The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Servingman and Husbandman

English Traditional
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF


Also found under the title "The Husbandman and the Servingman "

Lucy E. Broadwood and J. A. Fuller Maitland, English Country Songs. London: The Leadenhall Press, 1893. According to the editors: "From Davies Gilbert's Ancient English Carols"

1. Servingman:
Well met my brother friend, all at this highway riding,
So riding all alone, as you can,
I pray you tell to me what may your calling be,
Or are you a servingman?

2. Husbandman:
O why my brother dear, what makes you to enquire
Of any such a thing at my hand?
But since you are so fain, then I will tell you plain,
I am a downright husbandman.

3. Servingman:
If a husbandman you be, then go along with me,
And quickly you shall see out of hand,
Then in a little space I will help you to a place,
Where you may be a servingman.

4. Husbandman:
Kind sir, I 'turn you thanks for your intelligence,
These things I receive at your hand;
Put something pray now show, that first I may plainly know
The pleasures of a servingman.

5. Servingman:
Why a servingman has pleasure beyond all sort of measure,
With his hawk on his fist as he stands;
For the game that he does kill, and the meat that does him fill,
Are pleasures for the servingman.

6. Husbandman:
And my pleasure's more than that, to see my oxen fat,
And a good stack of hay by them stand;
My ploughing and my sowing, my reaping and my mowing,
Are pleasures for the husbandman.

7. Servingman:
Why it is a gallant thing to ride out with a king,
With a lord, duke, or any such man;
To hear the horns to blow, and see the hounds all in a row,
That is pleasure for the servingman.

8. Husbandman:
But my pleasure's more, I know, to see my corn to grow,
So thriving all over my land;
And therefore I do mean, with my ploughing, with my team,
To keep myself a husbandman.

9. Servingman:
Why, the diet that we eat is the choicest of all meat,
Such as pig, goose, capon, and swan;
Our pastry is so fine, we drink sugar in our wine,
That is living for the servingman.

10. Husbandman:
Talk not of goose or capon, give me good beef or bacon,
And good bread and cheese, now and then;
With pudding, brawn, and souse, all in a farmer's house,
That is living for the husbandman.

11. Servingman:
Why, the clothing that we wear is delicate and rare,
With our coat, lace, buckles, and band;
Our shirts are white as milk, and our stockings they are silk,
That is clothing for a servingman.

12. Husbandman:
But I value not a hair for delicate fine wear,
Such as gold is lacèd upon;
Give me a good great coat, and in my purse a groat,
That is clothing for the husbandman.

13. Servingman:
Kind Sir, it would be bad if none could be had
Those tables for to wait upon;
There is no lord, duke, or squire, nor ne'er a man of honour,
Can do without a servingman.

14. Husbandman:
But, Jack, it would be worse if there was none of us,
The plough for to follow along;
There is neither lord nor king, nor any other one
Can do without the husbandman.

15. Servingman:
Kind Sir, I must confess and I humbly protest
I will give you the uppermost hand;
Although your labour's painful, and mine it so very gainful,
I wish I were a husbandman.

16. Husbandman:
So come now let us all both great as well as small,
Pray for the grain of our land;
And let us whatsoever, do all our best endeavor,
For to maintain the good husbandman.

Sheet Music from Broadwood and Fuller Maitland, English Country Songs

Sheet Music: Lucy E. Broadwood and John Broadwood, Sussex Songs (Popular Songs of Sussex). London: Stanley Lucas, Weber & Co., 1890. Arrangements by H. F. Birch Reynardson

Davies Gilbert, Some Ancient Christmas Carols. London: John Nichols And Son, Second Edition, 1823, pp. 72-5.

Notes from Broadwood and Fuller Maitland, English Country Songs:

The oldest printed version of this dialogue is in the Loyal Garland (Percy Society. vol. xxix.); the words are only slightly different from those given above, except that in the last verse, the second line runs, "Pray for the peace of old England," in allusion to the Civil Wars, from which period the collection dates. A version of the same tune is given in Sussex Songs, in which, as in almost all other versions the servingman, in the part for two voices, repeats the words of the husbandman, instead of his own. This may of course be done here, if preferred, and in any case, both voices must sing the husbandman's sentiment in the last verse. In Davies Gilbert's version, here given, the third bar from the end is in unison between the voices; and this we have taken the liberty of adopting the reading of the Sussex version. A version, set to a much later tune is sent by Mrs. Slingsby, Skipton, and there is no doubt that this dialogue in some form or other is known in many parts of the country. The tune is a variant of "I am the Duke of Norfolk."

Note from William Chappell, The Ballad Literature and Popular Music of the Olden Time. London: Chappell & Co., 1859.

In The Loyal Garland, 1686, and in the Roxburghe Collection, vol. ii., 188 (or Collier’s Roxburghe Ballads, p. 312), God speed the plough, and bless the corn-mow, &c., to the tune of l am the Duke of Norfolk, beginning—

“My noble friends, give ear,
If mirth you love to hear,
I’ll tell you as fast as I can,
A story very true:
Then mark what doth ensue,
Concerning a husbandman.”

This ballad-dialogue, between a husbandman and a serving-man, has been orally preserved in various parts of the country. One version will be found in Mr. Davies Gilbert’s Christmas Carols; a second in Mr. J. H. Dixon’s Ancient Poems and Songs of the Peasantry (printed for the Percy Society); and a third in “Old English Songs, as now sung by the Peasantry of the Weald of Surrey and Sussex,” &c.,; “harmonized for the Collector” [the Rev. Mr. Broadwood] “in 1843, by G. A. Dusart.”

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