Author Topic: Add: Poor Old Horse


Posted - 16 Nov 03 - 05:13 pm

My clothing once was linsey-woolsey fine,
My hair unlinkt and my coat it did shine.
But now in open fields I'm forc'd for to go,
To face the cold winter and the hailstorm and snow.
Crying "Poor old horse, O poor old horse."

My bait it once was of the best of hay
That ever grew in fields or in meadows gay;
But now to no such comfort I can get at all.
I'm forced for the crop the short grass that grows upon the wall.
Crying "Poor old horse, O poor old horse."

My days are near an end, and now I must die
And at some lownd dike back my weary bowk may lie;
I do not greatly mind, for I'm clean done anyhow
And my master does not care, for I'm worse than useless now.
Crying "Poor old horse, O poor old horse."

My skin unto the huntsman I freely do give
My flesh unto the hounds I also bequeath
Likewise my body stout, that's gone o'er so many miles
Over hedge, over ditches, over gates and over stiles.
Crying "Poor old horse, O poor old horse."

Source: John Stokoe, 1899, Songs and Ballads of Northern England, Walter Scott Ltd, London and Newcastle-upon-Tyne


John Stokoe wrote, in 1899:

From William Topliff's Melodies of the Tyne and Wear, published over fifty years ago. This song, or one nearly identical, was also formerly common to the mummers in the north of Yorkshire at Christmas time. The person who sung the song was masked as an old horse, and at the end of every verse the jaws were snapped in chorus.

Stan Hugill talks at some length in Shanties and Sailors Songs about a sailing tradition during which another 'Poor Old Horse' song is sung, but as far as I am aware there is no connection between that and the mummers song above.

Database entry is here.

Malcolm Douglas
Posted - 16 Nov 03 - 09:51 pm

Roud 513.

Found as a song all over England, due in part to its wide publication on broadsides; though the Old Horse himself is not recorded outside a fairly restricted band from North Yorkshire down into Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire and across through Lancashire and Cheshire into Wales. A text (C19th) and tune (C20th) from the Sheffield area -where the practice continued into the 1970s- can be seen at the South Riding Folk Network website, together with links to associated material, including broadside examples:

Luck-visiting in the Old South Riding: The Poor Old Horse

The maritime custom may have borrowed some elements from the luck-visit, but there is probably no closer relationship than that.

The song seems also to have had some later currency in the Music Halls: Stanley Holloway recorded a version of it.

Edited By Malcolm Douglas - 16-Nov-2003 09:52:56 PM


Posted - 23 Feb 04 - 12:00 pm

Here is a version from Somerset collected by Cecil Sharp.

Edited By dmcg - 23-Feb-2004 12:01:53 PM

Pip Freeman

Posted - 24 Feb 04 - 12:49 pm

And here is another version taken from S. Baring-Gould's Songs of the West.
The words and melody are attributed to a Matthew Baker. 'The song is given in Bell's 'Ballads of the English Peasantry' p184 as sung by mummers near Richmond , Yorkshire, and here it states that it was first printed in 1864, Baring-Gould does not agree with this as he says it had long existed on Broadside by Hodges of Seven Dials and Such etc.

The Midland air of the song is in Mason's 'Nursery Rhymes and Country Songs', 1877.

In 'Sailors' and Chanties,' Boosey and Co., the song is titled 'The Dead Horse.'

In the version from 'Songs of the West' there is a final verse suggesting an ideal happy ending for the horse.

Poor Old Horse.

O once I lay in stable, a hunter, well and warm,
I had the best of shelter, from cold and rain and harm;
But now in open meadow, a hedge I'm glad to find,
To shield my sides from tempest, from driving sleet and wind.
Poor old horse, let him die!

My shoulders once were sturdy, were glossy, smooth and round,
But now, alas! they're rotten, I'm not accounted sound.
As I have grown so aged, my teeth gone to decay,
My master frowns upon me, I often hear him say,
Poor old horse, let him die!

A groom upon me waited, on straw I snugly lay,
When fields were full of flowers, the air was sweet with hay;
But now there's no good feeding prepared for me at all,
I'm forced to munch the nettles upon the kennel wall.
Poor old horse, let him die!

My shoes and skin, the huntsman, that covets them shall have,
My flesh and bones the hounds, Sir! I very frely give,
I've followed them full often, aye! many a score of miles,
O'er hedges, walls and ditches, nor blinked at gates or stiles.
Poor old horse, let him die!

Ye gentlemen of England, ye sportsmen good and bold,
All you that love a hunter, remember him when old,
O put him in your stable, and make the old boy warm,
And visit him and pat him, and keep him out of harm.
Poor old horse, let him die!

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T:Poor Old Horse.
B:Songs of the West by S. Baring-Gould.
S:Matthew Baker.
F|B c d c|B2 A G|F G F G| B3 d|
w:O once I lay in sta-ble, a hun-ter, well and warm, I
e d e c|d2 c A|B A B G|F2 z d|
w:had the best of shel-ter from cold and rain and harm; But
e e d c|(BG) F B|c d e c|d2 z c|
w:now in o-pen mea-*dow, a hedge I'm glad to find, To
d e f d|(cB) G F|G F G B|B2 ||
w:shield my sides from temp-*est, from driv-ing sleet and wind.
B G|F2 G A|(B4 |B3)||
w:Poor old horse, let him die!


Posted - 01 Mar 04 - 08:30 am

I've been asked what "And at some lownd dike back my weary bowk may lie" means.

A 'dike' in this context is a ditch, and the construct 'dike back' would mean, roughly, an out-of-the-way ditch. That much I am confident of from my own time in the North-East. For the rest, I am guided by the Oxford English Dictionary. "Lownd" means 'calm' and 'bowk' is a Northern form of 'bulk', which would itself just mean 'body' here, I suppose.

All other gleanings welcome!

Edited By dmcg - 01-Mar-2004 10:03:50 AM

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