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Oh! once I was a batchelor and I had a famous trade,
And all that I delighted in was courting of a maid;
I courted her one winter's morn, one summer's day or two,
But I oft-times wished her into my arms, out of the foggy dew.

My love she came to my bedside as I was fast asleep
And then she went to my bed's foot and bitterly did weep
She wept, she wail'd, she wrung her hands; she cried, "What shall I do?"
"Come into bed, my pretty fair maid, out of the foggy dew."

Oh! all the first part of that night we did both sport and play,
And all the rest part of that night she lay in my arms till day;
And when the daylight did appear she cried, "I am all undone."
"Then arise, fair maid, and be not afraid, for the foggy dew is gone."

Then the very next day I married her, I made my lawful wife,
I nourished her, I cherished her, I lov'd her as my life;
But I never told her of that thing, nor I never intended to
But everythime that fair girl smiles, I think on the foggy dew.

"So when we've got one child, my dear, it will cause us both to smile,
And when we have got another, my dear, we'll work for a little while,
And when we've got another, my dear, and another, and another, too,
Then we'll both set out to work, my love, and forget the foggy dew."

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Source: The Foggy Dew, Ed Frank Purslow, 1973

Hammond Sm.30; collected from Mrs Gulliver, Combe Florey, Somerset. May 1905

Frank Purslow's notes follow:

Another old favourite, but now sung mostly around the folk clubs; traditional versions are hard to come by these days. A great many people have sought to invest the "foggy dew" with some sort of symbolism. What meaning the phrase does have seems fairly obvious, and I feel quite sure that country singers who sang this song did so without a thought for any hidden meanings. With all due respect to A.L. Lloyd, I find his "Bugaboo" theory as unconvincing as the rest. What if one of Bell's Tynesiders did ascribe the girl's fear to the mock-ghostly "Bogle-bo"? It probably merely indicates that one singer, at least, preferred his songs' sentiments to be rationalised - or else he had a higher-developed sense of humour than his neighbours. As "The Foggy Dew" the song appeared on late 18th century English broadsides. My own theory - which, if true, would probably prove A.L. Lloyd right! - is that the song originated in Ireland (again!)

Bodleian Ballad Site information:

Printers: Pitts, J. (London); Goodwin, T. (London)
Date: between 1819 and 1844
Imprint: Printed and sold by J, Pitts, Wholesale Toy and Marble Warehouse, 6, Great St. Andrew Street, Seven Dials; Sold also by T. Goodwin, 204, White Chapel Road, near the London Hospital
Ballads on sheet: 2

Copies: Harding B 11(394)

Frank Purslow was sometimes a little too quick to posit Irish origins for songs. In this case, it would appear that the term foggy dew is a relatively late accretion, and perhaps indeed borrowed from one of the several Anglo-Irish songs that use it, usually in an amatory context.

There seems to be no evidence of an Irish origin for the song itself. Though widespread in England, the USA and Canada (and also found in Scotland), the Roud Index lists only one traditional Irish example, from P.W. Joyce's Old Irish Folk Music and Song (1909); though a broadside issue was printed in Cork in the 19th century. In the New World, the song was often called The Bugaboo, which suggests that that term, or something like it, pre-dates the foggy dew element.

Many of the answers are given in a paper by Robert S. Thompson, The Frightful Foggy Dew, which appeared in The Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, vol.5, no.1, 1980: pp. 35-61. This is too complicated to pr√?¬©cis here, but Thompson quotes a broadside text of 1689 (the earliest-known example) which bears repetition.

THE Fright'ned York-shire Damosel, or, Fears Dispers'd by Pleasure.

To the Tune of, I met with a Country Lass, &c.

Licensed according to order.

When first I began to Court
and pritty young Maids to Wooe
I could not win the Virgin Fort
but by the Bogulmaroo.

I Kiss'd her in Summer time,
and in the cold Winter too;
At last I took her in the Prime
but by the Bogulmaroo.

My Love she was going one Night
to bed as she us'd to do,
When on the Stairs she saw a Spright
It was the Bogulmaroo.

She came to my Chamber-door,
and cou'd not tell what to do;
But straight began to weep full sore,
for fear of the Bogulmaroo.

At last she came boldly in,
tho' still her poor heart did rue;
For looking back the Spright did grin,
O cruel Bogulmaroo.

She started and run in haste,
and close to my Bed-side drew;
Her eyes she durst not backward cast,
for fear of Bogulmaroo.

But into my Bed she crept,
and did her Sorrows renew,
She wrung her hands and sadly wept,
for fear of Bogulmaroo.

I turn'd about to the Maid,
as Lovers are wont to do;
And bid her be no more afraid
of th'Ugly Bogulmaroo.

I Kiss'd and Embrac'd her then,
our pleasures they were not few;
We lay abed next day till Ten,
for fear of Bogulmaroo.

My Love she was Dismay'd,
to think of what she had done,
Arise, said I, be not afraid,
the Bogulmaroo is gone.

I Marry'd her the next day,
and did her pleasures renew;
Each night we spend in Charming Play,
for all the Bogulmaroo.

I ne'r said a word of the thing,
nor ever intend to do;
But ev'ry time she Smiles upon me
I think of the Bogulmaroo.

Printed and sold by J. Millet, next door to the Flower-de-Luce, in Little Brittain. 1689.

The broadside seems not to have been re-issued, and neither Purslow nor Lloyd were aware of it. By the time the song re-appeared, the metre had been changed and the text modified, including now the Foggy Dew substitution; this would be in the later 18th century. A slightly later example can be seen at the Bodleian site:

The batchelor brave √?¬†Printed between 1790 and 1840 by J. Jennings, No. 15, Water-lane, Fleet- street [London]. Harding B 25(132)

On the vexed question of the terms Bogulmaroo, Bogle Bo, et al., Thompson points out that these are normal Northern English dialect; there is no need to look for fanciful Gaelic derivations. (At this point he quotes research by John Widdowson, my old English tutor, who I recall pointing out to us long ago that the word-element bo [bu] has connotations related to the supernatural, to fear and to scatology throughout the Indo-European family of languages and beyond (cf. taboo); from the Slavic Bog [God] to the modern English bog [toilet]).

Bogle is well-known in Northern England, Scotland and the North of Ireland, of course; it is a (usually) minor kind of goblin. Maroo, Thompson equates with N.Eng. marrow; a friend or work-colleague. Since the Bogle Bo text which A.L. Lloyd quoted in his discussion of the song (from the MS collection of John Bell of Newcastle, and presumably of the 18th century; see Folk Song in England, 1967, p.213) specifically states that the young man hired the Bogle Bo in order to frighten the girl into his bed, and that this was a neighbour dressed up in a sheet, Thompson's would seem to be a reasonable conclusion, and the problem solved that has in the past exercised the likes of Robert Graves and James Reeves to some quite extraordinary flights of fancy.

Roud: 558 (Search Roud index at VWML) Take Six
Laws: O3

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