A-Hunting We Will Go
DESCRIPTION: "A-hunting we will go (x2) We'll catch a fox and put it in a box." Possible chorus: "High-ho, the derry-o." Additional verses may hunt other animals, such as fish or bear -- e.g. "We'll catch a bear and cut his hair, And then we'll let him go."
EARLIEST DATE: 1892 (Northall)
KEYWORDS: hunting nonballad animal
FOUND IN: Britain(England(West), Scotland(Aber)) US(MW,So) New Zealand
REFERENCES (5 citations):
GreigDuncan8 1591, "Oh a Hunting" (1 fragment, 1 tune)
Sutton-Smith-NZ, p. 40, "(There was a jolly miller") (1 text, which open with verses from "The Miller Boy (Jolly is the Miller I)" and continues with "A-Hunting We Will Go"); p. 41, "(Would you lend my mother a saucepan)" (1 text, which also adds this verse to what appears an unrelated game)
ADDITIONAL: Emelyn E Gardner, "Some Play-Party Games in Michigan" in The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. XXXIII, No. 128 (Apr 1920 (available online by JSTOR)), #16 p. 102, "Have You Seen the Sha?" (1 text)
Ruth Ann Musick and Vance Randolph, "Children's Rhymes from Missouri" in The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. LXIII, No. 250 (Oct 1950 (available online by JSTOR)), p. 431, ("A-hunting we will go, a-hunting we will go") (1 text)
G.F. Northall, English Folk-Rhymes (London, 1892 ("Digitized by Google")), pp. 386-387, ("A hunting we will go") (2 texts)
cf. "The Noble Duke of York" (tune)
cf. "The Farmer in the Dell" (tune)
cf. "The Plains of Waterloo (VIII)" (tune, per DallasCruel)
cf. "A-Mumming We WIll Go" (format)
NOTES [328 words]: This is a popular enough children's song that I actually encountered it in my youth, with the "High-ho" chorus and tune related to "The Farmer in the Dell." I don't know if I met it at school or at home; I do note that the Internet reveals many school-related versions, often badly damaged and with utterly sickening lesson plans attached. (I refuse to cite links on the grounds that American education is already too touchy-feely.)
I strongly suspect that the verse about catching a fox and putting it in a box did *not* originally involve letting it go, making me suspect a rewrite. Perhps this is why, although the song seems to be common in modern children's anthologies, there aren't many traditional collections. - RBW
The non-sequitur reply to Gardner's "Have You Seen the Sha?," who "lights his pipe on a starlight night," is the text "A-hunting we will go ... We'll catch a fox ...." Gomme (1.243-244) lists ("O have you seen the Shah") with two other versions of this "A-Hunting We Will Go."
Northall has two versions: one -- "we'll catch a little fish, And put him in a dish" -- from Shropshire, and the other -- "we'll catch a fox ...." -- from Derbyshire. - BS
Katherine Briggs, A Dictionary of British Folk-Tales in the English Language, Part A: Folk Narratives, 1970 (I use the 1971 Routledge paperback that combines volumes A.1 and A.2), volume A.2, pp. 528-530, "The Fox and the Pixies" is a folktale which she thinks might be influenced by this.
Tony Deane and Tony Shaw The Folklore of Cornwall, B. T. Batsford, 1975, p. 68,, has a verse which they say Peter Kennedy collected in Cornwall:
O the Farmers go around and fill their bags tied up with straw,
The miners they go underground and never miss a blaw,
O a-mining we will go, my boys, a-mining we will go,
With picks and shovels in our hands, a-mining we will go.
Deane and Shaw do not give enough information to identify their source, but I suspect their version is from this family. - RBW
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