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As I walked out one midsummer's morning to view the fields and to take the air. |
It was down by the banks of the sweet primroses; there I espied a maiden young and fair.1
In three short steps I stepped up to her but, not knowing me, she has passed me by.
I stepped up to her thinking to view her2 and I saw a tear rolling from her eye.
I said, “Fair maid, where are you going and what's the occasion of all your grief?
I could make you as happy as any rich lady or, at least, might bring to you some small relief.”
“Oh,” she said, “Stand off, for you are deceitful.3 You are a false deceitful man. To me that's plain.
It's one like you made my poor heart to ponder and to bring me comfort now is all in vain.”
“I'm going to go down now to some loathsome valley4 where no man will ever there me find;
Where all of the small birds there sing in different voices and at every moment blows a blustery wind.”
I put my hand into my pocket and I placed a ring onto her finger small5
Saying, “I am your own and your own true lover just now returning from some foreign shore.6
And, when she saw that I had been loyal, in wedlock soon we both were bound.
For I am her own and her own true lover; her own faithful sailor she had thought was drowned.
So, come all you young men that would go out courting. Please pay attention to these words I say:
There's many a dark and a cloudy morning turns out to be a bright sunshiny day.7
Contributed by Chris Bartram (yorkiebartram @ telco4u.net) - 23.07.05
I considered this song a beautiful piece of poetry even though the story is unclear and there is a strange gap in it. Sometime in the late 1970s, while browsing through a book in Carmarthen Library, I noticed some verses in an otherwise unimpressive song that seemed to fill out that gap. (That other song was so unimpressive, and my research methods so slapdash, that I made no note of its title. Please contact me if you recognise it.) But it was quite a few more years before I got round to learning the song well enough to sing it. I found those 'new' verses and compared them to a version in another book (Bob Copper's, I think). After inserting these verses I felt that the other parts of the story were too unclear - so I clarified (rewrote) them! So here you have a more coherent version of the familiar story. It may be more suitable for the average pub audience - what do you reckon? If you prefer the more mysterious (and, perhaps, more poetic) original, it's still there. Whether you sing my version, one of the earlier versions, or make up your own, don't let this lovely song moulder on the shelf - sing it!
It's the title-song of Shirley Collins' seminal album, The Sweet Primeroses. In the sleeve notes, Shirley says, 'A last song from the Copper Family, whose songs sound to me like national anthems - or like anthems should sound. All the Southern countryside is here, with a grave, stylised account of a formal meeting on a particular midsummer's morning, the heartbreak of parting tempered with a stoical optimism.'
Eventually I got to know Fred Jordan as a friend. He told me that his mother sang something similar but he didn't really know this song until he heard 'Pop' Maynard of Sussex at a Folk Festival in the early 1960s. (Pop's version can be found in The Life of a Man, edited by Ken Stubbs and published by EFDSS.) Almost every line Fred sang is different from Pop's, and almost every line I sing is different from both of them (that's the Folk Process for you). In particular, the last lines of my verses 2 and 3 are completely new and verses 6 and 7 are transplanted from that other song.
Here is Fred's version:
|Banks of the Sweet Primroses|
|from Fred Jordan, Shropshire|
As I walked out one fine summer's morning, for to view the countryside and take the air;
As I walked down by the banks of the sweet primroses, I met a lady, beautiful and fair.
Three short steps I took up to her; not knowing me, she passed me by.
I drew up to her, thinking to view her. She appeared to be like a virtuous bride.
I said, “Fair maid, where are you walking? Oh, what is the occasion of all your grief?
I'll make you as happy as any lady, if you will only grant me small leave.”
“Stand off, stand off, you are deceitful; a false, deceitful man, to me it's plain.
It's you that's caused my poor heart to wander. To give me comfort it is all in vain.
I'll go down to some lonesome dwelling where no man on earth shall there me find;
Where all the birds have changed their voices and at every moment blows boisterous winds.”
So, all young maidens that go a-courting, pray give attention to what I say
For many a dark and dreary morning turns out to be a bright and sunny day.