“Yo Ho, Yo Ho”


In this formula song, the singer tells of placing his hand successively on a woman's toe, knee, thigh, etc., and the results of his quest.


This song, as old as any in the English-language canon, survives in multiple variants sung to a variety of melodies. - EC

It appears Roud lumps this with "Gentry Johnny My Jingalo." That song has been so heavily redacted by Sharp that I can't lump them despite their, um, points of contact. - RBW

Cross references


  1. Cray, pp. 318-323, "Yo Ho, Yo Ho" (1 text, 1 tune plus 1 text for "Billy Go Leary")
  2. Thomas-Makin', p. 31, (no title) (1 short text, which might or might not be this, but it is suggestive that it breaks off just as the sailor promises to tell a tale)
  3. Roud #5586
  4. BI, EM318


Alternate titles: “I Laid My Hand upon Her Knee”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: The type appears in 1661, in Merry Drollery, as "There Were Three Birds"; then in the 1838 chapbook The Fancy! A Fanciful Collection of Fancy, Flash, and Amatory Songs as "Billy Go Leary"
Keywords: bawdy seduction sex
Found in: Australia Canada Britain(England) US(Ap,So,SW)