Poor Old Horse
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

This song has many variants in tune and lyrics. It appeared on numerous broadsides during the mid to late 1850s. Copies of these can be found at the Broadside Ballads Online. The song was also popular at sea.

Cecil Sharp notes it was sung during the ceremony of the hobby horse, "for example, the Hooden Horse in Kent." The hobby horse is associated with Morris dancers. The hobby horse is a figure of a horse, made of wickerwork, or other light material, furnished with deep housing, and fastened about the waist of one of the performers, who executes various antics in imitation of the movements of a skittish or spirited horse. It is also the name of the performer in a morris-dance.

This should not be confused with the sea shanty The Dead Horse.

When I was young and in my prime
And in my stable lay,
They gave to me the very best corn...
And the choicest hay.
Poor old horse!
Poor old mare!

My master used to ride me out
And tie me to the stile,
And he was courtin the miller's girl
While I could trot a mile.
Poor old horse!
Poor old mare!

Now I am old and done for,
And fit for nothing at all,
I'm forced to eat the sour grass
That grows along the wall.
Poor old horse!
Poor old mare!

Then lay my tott'ring legs so low
That have run very far,
O'er hedges and o'er ditches,
O'er tunrpike gate and bar.
Poor old horse!
Poor old mare!

My hide I'll give to the huntsman,
My shoes I'll throw away;
The dogs shall eat my rotten flesh,
And that's how I'll decay.
Poor old horse!
Poor old mare!

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From Folk-Songs, Chanteys and Singing Games
See Bibliography for full information.