Fox, The

TITLE: The Fox
AUTHOR: unknown
CATEGORY: public domain, traditional
KEYWORDS: animal, food, hunting
EARLIEST DATE: 1810 (Gammer Gurton’s Garland)

The FoxThe earliest version of this piece appears to have been a Middle English poem found in British Museum MS. Royal 19.B.iv, and is thought to date from the fifteenth century. About as old is a strange version in Cambridge MS. Ee.1.12 with an extended prologue about the fox’s raids but with lyrics closer to most modern versions. It is reasonable to assume that this, and perhaps even the British Museum text, are rewritings of documents still older. 

The first published reference is in 1810’s Gammer Gurton’s Garland:

Dame Widdle Waddle

Old Mother Widdle Waddle jumpt out of bed,
And out at the casement she popt out her head :
Crying the house is on fire, the grey goose is dead,
And the fox he is come to the town, oh !

OTHER TITLES AND VARIATIONS:

  • Daddy Fox
  • Old Mother Hippletoe
  • The Fox and the Grey Goose
  • Up, John, Get Up, John

RECORDINGS:

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The Fox

The fox went out on a chilly night
He prayed for the moon to give him light
For he’d many a mile to go that night
Before he reached the town-o, town-o, town-o
He’d many a mile to go that night,
before he reached the town-o

He ran til he came to the farmer’s pen
The ducks and the geese were kept therein
He said, a couple of you are gonna grease my chin,
Before I leave this town-o, town-o, town-o
Said a couple of you are gonna grease my chin,
before I leave this town-o

He grabbed the great goose by the neck
And he threw a duck across his back
And he didn’t mind the quack, quack
And the legs all dangling down-o, down-o, down-o
He didn’t mind the quack, quack
and the legs all dangling down-o

Well, the old grey woman jumped out of bed
Out of the window she popped her head,
Crying John, John, the great goose is gone
And the fox is on the town-o, town-o, town-o
John, John, the great goose is gone
and the fox is on the town-o

He ran til he came to his nice warm den
And there were the little ones, eight, nine, ten
Sayin Daddy, Daddy, better go back again
For it must be a might fine town-o, town-o, town-o
Daddy, Daddy, go back again
for it must be mighty fine town-o

The fox and his wife, without any strife
Cut up the goose with a fork and a knife
They never had such a supper in their life
And the little ones chewed on the bones-o, bones-o, bones-o
They never had such a supper in their life
And the little ones chewed on the bones

SOURCES:

  • Folk Song Index: A Comprehensive Guide to the Florence E. Brunnings Collection, Florence E. Brunnings, Garland Publishing, Inc., New York and London 1981—Amazon Books
  • Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore (1952), Volume 3: Folk Ballads from North Carolina. Edited by Henry M Beldin and Arthur Palmer Hudson. Duke University Press.

NOTICE: I’m not the best guitar player or vocalist, but no one loves these songs more than I do. The tune and lyrics are in the public domain unless otherwise noted. The recording © copyright 2013 by Stephen Griffith and may be used by permission of the copyright holder. The variation of the song I’m posting is the version I perform and is not exactly replicating the sources cited, but is always in the same song family. If anyone has more details about this song, or believes I’ve stated something in error, please let me know. I’m also open to suggestions to improve the site. Thanks. sgg

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