A flaxen-headed cowboy, as simple as may be, And next a merry ploughboy, I whistled o'er the lea; But now a saucy footman, I strut in worsted lace, And soon I'll be a butler, and [wag]1 my jolly face. When steward I'm promoted, I'll [snip a]2 trademen's bill, My master's coffers empty, my pockets for to fill; When lolling in my chariot, so great a man I'll be, You'll forget the little ploughboy that whistled o'er the lea. I'll buy votes at elections, but, when I've made the pelf, I'll stand poll for the parliament, and then vote in myself; Whatever's good for me, sir, I never will oppose; When all my ayes are sold off, why then I'll sell my noes. I'll [bawl]3, harangue, and paragraph, with speeches charm the ear; And when I'm tired on my legs, then I'll sit down a peer; In court or city honours, so great a man I'll be, You'll forget the little ploughboy that whistled o'er the lea.
About the headline (FAQ)View original text (without footnotes)
1 Britten: "whey" (i.e., pale, to show he is no longer out in the sun performing manual labour)
2 Britten: "snip the" (or it might be sung sometimes as "sift", as suggested by J. M. Sykes after listening to a recording)
3 Britten: "joke"
- from Volkslieder (Folksongs) , "The little plough-boy that whistled o'er the lea" [author's text checked 1 time against a primary source]
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Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]