“It Was a Lover and His Lass”


"It was a lover and his lass With a hey and a ho and a hey nonnie no." "In spring time (x3), the only pretty ring time, When the birds do sing... Sweet lovers ove the spring." The song alludes to courting in the rye, but there is little real plot.


This is quoted by Shakespeare in "As You Like It" (Act V, Scene III, lines 13-30 or so). I'm far from convinced it's traditional; it was obviously a popular piece of Shakespeare's time -- and is attributed to Shakespeare, e.g., in Palgrave's _Golden Treasury_ (item XI). But it shows up in enough songbooks that I decided to include it.

Morley, who in 1600 first published the lyrics, in 1599 published a tune called "O Mistress Mine" in _The First Book of Consort Lessons_. It is generally assumed, but cannot be proved, that they are to be connected. - RBW


  1. Chappell/Wooldridge I, pp. 114-115, "It Was a Lover and His Lass" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. HarvClass-EP1, pp. 263-264, "A Lover and His Lass" (1 text)
  3. Silber-FSWB, p. 155, "It Was A Lover And His Lass" (1 text)
  4. ADDITIONAL: Norman Ault, _Elizabethan Lyrics From the Original Texts_, pp. 290-291, "It Was a Lover and His Lass" (1 text)
  6. BI, FSWB155B


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1600 (Morley's "The First Book of Ayres or Little Short Songs")
Keywords: love courting nonballad