The Alphabet

Collected by Cecil Sharp from Mrs Beecher at Shipston Workhouse, 26 April 1910.

We Be Soldiers Three

The song first appeared in Thomas Ravenscroft’s Deuteromelia 1609. The tavern scene is by the 17th century Dutch painter Adriaen van Ostade.

Arise, Arise

Arise, Arise came from Jack Barnard (48) Bridgwater, Somerset, 4 April 1907 noted by Cecil Sharp.

The sunrise was at Chillaton, Devon.

The Nobleman and The Thresher

I’ve forgotten where I found the song, but it was widely known at the time Randolph Caldecott illustrated his first picture book, The House That Jack Built, in 1878.


At school in the 1950s we sang in all innocence this version of A-Roving, collected and ‘cleaned up’ by Cecil Sharp. It has none of the rousing, bawdy original, but of course we liked it anyway, never questioning what the lady’s trade was or why roving had caused the young man’s ruin.

In the folk clubs of the 1960s the versions were slightly more robust, but never ventured much further than ‘I put my hand upon her toe, She said, Young man you’ve far to go.’

The Three Ravens

The Three Ravens was first printed by Thomas Ravenscroft in 1611, but the song is thought to be much older. It survives to this day in several versions, particularly in Scotland. I sang ‘lack’ rather than lake in verse 4 for the sake of the rhyme. Leman in the final verse means sweetheart or truelove.

Edward Frederick Brewtnall painted The Three Ravens in 1885.