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'Tis of a ragged beggar man, came tripping o'er the plain,
He came unto a farmer's door a lodging good to gain.

Chorus: Rom-be-low, zin-garee, Rom-be-low, be-low, be-low.

The farmer he came out to view, and looked the man around,
Said he, "For ragged beggar men, no shelter here is found."

The daughter saw the beggar man, and, moved with pity, she
Said "Father, sure this beggar man is other than you see!"

The daughter sent him to the barn, to make his bed in hay,
She made it soft and easy, that in comfort he might lay.

She went into her father's house, and fetched him bread and wine,
She gave him of her father's clothes, all silver laced and fine.

She locked him in, but when she went to let him out at dawn,
With wine and clothes, all laced and fine, the beggar man was gone.

Her father laughed a mocking laugh, "Thou art a silly fool,
To feed and clothe a beggar man that fasts and goeth cool."

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Source: Baring-Gould, 1895, A Garland of Country Song, London, (reprinted Llanerch 1998)

Baring-Gould wrote:

This is a ballad known throughout England, Ireland and Scotland. It consists of ten stanzas. For good reasons we have been constrained to curtail it and modify two verses. The original will be found in "The Forsaken Lover's Garland," in a collection of early Garlands in the British Museum (1162, E. 1). The Scottish version has been tampered with by the Ballad manufacturers, who have not been able to resist the temptation of converting the ragged beggar man into King James V of Scotland. Indeed, Percy even attributes the composition to this king. Four stanzas have been tacked on for the purposes of turning it into a Scottish semi-historical ballad; but the whole point of the story is lost thereby, which has its climax before we reach this addition. The Scottish doctored ballad is in Johnson's "Scot's Musical Museum," 1787-1803 II, p. 274; another version in the same, VI, p 582, and in Herd's "Scottish Ballads," 1791, p 164; an undoctored one in a Scottish broadside printed at Aberdeen, "Curious Tracts," British Museum (1078, M 24). An Irish version is in Joyce's "Ancient Irish Music," 1873, no 44. He gives the first verse only. The Irish and Scottish airs differ from the English, of which we have taken down three variants, from William Setter, moorman, Dartmoor; J. Gerrard, workman, Collyhole, near Chagford; and James Parsons, hedger, Lew Down.

This is a thoroughly bowdlerised version and certainly the versions commonly heard in folk clubs and recording bear little relation to this, beyond a common structure and introductory scene.

James Reeves, The Everlasting Circle, 1960, pp. 215-6, prints a rather longer text, collated from the same sources. J. Gerrard's set appears in Palmer, Book of British Ballads, 1980, pp. 225-6.

At Bruce Olson's site; Roots of Folk: Old English, Scots, and Irish Songs and Tunes:

The Pollitick Begger-Man. (unexpurgated version)

At Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads:

The beggar man

The jolly beggar

A version of this song is in Stephen Sedley's book The Seeds of Love (1967). As usual, this was a collation from a number of sources; Sedley noted "The text given here is a collation of the oldest of [the English versions] (a rather flat chapbook version c.1730) with a similar but better set collected by Baring-Gould in Devon and a broadside printed by Kendrew of York c.1820. The tune is the best known of the Scots melodies."

Roud: 118 (Search Roud index at VWML) Take Six
Child: 279

Related Songs:  The Jolly Beggar (thematic)

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