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One morning in Autumn by the dawn of the day,
With my gun in good order I straight took my way;
To hunt for some game to the woods I did steer,
To see if I could find my bonny black hare.

I met a young damsel, her eyes black as sloes,
Her teeth white as ivory, her cheeks like the rose,
Her hair hung in ringlets on her shoulders bare,
"Sweet maiden," I cried, "did you see my black hare?

This morning a-hunting I have been all round,
But my bonny black hare is not to be found."
The maiden she then answer'd, and at him did stare,
"I never yet heard of - or saw - a black hare."

"I think you are deceitful, young maid," he did say,
"My bonny black hare I am told pass'd this way;
And you have decoy'd me, I vow and declare,
You shall go with me for to hunt the black hare.

My gun in good order, my balls are also,
And under your smock I was told she did go.
So delay me no longer, I cannot stop here,
One shot I will fire at your bonny black hare."

His gun he then loaded, determin'd he was,
And instantly laid her down on the green grass;
His trigger he drew, put his balls in her ear,
And fired one shot at her bonny black hare.

Her eyes they did twinkle, and smiling did say:
"How oft, dearest sportsman, do you come this way?
There is few in this country can with you compare,
So fire once again at my bonny black hare."

His gun he reloaded and fired once more,
She cried, "Draw your trigger and never give o'er.
Your powder and and balls are so sweet, I declare,
Keep shooting away at my bonny black hare."

He said, "My dear maiden, my powder is all done,
My gun is out of order, I cannot ram home,
But meet me tomorrow, my darling so fair,
And I'll fire once again at your bonny black hare."

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Source: Purslow, F, (1972), The Constant Lovers, EDFS, London

Frank Purslow's notes are as follows:

Gardiner Hp. 825. Thomas Jones, Portsmouth, Hants. August 1907.
Gardiner's note-book which includes Jones's text is missing and only the first verse has survived. This is word-for-word the opening of a broadside text in the Bodleian (no printer's name) so I have printed the broadside verbatim, except that I have righted an obvious misprint at the end of line 3 verse 6, which made nonsense in the broadside. Collected versions - which are extremely rare - are usuallly a little more colloquial than this, and generations of singers have obviously used their imaginations to improve the text! The tune is yet another variant of a favourite group that includes The Bold "Pricess Royal", The Indian Lass and many others.

The most commonly sung version in folk clubs derives from a Fairport Convention recording to a different tune (on Angel Delight, 1971); this was an arrangement of the version Bert Lloyd came up with; Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick had recorded it a few years earlier on their album Byker Hill(1967.) See the discussion thread for more information. The sleevenotes (by Carthy and Lloyd) commented:

"This version was collected from an Irish labourer, Mr Morrow, at Walberswick, Suffolk, in 1938. His tune is a member of the widespread melody family called Lough Lein but his rhythm was not very clear. Some versions he sang in a standard 9/8 (3 3 3) others a bit curtailed into a 'mixed' 8/8 (3 2 3)."

Cecil Sharp also collected a short version, which is in Maud Karpeles, ed., Cecil Sharp's Collection of English Folk Songs, vol. 2 (No. 401).), from Albert Stock (74) at Temple Cloud, Somerset, 7 September 1908. This is given in full in the discussion thread.

This song is not often found in tradition, but in cases like this it's unsafe to draw conclusions. Many singers didn't care for this kind of song, and neither did many of the folk song collectors. Its apparent scarcity was probably also compounded by the fact that a lot of people who did know it wouldn't feel able to sing it in cold blood, so to speak, to a complete stranger; particularly one of a higher social class, and never, of course, to a woman. Henry Burstow, for example, refused to sing the words of Salisbury Plain (a very mild song by comparison) for Lucy Broadwood, and she had to make do with a rather confused tune alternately whistled and hummed. Vaughan Williams got the words from him later.

Besides examples found by Gardiner, Cecil Sharp (1908) and Frank Warriner (c.1930), sets have turned up in Scotland (Greig-Duncan, vol. 7) and the USA (Vance Randolph, Roll Me in Your Arms, 1992: two sets noted in the 1940s). A. L. Lloyd[?] found a set in Suffolk in 1938 (see below), and Mike Yates recorded one from the Traveller Lemmie Brazil in Gloucestershire in the 1970s.

There are several broadside editions at ? Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads:

Bonny black hare

Roud: 1656 (Search Roud index at VWML) Take Six

Related Songs:  The Bonny Black Hare (2) (thematic)

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