A-Growing (He's Young But He's Daily A-Growing) [Laws O35]

DESCRIPTION: The girl rebukes her father for marrying her to a much younger boy. He tells her the lad is growing. She sends him to school in a shirt that shows he's married, for he is a handsome lad. She soon bears his son. He dies young; she sadly buries him
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1792 (as "Lady Mary Anne"), based on a text in the Herd manuscript (c. 1776)
KEYWORDS: marriage youth death mourning clothes
FOUND IN: US(Ap,NE) Canada(Mar,Newf) Britain(Scotland,England(All)) Ireland Australia
REFERENCES (38 citations):
Laws O35, "A-Growing (He's Young But He's Daily A-Growing)"
Flanders/Olney-BalladsMigrantInNewEngland, pp. 196-197, "Young But Daily Growing" (1 text, 1 tune)
Sturgis/Hughes-SongsFromTheHillsOfVermont, pp. 11-14, "Daily Growing" (1 text, 1 tune)
Quiller-Couch-OxfordBookOfBallads 156, The Trees So High" (1 text)
Warner-TraditionalAmericanFolkSongsFromAnneAndFrankWarnerColl 60, "Young but Daily Growing" (1 text, 1 tune)
Meredith/Anderson-FolkSongsOfAustralia, p. 177, "My Bonny Love is Young" (1 text, 1 tune)
Peacock, pp. 677-678, "He's Young but He's Daily Growing" (1 text, 2 tunes)
Karpeles-FolkSongsFromNewfoundland 29, "Still Growing" (1 text, 1 tune)
Creighton/Senior-TraditionalSongsOfNovaScotia, pp. 107-109, "He's Young but He's Daily A-Growing" (2 texts plus 1 fragment, 1 tune)
Creighton-MaritimeFolkSongs, pp. 100-101, "He's Young But He's Daily A-Growing" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Sharp-EnglishFolkSongsFromSouthernAppalachians 72, "Still Growing" (1 text, 1 tune)
Sharp-OneHundredEnglishFolksongs 25, "The Trees They Do Grow High" (1 text, 1 tune)
Reeves/Sharp-TheIdiomOfThePeople 96, "Still Growing" (1 text, a composite of two versions)
Karpeles-TheCrystalSpring 32, "Still Growing, or The Trees They Do Grow High" (1 text, 1 tune)
Reeves-TheEverlastingCircle 134, "The Trees They Are So High" (2 texts)
Broadwood-EnglishTraditionalSongsAndCarols, pp. 56-57, "Oh, the Tres are getting high" (1 text, 1 tune)
VaughanWilliams/Lloyd-PenguinBookOfEnglishFolkSongs, p. 99, "The Trees They Grow So High" (1 text, 1 tune)
Butterworth/Dawney-PloughboysGlory, p. 44, "The Trees they do grow high" (1 text, 1 tune)
Gundry-CanowKernow-SongsDancesFromCornwall, p. 33, "The Trees They Are So High" (1 text, 1 tune)
Roud/Bishop-NewPenguinBookOfEnglishFolkSongs #55 "The Trees They Do Grow High" (1 text, 1 tune)
Scott-TheBalladOfAmerica, pp. 16-18, "The Trees They Grow So High (The Bonny Boy)" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Hodgart-FaberBookOfBallads, p. 147, "Still Growing" (1 text)
Kennedy-FolksongsOfBritainAndIreland 216, "Young and Growing" (1 text, 1 tune)
Palmer-EnglishCountrySongbook, #107, "The Trees They Do Grow High" (1 text, 1 tune)
Munnelly/Deasy-TheMountCallanGarland-Tom-Lenihan 40, "The Trees They Do Be High" (1 text, 1 tune)
Buchan-ABookOfScottishBallads 40, "The Young Laird of Craigstoun" (1 text)
Greig/Duncan6 1222, "Still Growing" (5 texts, 2 tunes)
Lyle-Andrew-CrawfurdsCollectionVolume2 122, "The Lament of a Young Damsel for Her Marriage to a Young Boy" (1 text)
Buchan/Moreira-TheGlenbuchatBallads, pp. 45-46, "Craigston's Growing" (1 text)
Ord-BothySongsAndBallads, p. 112, "My Bonnie Laddie's Lang, Lang o' Growing" (1 text)
MacColl/Seeger-TravellersSongsFromEnglandAndScotland 23, "Long A-Growing" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
MacColl-PersonalChoice, pp. 28-29, "My bonnie laddie's lang a-growing" (1 text, 1 tune)
Darling-NewAmericanSongster, pp. 132-133, "The Trees They Grow So High" (1 text)
Behan-IrelandSings, #18, "Child Wedding" (1 text, 1 tune, modified)
Silber/Silber-FolksingersWordbook, p. 217, "Daily Growing" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Maud Karpeles, _Folk Songs of Europe_, Oak, 1956, 1964, pp. 40-41, "The Trees They Do Grow High" (1 text, 1 tune)
cf. James Kinsley, editor, Burns: Complete Poems and Songs (shorter edition, Oxford, 1969) #374, pp. 510-511 "My bonie laddie's young but he's growin yet" ["Lady Mary Ann"] (1 text, 1 tune, from 1792)

Roud #31
Sean 'Ac Donnca, "The Bonny Boy" (on TradIre01)
Liam Clancy, "Lang A-Growing" (on IRLClancy01)
Charlotte Decker, "He's Young but He's Daily Growing" (on PeacockCDROM) [one verse only]
Nathan Hatt, "He's Young But He's Daily A-Growing" (on MRHCreighton)
Mary Anne Haynes, "Long A-Growing" (on Voice06)
Lizzie Higgins, "Lady Mary Ann" (on Voice17) (on LHiggins01)
Fred Jordan, "The Bonny Boy" (on Voice03)
Tom Lenihan, "The Trees They Do Be High" (on IRTLenihan01)
Mary McGarvey, "Young and Growing" (on FSBFTX19)

Bodleian, Harding B 16(156d), "My Bonny Lad is Young, But He's Growing", H. Such (London), 1849-1862; also Firth c.21(19), Harding B 11(4066), "My Bonny Lad is Young, But He's Growing"; Harding B 11(2216), "My Bonny Lads Growing"; Harding B 11(1685), Harding B 15(210b), "My Bonny Lad is Young and Growing"
cf. "The Days Are Awa That I Hae Seen" (lyrics)
Daily Growing
Lady Mary Ann (a rewrite by Robert Burns)
My Bonnie Laddie's Young (But He's Growing Yet)
Young Craigston
The Young Laird of Craystoun
NOTES [2244 words]: [A. L. Lloyd writes,] "It is sometimes said that the ballad is based on the actual marriage of the juvenile laird of Craigton to a girl several years his senior, the laird dying three years later in 1634. But in fact the ballad may be older; indeed, there is no clear evidence that it is of Scottish origin. Child marriages for the consolidation of family fortunes [or other political reasons - RBW] were not unusual in the Middle Ages and in some parts the custom persisted far into the seventeenth century. The presenting and wearing of coloured ribbons, once common in Britain, still plays a prominent part in betrothal and marriage in Central and Eastern Europe." - PJS
The notes in Buchan/Moreira-TheGlenbuchatBallads, p. 230, detail the story of John Urquhart of Craigston, and seem certain that he inspired the song, but they admit the ballad "recalls relatively little of the story." I'm simply not convinced. - RBW
Greig/Duncan6 1222A is the first two verses of Burns's "Lady Mary Ann." The tune there is "Shule Agra"; Burns's tune is "Craigstone's Growin'" which, I assume, is "A-Growing." The Greig/Duncan6 citation for the next note refers to the "estate of Crayston [Craigstoun]."
Greig/Duncan6 cites North Country Garland 1824 as a source of A.L. Lloyd's note on the 1631/1634 story." - BS
MacColl and Seeger report this song from 1670 in the Guthrie manuscript. We have been unable to verify this, and they are lumpers. - PJS, RBW
Lizzie Higgins's "Lady Mary Anne" on Voice17 is very close to the Robert Burns text (source: "Lady Mary Anne" on Burns Country site). Munnelly/Deasy-TheMountCallanGarland-Tom-Lenihan 40 is [also] close to "Lady Mary Anne."
Also collected and sung by Ellen Mitchell, "Lady Mary Ann" (on Kevin and Ellen Mitchell, "Have a Drop Mair," Musical Tradition Records MTCD315-6 CD (2001)) - BS
Warnings in song against young men marrying old women; the famous fifteenth century manuscript Sloane 2593 (in the Bibliography as MSSloane2593: London, British Library MS. Sloane 2593) has a piece that begins, "Yng men I warne you everichone, Elde wives tak ye none"="Young men I warn you everyone, Old wives take you none" -- Index of Middle English Vese #4279).
While the usual marriage custom was for older men to marry younger women, there were several very early instances of the reverse in English and Scottish royal history, though I doubt any of them actually inspired this song.
The first that we know of came in 1017. Canute (Cnut), who was King of Denmark by right but had become King of England by conquest, displacing the native dynasty of Ethelred II Unraed ("Ethelred the Unready," though his nickname actually translates as "rede-less," i.e. "no-council," "ill-advised"), married Emma the widow of Ethelred a year after he assumed the throne (Ashley, p. 486).
Canute, according to some accounts, was 21 at the time of the marriage; we don't know Emma's age, but her son Edward the Confessor was born around 1004, so Ashley, p. 482, suggests she was born c. 985, making her 31 or 32. O'Brien, p. 14, thinks Edward was born 1005, and notes that Emma bore her last child around 1021, and so conjectures a birth date c. 988, which would make her 29 when Canute married her. Since she married Ethelred probably in 1002 (O'Brien, p. 23), her latest possible birth date is probably 990, making her 27 when she married Canute.
There is no question that Emma was much older than her second husband (though still young enough to bear him a son, Harthecanute, and a daughter, Gunnhild; O'Brien, p. viii). This is hardly similar to the story here, though, as Emma probably married Canute voluntarily, and in any case, her father, Duke Richard I of Normandy, had died in 996 (Ashley, p. 499) and couldn't have arranged the marriage.
Emma may have had a right to gripe, though, since Canute did not set aside his earlier common law wife Ælgifu when he married Emma. Canute declared Ælgifu his "temporary wife" (Brooke, p. 135) -- but her older son, Harold, succeeded to the throne of England after Canute (Brooke, p. 138). Emma's son Harthecanute became King of England only after Harold died. On the other hand, Canute seems to have come to genuinely respect Emma and given her a place in his councils (O'Brien, p. 119). Which isn't the same as saying he slept with her much, however....
A more suitable parallel to the situation in this song arose after the Norman Conquest. King Henry I had married his daughter Matilda/Maud to the Holy Roman Emperor Henry V. But she was very young when they married (perhaps twelve), and when the emperor died in 1125, she was still childless (and perhaps 23). The lords in Germany didn't want to send her home, and she doesn't seem to have had a strong desire to return to England either, but Henry -- who now desperately needed an heir -- got her back (Warren; p. 11). Her father Henry I then married her to Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, who was ten or twelve years younger than she (Ashley, p. 517).
The match managed to produce several children, but that is all that can be said for it -- Matilda, though described by Warren as "strikingly handsome," seems to have been a fairly prickly person, On p. 12, Warren calls her "haughty and domineering, expecting devotion as her due rather than trying to earn it."
McLynn, p. 7, declares that "the marriage was not a success, largely because Matilda was such a domineering personality; this was the very quality that lost her England when she had [King] Stephen on the ropes in 1141. Headstrong, overbearing, tactless, haughty, arrogant, and abusive, Matilda alienated everyone she came in contact with, even her own kinsmen. The general consensus was that Matilda was an over-masculine woman; her lack of the traditionally feminine qualities appalled contemporaries who thought her a freak of nature.... And since Matilda acted like a virago and indicated to her husband that, as a king's daughter, she had married beneath her, it was not long before he ignored her and consoled himself with a harem of mistresses. Nonetheless, the duty of founding a new dynasty had to be performed, so it was into this loveless union that Henry II was born on 1 March 1133."
Henry II himself was the third, and probably the most famous, instance of the phenomenon in the English royal family of an older wife with a young husband. As McLynn notes in the very next sentence after the above, "Henry II would continue the Angevin pattern of contracting unhappy marriages." Not only that, he once again wedding a much older woman. In 1152, at the age of 18, he married Eleanor Duchess of Acquitaine, who had been divorced from King Louis VII of France (Ashley, p. 518). She was at least ten, and probably 11 or 12, years older than her husband (though she still managed to bear him eight children, and she outlived him by 15 years, dying in 1204 at about the age of 82). Here again, though, her father was dead.
Fourth, King Henry VIII took as his first wife Katherine of Aragon (Ashley, p. 630). They married in 1509, shortly after he came to the throne; he was about to turn 18, she was 23 or 24, and the widow of Henry's older brother Arthur. That marriage was the worst flop of all; Henry by 1514 was giving most of his energy to mistresses (Mattingly, p. 162). This marriage is in some ways a good fit -- Katherine did complain to her father about being kept in poverty after Arthur's death (Mattingly, p. 98). But she had no children by Arthur, and Henry outlived her.
Fifth, Frances Brandon, whose first husband was Henry Grey of Dorset and whose daughter by him was Jane Grey the "Nine Days' Queen," after the execution of her first husband in 1554 married one of her servants, Adrian Stokes (Plowden, facing p. 119). She was born in 1517; he was said to be 16 years younger, meaning that she was in her late thirties (and, based on her portrait, gone to fat) and he in his early twenties when they married. There were apparently no offspring of the marriage; she died in 1559.
It should be noted that in none of these cases was the younger husband the *first* spouse of the older wife. All four queens had been married before (though it is possible that Arthur and Katherine had not consummated their marriage; this at least was the argument that was given to the Pope to make the marriage between Henry and Katherine legal; Williamson, p. 76). Thus in no case was the wife really a spinster. And all four husbands were old enough to consummate the marriage at once (though Geoffrey of Anjou was barely so), and none of the husbands died soon after -- though Emma of Normandy, who died in 1052, outlived Canute by 17 years (and her son Harthecanute by ten); Eleanor of Aquitaine, as noted, outlived Henry II by 15; and Matilda, who died 1167, outlived Geoffrey by 16 years; only Katherine of Aragon, who died in 1533, predeceased her husband.
There was one later case in which the wife had not had a previous husband: Mary Tudor, at 37, married the future Philip II of Spain in 1554 (Ashley, pp. 638-640). Although he was about ten years younger than she was (Prescott, p. 397), he was already a widower (and would end up marrying four times; Smith, p. 163). But although she loved him desperately (quite literally), the feeling was not returned; Prescott, p. 397, says he spent the first year after their marriage in a "ceaseless and apparently convincing simulation of love." After that year of play-acting, he quit trying, although he continued to take advantage of her love. In any case, although Mary at one time convinced herself she was pregnant, she had no children.
Another instance, involving high royalty although not the actual king or queen, came after the Stuart succession. Arabella Stuart (1575-1615), who had been the heir of James VI and I until that king had children, clandestinely (and voluntarily) married William Seymour (1587-1660), who was thirteen years her junior (Macalpine/Hunter, p. 213). James -- who had already repressed one plot made on her behalf, although she was no part of it (Magnuson, p. 409n) -- was concerned by the fact that both she and her husband had English royal blood, and responded by throwing her in the Tower in 1611.
He may have had a point, since the marriage seems to have been Somerset's idea; Magnuson, p. 378n., thinks Arabella accepted his proposal because she was middle-aged and running short of prospects. I wonder if it might not have been some sort of psychological side-effect of all the time she spent with her captive cousin, Mary Queen of Scots (Magnuson, pp. 377-278). In any case, she died in the Tower, perhaps of the effects of porphyria (Macalpine/Hunter, pp. 217-218, although given the vagueness of the data, I think her problem might have been as mundane as shingles), in 1615 (Magnusson, pp. 318n., 378n.).
She and her husband had tried to flee together, but where she was slowed by sickness, he was nimble and managed to escape (Macalpine/Hunger, p. 218), remaining in exile until 1616 (OxfordCompanion, p. 878). He survived her by more than forty years and was eventually restored to the Dukedom of Somerset.
If we look to the Scots, Margaret, daughter of Alexander III of Scotland, was 19 when she married 14-year-old Erik II King of Norway (Magnusson, p. 104).
Not one of these May/December marriages seems to have been happy. Canute kept a second wife. Matilda spent most of her time after 1135 in England, while Geoffrey stayed in Normandy. Henry II took mistresses (notably Rosamund Clifford) and in time imprisoned Eleanor. Henry VIII, besides taking mistresses, tried to have his marriage with Katherine annulled (though that was due to her inability to bear a male heir, which most now think was more his problem than hers; Ashley thinks he had syphilis, though genetic disease seems at least as likely; the Tudors had inherited a lot of very bad genes from Catherine of France, the daughter of the mad king Charles VI). Margaret of Scotland died, probably in childbirth, at the age of 22, bearing the future Margaret Maid of Norway (Magnusson, p. 105. For the Maid of Norway, see the notes to "Sir Patrick Spens" [Child 58].) And Philip of Spain abandoned his creaky, unattractive, seemingly infertile wife after only a little more than a year.
I suppose I should add that King Edward IV married a significantly older woman, Elizabeth Woodville, but this hardly counts; she was still fairly young and regarded as quite beautiful, and Edward pursued her entirely voluntarily and -- as it turned out -- at great cost to himself and his family. In any case, she not only married him happily but clearly set out to lure him into marriage.
Instances of a younger man marrying an older woman for her money are even more common among the lower nobility and gentry. These cases are too numerous to list, but we might cite the example of the famous soldier Sir John Fastolf, one of the best of Henry V's lieutenants. Himself relatively poor, in 1409, at the age of about 29, he married Millicent Scrope, age about 41, whose lands were worth five times as much as his (Castor, p. 101). The joke proved to be rather on him, though -- he lived another half century, and became very rich indeed, but produced no legitimate heir.
Finally, we might mention the case of Cleopatra VII of Egypt ("the" Cleopatra) marrying two of her younger brothers in the period around 50 B.C.E. But that was just politics and Egyptian custom -- and the marriages surely were not consummated. - RBW
Bibliography Last updated in version 6.1
File: LO35

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 2022 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.