The Jovial Hunter of Bromsgrove
The Old Man and His Three Sons

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Melody -
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Traditional Worcestershire or Warwickshire ballad

Old Sir Robert Bolton had three sons,
Wind well thy horn, good hunter;
And one of them was Sir Ryalas,
For he was a jovial hunter.

2. He ranged all round down by the wood side,
Wind well thy horn, good hunter,
Till in a tree-top a gay lady he spied,
For he was a jovial hunter.

3. 'Oh, what dost thee mean, fair lady,' said he,
Wind well thy horn, good hunter;
'The wild boar's killed my lord, and has thirty men gored,
And thou beest a jovial hunter.'

4. 'Oh, what shall I do this wild boar for to see?'
Wind well thy horn, good hunter;
'Oh, thee blow a blast and he'll come unto thee,
As thou beest a jovial hunter.'

5. Then he blowed a blast, full north, east, west, and south,
Wind well thy horn, good hunter;
And the wild boar then heard him full in his den,
As he was a jovial hunter.

6. Then he made the best of his speed unto him,
Wind well thy horn, good hunter;
Swift flew the boar, with his tusks smeared with gore,
To Sir Ryalas, the jovial hunter.

7. Then the wild boar, being so stout and so strong,
Wind well thy horn, good hunter;
Thrashed down the trees as he ramped him along,
To Sir Ryalas, the jovial hunter.

8. 'Oh, what dost thee want of me?' wild boar, said he,
Wind well thy horn, good hunter;
'Oh, I think in my heart I can do enough for thee,
For I am the jovial hunter.'

9. Then they fought four hours in a long summer day,
Wind well thy horn, good hunter;
Till the wild boar fain would have got him away
From Sir Ryalas, the jovial hunter.

10. Then Sir Ryalas drawed his broad sword with might,
Wind well thy horn, good hunter;
And he fairly cut the boar's head off quite,
For he was a jovial hunter.

11. Then out of the wood the wild woman flew,
Wind well thy horn, good hunter;
'Oh, my pretty spotted pig thou hast slew,
For thou beest a jovial hunter.

12. 'There are three things, I demand them of thee,'
Wind well thy horn, good hunter;
'It's thy horn, and thy hound, and thy gay lady,
As thou beest a jovial hunter.'

13. 'If these three things thou dost ask of me,'
Wind well thy horn, good hunter;
'It's just as my sword and thy neck can agree,
For I am a jovial hunter.'

14. Then into his long locks the wild woman flew,
Wind well thy horn, good hunter;
Till she thought in her heart to tear him through,
Though he was a jovial hunter.

15. Then Sir Ryalas drawed his broad sword again,
Wind well thy horn, good hunter,
And he fairly split her head into twain,
For he was a jovial hunter.

16. In Bromsgrove church, the knight he doth lie,
Wind well thy horn, good hunter;
And the wild boar's head is pictured thereby,
Sir Ryalas, the jovial hunter.


This song was first printed as The Jovial Hunter of Bromsgrove, but among the common folk of Worcestershire and Warwick, it has always been called The Old Man and His Three Sons. The second title is derived from the usage of calling a ballad after the first line - a practice that has descended to the present day. There is an old nursery song that takes from this one.

Whether this song belongs to either Worcestershire or Warwickshire is rather questionable. The probability is that it is a north country ballad connected with the family of Bolton, of Bolton, in Wensleydale. A tomb, said to be that of Sir Ryalas Bolton, "The Jovial Hunter", is shown in Bromsgrove church, Worcestershire; but there is no evidence beyond tradition to connect it with the name or deeds of any 'Bolton;' indeed it is well known that the tomb belongs to a family of another name. In the following version are preserved some of the peculiarities of the Worcestershire dialect.

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