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100 Years Ago

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Starting Out on a May Morning
Cecil Sharp 1859 - 1924
Cecil Sharp In America
As I Cycled Out on a May Morning
100 Years Ago

On August 22 1903 Cecil Sharp noted his first folk song, The Seeds of Love, from John England in Hambridge village in Somerset.

Over the following couple of years Sharp, often assisted by his friend Charles Marson, the local vicar, collected 1,500 songs in the county, many of which were published in 5 volumes of ‘Somerset Folk Songs’. Further afield in England and in the USA, Sharp later collected another 3,000 songs. He was only one of several song collectors but he helped to regenerate The Folk Song Society and to revive these songs in new contexts – especially in schools. In addition he collected and published morris dances, English sword dances and country dances. Indeed he founded the English Folk Dance Society in 1911. The fact that so many people, not just in Somerset but throughout the world, are still singing the songs and dancing the dances which he collected is an indication of just how important the first event turned out to be

Seeds of Love

I sowed the seeds of love
I sowed them in the springtime
Gathered them up in the morning so soon
While small birds sweetly sing
While small birds sweetly sing

My garden was planted well
With flowers everywhere
I had not the liberty to choose for myself
The flower I held most dear
The flower I held most dear

The gardener standing by
Three flowers he gave to me
He gave me the violet, the lily and the pink
But I refused all three
But I refused all three

The violet I did not like
Because it fades so soon
The lily and the pink I did over think
And vowed I would wait till June
And vowed I would wait till June

For in June is the red, red rose
And that’s the flower for me
Oft times have I plucked that red rosy bush
And gained a willow tree
And gained a willow tree

Now the willow tree may twist
And the willow tree may twine
I wish I was lying in that young man’s arms
That once held this heart of mine
That once held this heart of mine

Thyme is a precious thing
It’s a root that the sun shines on
It’s a root that will bring all things to an end
And so our time goes on
And so our time goes on

It’s good to be drinking ale
It’s better to be drinking wine
Oh better if I'd stayed in that young man’s arms
Where I'd been many a time
Where I'd been many a time

Come all you false young men
Don’t leave me here to repine
For the grass that may often be trampled under foot
Give it time it will rise again
Give it time it will rise again

John England

John England 1865-?

Born in Westport,(the adjoining village to Hambridge) in 1865, the only child of Joseph England (labourer) and his wife Mary Ann, a Fruit dealer’s daughter. His father died when John was only 4 and his mother no doubt struggled to bring him up. He became a gardener and found work at the vicarage under Rev Charles Grueber in the late 1880s. By then he had married a local girl Rose Morris (1886) and they went on to have 8 children.Charles Marson inherited John’s services but he was not as wealthy as the previous incumbent. It was perhaps in search of a better life that John, Rose and family emigrated to Canada in 1911 where they settled in Saskatchewan, clearing land and establishing homesteads and small businesses. His descendants are there to this day.

The Seeds of Love  that John England sang to Cecil Sharp on August 22nd 1903 was also the only song that England ever performed for Sharp. There are many variants of the song but Sharp particularly liked the tune of this version and it’s possible that England learned it while away working in Dorset as a young man.

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