The Fox (folk song)
The Fox is a traditional folk song (Roud 131) from England. It is also the subject of at least two picture books, The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night: an old song, illustrated by Peter Spier and Fox Went out on a Chilly Night, by Wendy Watson. The earliest version of the song was a Middle English poem, dating from the 15th century, found in the British Museum.
Typical lyrics are as follows:
The fox went out on a chilly night,
he prayed to the Moon to give him light,
for he'd many a mile to go that night
before he reached the town-o, town-o, town-o,
he had many a mile to go that night
before he reached the town-o.
He ran till he came to a great big bin
where the ducks and the geese were put therein.
"A couple of you will grease my chin
before I leave this town-o, town-o, town-o,
a couple of you will grease my chin
before I leave this town-o."
He grabbed the grey goose by the neck,
threw the gray goose behind his back;
he didn't mind their quack, quack, quack,
and their legs all a-dangling down-o, down-o, down-o,
he didn't mind their quack, quack, quack,
and their legs all a-dangling down-o.
Old Mother pitter patter jumped out of bed;
out of the window she cocked her head,
Crying, "John, John! The grey goose is gone
and the fox is on the town-o, town-o, town-o!"
Crying, "John, John, the grey goose is gone
and the fox is on the town-o!"
Then John he went to the top of the hill,
blowed his horn both loud and shrill,
the fox he said, "I'd better flee with my kill
He’ll soon be on my trail-o, trail-o, trail-o."
The fox he said, "I'd better flee with my kill
He’ll soon be on my trail-o."
He ran till he came to his cozy den;
there were the little ones eight, nine, ten.
They said, "Daddy, better go back again,
'cause it must be a mighty fine town-o, town-o, town-o!"
They said, "Daddy, better go back again,
'cause it must be a mighty fine town-o."
Then the fox and his wife without any strife
cut up the goose with a fork and knife.
They never had such a supper in their life
and the little ones chewed on the bones-o, bones-o, bones-o,
they never had such a supper in their life
and the little ones chewed on the bones-o.
In Joseph Ritson's Gammer Gurton's Garland (1810), the song is recorded (under the name "Dame Widdle Waddle") thus: (The cover of 'The Fox' by Marty Robbins has the same lyrics as below.)
Old Mother Widdle Waddle jumpt out of bed,
And out at the casement she popt out her head:
Crying the house is on fire, the grey goose is dead,
And the fox he is come to the town, oh!
The two earliest versions both date from the fifteenth century (c. 1500), and are written in Middle English. The first, usually called "The Fox and the Goose", goes as follows:
"Pax uobis," quod the ffox,
"for I am comyn to toowne."
It fell ageyns the next nyght
the fox yede to with all his myghte,
with-outen cole or candelight,
whan that he cam vnto the toowne.
Whan he cam all in the yarde,
soore te geys wer ill a-ferde.
"I shall macke some of yow lerde,
or that I goo from the toowne!"
Whan he cam all in the croofte,
there he stalkyd wundirfull soofte;
"For here haue I be frayed full ofte
whan that I haue come to toowne."
He hente a goose all be the heye;
fast the goose began to creye;
oowte yede men as they myght heye
and seyde, "Fals fox, ley it doowne!"
"Nay," he saide, "soo mot I the—
sche shall go unto the wode with me,
sche and I vnther a tre,
e-mange the beryis browne.
I haue a wyf, and sche lyethe seke;
many smale whelppis sche haue to eke;
many bonys they must pike
will they ley adowne!"
The second, called "The False Fox" ("false" here meaning "deceitful"), is as follows:
The fals fox camme unto owre croft,
and so oure gese ful fast he sought;
- With how, fox, how!
- With hey, fox, hey!
- Comme no more unto oure howse
- to bere oure gese aweye!
The fals fox camme into oure yerde,
and there he made the gese aferde.
The fals fox camme unto oure gate,
and toke our gese there where they sate.
The fals fox camme to owre halle dore;
and shrove our gese there in the flore.
The fals fox camme into our halle,
and assoyled our gese both grete and small.
The fals fox camme unto oure cowpe,
and there he made our gese to stowpe.
He toke a gose fast by the nek,
and the goose thoo begann to quek.
The good wyfe camme out in her smok,
and at the fox she threw hir rok.
The good mann camme out with his flayle,
and smote the fox upon the tayle.
He threw a gose upon his bak,
and furth he went to thoo with his pak.
The goodmann swore, yf that he myght,
he wolde hym slee or it were nyght.
The fals fox went into his denne,
and there he was fully mery thenne.
He camme ayene yet the next wek,
and toke awey both henne and chek.
The goodman saide unto his wyfe,
"This fals fox lyveth a mery lyfe."
The fals fox camme uppoun a day,
and with oure gese he made a ffray.
He toke a goose fast by the nek,
and made her to say, "Wheccumquek!"
"I pray the, fox," said the goose thoo,
"take of my fethers but not of my to."
"The Fox" has been recorded or covered by:
- Harry Belafonte, on Mark Twain and Other Folk Favorites RCA LPM-1022, LP (1954)
- Pete Seeger, on Birds Beasts Bugs & Bigger Fishes Folkways, LP (1955)
- Burl Ives, on Burl Ives Sings... For Fun (1956)
- Odetta, on Odetta at the Gate of Horn (1957)
- Salli Terri, on Songs of Enchantment (1959)
- The Brothers Four, on the album Rally 'Round! (c. 1960)
- Jimmie Rogers, from the album Jimmie Rogers sings Folk Songs (1960)
- Tom Glazer, from the Album Come On and Join in the Game (1960s)
- The Smothers Brothers, on the comedy album Think Ethnic (1963)
- Jon Pertwee, on the album Children's Favourites (1966) MFP 1175
- The Young Tradition, as "Daddy Fox," on the album So Cheerfully Round (1967) TRA 155
- MacLean & MacLean, as a parody with vulgar lyrics on MacLean & MacLean Suck Their Way to the Top
- Roger Whittaker, on the album "The Magical World of Roger Whittaker" (1975)
- Tom Glazer, on the album "Children's Greatest Hits, Vol II" (1977)
- Tim Hart, as "A Fox Jumped Up" on the album The Drunken Sailor and other Kids Favourites (1983)
- Fred Penner, on Special Delivery, LP (1983), later reissued as Ebeneezer Sneezer, (1994), CD.
- Nancy Cassidy, on the album "Kids Songs" (1986)
- A cartoon made by Weston Woods (1988)
- Benjamin Luxon and Bill Crofut, on the album Simple Gifts (1989)
- Spider John Koerner, as "The Fox" on his album "Raised By Humans" (1992).
- Peter, Paul and Mary, on the album Peter, Paul and Mommy, Too (1993)
- Ceilidh Friends, as "Daddy Fox," on the album Yellowknife Evening (1994) MDS-2
- Bill Staines, on his album One More River (1998)
- Charlie Zahm, on his album The Celtic Balladeer (1999)
- Nickel Creek, on their self titled album (2000)
- Da Vinci's Notebook, parodied as "The Gates" about a disgruntled laptop PC user going after Bill Gates on Brontosaurus (2002)
- Shira Kammen ("The False Fox", vocals by Shay Black) on "The Almanac" (2003)
- Eddie Blazonczyk and the Versatones, on Under The Influence (2005)
- Tom Chapin, sung/narrated as an audio book with Chapin providing all the voices (2006)
- The Boogers, on their album "Road to Rock" (2008)
- Three Quarter Ale, on their album Shall We Gather by the Fire (2010)
- Garrison Keillor and Guy's All Star Shoe Band, performed on a broadcast of Prairie Home Companion (2011)
- Laura Veirs, on her album Tumble Bee: Laura Veirs Sings Folk Songs For Children (2011)
- Rising Regina, on their album Rearranged (2011)
- We Banjo 3, released as a single with artist Sharon Shannon (2015)
- Misha Collins and Darius Marder, on a livestream (2016)
- Peter Hollens on his album 'Legendary Folk Songs' (2018)
- The Petersens & Ger O'Donnell (2019)
- Richard Matteson, Jr (2006). See extract in Google books. ISBN 9780786671601. Retrieved 2012-02-01. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- George Perkins, "A Medieval Carol Survival: "The Fox and the Goose," Journal of American Folklore 74 (1961): 235–244. 
- Gammer Gurton's Garland
- Latin Pax vobis, "Peace to you"
- Keillor, Garrison. "The Road Goes On Forever – Prairie Home Companion". NPR. Retrieved October 9, 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
There was a version sung by Marty Robbins in 1954 with the same lyrics. He did a cover of the song to honor his grandfather.
- Legendary Folk Songs by Peter Hollens