Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Folk Song for October 2024: Early One Morning

“Early One Morning” is an English folk song apparently dating to the eighteenth century, yet which sounds like it belongs to an even earlier time, perhaps of minstrels with lutes. (Canadians over a certain age may associate it with the sound of harps and recorders, as it was the theme of the Friendly Giant children's T.V. show.

Someone has commented that it’s a very cheery song in spite of its tale of lost love, and perhaps that has contributed to its longevity. Nineteenth-century music publisher William Chappell wrote that “If I were required to name three of the most popular songs among the servant-maids of the present generation, I should say, from my own experience, that they are Cupid's Garden, I sow'd the seeds of love, and Early one morning.” However, its popularity was not limited only to servants;  composers such as Benjamin Britten and Percy Grainger also arranged the song as a choral work, and it was incorporated into longer pieces such as the Nell Gwyn Overture by Edward German.


As with many folk songs, this song has different versions. These are the lyrics most typically heard.

Early one morning,
Just as the sun was rising,
I heard a young maid sing,
In the valley below.

Oh, don't deceive me,
Oh, never leave me,
How could you use
A poor maiden so?

Remember the vows,
That you made to your Mary [made to me truly],
Remember the bow'r,
Where you vowed to be true,

Oh gay is the garland,
And fresh are the roses,
I've culled from the garden,
To place upon [bind on] thy brow.

Thus sang the poor maiden,
Her sorrows bewailing,
Thus sang the poor maid,
In the valley below.

Video Links

We suggest these recordings: 

Nana Mouskouri, from her album Quand tu chantes. Nana’s lyrics are a bit different from those we have given above.

This acapella arrangement from the CD “Early One Morning” by Diane Sutherland and Bruno “Elevteros” Libert.

The Celtic Ladies have an arrangement that we think might have met with the approval of our friend and Advisory colleague Lynn Bruce. 

Our helpful intro post is sure to liven up your folk song adventures.

For more information on our folk songs, and for Amazon affiliate 
links to purchase individual songs, see our AO Folk Songs page.
These affiliate links help support AmblesideOnline.


  1. Heads up: one of the linked videos (the Diane Sutherland one) shows a series of images. The image at 1 minute 25 seconds appears to be a photograph of a woman clad in a sheer fabric with small embroidered flowers on it. It looks like just embroidered flowers at first, but unfortunately I think two of the spots are...ahem...not flowers.