The ploughboy, song

Robert Butcher senior, singing in English
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Girls, do wed a ploughboy, it’s if that you be wise,
He’s proper, tall and handsome, likewise his bonny eyes;
He rises in the morning his bread all for to win
While all the other tradesmen sits burning up their shins.

Once I loved a ploughboy as dear as I loved my life,
It was my whole intention to be his wedded wife;
It was my cruel parents that proved my destiny
Which caused a separation between my love and me.

My love he’s tall and handsome, complete on every limb,
For his looks and mild behaviour there’s few can equal him;
When he rises in the morning and he steps on the green hay
It’s who is like a ploughboy all in the month of May.

The lark she rises early, full early from  her nest,
She goes up into the air with the dew all on her breast
And all that whole day o’er and o’er she’ll whistle and she’ll sing
And at night she will return again with the dew all on her wing.

Now if that you are coming home from a dance or from a play,
If you meet a pretty girl by chance all on your way,
It’s if you do not love her, let her pass on her way,
It’s never never mind her, the ploughboy he did say.


In English folk song, praise of rural trades and labour is a common subject. Robert’s ‘Ploughboy’ is of English origin, its chief source a broadside frolic, ‘The lark in the morning’, which early collectors have been blamed for reducing by expurgation to a mere lyric: Reeves 1,2, see Notes. So it is interesting to see that our Irish singers have reduced it similarly, at the same time introducing the theme of separation in love: v.2. This is apparently the theme of another song, preserved in an Antrim fragment, which has lines corresponding to v. 3.1–2, ‘My love he’s tall and handsome’, BBC 24835, 2 v. sung in 1955 by Robert Cinnamond.