Seven Drunken Nights

"Seven Drunken Nights" is an Irish version of a humorous folk song most famously performed by The Dubliners.


Seven Drunken Nights (WORD)
Seven Drunken Nights (PDF)


"Seven Drunken Nights" (Child 274, Roud 114) is often referred to as "Our Goodman". It tells the story of a gullible drunkard returning night after night to see new evidence of his wife's lover, only to be taken in by increasingly implausible explanations.

According to Roud and Bishop

"This was an immensely widespread song, probably known all over the English-speaking world, with the wording varying considerably but the structure and basic story remaining the same."

In British Popular Ballads John E. Housman observes that "There is much of Chaucer's indomitable gaiety in this ballad. The questions of the jealous husband and the evasions of his wife are treated here in a humorous vein, and there are French ballads of a similar type."The song is first found in a London broadside of the 1760s entitled "The Merry Cuckold and the Kind Wife". The broadside was translated into German, and spread into Hungary and Scandinavia. Unaware of the origin of the German ballad, Child cited it as an analogy. It was also collected in Scotland in the 1770s and was believed to be a Scottish song. Unusually for such a popular and widespread song, it appears in only a few nineteenth century broadsides.

The song passed from oral tradition to a global mass market with The Dubliners recording of "Seven Nights Drunk". The record reached number 7 in the UK charts in 1967 and appeared on Top of the Pops, thanks to its diffusion on Radio Caroline, though it was banned from the national broadcasting station. The song also charted at No.1 in Ireland. The structure and bawdy nature of the song allow it to be sung from memory by convivial companies. Among polite audiences only five of the seven nights usually are sung because of the vulgar nature of the final two.

VERSES 6 AND 7: The final two verses are often not sung, generally considered too raunchy, different versions are cited below. Verse six sometimes keeps the same story line, in which two hands appear on the wife's breasts. The wife, giving the least likely explanation yet, tells him that it is merely a nightgown, though the man notices that this nightgown has fingers. In yet another version, the wife remarks that he's seen a hammer in her bed, and his response is that a hammer with a condom on is something he's never seen before. This latter version usually ends day seven with the singer's target of choice in bed, and the husband replies that he's never seen so-and-so with a hard on before. Another version involves a carrot, on which a foreskin had never been seen before. Live versions of Sunday night include the following verse. As I went home on Sunday night as drunk as drunk could be. I saw me wife inside the bed and this she said to me: Then, the song wraps up with a part from "Never on a Sunday."

Another version exists with a slight twist. The man sees a man coming out the door at a little after 3:00, this time the wife saying it was an English tax collector that the Queen sent.  (or the king of England) The narrator, now wise to what is going on, remarks: "Well, it's many a day I've travelled a hundred miles or more, but an Englishman who can last till three, I've never seen before." While this departs noticeably from the standard cycle, the twist is slightly more clever, and takes a jab at the English (a popular ploy in some Irish songs). As this sort of wraps up the story, it is usually sung as the last verse, be it the sixth or seventh.

Probably the most common version of the seventh verse involves the man seeing a "thing" in her "thing", or in "the bed", where his "thing" should be. Again his wife is ready with an answer. It is a rolling pin. The narrator then remarks, "A rolling pin made out of skin, I never saw before." Another version reuses the tin whistle excuse, upon which the narrator remarks " on a tin whistle sure I never saw before." Other versions claim the "thing" involved is a candle (in which case she doesn't recycle an excuse from an earlier night). The narrator this time remarks that he had never before seen a pair of balls on a candle.

****REVISED March 13, 2019 - SR****

Share Tweet Send