“Hal-an-Tow”

Alternate titles: “Haile an Taw and Jolly Rumbelow”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1660 (mentioned by Nicholas Boson of Newlyn; first actual text 1846 (Sandys))
Keywords: magic ritual dancing nonballad Robinhood
Found in: Britain(England(South))

Description

Spring ritual song; "Robin Hood and Little John they both are gone to fair-O"'; other verses similar. Cho.: "Hal-an-tow/Jolly rumble-O/For we are up as soon as any day-O/For to fetch the summer home, the summer and the May-O...."

Long description

Spring ritual song; "Robin Hood and Little John they both are gone to fair-O"; "Where are the Spaniards that made so great a boast-O/They shall eat the goose feather and we shall have the roast-O"; "Of all the knights in Christendom St. George he is the right-O." Chorus: "Hal-an-tow/Jolly rumble-O/For we are up as soon as any day-O/For to fetch the summer home, the summer and the May-O/For summer is a comin' in and winter is a-gone."

Notes

A May song and Maypole dance. A version is still performed along with the Helston Furry Dance on May 8th of every year. Kennedy's Cornish words are a revivalist translation from the English. The phrase "Hal-an-tow [taw]" is variously translated as "heave on the rope" and "hoist the roof." - PJS

Both "hal-an(d)-to" and "rumbelo/rumble-o" have provoked scholarly discussion. No decisive answer seems to have been found.The phrases seem to date back at least to the beginning of the fourteenth century, however; E. K. Chambers (_English Literature at the Close of the Middle Ages_, p. 74) quotes, with an astonishing lack of bibliographic detail, one of the "Brut" chronicles concerning the battle of Bannockburn:

Maydenes of Engelande, sare may ye morne,

For tynt [presumably past tense of tine, lose, forfeit] ye have youre lemmans at Bannokseborn,

With hevalogh

What wende [thought] the Kyng of Engleand

To have ygete Scotlande

With rombylogh.

Chambers explains both "hevalogh" and "rumbylogh" as "boating refrains," but does not show any supporting evidence.

The verse about the "Spaniards that made so great a boast-O" presumably refers to the Spanish Armada of 1588. - RBW

References

  1. Kennedy 92, "Hal-An-Tow" (1 text + Cornish translation, 1 tune)
  2. DT, HALANTO*
  3. Roud #1520
  4. BI, K092