The Farmer's Curst Wife
(The Devil and the Farmer)

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John Renfro Davis

Information
Lyrics
The earliest version of this ballad in Child is Dixon's Ancient Poems, Ballads and Songs (1846). However, it was entered on the Stationers' Register June 24, 1630. The words are noted as being sung to the tune Seminary Priest. (See link to Bruce Olsen's site for information and the earlier version of the ballad.)

This is a later, sanitized American version of the ballad. It leaves out details in Dixon's version where she kicks the young imps about and beats out their brains. In the Dixon's version the Devil returns her saying, "I've been a tormentor the whole of my life, but I neer was tormented so as with your wife." In a later version by Macmath (1892) the Devil says, "O what to do wi her I canna weel tell; She's no fit for heaven, and she'll no bide in hell."

Child notes that the curst wife who was a terror to demons appears throughout Europe and in the Orient as well.

This ballad is Child Ballad #278. A Scottish variant is at Kellyburnbraes.

For a complete list of Child Ballads at this site see Francis J. Child Ballads.

A farmer was ploughing his field one day,
Riteful, riteful, titty fie day,
A farmer was ploughing his field one day
When the devil came up, and to him did say,
With a riteful la, titty fie day,
Riteful, riteful, titty fie day.

See here, my good man, I have come for your wife,
Riteful, riteful, titty fie day,
See here, my good man I have come for your wife,
For she's the bane and torment of your life,
With a riteful la, titty fie day,
Riteful, riteful, titty fie day.

So the Devil he hoisted her up on his hump,
Riteful, riteful, titty fie day,
So the Devil he hoisted her up on his hump,
And down to Hell with her he did jump,
With a riteful la, titty fie day,
Riteful, riteful, titty fie day.

When they got there the gates they were shut,
Riteful, riteful, titty fie day,
When they got there the gates they were shut,
With a blow of her hand she laid open his nut,
With a riteful la, titty fie day,
Riteful, riteful, titty fie day.

Two little devils were playing handball,
Riteful, riteful, titty fie day,
Two little devils were playing handball,
Take her back Daddy, she'll be the death of us all!
With a riteful la, titty fie day,
Riteful, riteful, titty fie day.

So the Devil he hoisted her up on his hump,
Riteful, riteful, titty fie day,
So the Devil he hoisted her up on his hump,
And back to earth with her he did jump,
With a riteful la, titty fie day,
Riteful, riteful, titty fie day.

See here, my good man, I have come with your wife,
Riteful, riteful, titty fie day,
See here, my good man, I have come with your wife,
For she's the bane and torment of my life.
With a riteful la, titty fie day,
Riteful, riteful, titty fie day.

Now they say that the women are worse than the men,
Riteful, riteful, titty fie day,
They say that the women are worse than the men,
They went down to Hell and got kicked out again.
With a riteful la, titty fie day,
Riteful, riteful, titty fie day.
Additional Versions
From The Ballad of America and
The English and Scottish Popular Ballads
See Bibliography for full information.