The Pleugh Song

This strange and strangely dirge-like song, with droning cadences and repetitious format, comes from Scotland in the mid 1500's. It is, of all things, an advertisement, or, perhaps, a spoof of one. In this song, a fellow is petitioning the lord of the manor for employment as the lead ploughman. He points out how poor the lord's current ox is, and promises better. He asks to be put in charge of all the hands and tillmen, and waxes enthusiastic about the increase of the lord's herd. (Which is odd, for how can the herd increase if "...Mine oxen balls is wreathed and pinned?" Oxen don't do well in the siring business!) But one of the subtle points of this vastly subtle song is that it is also a "dirty" song, all about rutting and breeding and the like: the word "prod" and "breed" are used more or less interchangeably...

The Pleugh Song

Thomas Wode's Part Books

Hey down-a-die.

My heartly service to you, my Lord, I recommend as I should accord. There is an ox unto your plough, so must he go, it is right so, and he is waxed old enough. Ye say the sooth, he has not a tooth, and he no longer may be drawn but he be led. I dare say well, but he was never half so thrawn, nor yet so awkward, but goeth backward. Now is he weak and wonder sweer. Full sweer is he, I take on me, out of the house he may not stir. Suppose you bred him, will he die.

Yet better it were if some remedy were found in time or he be dead for causes, for sklenting of boats and startling of other men's notes: and I am wo your plough should lie, and I might come and be nearby to yoke another in his stead, to drag and draw while he be dead, out of an uncouth fair leisure to do your Lordship more pleasure. And if it be your proper will, go call your hands, all to your till: Ginken and Wilken, Higgin and Habken, Hanking and Rankin, Robert and Colin, Hector and Aiken, Martin Mawyer, Sandie Sawyer, Michael and Morris, Falselips Fergus, Reynaud and Guthrey, Symon and Juffry, Orphus and Arthur, Allan, Morice, Dounie, Davie, Robert, Richard, Philpie Foster and Mackay Miller, Ruffie Tasker and his marrows all, Straboots, Tarboys and Ganzel, and all that has most domination and pastorie of your common, before you one and one present, and thereto show them your intent.

Spare at them all if they will be, require them all if they will be appleased for to mell with me, and make me also fast and sciker as I were bound even with the wicker for to deliver me be the head: the old ox Tripfree, he be dead. Then shall I come, be robles cocks, and bring with me my fair fresh ox, with all that belongs to the plough: sums of iron stark enough, the cowter and the plough-head, sock sheet and moldie bread, rack, rest, and the gluts and the slee band, the missel and the plough-bowl, the plough-staff, the plough-shoon, the mell and the stilt and the beam and the heel-wedge, the chock, the yoke, the ring, the sling. Mine oxen balls is wreathed and pinned, this whole year saw no sun nor wind. The gadwand is both light and sharp, to prod his belly while he start. Hey! Now in the rood name call about, our plough so graiths with a should, and a prod. Prod about Haken, wind about Brandie, call the brown Humly, Trowbelly, Chowbullock, Whytehorn, Grayhorn and Cromack, wind Marrowgaire, wind about hey! Prod futt thee further! I shall prod him while he rears, the red stout and the dun. Wind about again soon, wind narrow, wind about. Hold, draw him forth in the Rood's name. Not one of them for such draught, in all Scotland is there such aught! And if ye please this plough of mine, tell me shortly into time, or I contract and hired be with others that desireth me. Not else but the Trinity conserve you into Charity.

Amen.