The Watersons recorded Apple Tree Wassail in 1975 on For Pence and Spicy Ale. This blessing of fruit-bearing trees was common in the English counties of Devon and Somerset, firing gunpowder among the branches and putting a piece of toast on the roots, sometime around the New Year or Epiphany. Peter Kennedy notes that in many places in Somerset it took place on “old style” Epiphany, January 17. John thought the addition of a “village fiddler” would be just the ticket for this song, and Fred obliged.
O lily-white lily, O lily-white pin
Please to come down and let us come in
Lily-white lily, O lily-white smock
Please to come down and pull back the lock
For it’s our wassail, and a jolly wassail!
Joy come to our jolly wassail!
How well they may bloom, how well they may bear
So we may have apples and cider next year
O master and mistress, O are you within?
Please to come down and pull back the pin
O master and mistress, it is our desire
A good loaf and cheese, and a toast by the fire
There was an old farmer and he had an old cow
But how to milk her he didn’t know how
He put his old cow down in his old barn
And a little more liquor won’t do us no harm
Harm my boys harm, harm my boys harm
A little more liquor won’t do us no harm
For the ringles and the jingles and the tenor of the song goes — merrily
The ringles and the jingles and the tenor of the song goes — merrily
The tenor of the song goes merrily
Hatfuls, capfuls, three-bushel bagfuls,
Little heaps under the stairs.
Hip hip hip, hooray!