The Oak and the Ash
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Lesley Nelson-Burns


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This English tune dates from about 1608 and may be even older. It appears in Sir John Hawkins's Transcripts of Music for the Virginals and Fitzwilliam Virginal Book (circa 1608-16) as Quodling's Delight. A very similar air is in The Dancing Master (1650-1701) under the title Goddess. It also appears in the Roxburghe ballads (a collection of 17th century ballads) as a black letter ballad.

A North Country maid up to London had strayed
Although with her nature it did not agree,
Which made her repent, and so bitterly lament,
Oh I wish again for the North Country.

Chorus
Oh the oak and the ash and the bonnie ivy tree,
They flourish at home in my own country.

O fain would I be in the North Country,
Where the lads and lasses are making of hay;
There should I see what is pleasant to me,
A mischief light on them entic'd me away!

Chorus

I like not the court, nor the city resort,
Since there is no fancy for such maids as me;
Their pomp and their pride I can never abide,
Because with my humor it does not agree.

Chorus

How oft have I been in Westmoreland green,
Where the young men and maidens resort for to play,
Where we with delight, from morning till night,
Could feast and frolic on each holiday.

Chorus

The ewes and their lambs, with the kids and their dams,
To see in the country how finely they play;
The bells they do ring, and birds they do sing,
And the fields and the gardens are pleasant and gay.

Chorus

At wakes and at fairs, being freed of all cares,
We there with our lovers did use for to dance;
Then hard hap had I, my ill fortune to try,
And so up to London, my steps to advance.

Chorus

But still I perceive, I a husband might have,
If I to the city my mind could but frame;
But I'll have a lad that is North Country bred,
Or else I'll not marry, in the mind that I am.

Chorus

A maiden I am, and a maid I'll remain,
Until my own country I again I do see,
From here in this place I shall ne'er see the face
Of him that's allotted my love for to be.

Chorus

Then farewell my daddy, and farewell my mammy,
Until I do se you, I nothing but mourn;
Rememb'ring my brothers, my sisters, and others,
In less than a year I hope to return.

Chorus

From Folk Songs of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales
See Bibliography for full information.