Monthly Archives: November 2013

Young Hunting [demo]

A traditional ballad (Child 68). Nick Cave recorded a version of an American variant called Henry Lee. So Wikipedia tells me. I was never a Bad Seeds follower…

Demo version:

I don’t usually rewrite traditional songs, and I honestly can’t remember where I found these words, but I liked the way they pared down most of the elements of the story without completely losing the supernatural aspect, and I don’t think I tweaked them much. I didn’t have a tune, so I wrote one. I haven’t sung it in decades, but I suddenly remembered it when I was working up another song of mine that uses a variation of the same tune.  I can’t remember how I played it before, but I’m working on a guitar version. In the meantime, I think the unaccompanied version that works quite well, or could if sung by a better singer.

Young Hunting (arr. and adapted Harley)

Light down, light down my own true love
And stay with me the night
For I have a bed and a fireside too
And a candle that burns so bright.

I can’t light down and I won’t light down
Nor spend the night with thee
For I have a love and a true true love
Would think so ill of me

But he’s bent down from his saddle
To kiss her snowy white cheek
She’s stolen the dagger from out of his belt
And plunged it into him so deep

She’s taken him by his long yellow hair
And the maid’s taken him by the feet
They’ve plunged him into that deep doleful well
Full 20 fathoms deep

And as she’s turned her round to go home
She’s heard some pretty bird sing
Go home, go home you cruel girl
And weep and mourn for him

Fly down, fly down you pretty bird
Fly down and go home with me
And your cage will be made of the glittering gold
And the perch of the best ivory

I can’t fly down and I won’t fly down
And I’ll not go home with thee
For you have slain your own true love
And I’m feared you’ll murder me

I wish I had my bent horn bow
And drawn with a silken string
I surely would shoot that cruel bird
As sits in the briars and sings

I wish you had your bent horn bow
And drawn with a silken string
I surely would fly from vine to vine
And always you’d hear me sing

How can I keep from singing?

[Listening to this after about a year, I think I feel the need to record it again properly. The tone is quite nice, but some of the ornamentation is awkward. Watch this space. DH, December 2014.)

Ironically enough, given its title, an instrumental version of a 19th century hymn. I’ve been playing it a lot since I started playing serious slide guitar again.

The hymn has its own Wikipedia page, including the first published lyrics and the verse added by Doris Plenn and sung by Pete Seeger. In fact, I first heard it on Seeger’s I Can See a New Day album, a compilation of live recordings released in 1964. The music is credited to Robert Lowrey, as published in his ‘Bright Jewels for the Sunday School’, published in 1869, but the source of the original lyrics is uncertain. The lyrics (apart from Plenn’s) included in the Wikipedia page are apparently as published in the New York Observer in 1868 under the title Always Rejoicing and attributed to ‘Pauline T.’

When I do it live, I sometimes go straight into Twelve Gates to the City, which I first learned from the same source. However, I can’t say I’ve ever heard anyone else do either song as a slide guitar piece.

The guitar I used was a Gretsch Bobtail roundneck resonator guitar using an open E tuning.

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World
ESET Senior Research Fellow