Painful Plough, The
DESCRIPTION: "Come all you jolly plowmen, of courage stout and bold... To crown them with contentment, behold the painful plow." The gardener and plowman discuss the antiquity of their profession. The plowman wins the argument because the plow makes all else possible
EARLIEST DATE: before 1839 (broadside, Harding B 11(2936))
KEYWORDS: farming worker
FOUND IN: Britain(England(Lond,South),Scotland(Aber))
REFERENCES (11 citations):
Dixon-Peasantry, Song #2, pp. 167-169,245, "The Painful Plough" (1 text)
Bell-Combined, pp. 363-365, "The Painful Plow" (1 text)
Williams-Thames, pp. 242-243, "The Faithful Plough" (1 text) (also Wiltshire-WSRO Wt 430)
Wiltshire-WSRO Gl 33, "Ploughman" (1 text)
Palmer-Painful, #19, "The Painful Plough" (1 text, abridged from Barrett; 1 tune)
OShaughnessy-Yellowbelly1 17, "The Gardener and the Ploughman" (1 text, 1 tune) [see Note]
RoudBishop #101, "The Painful Plough" (1 text, 1 tune)
Greig #66, p. 1, "The Painful Plough" (1 text)
GreigDuncan3 448, "The Painful Plough" (5 texts, 2 tunes)
Ord, pp. 222-223, "The Painful Plough" (1 text)
Broadwood/Maitland, pp. 126-127, "The Painful Plough" (1 text, 1 tune)
Bodleian, Harding B 11(2936), "The Painful Plough" ("Come all you jolly ploughmen of courage stout and bold"), J. Catnach (London), 1813-1838; also Johnson Ballads 2086, Harding B 20(127), 2806 c.17(325), Firth b.26(485), Harding B 11(2935), "[The] Painful Plough"
cf. "The Irish Boy" (tune, per GreigDuncan3)
The Ploughman and the Gardener
NOTES: OShaughnessy-Yellowbelly2 35 replaces the text for OShaughnessy-Yellowbelly1 17, a text mainly written by O'Shaughnessy.
Greig: "The expression 'painful plough' is very interesting, as illustrating how tradition may retain a word even after its original meaning has become obsolete and liable to be misunderstood. 'Painful' here means painstaking or laborious." - BS
This sounds reasonable -- but I wouldn't bet the farm on it. Note that one stanza of this song claims that "Adam was a plowman when plowing first begun." This is not scriptural; on the face of it, Adam was a hunter/gatherer. Cain is correctly identified as a farmer (Genesis 4:2). But Genesis 3:17 declares, "Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life." This is right after God declares that Eve shall suffer misery in childbirth. Sounds pretty painful to me (and most modern translations use the word "pain" or "painful" somewhere in Genesis 3:16-17, though the King James Version does not).
The exploits of Samson are in Judges 13-16. Solomon's wisdom is mentioned, e.g., in 1 Kings 3:12 (though in fact 1 Kings devotes more space to his folly than his wisdom). David's slaying of "his ten thousands" is mentioned first in 1 Samuel 18:7.
The exploits of Alexander the Great are not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, though there are several mentions in the Greek Old Testament; in any case, he was well-known to tradition. - RBW
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