Let Your Back and Sides Go Bare

Joe Brown reminded about this gem – it’s a later folk – derivation from the poem cum broadside ballad “Jolly Good Ale and Old” by John Still (1543–1608), which I will include below this song.  Also here’s a wonderful performance by John Roberts – he sings it in a different key than I do, in case you try to play along.

Jos. Morneault



              C                    G                   C
I would sooner be a beggar as a king
     F                                C
I’ll tell you the reason why:
   F                                         C
A king cannot swagger or walk like a beggar
           C           G            C
Or be half so happy as I.

                         C                              G              C
cho: Let your back and sides go bare, me boys
          F                                             C
Your hands and your feet grow cold.
        F                                          C
But give to your belly, boys, (*!) beer enough
                 C       G          C
Whether it be new or old.

I’ve sixpence in me pocket and I worked hard for that
Landlord, here it is.
There isn’t any Turk going to make me work
While the beggin’ is as good as it is.


Sometimes we call at a nobleman’s hall
Beg for bread and beer.
Sometimes we are lame, sometimes we are blind
Sometimes too deaf too hear.


Sometimes we lie like hogs in a sty,
Frost and snow on the ground.
Sometimes eat a crust that’s rolled in the dust
And be thankful if that can be found.

Chorus 2x

(*!) stomp or clap



Jolly Good Ale and Old

I CANNOT eat but little meat,—
My stomach is not good;
But, sure, I think that I can drink
With him that wears a hood.
Though I go bare, take ye no care;        5
I nothing am a-cold,—
I stuff my skin so full within
Of jolly good ale and old.

Back and side go bare, go bare;
Both foot and hand go cold;       10
But, belly, God send thee good ale enough,
Whether it be new or old!

I love no roast but a nut-brown toast,
And a crab laid in the fire;
A little bread shall do me stead,—        15
Much bread I not desire.
No frost, nor snow, nor wind, I trow,
Can hurt me if I wold,—
I am so wrapt, and thorowly lapt
Of jolly good ale and old.
Back and side, etc.                           20

And Tyb, my wife, that as her life
Loveth well good ale to seek,
Full oft drinks she, till you may see
The tears run down her cheek;
Then doth she trowl to me the bowl,        25
Even as a malt-worm should;
And saith, “Sweetheart, I took my part
Of this jolly good ale and old.”
Back and side, etc.

Now let them drink till they nod and wink,
Even as good fellows should do;        30
They shall not miss to have the bliss
Good ale doth bring men to;
And all poor souls that have scoured bowls,
Or have them lustily trowled,
God save the lives of them and their wives,        35
Whether they be young or old!

Back and side go bare, go bare;
Both foot and hand go cold;
But, belly, God send thee good ale enough,
Whether it be new or old!                    40

2 thoughts on “Let Your Back and Sides Go Bare

  1. Songbird

    You’ll be happy to note that this is the song I’ve had most often running through my head over the past week. :)


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