One Man Shall Mow My Meadow

I’m going through Rise Again, the sequel to Rise Up Singing, and in the “Ballads & Old Songs” section I came across a song I was unfamiliar with.

The first line goes:

One man shall mow my meadow

…so I assumed it was going to be one of those old bawdy-euphemism songs.

But then the next line was:

2 men shall gather it together

…and I started thinking, Oh, it’s one of those bawdy-euphemism songs. One man isn’t enough! She needs two! …but, hmm, I’m starting to lose track of the metaphor here, what’s being gathered together?

And then the next line came along:

2 men, 1 man & 1 more

OK, apparently she needs four men.

Shall shear my lambs & ewes & rams

Um. I feel like this metaphor is getting away from me.

And gather my gold together

…and then I got to the second verse:

3 men shall mow my meadow / 4 men shall gather it…

and the third verse:

5 men shall mow…

and I thought OK, I think I had the wrong idea entirely about what kind of song this is.

Eventually I found a recording of someone singing it. Apparently it’s generally considered a counting song.

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