Saturday, 14 May 2011

Three Lovers' Idylls

Three unrelated, but kind of parallel, lovers' springtime idylls.

Here's the first, a traditional ballad called 'The Gardener'. Read various versions as sung by modern folk-singers here; and hear a brand new version here from the wonderful Folk Song A Day project.

The gardener stands in his bower-door,
With a primrose in his hand,
And by there came a leal maiden,
As jimp's a willow wand.
And by, etc.

'O lady, can you fancy me,
For to be my bride,
You'll get a' the flowers in my garden,
To be to you a weed.

'The lily white shall be your smock;
Becomes your body neat;
And your head shall be deckd with gilly-flower,
And the primrose in your breast.

'Your gown shall be o the sweet-william,
Your coat o camomile,
And your apron o the salads neat,
That taste baith sweet and fine.

'Your stockings shall be o the broad kail-blade,
That is baith broad and long;
And narrow, narrow at the coot,
And broad, broad at the brawn.

'Your gloves shall be the marygold,
All glittering to your hand,
Well spread oer wi the blue blaewort,
That grows in corn-land.'

'O fare you well, young man,' she says,
'Farewell, and I bid adieu;

Since you've provided a weed for me,
Among the summer flowers,
Then I'll provide another for you,
Among the winter showers.

'The new-fallen snow to be your smock;
Becomes your body neat;
And your head shall be deck'd with the eastern wind,
And the cold rain on your breast.'

(Not such an idyllic ending. But feel free to ignore that.)

And next:

I will make you brooches and toys for your delight
Of bird-song at morning and star-shine at night.
I will make a palace fit for you and me
Of green days in forests and blue days at sea.

I will make my kitchen, and you shall keep your room,
Where white flows the river and bright blows the broom,
And you shall wash your linen and keep your body white
In rainfall at morning and dewfall at night.

And this shall be for music when no one else is near,
The fine song for singing, the rare song to hear!
That only I remember, that only you admire,
Of the broad road that stretches and the roadside fire.

Robert Louis Stevenson

And most famous of all:

Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dale and field,
And all the craggy mountains yield.

There will we sit upon the rocks
And see the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

There will I make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroider'd all with leaves of myrtle.

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull,
Fair linèd slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold.

A belt of straw and ivy buds
With coral clasps and amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me and be my love.

Thy silver dishes for thy meat
As precious as the gods do eat,
Shall on an ivory table be
Prepared each day for thee and me.

The shepherd swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May-morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.

Christopher Marlowe, of course.

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