The Flowers O' the Forest

Norma Waterson
Back to the song page with all the versions

OriginalDa «Songs of the Ridings», raccolta di canzoni in dialetto dello...

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.‎


«But now they are moaning, on ilka green loaning
The Flowers of the Forest are a' wede away.»

Jane Elliot (1727-1805)

O! day-time is weary, an' dark o' dusk dreary
For t' lasses i' t' mistal, or rakin' ower t' hay;
When t' kye coom for strippin', or t' yowes for their clippin',
We think on our sowdiers now gone reet away.

The courtin'-gate's idle, nae lad flings his bridle
Ower t' yak-stoup, an' sleely cooms seekin' his may;
The trod by the river is green as a sliver,
For the Flowers o' the Forest have all stown away.

At Marti'mas hirin's, nae ribbins, nae tirin's,
When t' godspenny's addled, an' t' time's coom for play;
Nae Cheap-Jacks, nae dancin', wi' t' teamster' clogs prancin ,
The Flowers o' the Forest are all flown a way.

When at neet church is lowsin', an' t' owd ullet is rousin'
Hissel i' our laithe, wheer he's slummered all t' day,
Wae's t' heart! but we misses our lads' saftest kisses,
Now the Flowers o' the Forest are gone reet away.

Ploo-lads frae Pannal have crossed ower the Channel,
Shipperds frae Fewston have taen the King's pay,
Thackrays frae Dacre have sold ivery acre;
Thou'll finnd ne'er a delver frae Haverah to Bray.

When t' north wind is howlin', an' t' west wind is yowlin',
It's for t' farm lads at sea that us lasses mun pray;
Tassey-Will o' t' new biggin, keepin' watch i' his riggin ,
Lile Jock i' his fo'c'sle, torpedoed i' t' bay.

Mony a lass now is weepin' for her marrow that's sleepin',
Wi' nae bield for his corp but the cowd Flanthers clay;
He'll ne'er lift his limmers, he'll ne'er wean his gimmers:
Ay, there's Flowers o' the Forest are withered 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
Notes about "The Flowers of Knaresborough Forest" (arranged alphabetically)

Acre : a land measure (0.4 hectare)
Addled : earned
Bield : shelter
Cheap-Jacks : hawkers
Corp : corpse
Delver : quarryman (M)
Flanthers : Flanders
Gimmers : ewe lambs (M); poetic licence: a gimmer is an ewe between first and second shearing
Godspenny : earnest money (M); token payment made upon hiring
Kye : cows
Laithe : barn (M)
Limmers : wagon-shafts (M)
Lowsin' : loosing: letting out, emptying
Marrow : match, partner, betrothed (as marrow is to bone )
Marti'mas hirin' : the farm-hand hiring fair at Martinmas 11th November
May : maiden, girl (and her permission)
Mistal : cow shed (Lit. dung-stall )
Mun : must
New biggin : new house or farm (big, to build)
Ploo-lads : plough-men
Saftest : softest
Sliver : branch of a leafing tree (M)
Stown : stolen
Strippin' : milking
Teamster' clogs : wooden-soled boots of the wagon handlers
Thackrays : a family name among the trades; Moorman is teasing, here
Tirin's : attire, gay apparel, esp. head-wear
Trod : footpath
Ullet : owl
Wae's : woe is
Yak-stoup : oak-post (M)
Yowes : ewes, female sheep

Back to the song page with all the versions

Main Page

Note for non-Italian users: Sorry, though the interface of this website is translated into English, most commentaries and biographies are in Italian and/or in other languages like French, German, Spanish, Russian etc.

hosted by