“Branded Lambs”


A girl, seeking her branded lambs, sees Johnny asleep under a thorn and asks if he has seen the flock. He tells her to seek them in a distant meadow. She seeks them; Johnny follows. They are not there, but he takes the chance to woo her. They are married

Supplemental text

Branded Lambs [Laws O9]
  Complete text(s)

          *** A ***

The Long and Wishing Eye

From Peter Kennedy, Folksongs of Britain and Ireland, #134,
pp. 310-311. From George Spicer, Copthorne, Sussex, 1956.

1 As Johnny walk-ed out, one midsummer s morn
  He soon became quite weary and sat down beneath a thorn
  'Twas there he spied a pretty fair maid, as she was passing by
  And young Johnny followed after with his long and wishing eye
    With his long and wishing eye, brave boys
    With his long and wishing eye
    And young Johnny followed after
    With his long and wishing eye.

2 Good morning, gentle shepherd, have you seen my flock of lambs
  Strayed away from their fold, strayed away from their dams
  O have you seen the ewe-lamb, as she was passing by
  Has she strayed in yonder meadow where the grass grows very high?
    Where the grass grows very high, brave boys
    Where the grass grows very high
    Has she strayed in yonder meadow
    Where the grass grows very high

3 O yes, O yes, my pretty fair maid, I saw them passing by
  They went down in yonder meadow and that is very high
  Then turning round so careless-lie and smiling with a blush
  And young Johnny followed after, and hid all in a bush
    And hid all in a bush, brave boys (etc.)

4 She searched the meadow over, no lambs could she find
  Oft'times did she cross that young man in her mind
  Then turning round, she shouted: What's the meaning of your plan?
  Not knowing that young Johnny was standing close at hand
    Was standing close at hand, brave boys (etc.)

5 The passions of young Johnny's love began to overflow
  He took her up all in his arms, his meaning for to show
  They sat down in the long grass and there did sport and play
  The lambs they were forgotten, they hopped and skipped away
    They hopped and skipped away, brave boys (etc.)

6 'Twas the following morning this couple met again
  They joined their flocks together to wander o'er the plain
  And now this couple's married, they're joined in wedlock's bands
  And no more they'll go a'roving in searching for young lambs
    In searching for young lambs, brave boys (etc.)

          *** B ***

Young Johnny

From Bob Copper, Songs & Summer Breezes, pp. 252-253.

Young Johnny walked out on a sunshiny morn,
He sat himself down by the side of a thorn,
And he had not been there long when his true love she passed by,
And young Johnny followed after with a long and wishing eye.

I have two little lambs stole away from the fold,
And these two little lambs they came this way I've been told,
O, shepherd, gentle shepherd, will you tell to me, I pray,
Have you seen two little lambs come a-wandering this way?

O, yes, replied the shepherd, I saw them pass by,
They're down in yonder valley and that is very nigh,
She returned herself with a curtsey and thanked him with a blush
And young Johnny followed after and they lodged in a bush,
Lodged in a bush.

          *** C ***

Branded Lambs

From Creighton/Senior, pp. 133-134

As Johnny rode out one fair summer's morn
He being quite wearied he threw himself underneath a thorn,
He had not been long there when a damsel did pass by
And on this lovelie Johnny she cast a longing eye.

"Good morning lovely Johnny, did you see a flock of branded lambs
And those two little ones that strayed from their dams?
I pray kind gentle shepherd come tell to me I pray
That those two gentle young ones might never stray away."

"Way down in yonder greenwood as I passed by,
Way down in yonder meadow your lambs they do lie,"
She thanked him most courteously and turned with a blush
And Johnny followed after her concealed in a bush.

She searched the greenwood over but no lambs could she find.
At length she began cursing young Johnny in her mind,
Saying, "Here I am betrayed like some poor silly maid,"
Not knowing of the scheme Johnny had to her mislaid.

He caught her in his arms and he gave her a kiss,
Saying, "My dearest jewel what is the meaning of all this?"
She thanked him most courteously all joys for to renew
And the lambs they were sporting all in the morning dew.

To church this loving couple went and joined in wedlock banns,
"We'll join our flocks together, we'll feed them on yon land.
We'll join our flocks together and we'll feed them on a plain
And we'll search the greenwood over and over again."


This song represents an instance where Laws perhaps produced a great deal of confusion with his classification. He cites only two texts, Creighton/Senior and Joyce, the latter of which he calls incomplete.

But is the Joyce text incomplete, or is it a different song? Laws's "Branded Lambs" has a plot, summarized in the description. The Joyce text doesn't really.

On its face, Joyce appears to be an instance of another song group, "Searching for Lambs" ("One Morning Clear"), which has no plot beyond the elementary one of "boy meets girl while watching flocks."

The problem is, the two have common lyrics as well as a common theme. Either they've cross-fertilized or the lyric "Searching for Lambs" is a wearing down of "Branded Lambs." Scholars are divided; Kennedy (who admittedly lumps songs based on only the feeblest of connections) lumps them; the notes to Henry/Huntington/Herrmann explicitly deny the connection.

Unfortunately, almost all the texts are in manuscript and not readily available. Roud distinguishes the two; "Searching for Lambs" seems to be his #576; "Branded Lambs" is #1437.

The earlier editions of the Index lumped the song, in desperation. I still feel desperate about some versions -- e.g. the Copper text is difficult; it has the length of the lyric version but is more reminiscent of the ballad version in its wording. But we're splitters, and have now separated the songs. Still, readers should probably consult both entries for absolute certainty. - RBW

Cross references


  • Bodleian, Harding B 22(266), "The sex, by Mr. Holt. Jockey and the Damsel's Courtship" ("As Jockey was walking one midsummer morn"), unknown, no date (but apparently pre-1825)


  1. Laws O9, "Branded Lambs"
  2. Copper-SoBreeze, pp. 252-253, "Young Johnny" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Kennedy 134, "The Long and Wishing Eye" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Creighton/Senior, pp. 133-134, "Branded Lambs" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. ST LO09 (Full)
  6. Roud #1437
  7. BI, LO09


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1950 (Creighton/Senior); before 1850 (broadside Bodleian, Harding B 22(266))
Found in: Britain(England(South)) Canada(Mar)