Tavern in the Town
DESCRIPTION: Singer laments her lover, who courted her ardently but now goes to a tavern and courts others while leaving her pining. She hopefully anticipates dying and being buried.
EARLIEST DATE: 1883 (sheet music published by Shapiro, Bernstein & Co. of New York)
KEYWORDS: loneliness courting infidelity rejection abandonment
FOUND IN: Britain(England(All),Scotland(Aber)) US(MA) Canada(Newf) Ireland
REFERENCES (29 citations):
Sharp-100E 94, "A Brisk Young Sailor" (1 text, 1 tune)
Leather, pp. 205-206, "A Brisk Young Sailor" (1 text, 1 tune)
Wiltshire-WSRO Wt 497, "There Is a Tavern in the Town"; Wiltshire-WSRO Wt 424, "When I Wore My Apron Low" (2 texts)
Kidson-Tunes, pp. 44-46, "My True Love Once He Courted Me" (4 texts, 4 tunes)
Palmer-ECS, #82, "The Brisk Young Sailor" (1 text, 1 tune)
VaughanWilliams/Palmer, #42, "A Briskk Young Sailor" (1 text, 1 tune)
Belden, pp. 478-480, "The Blue-Eyed Boy" (4 texts, though "D" is a fragment, probably of "Tavern in the Town" or "The Butcher Boy" or some such)
BrownIII 259, "I'll Hang My Harp on a Willow Tree" (2 fragments, named for that key line from "Tavern in the Town" which occurs in both fragments, but the "A" text is mostly "Pretty Little Foot")
BrownSchinhanV 259, "I'll Hang My Harp on a Willow Tree" (2 tunes plus text excerpts)
GreigDuncan6 1169, "Died for Love" (11 texts, 8 tunes); 1171, "There Is a Tavern in the Town" (1 fragment, 1 tune)
SHenry H683, p. 393, "The Apron of Flowers" (1 text, 1 tune -- apparently a collection of floating verses including one that goes here)
OCroinin-Cronin 81, "Last Night Being Windy" (3 texts, 1 tune)
Reeves-Sharp 20, "A Brisk Young Lover" (5 texts)
Korson-PennLegends, pp. 48-49, "I Wish In Vain" (1 text, 1 tune)
RJackson-19CPop, pp. 210-213, "There Is a Tavern in the Town" (1 text, 1 tune)
Spaeth-ReadWeep, pp. 84-85, "There Is a Tavern in the Town" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber-FSWB, p. 180, "There Is A Tavern In The Town" (1 text)
Fuld-WFM, pp. 572-573, "There Is a Tavern in the Town"
LPound-ABS, 23, p. 62, "There Is a Tavern in the Town" (1 text; the "A" text is "The Butcher Boy")
Peacock, pp. 705-706, "She Died in Love" (1 text, 1 tune)
Shay-Barroom, pp. 62-63, "There Is a Tavern in the Town" (1 text, 1 tune)
Messerli, pp. 203-204, "There Is a Tavern in the Town" (1 text)
Darling-NAS, pp. 140-141, "The Tavern in the Town" (1 text, filed under "The Butcher Boy")
ADDITIONAL: Henry Randall Waite, _College Songs: A Collection of New and Popular Songs of the American Colleges_, new and enlarged edition, Oliver Ditson & Co., 1887, pp. 4-5, "There Is a Tavern in the Town" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-FSNA 229, "Hard, Ain't It Hard" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber-FSWB, p. 185, "Hard, Ain't It Hard" (1 text)
DT, TAVTOWN AINTHARD*
ST ShH94 (Full)
Amy Birch, "Over Yonder's Hill" (on Voice11)
"Pops" Johnny Connors, "There is an Alehouse" (on IRTravellers01)
Rudy Vallee, "Tavern in the Town" (Victor 24739, 1934)
Mrs. Thomas Walters, "She Died in Love" (on PeacockCDROM) [one verse only]
Almanac Singers, "Hard, Ain't It Hard" (General 5019A, 1941; on Almanac01, Almanac03, AlmanacCD1)
Woody Guthrie, "Hard Ain't It Hard" (Folk Tunes 150, n.d., probably mid-1940s)
Bodleian, Firth b.28(6a/b) View 7 of 8, "There Is A Tavern In The Town," R. March and Co. (London), 1877-1884
cf. "The Butcher Boy" [Laws P24] (plot)
cf. "The Sailor Boy (I)" [Laws K12] (lyrics)
cf. "Love Has Brought Me to Despair" [Laws P25]
cf. "I Know My Love" (floating lyrics)
cf. "Oh, Johnny, Johnny" (floating lyrics)
cf. "The Rashy Muir" (tune, per GreigDuncan6)
There Is an Alehouse in Yonder Town
There's a Tavern in the Town
Up The Green Meadow
Adieu, Adieu, Adieu!
NOTES [480 words]: The overlap between this song and the "Butcher Boy" cluster is obvious; whether they're the same song is a Talmudic question. -PJS
The 1891 sheet music credits this piece to F. J. Adams. The earliest known printing of "Tavern" (as opposed to the presumably related Cornish miners' song "There is an Alehouse in Yonder Town"), however, does not give the author's name. The printing in the 1887 edition of College Songs lists it as copyright by Wm. H. Hills but lists no author.
Alan Lomax calls "Hard Ain't It Hard" a reworking of this piece, and I'm going along on the principle that it certainly isn't a traditional song (given that it's by Woody Guthrie). I don't think it's that simple, though; the "Hard ain't it hard" chorus clearly derives from "Ever After On." - RBW
Yes, Rudy Vallee recorded it too. And blew the lyrics, I might add [My understanding is that the people around him were trying, with great success, to crack him up - RBW]. But clearly the song remained current in pop culture as well as folk culture. It was also reputed to have been popular among collegiates. - PJS
"Hang my harp on a willow tree" may be taken from Psalms 137.2 [King James] via Thomas Haynes Bayly. Cf. "I'll Hang My Harp on a Willow Tree."
Broadside Bodleian Firth b.28(6a/b) View 7 of 8 ascribes "There Is A Tavern In The Town" to W.H. Hills. - BS
Somewhere in my youth, someone (probably school authorities) forced upon us a game, "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes." Thirty-odd years later, I recalled it for some reason, and realize that the tune is an up-tempo version of this. If the song was inflicted upon other classes than mine, it may be that the song has had some sort of horrid second life. - RBW
Amy Birch's version on Voice11 has a first line "Over yonder's hill there is an old house" but continues to be enough like "Tavern in the Town" that I put it here rather than Laws P25 or any of the other songs in this cluster.
GreigDuncan6 [on #1169]: "Noted by George F. Duncan from mother's singing in 1875."
The Reeves-Sharp "complete" text is a composite of eight English texts: "The composite text I have printed contains seventeen stanzas, and omits none of the elements in Sharp's twelve English versions. Full as this composite text is, however, it does not contain all the elements noted by other collectors, nor would it be possible to make a satisfactory synthesis which includes *every* element." The result is a collection of floating verses that includes the usual "Tavern in the Town" verses.
The count of texts for Reeves-Sharp includes four fragments from other collections.
If "Tavern In the Town" is limited to the college song then I have misclassified OCroinin-Cronin, GreigDuncan6 and others. Steve Roud has revised his distribution of the family among Roud numbers #60, #409, #860, #18828, #18829, #18830, #18831, #18832 and #18834 (the "college song"). - BS
Last updated in version 4.3
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2018 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.