Fragments from the Forest, Part 6 – The Loss of a Popular Culture

Sacre Coeur

Sacre Coeur

It is hardly surprising that many beliefs and physical objects have not been recorded, when such a large proportion of the population, who lived with these sayings, superstitions and monuments were illiterate. They could not record them themselves and of what interest to others were a few rocks in a field or a curious belief about the efficacy of touching wood. What wasn’t ignored by the educated part of the population was ruthlessly supressed by the Church. So many possibly pagan customs and sculptures were campaigned against by a whole variety of people in the name of the Church and of decency.

It took a change of the attitude and perception of the literate classes for these things to noticed, valued and recorded. By looking at the rocks with a different eye they could see a pattern that could suggest that they were remnants of another culture and not something left over from glacial drift.

From this change of attitude came a recognition of the value of other cultures and so started in the early 1900’s the serious collection of folk songs, morris dances, traditional tunes and fairy tales and folklore. Cecil Sharp probably the most famous of folks song collectors at that time for example, collected his first folk song The Seeds of Love, from John England, the gardener to the vicar of Hambridge, Somerset in 1903. It is a delightful coincidence that the song he collected was about the symbolism of plants and how flowers represented various aspects of human life and love and with the inclusion of the willow tree in the last verses, loss, bringing us back to one of the reasons for this blog in the first place.

The Seeds of Love – as remembered and sung by me:

I sowed the seeds of love,

And I sowed them in the spring

I gathered them up in the morning so soon

While the small birds do sweetly sing (x 2).


My garden was planted well

With flowers everywhere,

But I had not the liberty to choose for myself

Of the flowers I love so dear (x 2).


The gardener was standing by

And I asked him to choose for me

He choosed for me the violet, the lily and the pink

But these I refused all three (x 2).


The violet I did not like

Because it bloomed too soon,

The lily and the pink, I really overthink

So I vowed I would wait for June (x 2).


In June there’s the red rose-bud

And that’s the flower for me

I oftentimes have plucked at that red rose-bud

Till I gained the willow tree (x 2).


The willow tree will twist

And the willow tree will twine,

I oftentimes have wished that I was in that young man’s arms

That once had heart of mine (x 2).


Come all you false young men

Do not leave me here to complain,

For the grass that have been oftentimes trampled underfoot

Give it time it will rise again (x 2).

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