The Snow It Melts The Soonest


Jon says, “This is also from Anne Briggs, although Eliza used to sing this a lot solo at Ratcatchers gigs and we’d listen from the wings. Apparently the original was from a male perspective but I think it works better with a girl narrator so I’m sticking with that.”

I can add that this is definitely Briggs and for a while it was even incorrectly attributed as her composition, although that was as a result of Chinese whispers rather than any attempt to take the credit on her part. You can read the full Mudcat thread here should you so wish. A.L. Lloyd’s notes on A Collection CD make it plain that it was collected and published in Blackwood’s Magazine early as 1821 by a Thomas Doubleday. He in turn got it from a Newcastle street singer. The melody is given as My Love Is Newly Listed. The Mudcat thread above also offers the possibility that Doubleday wrote the words himself and somewhere in there is a reprint of a section of the tune, which I am not clever enough to tell you anything about – it’s all dots and squiggles to me. I did include this in my Alternative Advent Calendar, however, being much taken with it. Given the apparent gender transfer it’s interesting that Jon hasn’t swapped it back again. Although I agree with him that it somehow suits a female perspective.
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22 Responses to “The Snow It Melts The Soonest”

  1. Joy Toole says:

    That was lovely thanks Jon and a Happy new year to you and Fay and littluns!

  2. Reinhard says:

    Regarding the male or female perspective, it is intersting to read Tom Gilfellon’s note on his 1976 album “In the Middle of the Tune”:

    “I still tend to the view that it might just be Male Chauvinist Pig Song of the Year… I recognise the arrogance of the words, and there I’ll let it be. It has a most beautiful tune, however, which was collected by the Newcastle radical Thomas Doubleday from a street singer (It’s not clear who wrote the words). I apologise to my female friends and to my wife Maggie in advance. The leopard cannot change his spots nor I my grunt but we can cunningly camouflage them if we’re lucky!”

  3. Reinhard says:

    The tune My Love Is Newly Listed used here is also known as The White Cocckade which Jon sang way back on June 29.

  4. Shelley says:

    Lovely, and definitely another for my ever-growing “to learn” list.

  5. Shelley says:

    Lovely, and definitely another for my ever-growing “to learn” list.

  6. Brian Leach says:

    Always associated with Bert Jansch and Pentangle for me, its been a favourite for years. The Horslips version is interesting.

  7. Brian Leach says:

    Also I thought it was of Scottish origin on account of the line “between the nicht and morn” but perhaps that was just Jansch’s take on it.

  8. John Wigley says:

    Oh, that’s nice…

  9. Nick Passmore says:

    For a definitive male narrated version, check out “The Snows they melt the soonest” on “A Handful of Earth” by Dick Gaughan: for me, the definitive version…

  10. Phil says:

    As I said when I introduced Blackwaterside once, “This is a tune that Bert Jansch borrowed from Jimmy Page; Bert played it to Anne Briggs, she turned it into a song, Bert Lloyd heard her singing it one day, and the rest is history.” Something similar may have happened with this one.

    (Then again, it may not.)

  11. the_otter says:

    I’ve loved this song since I heard the Anne Briggs version. Good to hear it on aFSaD. I like the resonance of Jon’s voice here.

  12. Jane Ramsden says:

    Really liked this one, though I can be funny about cross-gendering songs sometimes! This works very well, and very well-sung, Jon. Thanks for info about all the other versions, folks, and Oink Reinhard for pointing out about The White Cockade, as I sensed a similarity somewhere along the AFSAD line.

  13. Diana says:

    Found this rather melancholy but interesting all the same.

    There seems to be some missing persons, one appears to have gone to ground, one is perhaps shopping in Sainsbugs or working hard in Bolton, and the other is still coming to grips with a lovely shiny laptop. Not as easy with a flattened keyboard, and being mouse-less less manoeuvrable I found.

  14. John Biggs (Welsh Marches) says:

    When I first came to this beautiful song last year we had snow up to the windows here, and temperatures of -18 C. and it really caught the mood. This year it is STILL just as lovely, and just as appropriate on this mild sunny morning with the snowdrops well out and a hint of spring in the air. ( Ah, but they do say tis going to get colder ! )

    Beautifully sung by Jon, and just the right tempo I thought. (Me, Stirring ? The very idea !)

  15. Diana says:

    Sunny John, you don’t know how lucky you are – have forgotten what the sun looks like, just infernal rain day after day at some time or other. Same again today with thick mist and no sight of the hills at all. Have got fields nearby with ponds complete with flocks of seagulls, where there were no ponds before. Still there are signs of the daffies coming up. What a good topic the weather is – always something to say. I think there was a touch of sarcasm in that last remark.

  16. John Biggs (Welsh Marches) says:

    Twas ever thus Diana. Have you noticed how many of these old songs either mention the weather in passing, (It was on a bright sunshiny morning) or positively wallow in it, like this one. I doubt that many songs from the Australian outback start off , Twas on a bright sunshiny etc, etc.
    It is part of the joy of living in a country with an unpredictable climate. I am waiting for a contemporary song to start off with, ‘Twas on the day of a Severe Weather Warning’, or has Les Barker already done that ?

  17. Peter Walsh says:

    Happy New Year everyone! Sorry I’m a dozen days late…

    Well sung Jon but I’m with Nick Passmore on the definitive male perspective version; Dick Gaughan really nails it on Handful Of Earth. As for the female definitive, just has to be AB, n’est-ce pas? Always assumed she’d written it. Wrong again!

    My snowdrops have not appeared yet John. I can usually look out on a January morning and see a healthy line of them. I wonder if Perky is not using her litter tray all the time… Hahaha!

    Yes Adain, I’m working hard in Bolton!

  18. Diana says:

    Lovely to have you both back. We do tend to moan about the weather, but at least we don’t have hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes etc. not of any magnitude anyway like so many other countries so we should be grateful. So Perky is not using her litter tray either. Ella has just come in crying cos she is soaked through and cats don’t like getting wet – the softies.

    Sorry you have to be slaving away again Peter, not like us idle lot.

  19. Peter Walsh says:

    Thanks Diana. Have you heard this lovely song about snow melting…

  20. Diana says:

    Wonderful Pewter- lovely melody, I will invest in this on I Tunes to add to my collection of folk songs. Oops done it again, that dratted word keeps cropping up.

  21. Diana says:

    Still melancholy but it will never change will it?

  22. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Ref Pewter’s youtube link a couple of comments above……nice song but who thought of the crazy and distracting video….bloke bouncing from chair to chair…….. just showing off his collection of Christmas jumpers and then he lends them to his friends!

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