“Tavern in the Town”


Singer laments her lover, who courted her ardently but now goes to a tavern and courts others while leaving her pining. She hopefully anticipates dying and being buried.

Supplemental text

Tavern in the Town
  Complete text(s)

          *** A ***

There Is a Tavern in the Town
From sheet music published 1891 by Willis Woodward & Co. The music,
curiously, is credited to F. J. Adams but the whole is copyrighted
by Franklin Robinson. Title page inscribed
   THERE IS A  *
      *   TAVERN
  Song and Chorus
The Seasons Success

1. There is a tavern in the town, in the town,*
   And there my dear love sits him down, sits him down
   And drinks his wine 'mid laughter free,
   And never, never thinks of me.

Fare thee well, for I must leave thee,
Do not let the parting grieve thee,
And remember that the best of friends must part, must part
Adieu, adieu, kind friends, adieu, adieu, adieu,
I can no longer stay with you, stay with you,
I'll hang my harp on a weeping willow tree,
And may the world go well with thee.

2. He left me for a damsel dark, damsel dark,*
   Each Friday night they used to spark, used to spark,
   And now my love once true to me,
   Takes that dark damsel on his knee.

3. Oh! dig my grave both wide and deep, wide and deep,*
   Put tombstones at my head and feet, head and feet,
   And on my breast carve a turtle dove,
   To signify I died of love.

* This echo, and ONLY this echo (the first one in each
verse), is marked "shouted"


The overlap between this song and the "Butcher Boy" cluster is obvious; whether they're the same song is a Talmudic question. -PJS

The 1891 sheet music credits this piece to F. J. Adams. The earliest known printing of "Tavern" (as opposed to the presumably related Cornish miners' song "There is an Alehouse in Yonder Town"), however, does not give the author's name.

Alan Lomax calls "Hard Ain't It Hard" a reworking of this piece, and I'm going along on the principle that it certainly isn't a traditional song (given that it's by Woody Guthrie). I don't think it's that simple, though; the "Hard ain't it hard" chorus clearly derives from "Ever After On." - RBW

Yes, Rudy Vallee recorded it too. And blew the lyrics, I might add [My understanding is that the people around him were trying, with great success, to crack him up - RBW]. But clearly the song remained current in pop culture as well as folk culture. It was also reputed to have been popular among collegiates. - PJS

"Hang my harp on a willow tree" may be taken from Psalms 137.2 [King James] via Thomas Haynes Bayly. Cf. "I'll Hang My Harp on a Willow Tree."

Broadside Bodleian Firth b.28(6a/b) View 7 of 8 ascribes "There Is A Tavern In The Town" to W.H. Hills. - BS

Somewhere in my youth, someone (probably school authorities) forced upon us a game, "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes." Thirty-odd years later, I recalled it for some reason, and realize that the tune is an up-tempo version of this. If the song was inflicted upon other classes than mine, it may be that the song has had some sort of horrid second life. - RBW

Amy Birch's version on Voice11 has a first line "Over yonder's hill there is an old house" but continues to be enough like "Tavern in the Town" that I put it here rather than Laws P25 or any of the other songs in this cluster. - BS

Cross references


  • Bodleian, Firth b.28(6a/b) View 7 of 8, "There Is A Tavern In The Town," R. March and Co. (London), 1877-1884


  • Amy Birch, "Over Yonder's Hill" (on Voice11)
  • "Pops" Johnny Connors, "There is an Alehouse" (on IRTravellers01)
  • Geoff Ling, "Died for Love" (on Voice10)
  • Rudy Vallee, "Tavern in the Town" (Victor 24739, 1934)
  • Almanac Singers, "Hard, Ain't It Hard" (General 5019A, 1941; on Almanac01, Almanac03, AlmanacCD1)
  • Woody Guthrie, "Hard Ain't It Hard" (Folk Tunes 150, n.d., probably mid-1940s)


  1. Sharp-100E 94, "A Brisk Young Sailor" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Leather, pp. 205-206, "A Brisk Young Sailor" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Belden, pp. 478-480, "The Blue-Eyed Boy" (4 texts, though "D" is a fragment, probably of "Tavern in the Town" or "The Butcher Boy" or some such)
  4. BrownIII 259, "I'll Hang My Harp on a Willow Tree" (2 fragments, named for that key line from "Tavern in the Town" which occurs in both fragments, but the "A" text is mostly "Pretty Little Foot")
  5. SHenry H683, p. 393, "The Apron of Flowers" (1 text, 1 tune -- apparently a collection of floating verses including one that goes here)
  6. RJackson-19CPop, pp. 210-213, "There Is a Tavern in the Town" (1 text, 1 tune)
  7. Spaeth-ReadWeep, pp. 84-85, "There Is a Tavern in the Town" (1 text, 1 tune)
  8. Silber-FSWB, p. 180, "There Is A Tavern In The Town" (1 text)
  9. Fuld-WFM, pp. 572-573, "There Is a Tavern in the Town"
  10. LPound-ABS, 23, p. 62, "There Is a Tavern in the Town" (1 text; the "A" text is "The Butcher Boy")
  11. Peacock, pp. 705-706, "She Died in Love" (1 text, 1 tune)
  12. Darling-NAS, pp. 140-141, "The Tavern in the Town" (1 text, filed under "The Butcher Boy")
  13. DT, TAVTOWN*
  14. SEE ALSO:
  15. Lomax-FSNA 229, "Hard, Ain't It Hard" (1 text, 1 tune)
  16. Silber-FSWB, p. 185, "Hard, Ain't It Hard" (1 text)
  18. ST ShH94 (Full)
  19. Roud #60
  20. BI, ShH94


Alternate titles: “There Is an Alehouse in Yonder Town”; “There's a Tavern in the Town”; “Up The Green Meadow”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1883
Found in: Britain(England(Lond,South,West)) US Canada(Newf) Ireland