walkéd on to his true love’s window
He kneeléd low down upon a stone
And through a pane he did whisper slowly
– Arise, my darling, and let me in

– Oh, who is that that is at my window
And who is that that knows me so well?
– It’s I, it’s, I a poor wounded lover
Who fain would talk, love, to you awhile

Well go away, love, and ask your daddy
If he’ll allow you my bride to be
And if he says no then return and tell me
For this is the last night I’ll trouble you.

– Well my dada is in his bed-chamber
He is fast asleep in his bed of ease
But in his pocket there lies a letter
Which readés far, love, to your dispraise.

– Oh what dispraise can he give unto me?
A faithful husband to you I’ll be
And what all the neighbours has round their houses
The same, my darling, you’ll have with me.

Well go away, love, and ask your mammy
If she’ll allow you my bride to be
And if she says no then return and tell me
For this is the last night I will trouble you.

– Well my mama she’s an old-aged person,
She scarce could hear me, one word I’d say,
But says you go, love, and court some other
For I’m not fitting, love, your bride to be.

– Well I may go but I’ll court no other,
My heart’s still linkéd all on your charms;
I would have you wed, love, and leave your mammy
For you’re just fit to lie in your true-love’s arms.

Now Kellybawn, it is mine in chorus (sic)
And the green fields they are mine in white
And if my pen was made of the temper steel
Sure my true-love’s praises I could never write.

But I’ll go off to the wild mountains
Where I’ll see nothing but the wild deers
Nor I’ll eat nothing but the wild herbs
Nor I’ll drink nothing but my true-love’s (spoken) tears.

[For variants in Eddie’s version see the Notes]



This beautiful text represents not so much a song as a large song family. Dialogue at the window is the basic family theme, but it is a theme much diversified, especially in the conclusion. A cruel father may threaten transportation and his daughter demand and obtain both lover and ‘portion’: A cf. D. A girl may open the door too late to her sailor and, finding she is abandoned, drown herself: Grieg LIV, Ord p. 318. The sailor may be initially thwarted by a deceitful stepmother certainly borrowed from ‘The lass of Roch Royal’, though this version, unlike the old ballad, ends happily with the departure of the lovers: Christie I 224–5.

The family may be enlarged by ‘matrimony’. A song of double suicide, ‘The silver dagger’, seems to have bestowed its conclusion on one branch: IJNO etc, cf. Cox p. 348–52, Laws2 G21. Another night-visit song known variously as ‘Here’s a health to all true lovers’, ‘Jack the rover’, and ‘I must away’, has formed different narrative alliances with family members: ELQR. On the other hand, lyric features may dominate, as in the pot-pourri of verses recorded in Belfast (F) or in an eccentric Arkansas derivative of one of the double suicide versions: T. Coffin in Southern folklore quarterly XIV (950) 87–96.

None of the main thematic variations is specifically Irish. The ‘Who is at my window’ motif is noticed in sixteenth-century Britain: Baskerville p. 580–7. But the lyrico-narrative texts constituted as we know them hardly have a history older than the eighteenth or late seventeenth century. The extended dialogue of the Magilligan version, common also in America, is one of the oldest types. Many versions conclude with some ‘impossible’ expressed in traditional terms, though the intense imagery of our Magilligan version is exceptional.


[Note by Lisa Shields: The variants by Eddie Butcher shown in the tune and listed in the notes come from a different recording of the same song , Avondale Studio 1966—the recording used for the disc Adam in Paradise.]