When first published in 1979 no less an authority than Bob Copper described this collection as 'without doubt . . . the finest book of English traditional songs that has come my way in a very long time'.Just under one hundred and fifty songs are collected and arranged in seven different categories: 'Fellows that Follow the Plough Work', 'A Health to the Master: Deference and Protest', 'The High Gallows Tree: Crime', 'Once I loved a Lass: Courtship', 'The Charmig Bride: Marriage', 'Up To The Rigs: Sport and Diversion' and 'The Life of a Man: Seasons and Ceremonies'. As Roy Palmer concludes in his own introduction, 'Yet in the final analysis, it could be argued that the songs' final justification is aesthetic. They have a sheer beauty of language which both refleced and helped to shape the utterance of generations of Englishmen, men like Shakespeare, Crabbe, John Clare, Wordsworth, Hardy, John Arden, as well as the countless thousands of ploughmen, shepherds, blacksmiths, milkmaids and servant girls who were the backbone of the nation. Their full power emerges, however, not on the page but on the lips. I hope they will be savoured, but above all sung'.