The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Jolly Goss-Hawk

Words and Music: English Traditional

Source: S. Baring-Gould, H. Fleetwood Sheppard, F. W. Bussell, C. J. Sharp, eds., Songs of the West: Folk Songs of Devon & Cornwall. Fifth Edition in One Volume. (London: Methuen & Co., Ltd., 1913), No. 71, pp. 146-147. Notes to the Song, p. 20. Note: the lyrics in the 1892 edition were the same.

1. I sat on a bank in trifle and play,
    With my jolly goss-hawk, and her wings were grey;
She flew to my breast, And she there built her nest,
    I am sure pretty bird you with me will stay.

2. She builded within, and she builded without,
    My jolly goss-hawk and her wings were grey:
She fluttered her wings, And she jingled her rings,
    So merry was she, and so fond of play.

3. I got me a bell, to tie to her foot,
    My jolly goss-hawk, and her wings were grey;
She mounted in flight, And she flew out of sight,
    My bell and my rings she carried away.

4. I ran up the street, with nimblest feet,
    My jolly goss-hawk, and her wings were grey;
I whooped and hallo'd, But never she shewed,
    And I lost my pretty goss-hawk that day.

5. In a meadow so green, the hedges between,
    My jolly goss-hawk, and her wings were grey;
Upon a man's hand, She perch'd did stand,
    In sport, and trifle, and full array.

6. Who's got her may keep her as best he can,
    My jolly goss-hawk, and her wings were grey;
To every man she is frolic and free,
    I'll cast her off if she come my way.

Notes by Editors of Songs of the West.

71. THE JOLLY GOSS-HAWK. Melody taken down from H. Westaway to "The Nawden Song," which begins—

"I went to my ladye the first of May,
A Jolly goss-hawk and his wings were grey,
Come let us see who'll win this fair ladye—you or me."

To the 2nd of May is "a two twitty bird," then "a dushy cock," a "four-legged pig," "five steers," "six boars," "seven cows calving," "eight bulls roaring," "nine cocks crowing," "ten carpenters yawing," "eleven shepherds sawing," "twelve old women scolding." Mr C. Sharp has taken it down in Somersetshire. A Scottish version in Chambers' "Popular Rhymes of Scotland," 1842; as "The Yule Days," a Northumbrian version; "The XII. days of Christmas," with air not like ours, in "Northumbrian Minstrelsy," Newcastle, 1882, p. 129.

A Breton version, "Gousper ou ar Ranad" in "Chansons Populaires de la Basse Bretagne," by Luzel, 1890, p. 94. The West of England song has got mixed up with the "Goss Hawk," another song. See "The Fond Mother's Garland," B. M. (11,621, c 5). A companion song to this is "The Bonny Bird," given further on in this collection, No. 106. The song, in Devonshire, goes by the name of "The Nawden Song."

Editor's Note. In the 1892 edition, this song is found on pp. 150-151, and the notes were found in the Preface, pages xxxiii-xxxiv.

This Printing History was found in the Fifth Edition of 1913:

Note: There was also an edition in 1889. It is mentioned in the Preface by Baring-Gould (below), and a record was found in WorldCat.

Three of these editions are at Internet Archive (1892, 1905, 1913).

In the Preface to the 1913 Fifth Revised Edition, Baring-Gould noted that

"In this Edition of 'Songs of the West,' some considerable changes have been made. When the first edition was issued, we had to catch the public taste, and to humour it. Accordingly the choruses were arranged in four parts, and some of the Songs were set as duets and quartettes. But now that real interest in Folk airs has been awakened, we have discarded this feature."

"Again, when our first edition was published, modal melodies were not appreciated, and we had regretfully to put many aside and introduce more of the airs of a modern character. Public taste is a little healthier now, and musicians have multiplied who can value these early melodies. Consequently we have not felt the same reserve now that we did in 1889."

The counting version of this song is in the same family of counting songs and forfeit songs as The Twelve Days of Christmas; see the Notes on Twelve Days of Christmas. Cecil Sharp mentions this song in the notes to a version of The Twelve Days of Christmas published in his One Hundred English Folksongs (1913).

In addition to the "Counting Song" version of this song, there are several other versions of this song, some of which are very long. Original versions had the title "The Gay Goss-hawk" or in one case, "The Scottish Squire" (Buchan). Versions occur in the following:

I discovered a fifth version, a compilation, in The Ballad Minstrelsy of Scotland (Glasgow: Maurice Ogle and Company; London: Bell and Daldy, 1871), pp. 93-98 (49 verses). I was unable to determine the name of the editor, however, the name "Alexander Gardner" was written in ink on the title page. Note that the publisher of the Second Edition in 1893 is Alex. Gardner, Paisley.

Also see S. C. Hall, ed., The Book of British Ballads. Series 2 (London: Jeremiah How, 1842), pp. 253 ff, which has a two-page overview of previous versions, including Scott, Motherwell and Buchan. The version by Chambers is also mentioned. Some later editions have very poor notes.

Sheet Music from Songs of the West, 1892, No. 71, pp, 150-151.

Jolly_Gosshawk-Songs_West-B_Gould-1892-no71-150.jpg (78593 bytes) Jolly_Gosshawk-Songs_West-B_Gould-1892-no71-151.jpg (66067 bytes)

Sheet Music from Songs of the West, 1905, No. 71, p. 146.

Jolly_Goss-hawk-Songs_West-1905-p146.jpg (64964 bytes)

Sheet Music from Songs of the West, 1913, No. 71, p. 146.

Jolly_Goss-hawk-Songs_West-1913-p146.jpg (84554 bytes)

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