The Bold Fisherman
Bob Lewis: On Autumn Harvest ah09: Bob Lewis: Drive Sorrows Away. Recorded at the Fife Traditional Singing Festival May 2009.
This rather beautiful song has been often collected in southern England and was recorded by Harry Cox in a recording made in London in 1934. This was included on the anthology Songs of Courtship & Marriage (The Voice of the People Series Vol. 1, Topic 1998) and on the World Music Network compilation The Rough Guide to English Roots Music. Bob has known the song for many years and it seems to have been particularly well liked in his area of Sussex and is in the repertoire of his friends and neighbours, the Copper Family of Rottingdean. On the face of it the song seems to tell the tale of a young girl meeting a fisherman who turns out to be a lord in disguise. However, the collector Lucy Broadwood suggested that the song contains an element of Christian symbolism in its origins: the girl being the sinful soul who meets Christ – the fisher of souls – who she recognises by his chains of gold. She begs forgiveness for first addressing him as a fisherman. This is granted and she becomes the bride of Christ. Whatever interpretation is put on the song, it is usually greatly treasured by singers. The song is also treasured by musicians and musicologists as being a fine example of a tune in 5/4 time (Roud 291; Laws O24).
|1: As I walked out one May morning down by the river side,
There I beheld a bold fisherman a rowing on the tide;
A rowing on the tide,
There I beheld a bold fisherman a rowing on the tide.
2: “Good morning to you bold fisherman, how come you fishing here?”
“I’ve come here a-fishing for your sweet sake all on this river clear;
All on this river clear,
I’ve come here a-fishing for your sweet sake all on this river clear.”
3: He drew his boat unto the bank and tied it to a stake,
And walked up to this lady fair, her lilywhite hand to take;
Her lilywhite hand to take,
And walked up to this lady fair, her lilywhite hand to take.
4: He then drew off his morning gown and laid it on the ground,
Then she beheld three chains of gold around his neck was bound;
Around his neck was bound,
Then she beheld three chains of gold around his neck was bound.
5: She fell down on her bending knee, for mercy she implored,
“In calling you a bold fisherman, I fear you are some lord;
I fear you are some lord,
In calling you a bold fisherman I fear you are some lord.”
6: “Rise up, rise up my lady fair and don’t down-daunted be,
For there’s not one word that you have said has the least offended me;
Has the least offended me,
There is not one word that you have said has the least offended me.”
7: “I’ll take you to my father’s house and married we will be,
Then you shall have your bold fisherman to row you on the sea;
To row you on the sea,
Then you shall have your bold fisherman to row you on the sea.”
Alternative line for verse 7, line 1:
He took her by the lilywhite hand saying, “Married we will be,
c p 2010 Autumn Harvest : www.springthyme.co.uk