Henry's Songbook

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The Foggy Dew

  • (Trad)
  • When I was a bachelor, airy and young
    I followed the rovin' trade
    And the only harm I ever done wrong
    Was to court a servant maid
    I courted her in the summer season
    And part of the winter too
    And the only harm that I ever done wrong
    Was to keep her from the foggy dew

    One night as I lay in my bed
    A-taking of my sleep
    She came and stood by my bedside
    And most bitterly she did weep
    She sobbed and sighed and tore her hair
    And cried, What shall I do
    For this night I've resolved to sleep with you
    For fear of the foggy dew

    'Twas in the first part of the night
    We did sport and play
    And in the second part of the night
    She in my arms did lie
    And when we woke on the next day's morning
    She cried, I am undone
    Ah hold your tongue, you silly young wench
    For the foggy dew has gone

    Now supposing you should have a child
    'Twould make you laugh and smile
    Supposing you should have another
    'Twould make you think awhile
    Supposing you should have another
    And another and another one too
    'Twould make you leave off your foolish young pranks
    And think of the foggy dew

    Now I loved this girl with all my heart
    I loved her right through my life
    And in the second part of the year
    I took her for my wife
    I never told her of all my faults
    Yet never intend to do
    But every time she winks and smiles
    We think of the foggy dew

    (as sung by The Spinners)

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • [?:] The foggy dew exists in two main versions. In the better-known one, a girl has been wooed by a young man, without apparent success, for some months. One night, in great distress, she comes into his bedroom and tells him that she is afraid of 'the foggy dew' (in some songs, 'the bugaboo'). The young man takes her into bed with him and they make love. Next morning she regrets this, but the young man comforts her by saying that the cause of her fear is gone. They marry (or, in some versions, settle down together), and are happy; and whenever she smiles at him, he remembers 'the foggy dew' (or 'bugaboo').

    The other main version has until now been known in only two examples. [...] In this version, 'Bogle Bo' (or 'Boodie Bo') takes the place of the 'foggy dew'. In it, the young man woos a girl who lives in the same house. He has no success, so he disguises a friend as a spook (the 'bogle') and stations him on the stairs. She is terrified, and rushes into the young man's room for protection, and they spend the night in bed together. [...]

    Various explanations of the phrase 'the foggy dew' have been put forward, the most detailed being that given by James Reeves in 'The Idiom of the People', 1958, pp. 45-57. He concludes that 'foggy dew' signifies virginity or chastity, and that in that version the girl's sudden agitation was caused by an overwhelming desire for the young man.

    A. L. Lloyd suggests that the 'bogle' version is the earlier one and that the phrase 'the foggy dew' belonged to an unrelated Irish song, and was caught up by the English one. However, Patrick Shuldham-Shaw points out that some English versions are 'sung to variants of the tune that was published in 1840 in Bunting's 'Ancient Music of Ireland''. It does sometimes happen that when a different tune is adopted for a song, the refrain of words for which the tune had previously been used is carried over into the new song. It could therefore be that in this case the 'foggy dew' phrase was brought into the song by means of the Irish music.

    A hitherto unnoticed broadside version is The fright'ned Yorkshire damosel, or Fears dispers'd by pleasure. To the tune of, 'I met with a country lass', &c. [...] This broadside was published in 1689, and so is, by fully a century, the earliest copy that exists.

    If the title is to be taken into account, this particular version came from Yorkshire; and indeed it seems that it is in the north that this version has survived, since Bell's example came from Tyneside, and Gavin Greig's from Scotland. [...]

    The 1689 version is less specific than the later Scottish and Tyneside ones about the conspiracy by the young man and his friend over the hobgoblin. [...] It is possible that the very indirectness with which the trick is indicated here may have caused this part of the song to be broadened in some later versions, and missed out altogether in others.

    The existing examples of both main versions of the song in some respects very closely resemble this broadside, and therefore the probability is that they are descended either from the broadside ballad itself, or from a north-country song that was taken to London and published as the broadside. [...]
    The fullest published lists of versions of the song are in Cecil Sharp's 'Collection of English Folk Songs', edited by Maud Karpeles, 1974, i 410-8 and 731-2, and Peter Kennedy's 'Folksongs of Britain and Ireland', 1975, pp. 400-1 and 428. The comments by A. L. Lloyd and Patrick Shuldham-Shaw are in the 'Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society', viii (1956-9), 153. (Dr. Leba Goldstein, 'Folk Review' no ???)

  • [1967:] [...] the familiar and controversial Foggy dew, about whose title-image ink has flowed and typewriter ribbons grown faint. What is the mysterious 'foggy dew' that so frightens the girl in the song? 'Foggy', we're told, is Middle English for 'coarse rank marsh grass' and so may stand for maidenhead (why?); 'dew' is a familiar folk symbol for chastity (and many things besides); there is a suggestion that the expression is merely a clumsy Anglicization of Irish 'orocedhu' meaning 'darkness, black night', and Robert Graves, always ready to make a bold dash into folk lore matters, takes this Irish notion further with the suggestion that the blackness relates to the Black Death which may have been raging at the time of the song's inception (though so far we've no grounds for dating it before the closing years of the eighteenth century) and to the black dress of nuns. So there we are: the girl is not terrified of her coarse rank virginity; she is hammering on a convent door begging the nuns to save her from the plague. The version that Bell received early in the nineteenth century offers another, less spectacular but more convincing explanation. He calls it The bogle bo, meaning 'ghost', of course. [...] Even The foggy dew, mild as it is, had to wait long before any set of it was printed in full, apart from the broadsides. Where love songs were concerned, the collectors and publishers gave all their preference to the kind of sentimental idylls whose creation flourished particularly towards the middle of the eighteenth century. (Lloyd, England 200f)
  • [1974:] The earliest weavers were itinerant workers, and the reputation for loose living that they acquired in those days clung to them for centuries. (Dallas, Toil 85)
  • [1979:] Traditional versions have been widely known to collectors in Britain and America since the 1890s, but have seldom been published, at least until very recently. Of the eight variants found by Cecil Sharp, only one, with a skimpy text at that, was published prior to 1958, when James Reeves analysed the different versions in 'The Idiom of the People'. A great deal of time and ink has been expended in attempting to explain the meaning of the phrase, 'the foggy dew'. Perhaps it is best left as mysteriously evocative. One likely idea, however, seems to be that it is a corruption of 'bugaboo' or 'bogle bo', meaning ghost. Yet the earliest text which I have seen, an eighteenth-century street ballad entitled The Batchelor Brave, has 'foggy dew'. (Palmer, Country 159)
  • [1988:] Another street ballad of the 1680s, The Fright'ned Yorkshire Damosel, shows one man's extreme ingenuity in having a woman frightened into his arms by a friend's appearance in the guise of a ghost. This may well be a conceit rather than a true story, but the song, metamorphosed into The Foggy Dew, took lasting hold. As recently as the late 1940s a radio performance by Peter Pears of Benjamin Britten's arrangement of a student version of this song caused an outcry from listeners, which resulted in a ban by the BBC. (Palmer, History 213)

  • [1998:] Bogulmaroo = Buggle Bow, or now, Buggabo, was a big black devil that played tricks on travelers at night. This superstition goes back at least to the early 17th century. A chapbook published in 1660 was 'The Meickle Black Diel, or the Boggle Bo'. "Bugle Bow" was also the name of a lost tune, c 1615. (Bruce Olson,, 12 Jan)


Quelle: England

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aktualisiert am 13.12.1999