(Young Man Who Wouldn’t Hoe Corn)

Submitted by Lea Coryell

This traditional American folksong, perhaps originating in the Midwest, can be traced back to at least 1905. It’s been documented throughout the country, and many different versions exist. I love it because it works well for solo voice and drop-thumb banjo.

Did the young man fail because of laziness or bad weather? Traditional verses offer conflicting reasons, so perhaps we were meant to wonder. In my shortened version, the farmer has nothing and no one to blame but himself. You may choose to characterize it differently, so I include a longer version with fine traditional verses I chose to omit.

Listen to Lea performing “The Lazy Farmer.” Recording copyright Lea Coryell; used by permission.

Sheet music for "The Lazy Farmer"
Download the sheet music for “The Lazy Farmer.”

Lyrics (as sung by Lea Coryell)

The banjo is in modal tuning, capo 4 (bF#BEF#)

I’ll sing you a song it’s not very long
About a lazy farmer wouldn’t hoe his corn
The reason he wouldn’t I cannot tell
That young man was always well
That young man was always well

He went to the field and he looked therein
The jimson weeds were up to his chin
The bushes and the grasses had grown so high
Enough to make that young man cry
Enough to make that young man cry

He went down to his neighbor’s door
Where he had often been before
Sayin’ “Pretty little miss will you marry me?
Pretty little miss now what you say?
Pretty little miss now what you say?”

“Oh why do you come to me to wed
When you can’t even raise your own cornbread?
Single I am and so I’ll remain
A lazy man I won’t maintain
A lazy man I won’t maintain

“Now why don’t you go and court the widow
And I hope to the dickens that you don’t get her”
She give him the mitten just as sure as you’re born
And all because he wouldn’t hoe corn
All because he wouldn’t hoe corn
All because he wouldn’t hoe corn
All because he wouldn’t hoe corn

Lyrics (as sung by Tom Paley)

I’ll sing you a song it’s not very long
About a lazy farmer wouldn’t hoe his corn
The reason why I cannot tell
For that young man was always well
That young man was always well

He planted his corn on June the last
In July it was up to his eye
But in September there came a great frost
And all that young man’s corn was lost
All that young man’s corn was lost

He went to the field and he looked therein
The bushes and the grass had grown so high
The bushes and the grass had grown so high
For to make that young man sigh
For to make that young man sigh

His courtship had just begun
She said “Young man, have you hoed your corn?”
“I’ve tried, I’ve tried, I’ve tried in vain
But I don’t believe I’ll raise one grain
I don’t believe I’ll raise one grain”

“Why do you come to me to wed
When you can’t even raise your own cornbread?
Single I am and I will remain
A lazy man I won’t maintain
A lazy man I won’t maintain

“Now why don’t you try and court the widow
I hope to the devil that you don’t get her”
She give him the mitten as sure as you’re born
And all because he wouldn’t hoe his corn
All because he wouldn’t hoe corn

Now his courtship was at an end
On his way he then began
Saying “Young miss, I’ll have another girl
If I have to ramble this whole wide world
If I have to ramble this whole wide world”

He hung his head and he turned away
“Sometime, Miss, you’ll rue the day
You’ll rue the day that you were born
For givin’ me the devil cause I wouldn’t hoe corn
Givin’ me the devil cause I wouldn’t hoe corn”

Lea Coryell, an Ohio native now living in Lovettsville, Virginia, began folk singing during the late 1970s. He is a retired librarian, a genealogist, and a founding member of the Reston-Herndon Folk Club in Virginia.

Submitted by Derek Piotr

This song played an extremely significant role in my early musical life. Around age 7 or 8, I was avidly using our home PC and spent many hours browsing Encarta Encyclopedia, a kind of proto-Wikipedia. Encarta was full of media clips, and Bob Mills’ performance was among them. This became one of the first songs I remember learning, and when I visited Will and Pippa Noble on their farm in Shepley, it was the first song I requested.

This song seems to have completely fallen out of favor in the twenty-first century; I can’t find anyone else around who still knows it. Hopefully my entry here will correct that.

Listen to Will & Pippa Noble performing “We’re All Jolly Fellows that Follow the Plough,” recorded by Derek Piotr in Shepley, 2021.

Bob Mills performing “All Jolly Fellows that Follow the Plough,” recorded by Sam Richard in Winchester, 1981:

Sheet music for "We're All Jolly Fellows that Follow the Plough"
Download the sheet music for “We’re All Jolly Fellows that Follow the Plough”

Lyrics

‘Twas early one morning at the break of day,

The cocks were a-crowing, the farmer did say,

”Come rise you good fellows, arise with good will,

For your horses want something their bellies to fill.”

When four o’clock comes, then up we all rise,

And into our stables so merrily fly,

With rubbing and scrubbing our horses we vow,

We’re all jolly fellows that follow the plough.

Then six o’clock comes, at breakfast we meet,

Peat bread and pork pies we heartily eat,

With a piece in our pocket, I’ll swear and I’ll vow,

We’re all jolly fellows that follow the plough.

Then we harness our horses, our way then we go

And trip o’er the plain boys so merrily-O,

And when we come there, so jolly and bold,

To see which of us the straight furrow can hold.

Our master came to us and thus he did say,

“What have you been doing boys, all this long day?

Well you’ve not ploughed an acre, I’ll swear and I’ll vow.

And you’re all idle fellows that follow the plough.”

I stepped up to him and made this reply,

“We have all ploughed an acre, so you tell a lie.

We have all ploughed an acre, I’ll swear and I’ll vow,

And we’re all jolly fellows that follow the plough.”

He turned himself round and he laughed in a joke,

“It’s past two o’clock, boys; it’s time to unyoke.

Unharness your horses and rub them down well,

And I’ll give you a jug of the very best ale.”

So come all you brave fellows, where e’er you be,

Take this advice and be ruled by me,

And never fear your masters, I’ll swear and I’ll vow,

For you’re all jolly fellows that follow the plough.

Derek Piotr is a folklorist, researcher and performer whose work focuses primarily on the human voice. His work covers practices including fieldwork, vocal performance, preservation and autoethnography; and is primarily concerned with tenderness, fragility, beauty and brutality. His work has been supported by The Traditional Song Forum and The Danbury Cultural Commission, and has featured on Death is Not the End and BBC. He recently launched the Fieldwork Archive.

The CDSS Educators Task Group presents Lesson Plans to introduce students to a variety of topics in traditional music and dance.

Teachers of all subjects and ages—the CDSS Educators Task Group wants YOU!

Look at the sample lesson plans below. Do these spark ideas for you for how you might incorporate traditional music and dance into your classroom? If so—please contribute a lesson plan of your own!

Download the Lesson Plan Template

Email your contributions to education@cdss.org and we’ll be in touch with you. Can’t wait to see your ideas.

  • MLK Day Through Music

    • Author: Justin Morrison
    • Grade Level: Fourth
    • Keywords: Black History Month, MLK, Martin Luther King Jr., songs, protest
    • Lesson Overview: Over five days, students listen to and reflect on the events of the March on Washington and musical responses to it. Next, they reflect on how those musical responses contributed to the message of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

    Download the PDF

  • Incorporating Folk Dance into the Music Class with Ease

    • Author: Robbin Marcus
    • Grade Level: 2 (adaptable to any elementary age)
    • Keywords: Playparty, folk dance, singing game
    • Lesson Overview: Over the course of several class periods, children will perform a familiar play party (such as Paw Paw Patch) as part of their regular music class routine. In an adjacent class at a later time, students will learn the additional moves for a similar folk dance (like Sweets of May) and perform it in class.

    Download the PDF

  • The Wagoner’s Lad Ballad and Juliet’s Soliloquy

    • Author: Kathleen Brown
    • Grade Level: Ninth, English
    • Keywords: Ballad, narrative, “The Wagoner’s Lad,” soliloquy, “Romeo and Juliet,” theme, marriage, feminism, family
    • Lesson Overview: Students read and listen to 3 versions of the ballad “The Wagoner’s Lad” and of Juliet’s soliloquy to analyze the themes and narrator’s point of view.

    Download the PDF

The Wagoner’s Lad Ballad and Juliet’s Soliloquy

  • Author: Kathleen Brown
  • Grade Level: Ninth, English
  • Keywords: Ballad, narrative, “The Wagoner’s Lad,” soliloquy, “Romeo and Juliet,” theme, marriage, feminism, family
  • Lesson Overview: Students read and listen to 3 versions of the ballad “The Wagoner’s Lad” and of Juliet’s soliloquy to analyze the themes and narrator’s point of view.

Download the PDF

Incorporating Folk Dance into the Music Class with Ease

  • Author: Robbin Marcus
  • Grade Level: 2 (adaptable to any elementary age)
  • Keywords: Playparty, folk dance, singing game
  • Lesson Overview: Over the course of several class periods, children will perform a familiar play party (such as Paw Paw Patch) as part of their regular music class routine. In an adjacent class at a later time, students will learn the additional moves for a similar folk dance (like Sweets of May) and perform it in class.

Download the PDF

MLK Day Through Music

  • Author: Justin Morrison
  • Grade Level: Fourth
  • Keywords: Black History Month, MLK, Martin Luther King Jr., songs, protest
  • Lesson Overview: Over five days, students listen to and reflect on the events of the March on Washington and musical responses to it. Next, they reflect on how those musical responses contributed to the message of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Download the PDF

Submitted by Denise and Stuart Savage

“Reynardine” was taken from the EFDSS publication “The Seeds of Love.” The words are from Such & Pitts broadside and the tune collected by W P Merrick from Henry Hills. This version makes the warning to young girls of “man as beast” quite obvious.

Listen to the Savages’ version of “Reynardine:”

Sheet music for "Reynardine"
Download the sheet music for “Reynardine.”

Lyrics

One night upon my rambles two miles below Fermoy
I met a farmer’s daughter all on the mountains high
I said, “My pretty fair maid, your beauty shines so clear
All on these lonesome mountains, I’m glad to meet you here.”

She said, “Kind sir be civil, my company forsake
For in my own opinion, I fear you are some rake
And if my parents they should know, my life they would destroy
For keeping of your company all on the mountains high.”

He said, “My dear, I am no rake brought up in Venus’ train
But I’m seeking for concealment all on the lonesome plain
Your beauty so enticed me I could not pass it by
So it’s with my gun I’ll guard you all on the mountains high.”

Her cherry cheek and ruby lips, they lost their former dye
She fainted in his arms there all on the mountain high
They hadn’t kissed but once or twice till she came to again
With that she kindly asked him, “Pray tell to me your name.”

“If by chance you look for me, perhaps you’ll not me find
For I’ll be in my castle – enquire for Reynardine.”
Sun and dark she followed him, his teeth did brightly shine
And he led her over the mountains, that sly bold Reynardine.

Denise and Stuart Savage became involved in the folk music revival in the 60s while living in West Sussex, England, and have performed in various group combinations, now as a duo. They visited the USA in 2002 and again in 2004, when they were lucky enough to perform in a number of house concerts from Washington, DC, to Vermont.

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Special This Issue

Recurring Contributions

Submitted by Sue Burgess

This is a re-written version of a traditional Irish song called “Free and Easy to Jog Along,” sung by—among many others—Kevin Mitchell and Roisin White. 

A man goes on his rambles in Ireland and Scotland, having a good time meeting women, and perhaps breaking a few hearts along the way. In 2007, I was interested to hear well-known singer Peta Webb sing a version where the genders are reversed and the story told from a woman’s point of view. As I was very keen on the ‘equality’ idea for my own repertoire, Peta kindly gave me her revised text and a recording. 

After a while, I realized that the Irish tune just didn’t suit my singing style, but eventually found an English one which did. My choice grew out of listening to Sam Larner’s tune for “Bold Princess Royal,” which is very like that sung for “Yellow Handkerchief.” Unfortunately, it has a lot more notes in it, so I had to re-write the re-write with a few ideas of my own, and now very much enjoy singing the result. 

Listen to Sue singing “Free and Easy to Ramble Along:”

Sheet music for 'Free and Easy to Ramble Along'
Download the sheet music for “Free and Easy to Ramble Along”

Lyrics

(trad, arr Sue Burgess, after Peta Webb)

It’s a tale of my rambles that I surely will sing
Just like any small bird or thrush in the spring
When the sun she arises for to greet every morn
I am free and I am easy for to ramble along

Now the first one of my rambles, it was to Derry Quay
For to see all the lads there, and lasses so gay
And I sat me down among them for to sing them a song
I sang free and I sang easy for to ramble along

Well, the next one of my rambles, it was to Glasgow Green
Where the lads and the lasses were all to be seen
And I was the merriest all among that fine throng
For I was free and I was easy for to ramble along

Now I had not been there but a very short space
When a handsome young man he did smile in my face
He said: had I a husband or any such one?
No, I’m free and I am easy for to ramble along

I went along then with this young man all into some inn
Where we did drink brandy, strong ale and some gin
Then he asked it of me for to pledge heart and hand
And forget free and easy for to ramble along

Oh, no, my jolly young man, such things cannot be
For I’ve a fine notion to cross the stormy sea
When a girl she gets married, all her joys they are done
She’s no more free and easy for to ramble along

But if ever I return it will be in the spring
Once more of my rambles I surely will sing
I’ll drink a health to the lasses that will join me in song
That remain free and easy for to ramble along

Ever since her early years with the Songwainers at Cheltenham Folk Song Club in Gloucestershire, Sue Burgess has been a distinctive voice in several well-known harmony groups (notably Regal Slip) and duos; her love of traditional music has remained constant ever since.

Now living in Yorkshire, these days Sue appears regularly as a solo performer, recognised for her interpretation of a unique repertoire which has often been re-arranged to give a fairer representation of female characterization in traditional folk song. 

Most recently, Sue has also become part of The Gilchrist Collective—together with Peter & Barbara Snape and Brian Peters—in a project celebrating the work of Lancashire collector Anne Geddes Gilchrist, with a CD entitled Most Truly Yours.