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The Flowers O' the Forest

Norma Waterson
Language: English (Yorkshire)



Day time is weary, and I caw' dusk dreary,
For lasses in missels are rakin the hay.
When kye come for strippin' and ewes come for clippin',
We think on our soldiers now gone right away.‎

The courtin gate's idle, no lad flings his bridle
Over the yoke stoup and comes seekin' may.
Wae's heart, but we misses our lads' softest kisses:
The flowers o' the forest have gone right away.‎

At Martinmas hirin' no ribbon, no tirin',
Where God's penny's earned, and the time's come for play.
No cheapjacks, no prancin', wi' teamster clogs dancin':
The flowers o' the forest have gone right away.‎

Plough lads from Pannal have crossed o'er the Channel;
Shepherds from Fewston have taken King's pay;
Thackrays from Dacre have sold every acre;
You'll no' find a delver from Haverah to Bray.‎

Many a lass now is weepin for her man that lies sleepin,
No wrap for his corpse but the cold Flanders clay.
He'll ne'er lift his limmers, he'll ne'er wean his gimmers:
The flowers o' the forest have gone right away.‎
Note di Greer Gilman da English Folk Music

Strofa 1‎

caw' = call
missels (mistals) = cowsheds
kye = cows‎
strippin' = milking
clippin' = shearing‎

Strofa 2‎

yoke stoup (yat stoup) = gate post
may = flowers of the hawthorn; greenery for May Day
wae's heart = woe is the heart; waly, waly‎

Strofa 3‎

Martinmas: Traditionally, the hiring fairs for farmhands and servants were held at Martinmas, in ‎mid-November. In Yorkshire, they were called the “stattis,” or statutes, after the labour-laws framed ‎in the reign of Edward III. Lads and lasses seeking work would stand in the market place, wearing ‎tokens (the ribbons and tirings of the song) in their hats or buttonholes; farmers and their wives ‎would walk up and down and choose among them. On coming to terms for the year's wages, they ‎would seal the bargain with a fastening penny, which, by the time of the song, was half-a-crown. ‎Then to the pleasures of the fair!‎
From early in the Middle Ages, Martinmas was a time of feasting and of slaughter, when all the ‎beasts that could not be overwintered on their scant hay were slain and salted or eaten up. The feast ‎of St. Martin, November 11, took on a new and poignant meaning after 1918.‎

tirin = attiring, adornment
God's penny = earnest-money; a small sum given to a servant when hired.
cheapjacks = travelling hawkers, with a brisk line of patter‎

Strofa 4‎

have taken King's pay = enlisted as soldiers
delver = quarryman
I thought at first “Thackerays” might be “thackers” (thatchers), but in both versions I have, it's sung ‎as “thack'ries.” Thackeray is a good Yorkshire surname—perhaps this is a reference to a local ‎family?‎

Strofa 5‎

limmers (limbers) = cart shafts
gimmers = young female sheep that have not yet lambed‎


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