Farmer in the Dell, The
DESCRIPTION: "The farmer in the dell (x2), Hi ho the merry-o, the farmer in the dell." "The farmer takes a wife...." And so forth through a variety of creatures and things, typically ending with "The cheese stands alone."
EARLIEST DATE: 1883 (Newell)
KEYWORDS: animal family nonballad playparty
FOUND IN: US(MW,NE,SE) Britain(Scotland(Aber)) Canada(Ont)
REFERENCES (13 citations):
GreigDuncan8 1589, "The Farmer in the Dale" (4 texts, 3 tunes)
Greig #152, pp. 1-2, "The Farmer in his Den" (1 text)
Linscott, pp. 7-9, "The Farmer in the Dell" (1 text, 1 tune)
Wolford, pp. 42-43=WolfordRev, pp. 209-210, "Farmer in the Well" (1 text, 1 tune)
Opie-Game 38, "The Farmer's in His Den" (1 text, 1 tune)
Montgomerie-ScottishNR 83, "(The Farmer in his den)" (1 text)
Newell, #64, "The Farmer in the Dell" (1 text, 1 tune)
BrownSchinhanV, pp. 535-536, "Farmer in the Dell" (2 short texts, 2 tune)
Welsch, pp. 284-285, "The Farmer in the Dell" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fuld-WFM, p. 224, "The Farmer in the Dell"
ADDITIONAL: A.F. Chamberlain, "Folk-Lore of Canadian Children" in The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. VIII, No. 30 (Jul 1895 (available online by JSTOR)), pp. 254-255 "Highery O Valerio" (1 text)
Leah Rachel Clara Yoffie, "Three Generations of Children's Singing Games in St. Louis" in The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. LX, No. 235 (Jan 1947 (available online by JSTOR)), #15 p. 23 ("The farmer in the dell, the farmer in the dell") (1 text)
Tony Wales, "Four Children's Singing Games (The Farmer in his Den)" (on TWales1)
cf. "A-Hunting We Will Go" (tune of some versions)
The Pumpkin on the Vine (Pankake-PHCFSB, p. 153)
NOTES: Although the earliest date I can offer for this song is Newell's 1883 version, I suspect it can be dated several decades earlier. William Ross Hartpence, History of the Fifty-first Indiana Veteran Volunteer Infantry: A Narrative (1894), pp. 94-95, has a song with the chorus
Old Rosy is the man, old Rosy is the man,
We'll show our deed where'er he leads,
Old Rosy is the man.
This, according to Hartpence, was sung by a fellow named William E. Lock, a Confederate spy, in 1862, after William S. Rosecrans took command of the Union's Army of the Cumberland. Supposedly "thousands of men" would sing out the chorus. (They might change their tunes later, but at the time, everyone was thrilled to get rid of general Don Carlos Buell, who had sent the army chasing all over Kentucky, leaving them starving and sore, while leading them to a drawn battle at Perryville despite having about a two to one edge in forces engaged. Everyone, it appears, was glad to be rid of Buell; see James Lee McDonough, War in Kentucky: From Shiloh to Perryville, 1994 (I use the 1996 University of Tennessee paperback), pp. 316-318; he quotes "Old Rosy" on p. 318).
There are many more words in Hartpence's text, which do not fit the "Farmer in the Dell" tune, but I can't help but feel that the chorus was sung to this melody. If so, that would date the tune, at least, to 1862.
"Old Rosy" itself seems not to have gone into tradition; the Hartpence book seems to be the only extant source. - RBW
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