Diggers' Song

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Diggers' Song
by Gerrard Winstanley
GenreFolk
FormBallad
LanguageEnglish
Composed17th century
Published1894

The "Diggers' Song" (also known as "Levellers and Diggers") is a 17th-century English ballad, in terms of content a protest song concerned with land rights, inspired by the Diggers movement, composed by Gerrard Winstanley. The lyrics were published in 1894 by the Camden Society. It is sung to a version of the family of tunes later used for "Sam Hall", "Captain Kidd", and "Admiral John Benbow", which according to Roy Palmer was first printed in 1714. The English band Chumbawamba recorded a version of this song on their 1988 album English Rebel Songs 1381–1914.

It is often thought that "The World Turned Upside Down" (not to be confused with the 17th-century ballad of the same title), composed by Leon Rosselson in 1975, taken into the charts in 1985 by Billy Bragg, and performed by several other artists, is a version of "Diggers' Song".[citation needed] In May 2009 Leon Rosselson corrected this belief in The Guardian newspaper:[1]

I wrote the song in 1974 ... It's the story of the Digger Commune of 1649 and their vision of the earth as "a common treasury". It's become a kind of anthem for various radical groups, particularly since Billy Bragg recorded it [1985], and is not adapted from any other song. The title is taken from Christopher Hill's book about the English revolution.

Rosselson later recorded a version of The Diggers' Song (under the title "You Noble Diggers All"), using the traditional lyrics and tune, on his album Harry's Gone Fishing.

Chumbawamba also released a version of Rosselson's composition on their 1993 single "Timebomb". Also, Chumbawamba sang "The Diggers' Song" in 1988 on their LP English Rebel Songs 1381–1914 and they recorded it again in 2003 for the re-made CD English Rebel Songs 1381–1984. In 2007, they sang it on their live CD Get On With It – Live.

The song was selected by Tony Benn when he appeared on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs on 15 January 1989.[2]

Lyrics[edit]

You noble Diggers all, stand up now, stand up now,
    You noble Diggers all, stand up now,
The wast land to maintain, seeing Cavaliers by name
Your digging does maintain, and persons all defame
        Stand up now, stand up now.

Your houses they pull down, stand up now, stand up now,
    Your houses they pull down, stand up now.
Your houses they pull down to fright your men in town,
But the gentry must come down, and the poor shall wear the crown.
        Stand up now, Diggers all.[3]

— Stanzas 1 & 2

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ "Corrections and Clarifications". The Guardian. London. 16 May 2009. Retrieved 30 May 2009.
  2. ^ "Tony Benn". Desert Island Discs. 15 January 1989. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 6 December 2018.
  3. ^ White, E. A. (1940). "The Diggers' Song". Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society. 4 (1): 23–30. ISSN 0071-0563. JSTOR 4521172.

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