Oh Good Ale, Thou Art My Darling!

Good Ale    One of our all time favourites!  Most famous for its being of the repertoire of the Copper Family of Rottingdean, Sussex Downs, England.  It is of such taste that it made its way about the British isles and each country therein seems to have a tradition that they themselves would be the origins of this delightful ode, but in fact it is English and dates to around the late 18th century in this form… (The Traditional Ballad Index places it to the 1790 book “The Banquet of Thalia or Fashionable Songsters Pocket Memorial”, song #77 – see image of that page below… There are references to this lyric poem cum song some 20 to 40 years earlier). It is derived from rather similar songs with variable melodies and lyrics to the turn of the 18th century and some determined fellow claims to have dated it well into the earlier century still (“Bring Us In Good Ale” dating to around 1460).  It is believed that this song with this melody was among the earliest of the Copper Family collection, although I have no evidence either way.  I will happily entertain anyone’s research into this – with citations.

Jos. Morneault


It is of good ale to you I’ll sing,
And to good ale I’ll always cling.
I like my mug filled to the brim
And I’ll drink all you’d like to bring.

Chorus (after each verse):
Oh Good Ale, thou art my darling,
Thou art my joy both night and morning.

It is you that helps me with my work,
And from a task I’ll never shirk
While I can get a good home brew;
And better than one pint, I like two.

I love you in the early morn,
I love you in daylight, dark, or dawn.
And when I’m weary, worn, or spent
I’ll turn the tap and ease the vent.

It is you that makes my friends my foes,
It is you that makes me wear old clothes.
But since you come so near my nose
It’s up you comes and down you goes.

And if all my friends from Adam’s race
Was to meet me here all in this place,
I could part from all without one fear
Before I’d part from my good beer.

*And if my wife should me despise,
*How soon I’d give her two black eyes.
But if she loved me as I love thee,
What a happy couple we should be.

You have caused me debts and I’ve often swore
I never would drink strong ale anymore.
But you, for all that, I’ll forgive
And I’ll drink strong ale as long as I live.

* I modified this during one performance to the lines “And if my wife should thee despise, and sooner give me two black eyes…” which seems to bring it more into today’s line of thinking.




A much earlier version…
From the Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads, Harding B 16(180a).


Long time I have been seeking thee,
But now we’ve met, we’ll both agree;
For thou’rt the darling of my heart,
Though thou make’st my clothes look much the worse.

CHORUS: Singing, ale, good ale, thou art my darling.
I will enjoy thee night and morning.

Sometimes thou make’st my friend my foe.
Sometimes thou make’st me pawn my clothes.
But if I get thee to my nose,
I’ll turn thee up and down thou goes. CHORUS

Now if my wife should thee despise,
Blame her! I’ll give her two black eyes,
For if she loves me as I love thee,
A happier couple there could not be. CHORUS

Now since we’ve all met in this place,
Assembled after Adam’s race,
I would part with all without a tear,
Before I’d part with thee, my dear. CHORUS

In came the landlord, stout and big,
With his cocked had and powdered wig,
And the fat landlady shakes with fat,
Crying, “Now, my lads, who pays for that?” CHORUS

Now to conclude and end my song,
My money’s done—I must begone;
But I will go and earn some more,
To fill this empty tub once more. CHORUS


Image from the 1790 edition “The Banquet of Thalia”, song #77

Oh Good Ale - Banquet of Thalia


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