Bird Folksongs

Folksongs about Birds

Note: a. Melismata. Musicall Phansies Fitting the Court, 
Cittie, and Countrey Humours. London, 1611,
20* [T, Ravenacroft.] b. 'The Three Ravens,'
 Motherwell's Minstrelsy,  No Appendix, p. xviii, No XII.



1 THERE were three rauens sat on a tree,
Downe a downe, hay down, hay downe
There were three rauens sat on a tree,
With a downe
There were three rauens sat on a tree,
They were as blacke as they might be.
With a downe derrie, derrie, derrie, downe, downe

2 The one of them said to his mate,
'Where shall we our breakefast take?'

3 'Downe in yonder greene field,
There lies a knight slain vnder his shield.

4 'His hounds they lie downe at his feete,
So well they can their master keepe.

5 'His haukes they the so eagerly,
There's no fowle dare him come nie.'

6 Downe there comes a fallow doe,
As great with yong as she might goe.

7 She lift vp his bloudy hed,
And kist his wounds that were so red.

8 She got him vp vpon her backe,
And carried him to earthen lake.

9 She buried him before the prime,
She was dead herselfe ere euen-song time.

10 God send euery gentleman,
Such haukes, such hounds, and such a leman.


THREE ravens sat upon a tree,
Hey down, hey derry day
Three ravens sat upon a tree,
Hey down
Three ravens sat upon a tree,
And they were black as black could be.
And sing lay doo and in doo and day


The Twa Corbies and Variations

Name: 'The Twa Corbies'

Note: a. Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, no, 239, ed 1803,
communicated by C. K. Sharpe, as written down from
tradition by a lady. b. Albyn's Anthology, II, 27, 1818, 
"from the singing of Mr Thomas Shortreed, of Jedburgh, 
as sung and recited by his mother." c. Chambers's Scottish 
Ballads, p. 283, partly from recitation and partly from 
the Border Minstrelay. d. Fraser-Tytler MS., p. 70.


1 As I was walking all alane, 
I heard twa corbies making a mane;
The tane unto the t'other say,
'Where sall we gang and dine to-day?'

2 'In behint yon auld fail dyke,
I wot there lies a new slain knight;
And naebody kens that he lies there,
But his hawk, his honnd, and lady fair.

3 'His hound is to the hunting gane,
His hawk to fetch the wild-fowl hame,
His lady 'a ta'en another mate,
So we may mak our dinner sweet.

4 'Ye'll sit on his white hause-bane,
And I'll pike out his bonny blue een;
Wi ae lock o his gowden hair
We'll theek our nest when it grows bare.

5 'Mony a one for him makes mane,
But nane sall ken where he is gane;
Oer his white banes, when they are bare,
The wind sail blaw for evennair.'

1 As I cam by yon auld house end,
I saw twa corbies sittin thereon.
2(1) Whare but by yon new fa'en birk.
3 We'll sit upon his bonny breast-bane,
And we'll pick out his bonny gray een;
We'll set our claws intil his yallow hair, 
And big our bowr, it's a' blawn bare.
4 My mother clekit me o an egg,
And brought me up i the feathers gray,
And bade me flee whereer I wad,
For winter wad be my dying day.

5 Now winter it is come and past,
And a' the birds are biggie tha nests,
But I'll flee high aboon them a',
And sing a sang for summer's sake

1 As I gaed doun by yon hous-en,
Twa corbies there were sittand their lane,

2(1) 0 down beside you new-faun birk.

3(1) His horse. 3(2), His hounds to bring the wild deer hame.

4 0 we'11 sit on his bonnie breist-bane
And we'll pyke out his bonnie grey een.

1(1) walking forth. 
1(2) the ither. 
1(3) we twa dine.
3(2) wild bird.
5(2) naebody kens.
5(3) when we 'ye laid them bare. 
5(4) may blaw.


As I was a-walking for my recreation,
A down by the gardens I silently stray'd,
I heard a fair maid making great lamentation,
Crying, Jimmy will be slain in the wars I'm afraid.

The blackbirds and thrushes sang in the green bushes;
The wood doves and larks seem'd to mourn for the maid;
And this song that she sang was concerning her lover;
O Jimmy will be slain in the wars I'm afraid.

Her cheeks blushed like roses, her arms full of posies,
She stray'd in the meadows and, weeping, she said:
My heart it is aching, my poor heart is breaking,
For Jimmy will be slain in the wars I'm afraid.

When Jimmy returned with his heart full of burning,
He found his dear Nancy all dead in her grave
He cried: I'm forsaken, my poor heart is breaking,
O would that I never had left this fair maid!


O can't you see yon little turtle dove
Sitting under the mulberry tree?
See how that she doth mourn for her true love:
And I shall mourn for thee, my dear,
And I shall mourn for thee.

O fare thee well, my little turtle dove,
And fare thee well for a-while;
But though I go I'll surely come again,
If I go ten thousand mile, my dear,
If I go ten thousand mile.

Ten thousand mile is very far away,
For you to return to me,
You leave me here to lament, and well-a-day!
My tears you will not see, my love,
My tears you will not see.

The crow that's black, my little turtle dove,
Shall change its colour white;
Before I'm false to the maiden I love,
The noon-day shall be night, my dear,
The noon-day shall be night.

The hills shall fly, my little turtle dove,
The roaring billows burn,
Before my heart shall suffer me to fail,
Or I a traitor turn, my dear,
Or I a traitor turn.


Verse 1:
There's a corner in the meadow where the lads and lasses meet
Oh they do here what they couldn't do in the open street
They play all kinds of games there, but the one I like the best
Is where every laddie rumples up the cuckoo's nest.

It's high the cuckoo, low the cuckoo, high the cuckoo's nest
It's high the cuckoo, low the cuckoo, high the cuckoo's nest
I'll give any maid a shilling and a bottle of the best
Just to rumple up the feathers of her cuckoo's nest

Verse 2:
I wooed her in the morning and I had her in the night
She was my very first one so I tried to do it right
I searched around and wandered and I never would have guessed
If she hadn't showed me where to find her cuckoo's nest

Verse 3:
When she showed me where to find it I knew just where to go
Through the underbrush and brambles where the little cuckoos grow
From the moment that I found it, she would never let me rest
From rumpling up the feathers of her cuckoo's nest.

Verse 4:
It was bushy, it was prickled, it was feathered all around
It was tucked away so neatly and it wasn't easy found
She said young man you're blundering, but I knew it wasn't true
For I left her with the makings of a young cuckoo


1 The cuckoo is a pretty bird,
She singeth as she flies; She bringeth us good tidings,
She telleth us no lies; She sucketh all sweet flowers
To keep her throttle clear, And every time she singeth Cuckoo-cuckoo-cuckoo!
The summer draweth near.

2   The cuckoo is a giddy bird,
No other is as she, That flits across the meadow,
That sings in every tree. A nest she never buildeth,
A vagrant she doth roam; Her music is but tearful— Cuckoo-cuckoo-cuckoo!
" I nowhere have a home."

3   The cuckoo is a witty bird,
Arriving with the spring. When summer suns are waning
She spreadeth wide her wing. She flies th'approaching winter,
She hates the rain and snow; Like her, I would be singing, Cuckoo-cuckoo-cuckoo !

And off with her I'd go!

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