The Mowing Devil - Song

Nicholas Blatchley

Click bar to the right to hear the song

The Hertfordshire legend of The Mowing Devil seems ideal for a folk song treatment, but as far as I know no song was ever made about it.

Until now. This is my attempt to extend the tradition, very much in the old folk style. I have taken a few liberties with the story, though. In the original version, the farmer was too scared to go out and see what was happening, and only assumed it was the Devil mowing his fields, but that’s not good enough for a song – it needs a confrontation.

Incidentally, the sum the mower asks as his wages isn’t arbitrary. Earlier in the 17th century, when Sir Hugh Myddelton was constructing the New River through Hertfordshire, his records show that his workers were paid between 10d and 18d per day, and these were considered fairly good rates. So for the mower to ask two shillings (24d) per day would be extravagant, but not completely absurd.

 

There was an old farmer in Hertfordshire
he went into town for the hiring fair
he walked up to where the mowers did stand
said “Which of you fellows will come mow my land?”
singing fol-de-rol-dary fol-do-rol-do
beware the devil is coming to mow

Then up stepped a mower a proud man was he
said “I am the finest in all this country
I’ll mow all your fields if my wages you’ll pay
my work it will cost you two shillings a day”
singing fol-de-rol-dary fol-do-rol-do
beware the devil is coming to mow

“Two shillings a day that never can be
I’ve never paid that in my whole life” cried he
and the farmer he told him without more ado
“The devil shall mow my fields sooner than you”
singing fol-de-rol-dary fol-do-rol-do
beware the devil is coming to mow

The farmer awoke that very same night
and when he looked out he got such a fright
a light in his fields was bright as the sun
and the wailing was like the last judgement begun
singing fol-de-rol-dary fol-do-rol-do
beware the devil is coming to mow

The farmer went out to his fields at a run
and there was a mowing like unto none
for the mower who worked there had horns on his head
and his great cloven hooves the furrows did tread
singing fol-de-rol-dary fol-do-rol-do
beware the devil is coming to mow

Then up spoke the farmer “Now what have we here
why have you come out of hell for to shear?”
“I’ve taken your offer” the devil did say
“and my work will cost more than two shillings a day”
singing fol-de-rol-dary fol-do-rol-do
beware the devil is coming to mow

The devil he mowed and he mowed so well
and before the sun rose he was back into hell
and in every field the farmer he found
the harvest was stacked in neat piles all around
singing fol-de-rol-dary fol-do-rol-do
beware the devil is coming to mow

Then up spoke the farmer just as the cock crowed
“I’ll never touch harvest the devil has mowed”
that harvest is lying there still so they say
so it cost him much more than two shillings a day
singing fol-de-rol-dary fol-do-rol-do
beware the devil is coming to mow

© Nyki Blatchley

 

This page was added on 10/01/2018.

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