‘Reynardine’ (performed by Anne Briggs)

This traditional song was recorded by Anne on her 1971 album ‘Anne Briggs’. Bert Jansch learned the song from Anne and released it a few years later on his album ‘Rosemary Lane’. He created a very fine blues guitar arrangement, but to my mind, since then the song has been identified far too closely with the guitar arrangement and the lyric has faded into the background. Anne’s unaccompanied arrangement is still my favourite.

These notes come from the ‘Mainly Norfolk’ website:

This old ballad of seduction on a mountainside by perhaps an outlaw was published on lots of broadsides in the 18th century with varying titles, most often (Upon Those) Mountains High, Ryner Dyne, and Rinordine.

A.L. Lloyd sang four unaccompanied verses of this ballad with the previously seldom used title Reynardine—hinting with this change of name at possible connections to Reynard the Fox—in 1956 on his Tradition Records LP The Foggy Dew and Other Traditional English Love Songs. He commented in his sleeve notes:

A girl meets a man on the mountain and surrenders immediately to his persuasion. Who was Reynardine, with his irresistible charm, his glittering eye, his foxy smile? An ordinary man, or an outlaw maybe, or some supernatural lover? Is he that dreadful Mr Fox in the English folk-tale, the elegant gentleman whose bedroom was full of skeletons and buckets of blood? The song does not say. It puts a finger to its lips and preserves the mystery, letting the enigmatic text and dramatic tune hint at unspeakable things.

He recorded Reynardine in 1966 again for his album First Person. He added four more verses, and here he introduced the phrase “his teeth so bright did shine” that was used by many later revival singers. This track was re-released on e.g. the Fellside CD Classic A.L. Lloyd. A.L. Lloyd commented in his album’s sleeve notes:

A vulpine name for a crafty hero. Mr Fox is a disquieting figure in folk tales. A girl tosses her glass ball into his garden, and when she goes to retrieve it, he holds her prisoner. One thing she must not do if she is ever to regain her freedom: that is, to look under the bed. But she cannot master her curiosity, and one day when the coast seems clear, she looks under the bed, and there, grinning at her is Mr. Fox. In another tale Mr. Fox is an elegant witty lover with a cupboard full of bones and tubs of blood. The dread uncertainty is whether he is man or animal. Similar unease broods within this song. Some commentators have thought it concerns a love affair between an English lady and an Irish outlaw, and have set its date in Elizabeth’s time. Others believe the story is older and consider Reynardine, the “little fox”, to be a supernatural, lycanthropic lover. It was a favourite ballad in both Ireland and England in the nineteenth century. Bebbington of Manchester and Such of London were among several publishers who issued broadsides of the song, and it is widely scattered in North America from Arkansas to Nova Scotia. Mr Gale Huntington found a version scribbled in the back of the logbook of the New Bedford whaler Sharon in 1845. The (very explicitly) Mixolydian tune I use is but one of several attached to the song.

Here are the lyrics:

One evening as I rambled amongst the springing thyme,
I overheard a young woman conversing with Reynardine.

And her hair was black and her eyes were blue, her mouth as red as wine,
And he smiled as he looked upon her, did this sly bold Reynardine.

And she says, “Young man, be civil, my company forsake,
For to my good opinion I fear you are a rake.”

And he said, “My dear, well I am no rake brought up in Venus’ train.
But I’m searching for concealment all from the judge’s men.”

And her cherry cheeks and her ruby lips they lost their former dye,
And she’s fell into his arms there all on the mountain high.

And they hadn’t kissed but once or twice till she came to again,
And it’s modestly she asked him, “Pray tell to me your name.”

“Well, if by chance you ask for me, perhaps you’ll not me find,
I’ll be in my green castle, enquire for Reynardine.”

And it’s day and night she followed him his, teeth so bright did shine.
And he led her over the mountain, did the sly bold Reynardine.

Martin Simpson also does a very fine version of this song.


One thought on “‘Reynardine’ (performed by Anne Briggs)

  1. Irene Hi

    Here’s a 1967 version by Buffy Sainte Marie

    I sometimes wonder if Reynardine inspired this Vampire song by Buffy

    Irene in BC

    “Know that your kindness has a ripple effect upon the world.”


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