Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Fox Went Out On A Chilly Night


The Fox is a traditional song.
I love singing this song.
There is lots of repetition which allows the children to start singing with you by the second verse.
The earliest written version is said to have appeared as a Middle English poem somewhere around the fifth century.
The Fox has been recorded by numerous people such as folksingers Odetta, Pete Seeger , Tom Chapin and Burl Ives, and as recently as 2000 by country group Nickel Creek.
It has also been written up as a picture book, The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night by Peter Spier and others.

The OXFORD BOOK OF NURSERY RHYMES states:
"This rollicking song is traditional in both England and America.... The song has descended from a carol which was probably already old when it happened to be written down on the flyleaf of a manuscript, c. 1500 (Royal MS 19 B. iv) The first verse went
'It fell ageyns the next nyght
the fox yede to with all his myghte,
with-outen cole or candlelight,
whan that he cam vnto the toowne.'"

Like most folk songs, there have been many versions of The Fox.
I have included 4 versions here.
The first version seems to be the most commonly used one at this time.

THE FOX

The fox went out on a chilly night
Prayed for the moon to give him light
For he had many a mile to go that night
Before he reached the town o (2x)

He ran til he came to a great big bin
Where the ducks and the geese were kept therein
Said, a couple of you are going to grease my chin
Before I leave this town o

He grabbed the grey goose by the neck
Throwed a duck across his back
He didn't mind the quack, quack, quack
And the legs all dangling down o

Then old mother Flipper-flopper jumped out of bed
Out of the window she cocked her head
Crying, John, John the grey goose is gone
and the fox is on the town o

Then John he went to the top of the hill
Blew his horn both loud and shrill
The fox, he said, I better flee with my kill
Or they'll soon be on my trail o

He ran till he came to his cozy den
There were the little ones, eight, nine, ten
Saying, Daddy, daddy, Better go back again
For it must be a mighty fine town o

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

FOX WENT OUT (Den-O)

A hungry fox jumped up in fright
And he begged for the moon to give him light,
For he had many miles to trot that night,
Before he reached his Den-o.
Den-o, Den-o, for he had many miles to trot that night
Before he reached his Den-o.

So he cocked up his head and out went his tail
And off he went on the long, long trail
Which he done many times in calm and gale
But he always got back to his Den-o.
Den-o, Den-o, (repeat last two lines).

And soon he came to the old farm yard
Where the ducks and geese to him were barred
But he always got one by working hard
To take back to his Den-o.
Den-o, Den-o, (repeat last two lines).

He grabbed the grey goose by the neck
And slung her right across his back
And the old grey goose went quack, quack, quack
But the fox was off to his Den-o.
Den-o, Den-o, (repeat last two lines).

Ol' Mother Slipper Slopper jumped out of bed
And out of the window she poked her head,
Oh, John, John, the grey goose has gone
And the fox is off to his Den-o.
Den-o, Den-o, (repeat last two lines).

John went up to the top of the hill
And he blew a trumpet loud and shrill
Said the fox, that's very pretty music, still
I'd rather be in my Den-o.
Den-o, Den-o, (repeat last two lines).

At last he got back to his den
To his dear little foxes eight, none, ten
And they've had many fat geese since then
And sometimes a good fat hen-o
Hen-o, Hen-o, (repeat last two lines).
********************************************

The Fox

A fox went out in a hungry plight,
and begged of the moon to hive him light,
For he'd many a mile to travel that night,
Ere he could reach his den-oh, den-oh, den-oh;
Fore he'd many a mile to travel that night,
Ere he could reach his den-oh, den-oh, den-oh:

At length he came to a farmer's yard
Where the ducks and geese declared it hard
That their nerves should be shaken and their rest be marred
By a visit from Mister Fox-oh, fox-oh, Fox-oh
That their nerves should be shaken and their rest be marred
By a visit from Mister Fox-oh, fox-oh, fox-oh.

He took the black duck by the sleeve;
Quoth he, "My dear sir, by your leave.
I'll take you away without reprieve,
And carry you home to my den-oh, den-oh, den-oh
I'll take you away without reprieve,
And carry you home to my den-oh, den-oh, den-oh.

He clutched him sharply by the neck,
And flung him right across his back;
The frightened ducks cried, "Quack,quack,quack,
The fox is off to his den-oh, den-oh, den-oh,
The frightened ducks cried, "Quack,quack,quack
The fox is offf to his den-oh, den-oh, den-oh.

Old Mother Slipper-slopper jumped out of bed,
And out of the window she popped her head:
"John, John, John, the black duck's gone,
And the fox is off to his den-oh, den-oh, den-oh
"John, John, John, the black duck's gone,
And the fox is off to his den-oh, den-oh, den-oh.

The farmer ran to the top of the hill,
And blew a blast both loud and shrill.
Quoth the fox, "Tis wondrous music;
Still I'd rather be in my den-oh, den-oh, den-oh,
Quoth the fox, "Tis wondrous music;
Still I'd rather be in my; den-oh, den-oh, den-oh

At last the fox got home to his den,
To his dear littles foxes, eight,nine,ten,
Said he, "We're in luck, here's a good fat duck,
With his legs hanging, dangling, down-oh, down-oh, down-oh,
Said he, "We're in luck, here's a good fat duck,
With his legs handing, dangling, down-oh, down-oh, down-oh.

He sat down to dinner with his hungry wife,
They did very well without fork or knife;
They ne're ate a better duck in all their life,
And the little ones picked the bones-oh, bones-oh, bones-oh,
They ne're ate a better duck in all their life,
And the little one picked the bones-oh, bones-oh, bones-oh.
****************************************
THE FOX

The old fox stepped out one moonshining night
Stood upon his hind feet just about right I'll have
some meat for my supper this night
Before I leave this townee (townee, townee)
I'll have some meat for my supper this night
Before I leave this townee

He went on down to the blacksmith's gate,
There he saw an old black drake
Come on along old drake and go along with me
You're the finest old fellow in this townee
(REPEAT AS PER FIRST VERSE)

The old drake sat still and the word cried NO
Just sat still 'cause he didn't want to go
If you eat no meat 'til you eat meat of mine
You'll eat no meat in the townee (REPEAT)

He went on down by the farmer's gate
These he swa an old grey goose
Come along old goose and go with me
You're the finest old fellow in the townee (REPEAT)

The old goose sat still and the word cried NO
Just sat still 'cause he didn't want to go
If you eat no meat 'til you eat meat of mine
You'll eat no meat in the townee (REPEAT)

He went on home to his den
Out come the young ones 8-9-10
O father, O father when you again
You've had no luck in this townee (REPEAT)

He went on back on his back track
He took the old grey goose by the neck
Her wing went flip-flop over his back
Her feet went dingle dangle down-ee (REPEAT)

Old mother tipped up in the bed
Out of the window she poked her head
Old man, old man the grey goose is gone
I thought I heard her go quack, quack-eo (REPEAT)

The old man jumped up in his shirtail
And with toe dogs on the trail
They caught the fox at the end of the trail
And that was the end of the fox-e-o (REPEAT)

2 comments:

Przemek said...

Nice that You write about this song. I had a casette of Peter Morton, unfortunatelly I lost it, and "Hungry Fox" was my favorite song. I liked this interpretation - it was quite dramatic and serious. The text was like second version on Your page. But I am suprised, because I was sure it was:
"he had many miles to trot that night
Before he reached his dinner". It was my favorite part of the song and it made sense to me. The "den" does not make much sense to me - the fox must first go many miles to get the dinner, thats the point, he can return later.
Maybe I did hear it wrong, I am not native english speaker.
With my brother we used to joke thata there should be a habbit that quests who sit and wait for the dinner which is in delay and does not come to the table, should start singing this song "Hungry fox ......
....before he reached his dinner...
his dinner, etc. We joked that if Your quests start to sing "Hungry fox" for the third time, You start to be in trouble. If someone can help me to get this version of Peter Morton, I would be thankful.
przemekrojek and then @wp.pl

Mitch Rice said...

I think you made a typo citing the 5th Century above (talking about the Fox), everything I've read points to the song originating as an English carol in the Fifteenth Century, making one of the oldest songs that has survived in the oral tradition. Keep up the good work! Mitch