Chorus: For when fishes fly and swallows die, young men will prove true There's a herb in my father's garden and some they call it rue. 1. As I walked out one morning, it was in the month of May. There I met a fair young maid - a-gathering of sweet may. I asked of her to bed with me, I'd marry her by and by But all the answer she gave of me was, "Oh, no, my love, not I". Chorus 2. So they walked and talked together - till at length they did agree To sit down on a mossy bank - beneath a shady tree. The blackbird and the sweet song thrush in and out the bush did fly, And the song they sang in chorus was "Oh, no, my love, not I". Chorus 3. Now twenty weeks being over, she grew thick about the waist. This poor girl she grew pale and wan. Her stays they would not lace. Her gown it would not pin and her apron strings not tie, And she rued that day she said to him, "Oh no, my love, not I". Chorus 4. So she wrote a letter to her true love, to come immediately But the answer that he sent to her was "No, that can not be. Supposing I should come to you, on me they'd put the blame. My parents would be angry and my friends would me disdain. "Now the very best thing for you to do - this I'll let you know - Is to take your baby on your back. - A-begging you should go, And when that you grow weary, you can sit you down and cry, And think of the day when you said to me, 'Oh no, my love, not I'". Chorus 5. So she took her baby on her back; to his parents' home she came They would disown the young man then... till she would bear his name He begged of her to wed with him... a golden ring he'd buy But all the answer she gave of him was, "Oh, no, my love, not I". Chorus
The song has a chorus after every verse that has the lead-in; the lead-in being the title of the song as well. There is, however, one double verse, with no lead-in halfway through, thus no chorus at that point.
The UK launch of the Mudcat CDs "This Is Us" was 14 November 2011. Since Catalunya Spirit was on one of the CD-s, I was there to sing that song. One of the other songs that evening was When Fishes Fly, sung by Hilary Ward, from the singing of Mary Humphreys. The song by Mary Humphreys was again based in part on older songs as her sources. The tune was collected from Lucy White at Hambridge, Somerset, 13th April 1904, by Cecil Sharp. The text was compiled from her and others sung by Mrs Overd, Langport, Somerset and Everett Bennett, St Pauls Newfoundland, collected by K Peacock, 1958.
Before singing it, Hilary first told the audience that she wasn't very satisfied with the ending: She would have preferred a final verse where the young man was hung, drawn, quartered and keel-hauled. So, on my way back home, I started on an addition to the song that would give the young lady justice. I couldn't fit in the keel-hauling, never mind the more deadly punishments, but sitting down at home, I did write new verses that turned the situation around. Once I was satisfied, I offered my two-verse finish as an alternative to keel-hauling. Hilary was quite pleased to get them, but felt it should be just one verse. So, from there, we started writing to and fro, suggesting changes, then exploring how that would change the rest of the new lyrics, and repeat. It was fun doing that, as we didn't just throw in new lyrics, but with each iteration thought through what would work best. Eventually we agreed on the final verse.
Originally I left it at that, but as I had paid so much attention to this song, over time it wandered into my repertoire, and so the rest of the song got tweaked a bit as well. I kept the (to me) rather odd choice of prepositions (which I had also mirrored in the final verse). But I did change lines to rhyme or scan better. The result of this is a song where all verses end in "Oh no, my love, not I". The one exception is in the letter of the young man, and since it also doesn't seem to make sense to sing the chorus halfway through the letter in this version, I've declared that a double verse, with the chorus only at the end of the letter. That's the song as I sing it now as Oh No, My Love; Not I.
More information on Mary Humphreys' version of the song can also be found at Tom Bliss's website, on the page about his version.
last modified 26 June 2020; last updated 26 June 2020