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Shepherd of the Downs (Copper Family)

05 Aug 10 - 10:03 PM (#2959196)
Subject: Shepherd of the Downs
From: Matthew Edwards

Jon Boden's latest addition to his 'A Folk Song A Day' blog is the Copper family song Shepherd of the Downs.

There doesn't seem to be a Mudcat thread devoted to the song so this is to start things off.

It seems such a classic folk song that its origins as a rather artificial pastoral eclogue have almost completely disappeared. However it was once known as 'The shepherd Adonis', and its transformation into the song 'Shepherd of the Downs' must rank as one of the best folk puns ever, as well as a brilliant example of the "folk process" at work.

Matthew


05 Aug 10 - 10:09 PM (#2959200)
Subject: ADD: Shepherd of the Downs
From: maple_leaf_boy

SHEPHERD OF THE DOWNS

A shepherd of the downs, being weary of his port
Retired to the hills where he used to resort
In want of refreshment, he laid himself down
He wanted no riches nor wealth from the crown

He drank of the cold brook, he ate of the tree
Himself he did enjoy, of all sorrow he was free
He valued no girl, be she ever so fair
No pride or ambition, he valued no care

As he was a walking one evening so clear
A heavenly sweet voice sounded soft in his ear
He stood like a post, not one step could he move
He knew not what ailed him, but thought it was love

He beheld a young damsel, a fair modest maid
She had something amiss and disguised in her face
Disguised in her face, she unto him did say
"How now, Master Shepherd, how come you this way?"

The shepherd replied and modestly said
"I never was surprised before at a maid
When first you beheld me, from sorrow I was free
But now you have stolen my poor heart away"

He took her by the hand and this he did say
"We will get married, pretty Betsy, today"
So to the church they did go and were married, we hear
And now he'll enjoy pretty Betsy, his dear


(as recorded by Bob and Ron Copper)

I was listening to the Peter Bellamy recording of this song
tonight. I got it from "A Shepherd's Songbook." It doesn't say
the origins, though.

http://www.ramshornstudio.com/downs.htm


05 Aug 10 - 10:12 PM (#2959202)
Subject: RE: Shepherd of the Downs
From: Matthew Edwards

The Copper family song 'The Shepherd of the Downs' seems such a quintessentially English song. When you listen to Bob and Ron Copper singing this together in their 1963 recording the song seems to fit their voices just like a shepherd's smock. Their rich voices blend together first in unison, then in harmony, in an utterly gorgeous texture. Many of the Copper family had been shepherds on the Sussex downs. Bob Copper wrote about these old shepherds in his book 'A Song For All Seasons' and how at the end of the working day:-

"Someone would start to sing-

'Oh the shepherd of the downs being weary of his port,
He retired to the hills where he used to resort,
In want of refreshment he laid himself down,
He wanted no riches, nor wealth from the crown,
He wanted no riches, nor wealth from the crown.'

One by one those that were capable or felt inclined joined in adding a harmony here and there or a good old bass run at the end of a line while the barn owl, squatting like a dim, grey ghost high up in the cobwebbed rafters, where the pale candlelight scarcely penetrated, blinked down on the scene and was puzzled, perhaps, at the unfamiliar sound,"


It comes as something of a shock to discover that the earliest versions of this song are in fact Scottish!

Here is the oldest known version:-
^^
The Shepherd of Dona

The Shepherd of Dona being wearied with sport,
To find some repose, to the woods did resort;
He threw by his pipe, and he laid himself down,
He envy'd no monarch, he wished for no crown.

He drank of the brook, and did eat of the tree,
Injoying himself, from all trouble he was free;
He call'd for noe nymph, were she never soe fair,
He'd noe love, noe ambition, and therfor noe care.

But as he lay thus, in ane evening soe cleare,
A pleasant sweet voyce outreached his eare;
Which came from Arcadia, that old ancient grove,
Where the fair nymph Elfreda frequented that cove.

As he lay thus, [reposing] and found she was there,
He was quite confounded to see her soe fair;
He stood like a ston, not a foot he could move,
He knew not what ail'd him, but fear'd it was love.

the nymph she beheld him with a modest grace,
Seeing something majestick appear in his face;
Till with blushing a little to him she did say,
Oh, good shepherd what mean you, how came you this way.

With reviving of spirits unto her he said,
I was ne'er soe surpris'd at the sight of a maid;
Ay until I beheld thee of love I was free,
But now I'me ta'en captive my faire love by thee.

This is the earliest known version of the song, and it comes from a manuscript in the lecture notes of a presumably bored medical student, William Hamilton of Airdrie, made while attending the University of Glasgow in 1699-1700. However this wasn't published until 1844 when James Maidment included it in his edition A new book of old ballads. In the meantime it had passed through what Maidment considered the "barber-ous hands of Allan Ramsey" whose Tea-table Miscellany of 1723 included the song 'The Shepherd Adonis'.

Matthew


05 Aug 10 - 10:17 PM (#2959206)
Subject: RE: Shepherd of the Downs
From: Matthew Edwards

^^
The Shepherd Adonis

The shepherd Adonis
Being weary'd with sport,
He, for retirement,
To the woods did resort;
He threw down his club,
And he laid himself down;
He envy'd no monarch,
Nor wish'd for a crown.

He drank of the burn,
And he are frae the tree,
Himself he enjoy'd,
And frae trouble was free.
He wish'd for no nymph,
Though never sae fair,
Had nae love nor ambition,
And therefore no care.

But as he lay thus
In an ev'ning sae clear,
A heav'nly sweet voice
Sounded saft in his ear;
Which came from a shady
Green neighbouring grove,
Where bonny Amynta
Sat singing of love.

He wander'd that way,
And found wha was there,
He was quite confounded
Ta see her sae fair:
He stood like a statue,
Not a foot cou'd he move,
Nor knew he what griev'd him;
But he fear'd it was love.

The nymph she beheld him
With a kind modest grace,
Seeing something that pleas'd her
Appear in his face,
With blushing a little
She to him did say,
Oh shepherd! what want ye,
How came you this way?

His spirits reviving,
He to her reply'd,
I was ne'er sae surpris'd
At the sight of a maid;
Until I beheld thee,
From Love I was free;
But now I'm ta'en captive,
My fairest, by thee.

Allan Ramsay, The Tea-table Miscellany: a collection of choice songs. First published Edinburgh, 1723.
This is from the 1775 edition in Google Books: A Tea-Table Miscellany.

Matthew


05 Aug 10 - 10:29 PM (#2959211)
Subject: RE: Shepherd of the Downs
From: Matthew Edwards

Finally here's a quite extraordinary broadside variant with lots of extra verses from the London printer Larkin How who was active in Petticoat Lane between 1741 and 1762. This can be seen in the Bodleian Ballads Catalogue under the title The Contented Lovers, or, a pleasant courtship between a shepherd and a nymph. I haven't been able to decipher some of the words.

^^ The Contented LOVERS
or a
Pleasant Courtship, between a SHEPHERD and a NYMPH

Shepherd Adonis being weary of his sport,
Return'd to the Woods where he us'd to resort,
He let fall his Crook, and he laid himself down
He envy'd no Monarch, nor he wished for no Crown.

He drank of the cold Brooks, eat the fruit of the Trees,
Enjoying himself, from all care was he free;
He valued no Nymph, was she ever so fair,
No Pride, no Ambition, no, likewise no Care.

But as it fell out in one Evening so clear,
A charming sweet Voice he chanc'd for to hear,
He stood like a stone, not one Foot could he move,
He knew not what ail'd him, but he fear'd it was Love.

The Nymph she beheld him with her modest grace,
Seeing something appear, she disguised her Face,
She disguised her Face, and unto him did say,
How now Mr. Shepherd, how came you this way.

The Shepherd replied, and to her he said,
I ne'er was surpriz'd at the sight of a Maid;
When that I beheld thee, from all Care was I free,
But now I am, Captive my dearest to thee.

O! Shepherd, O! Shepherd, leave not your free state;
For Love it will tangle you in sorrow that's great,
And distract your Brain, that you ne'er will have rest,
Then incline not to Love, for as yet you are blest.

Fair Nymph of the Wood, and thou charmer of Man,
The Beauty's so great I can't it withstand:
Then pity my Case, and yield me some Joy,
O! pity, O! pity, a wounded young Boy.

The Nymph she reply'd with a languishing look,
Saying Shepherd, alas! my way I mistook;
Or you never had seen, nor I know where you were,
For now I do pity you, I now do declare.

Then sit thee down by me, O! thou beauteous Nymph
And let me enjoy thy sweet Person one glimpse,
Of the Beauty Cælestial, so charming, so fair,
The Beauty indeed is beyond all compare.

O don't prove my downfall! why will you O why?
Will you let your poor Shepherd thus languish and die,
If you grant me not Love, all the world can't me save,
Tho' I once did it slight, it will bring me to the Grave.

With that poor Adonis let fall some few tears,
His Face look'd pale, when discover'd his Cares,
The Nymph look'd [...], and blushing did cry,
O no sweet Adonis, for me thou shan't die.

Then take now your sheperdess be no more coy,
In Love let us live, and each other enjoy,
In the Grove that's so pleasant, [.........],
In Love let us live, and in Love let us die.

This answer revived poor Adonis's heart[?],
His troubles were fled and he [...........],
The Nymph she receiv'd [...................],
And from her fair Shepherd she [............].

As charming Venus was, when she wa[.....],
Along with brave Mars when the Gods did at them [...],
This Nymph and young Shepherd [...........]
Like the light of the Sun beams so charming they were,

Thus in great enjoyment fro care and all strife,
these two loving couple lead a happy Life,
No Wars, no Battles, nor Rumours they see,
In Peace and in great Comfort, and in Pleasure they be.

Amongst the sweet Groves thus pleasant they live,
Nothing they want but Heaven doth them give:
It is there, it is there, O! it's there that they keep,
their quiet, contented and poor, harmless sheep.

All Day near to Mountains, and Rivers they rove,
At Night they return to their peacable Grove,
And thus in the Day as well as the Night,
They live in great Pleasure, in Joy and Delight.

One sings with her voice, the other plays with her flute,
While one is employed, the other stands mute,
They look at each other, so charming, so sweet,
Sometimes interposing their Lips they do meet.

Thus charming, thus lovely, they lead a sweet life,
So free from all care, and so safe from all strife,
If therefore all of you, contentment would find,
Like these happy couple be loving and Kind.


London: Printed and Sold by L. How in Petticoat-Lane

Bodleian Ballads Catalogue: Harding B 39(189)

Matthew


06 Aug 10 - 12:25 AM (#2959250)
Subject: RE: Shepherd of the Downs
From: scowie

I discovered this conection some time ago, and had the great pleasure of discussing the same with my friend, the late great Bob Copper himself.
An article was subsequently published in the Folk Magazine "Folk Leads" informing everyone.


06 Aug 10 - 02:52 AM (#2959275)
Subject: RE: Shepherd of the Downs
From: Desert Dancer

Thanks for your additions, Matthew.

~ Becky in Long Beach


06 Aug 10 - 03:43 AM (#2959289)
Subject: RE: Shepherd of the Downs
From: Georgiansilver

RIP Peter Bellamy


06 Aug 10 - 05:08 AM (#2959312)
Subject: RE: Shepherd of the Downs
From: GUEST,Jon Dudley

I shall never forget Bob's delight in learning of the derivation of that song when we received a photocopy of the relevant page from 'The Tea-Table Miscellany'. As always, never disappointment at not having something unique, but rather sheer wonderment at the way in which the old songs got around and were transmitted and changed orally by the ordinary people - despite the more scholarly beginnings.

Which reminds me Scowie...I haven't responded to your last communication. Will remedy that asap, but a sheer delight nonetheless. Sadly I'm not as dutiful or comprehensive a letter-writer as Bob.


06 Aug 10 - 05:46 AM (#2959321)
Subject: RE: Shepherd of the Downs
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray

Lovely thread.


06 Aug 10 - 05:46 AM (#2959322)
Subject: RE: Shepherd of the Downs
From: MGM·Lion

Georgiansilver ~~ a beautiful track of my dear late friend Pete's indeed; thank you.   But let us not forget [as did the poster on Youtube and those who commented appear to have done] that the second part there is so superbly taken by the great Louis Killen.

~Michael~


06 Aug 10 - 06:20 AM (#2959330)
Subject: RE: Shepherd of the Downs
From: Matthew Edwards

Scowie, my apologies for not mentioning your Folk Leads article - I have got a copy, but I couldn't track it down earlier.

Scowie's article quotes from a letter written to him in 1999 by Bob Copper in which Bob recalled that his own great, great Grandfather George, born in Rottingdean in 1784, had sung this song.

There are 21 examples of the song in Roud's Folk Song Index, where the song is Roud number 1215. Almost all the of the examples from tradition come from the Copper family, apart from one intriguing entry in a 19th century Irish manuscript song book. The example collected from Jim Copper in 1949 by Francis Collinson can be found online in the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) Take Six resource by searching for '1215' under 'Roud number'. Jim Copper's version has the slightly different line

"He knew not what hailed him but thought it was love..."

I wonder if Jim simply and quite naturally aspirated the word "ailed", and pronounced in with an aitch.

Matthew


06 Aug 10 - 07:43 AM (#2959367)
Subject: RE: Shepherd of the Downs
From: GUEST,callingbird

Thanks you for posting this, Matthew.

It has made very interesting reading and is indeed a lovely thread.


06 Aug 10 - 08:17 AM (#2959388)
Subject: RE: Shepherd of the Downs
From: scowie

Matthew, many thanks, no appology was needed, just a little clarification.
I actually came across it by accident, a friend of mine put out a C.D. with Sweet williams Ghost on, and I decided perversly to check the accuracy of the version claimed to be used, it was spot on!
Fortunetly I have a copy of the Tea Time Misc.and having found Sweet Williams Ghost continued to read, and discovered A Sheperd Adonis.
The rest you know, the only instance I can think of, of the oral tradition caught in print....facinating!


06 Aug 10 - 08:21 AM (#2959389)
Subject: RE: Shepherd of the Downs
From: scowie

Oh! and thanks too for the other versions of the Sheperd Adonis that were unknown to me.


06 Aug 10 - 08:36 AM (#2959395)
Subject: RE: Shepherd of the Downs
From: Valmai Goodyear

Matthew wrote: "He knew not what hailed him but thought it was love..."

I wonder if Jim simply and quite naturally aspirated the word "ailed", and pronounced in with an aitch.'

Yes, some Sussex speakers still put an H at the start of words which begin with a vowel and drop it from words which actually begin with an H. On the recording of George Townsend singing The Glittering Dewdrops, he starts off carefully singing the chorus as 'O echo, bright echo, the echoing horn' but by the end of the song the h has dropped off Horn and added itself to Echo throughout. And Echoing emerges as Hee-ko-ing, too.

You also still hear 'sin' for 'seen'.

Valmai (Lewes)


12 Aug 10 - 10:45 PM (#2964086)
Subject: RE: Shepherd of the Downs
From: GUEST,DPB

Here is a rough attempt, for what it's worth, at reconstructing some of the illegible lines very kindly transcribed by Matthew Edwards:

With that poor Adonis let fall some few tears,
His Face look'd pale, when discover'd his Cares,
The Nymph look'd [sad], and blushing did cry,
O no sweet Adonis, for me thou shan't die.

Then take now your [shepherdess] be no more coy,
In Love let us live, and each other enjoy,
In the Grove that's so pleasant, [..... high,]   
In Love let us live, and in Love let us die.

This answer revived poor Adonis's [Heart],
His troubles were fled and he [did no more smart,]
The Nymph she receiv'd [him with looks soft and kind,]
And from her fair Shepherd she [comfort did find.]

Then softly he took her and did lay her down.
The Sky was their teaster, their Bed was the Ground,
He folded her often in his [.....] arms,   
Her Face and her Features discovered their charms.   

As charming Venus was, when she wa[s took],
Along with brave Mars when the Gods did at them [look],
This Nymph and young Shepherd, [most Pleasant & fair,]
Like the light of the Sun beams so charming they were,


The last verse cited here has a reference to Vulcan's (Hephaestus's) entrapment of Venus and Mars (Aphrodite and Ares), as related in the Odyssey. A teaster, or tester, in the preceding verse, is a canopy over a bed, according to the OED.

If anyone is hanging around the Bodleian this weekend, perhaps you could get us the actual words?


David


20 Aug 10 - 11:05 PM (#2969805)
Subject: RE: Shepherd of the Downs
From: GUEST,DPB

Another outstanding version of this ballad is by Heather Wood and Royston Wood on their album [No Relation] (Transatlantic TRA 342), recorded in 1977. Heather Wood has kindly replied to a query that the harmonization on this recording was made by double-tracking both their voices. Below is a transcription of their version with slight variants, checked against the one on Reinhard Zierke's site (which also has the track listing and notes). Heather Wood confirms that they learned it from the Copper Family:


A Shepherd of the Downs

A shepherd of the Downs, being weary of his port,
He retired to the hills where he used to resort.
In want of refreshment, he laid himself down.
He wanted no riches nor wealth from the Crown.
[Repeat]

He drank of the cold brook, he ate of the tree.
Himself he did enjoy, from all sorrow was free.
He valued no girl, be she ever so fair,
No pride nor ambition, he valued no care.   
[Repeat]

As he was a-walking one evening so clear,
A heavenly sweet voice sounded soft in his ear.
He stood like a post, not one step could he move.
He knew not what ailed him, but thought it was love.
[Repeat]

He beheld a young damsel, a fair modest maid.   
She had something amiss and disguised in her face.
Disguised in her face, she unto him did say,
"How now, Master Shepherd, how come you this way?"
[Repeat]

The shepherd, he replied and modestly said,   
"I never was surprisèd before at a maid.   
When first you beheld me, from sorrow I was free,
But now you have stolen my poor heart away."
[Repeat]

Then he took her by the hand and this he did say,
"We will be married, pretty Betsy, today."
So to church they did go and were married, we hear,
And now he'll enjoy pretty Betsy, his dear.
[Repeat]

The final line of each verse is repeated. Note the accent of surprisèd in the fifth verse. Was the word in the first line originally "fort" instead of "port" or "sport?" According to the OED, fort could signify "[1b] A strong position, stronghold" and, more interestingly, "[2] The place of security (of a wild animal)," giving these examples: "A... roe-buck which was come out of his Fort" and "If a Boar intends to abide in his den, couch, or Fort." But apart from its general meaning, could "port" have been a specific dialect word for a shepherd's habitation?


David


21 Aug 10 - 06:05 AM (#2969924)
Subject: RE: Shepherd of the Downs (Copper Family)
From: Marje

Thanks for the various contributed versions of this song. I've known the Copper version for years, but always felt that the 4th verse had suffered from some misremembering. The first two lines don't rhyme, and the repeated "disguised in her face" makes little sense. I think I can now tweak and improve my version using some of the other variants.

For me, the change from "Shepherd Adonis" to "Shepherd of the Downs" is a great adaptation - it keeps the pastoral context of the song but brings it into the real world familiar to singers.

Marje