Love

Dance of Death

Melencolia I, Albrecht Durer, 1514

Melencolia I, by Albrecht Durer, 1514

Death the white goddess
whirled with Grace, Reason, and Wit
tripping night away –
Love rebuked her with a prayer
while Bard sang and Beauty smiled

Categories: Literature, Love, Poetry | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Hargreaves Haiku

220px-a_young_hare_albrect_durer.jpg.jpeg

Feldhase (Field Hare), painted by Albrecht Durer in 1502

The hare jumps to hide
within the creekside thicket –
I sit on a stone

Waiting here alone
the icy wind blows my hair –
without her I’m lost

Zipping up my coat
I hike on through Burgess Field –
too damn cold for tears

Categories: Art, England, Exploration, Literature, Love, Nature, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Old Country: Another Take on Another Auld Song

Silly Wizard Wild and Beautiful (1981) LP Cover

I did not awake planning to write new words to another folk song today. Instead, I made some coffee and stirred the ashes of last night’s fire to get it going, and sat down with a book on hunter-gatherers! However, the playlist I chose this morning started off automatically with “Hame, Hame, Hame” – a gorgeous song recorded by the Scottish folk band Silly Wizard for their album Wild and Beautiful (1981). The haunting tune is borrowed from “Tha Mi Sgith” (I am Tired), also known as “Buain na Rainich” “(Cutting the Bracken), which is supposed to be a song of heartbreak by a fairy after being separated from his human girlfriend. The lyrics of Silly Wizard’s version made me consider how sometimes home is really not where you are from, but where the heart is. So here is my attempt to express those feelings in words set to this tune, and here is a link to Silly Wizard’s beautiful rendition of “Hame, Hame, Hame,” – should you like a sense of the tune I was thinking of when I made this new version this morning as the sun was rising – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RND2KMlgP-w.

The Old Country

Hame, home, hame

Home I long to be

Hame, home, hame

In the Old Country

Where the rose and the oak

And my bonnie Rowan tree

They are all blooming fair

In the Old Country

Hame, home, hame

Home I long to be

Hame, home, hame

In the Old Country

Where my Love and I did run

Through her forest new to me

Where my heart will ever remain

In the Old Country

Hame, home, hame

Home I long to be

Hame, home, hame

In the Old Country

Where my Love still remains

Among her mountains green

And I am far away

From the Old Country

Hame, home, hame

Home I long to be

Hame, home, hame

In the Old Country

For home is wherever she rests

O my bonnie Rowan tree

Though I am far away

In my own country

Hame, home, hame

Home I long to be

Hame, home, hame

In the Old Country

Categories: England, Folk Music, Love, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The Girl I Left Behind: A New Variant on an Old Song

Cover of Sam Henry's Songs of the People, 2010 UGA Press edition

 

Listening to British folk singer Andy Irvine today, I was stuck by a song I had never heard before: “The Girl I Left Behind.”  This is neither the same song nor even the same tune as the famous fiddle tune “The Girl I Left Behind Me,” which is in every bluegrass band’s repertoire.   The song I was enjoying struck me, however, as having a very familiar tune itself, and with a little research I discovered that it is essentially the same music as “I’m a Good Old Rebel,” “Lily of the West,” and “Lakes of Ponchartrain.”  I am not certain when this song dates to, but I do feel that it could easily have an Irish origin and might be as old as the late 18th or early 19th century.  Perhaps someone can comment on that.  At any rate, the tale told in Irvine’s version of the song struck a chord in me (literally and figuratively! – here is a link to his wonderful version –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MQilZw1LZ8), and inspired me to try my own hand on a new variant.  Below are the results of today’s glorious obsession!

[Incidentally, Irvine wrote this in his liner notes accompanying the album Way Out Yonder (2000), on which his version of the song first appeared: “I’ve known the first part of this song since I was quite young.  I heard it on a Library of Congress Album sung by Mrs Pearl Borusky, who recorded it in Ohio.  I later heard the great Seamus Ennis sing it at a party in Peggy Jordan’s in Dublin.  I found this full version late one Summer’s night in Sam Henry’s Collection “Songs of the people”–How had I never seen it before ?”]

The Girl I Left Behind (2015)

There was a gentleman farmer at Everton Grange he dwelled

He had one only daughter in love with her I fell

She was so tall and brilliant, so funny and so fair

No other girl in England with her I could compare.

We rambled and we courted for two years near about

She showed me Merry Old England, its meadows, fields, and routes

Through Oxfordshire and Hampshire, Old London, and sweet France

The farmer’s daughter smiled on me, and made my heart to dance.

Then news from home it reached me and Lord it beat me down

And I knew that I must leave her and return to my own town

Over the hills and far away from England I must go

But to leave the farmer’s daughter it filled my heart with woe.

I asked if it made any difference if I crossed over the main

She said her heart was ever mine, that we would meet again,

That we would meet on foreign shores, this greatly eased my mind

So we kissed and then we parted and I left my girl behind.

Straightway I flew from Londontown unto Americay

My mother she was so relieved to see me on that day

My father and my sons rejoiced when I came down the line

But the girl I left behind me was always on my mind.

We wrote each other when we could but things were not the same

She moved off to another place far from our haunts and hame

A new life beckoned and off she flew, the sun upon her shined,

But I was far away without the girl I left behind.

My business settled at home I flew to see my bonnie bird

But her heart was cold and hurting when my words of love she heard

She said she didn’t love me now and a new love I should find

As my tears fell down away she walked – the girl I left behind.

Since then across wide oceans I’ve traveled o’er the earth

I’ve roamed and rambled this wide world over to soothe my aching heart

But my tears still fall like the storms of Thor and she’s always on my mind

I’ll always love the farmer’s daughter – the girl I left behind.

Now, compare these lyrics written today with the traditional lyrics sung by Andy Irvine:

There was a rich old farmer lived in the country nigh
He had one only daughter on her I cast my eye
She was so tall and slender so delicate and so fair
No other girl in the neighbourhood with her I could compare.I asked if it made any difference if I crossed over the main
She says it makes no difference if you’ll come back again
She promised she’d be true to me until death’s parting time
So we kissed shook hands and parted and I left my girl behind.

Straightway I sailed from old Ireland to Glasgow I did go
Where the work and money was plentiful and the whiskey it did flow
Where the work and money was plentiful and the girls all treated me kind
But the girl I left behind me was always on my mind.

One day as I went walking down by the public square
The mail boat had arrived and the postman met me there
He handed me a letter which gave me to understand
That the girl I left behind me was married to another man.

I stopped and gazed around me my heart was filled with fear
O oftentimes she promised me that she would prove sincere
On the Sunday of our parting ‘twas on the Book she swore
That she would wed no other man and she vowed it o’er and o’er.

I advanced a few steps forward full knowing these words to be true
My mind being bent on rambling I didn’t know what to do
My mind being bent on rambling this wide world to see o’er
I left my dear old parents perhaps to see no more.

Straightway I sailed to old New York strange faces for to see
Where Handsome Peggy Walker she fell in love with me
My pocket being empty I thought it was full time
For to stop with her and think no more on the girl I left behind.

One day as I sat musing she says my boy don’t grieve
For I have money in plenty to support both you and me
Your pocket will be laden hard labour you can give o’er
If you’ll agree to marry me and rambling go no more.

Well if should agree to marry you I would be much to blame
Your friends and your relations would look on me with shame
And I mean to see my parents before that they resign
And to bid farewell and a last adieu to the girl I left behind.

Well if all that you reveal be true our friendship’s at an end
Since first you came to this country I’ve always proved your friend
You had my money at your command when fortune seemed to frown
And my boy’s cause I still maintained when others ran you down.

At this my heart it did relent for what she said was true
And I promised for to marry her, oh what else could I do ?
Now Peggy’s mistress of my heart she loving and she’s kind
But the perjured vows I’ll ne’er forget of the girl I left behind.

“But let’s remember, there are four parts to our definition of a folk song: anonymity is important – nobody knows who wrote it; age; travel; change.  When you have these four elements, when you can test a song by these four criteria, I think you can tell whether a song is a folk song or not.”

Frank M. WarnerFolk Songs of the Eastern Seaboard: from a Collector’s Notebook, 1963

Categories: England, Folk Music, Ireland, Love, United Kingdom | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

To R. H. in Manchester, with Love from Georgia

Dee & Rosemary, Manchester, 1944, most likely with her sister Barbara and mother Beatrice

Dee & Rosemary, Manchester, 1944, most likely with her sister Barbara and mother Beatrice

I once rambled to Manchester, England on a pilgrimage of love and a mission of nostalgia. There I communed with both living spirits and the shades of yesteryear. But since obscurity will not tell the tale, let me explain.

When my great uncle Ellied (“Ellie D” or just “Dee”) Douglas died childless in 2001, my maternal aunts and uncles became his sole heirs. Each niece and nephew inherited something belonging to Uncle Dee, and my mother happened to receive an old trunk full of many of his precious memories. The most interesting of the items in this trunk had to do with World War II, in which he served as a Warrant Officer in the U. S. Army. The saddest of these were the personal effects belonging to his brother Paul, who died in the reinvasion of the Philippines in early 1945. Uncle Dee had kept Paul’s civilian clothes, glasses, other mementos, and even some special Japanese paper money and coins that American soldiers, marines, and sailors used as they island-hopped across the Pacific. But the most fascinating things left behind by my great uncle were the series of letters to him from an English girl by the name of Rosemary Higginbottom of Manchester, England.

Dee was a farm boy from rural south Georgia who had been working in a cotton mill when he joined the army on August 6, 1942 at Fort McPherson, Atlanta at the age of 25. He could have had no idea how far the war would take him or of the lifelong attachments he would make when he set out on his journey. Although I am still trying to work out many of his whereabouts during that conflagration, the family has long known of his lost love in Manchester, and how he was sent into France with the army in September 1944 and presumably never saw her again. It appears that he was sent to Manchester for training as a Warrant Officer in the spring of 1944, and it was there that he met and fell in love with Rosemary and she with him.

Dee and many other American soldiers were billeted in houses with English host families who were paid for this by the U. S. Government. This was badly needed money, since it was a time of unbelievable hardship across Britain, much worse than the situation in the United States. The Blitz had even hit Manchester and other northern English cities, and life on the home front was exceedingly tough for families just trying to exist until the hoped-for victory would occur and their boys could come home. At any rate, somehow and somewhere Dee and Rosemary met and fell in love, and although we do not have his letters to her, we know a little of their life together in the southern Manchester area called Withington from her beautiful letters to him.

Dee Douglas, Manchester, England, 1944

Dee Douglas, Manchester, England, 1944

On this pilgrimage d’amour to friendly Manchester, I was fortunate enough to meet some lovely people who were fascinated by the story of Dee and Rosemary. Two of these were Phil the retired merchant seaman and Sarah the barmaid at the Victoria Pub in relaxed Withington, whither I had wandered down from the busy city centre. Perhaps Dee and Rosemary once visited this very pub together, since it had been established in Victorian days! I may never know. At any rate, today the Victoria is full of local characters and friendly faces, who listened to the tale and gave me some directions that helped me find the house where I believe Rosemary, her sister Barbara, and her mother Beatrice lived with her father during the war years.

The Victoria Pub, Withington

The Victoria Pub, Withington

Based on the address on her letters to Dee, the topography in the back garden (as the Brits call the back yard) as shown in the 1944 photos above, and confirmed by my expeditionary pedestrian survey as assisted by Google Maps, I do believe I actually found and visited the former Higginbottom home at 49 Ashdale Drive, Withington, Manchester 20, England! This confirmation is primarily based on the berm running behind the house in the photos, which is still behind the house at that address today, and holds the elevated track of the Manchester Tram running to Withington.

49 Ashdale Drive, Withington in October 2015

49 Ashdale Drive, Withington today

Heart on Door of 49 Ashdale Drive, Withington

Heart on Door of 49 Ashdale Drive, Withington

It was a very fulfilling experience, and I am so glad I was able to honor the memories of my Uncle Dee and his Rosemary by making this pilgrimage. As I said before, they evidently never met again after Dee was shipped off to France, although they wrote letters to each other for a number of years after Dee came home to Georgia after the war. It appears that Rosemary eventually married Charles E. Heaton in Manchester in 1951, although I do not know if they had children or not. Much later in life Uncle Dee married the woman who became my Aunt May. They never had any children.

But in an odd way there is a living link between Rosemary and her Dougie. When he returned home to Georgia in 1945 at the close of the war, evidently all he could talk about was his Rosemary. It just so happened that his brother Chester’s wife Eva was great with child then, so when a daughter was born to them on September 14, 1945 – a year after the last meeting of the lovers in our tale – they decided to name her Rosemary, after Rosemary Higginbottom of Manchester, England. And that second Rosemary happens to be my mother.

[September 1944]

My Darling Sweetheart

I shall be able to give you this letter in person this morning. I am glad that I am coming down to see you for I have still to hear you do some more talking.

I must just make one reference to last night. Dearest I am sorry but really I should have known only the trouble was explaining to the family over a film. When you kissed me before going last night the hurt the evening had caused died right out and if you hadn’t been very near to going I should have felt on top of the world.

I have very many happy hours to thank you for. And here’s the Big Thank You – when you leave me today I am hoping with all my heart that it won’t be good bye forever. You sure are the grandest & best pal a girl could ever wish for & I could never wish for a better one ever. I love you very much Dougie and when you are away I want to think all on my own. I should like to know one day if I needed you if you would come to me. Dear you have shown me far more than Joe ever did how much you love me and I am not
the kind of girl to forget my friends & never my best ones.

I should have asked you about the coins* for my arm or neck & please oh let me have them for that is something I should like more than anything else. I would always keep it to. I must close now & wherever you are or go I shall always be thinking of you.

All my love & very best wishes my Darling
Your English girl
Rosemary xxxxxxxxxx

Rosemary Higginbottom to Ellied Douglas, Letter from September 1944

*Note: the obscure reference to coins for her arm or neck indicate that Rosemary wanted to make a necklace or bracelet out of coins given to her by Dougie. This was a common gift to the girls, wives, and mothers back home, and called Sweetheart Jewelry.

Categories: England, Exploration, Love, World War II | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Altering and Removing Love: True Love, Forgiveness, and Shakespeare

Rowena walking away, b&w

Shakespeare knew something about love. One of his greatest poems is about love, anger, pride, and pain. And about marriage in the sense of the true union of two hearts and minds. The lines: “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove” are the heart and soul and point of this poem.

When any Lover tries to alter his love for his Beloved – to remove it from her – he will find that this is impossible to do, try as hard as he may. Because if his love is truly love, despite everything he says to the contrary, his love must remain constant still. Likewise if in reaction the Beloved says she no longer loves the Lover – that somehow suddenly her love for him has altered – and that she has removed her love for him because he tried to remove his from her, then this probably has more to do with pride and pain than with Love.

To use a metaphor, if the Beloved can somehow turn off the valve of her Love for the one she loves, so that the basin holding that Love – which can only be their hearts – is soon only half full of her Lover’s outpouring love, or visa versa, then there must never have really been any love at all. But if there was true love before, then the soul-crushing despair of heartbreak and pain may be to blame, not a lack of love, and Love may yet burst forth from the streams in their hearts changing heartbreak into New Life and New Love once again.

This is the lesson Shakespeare teaches us in his masterful poem on the subject of pain, heartbreak, anger, and the constancy of love – Sonnet 116. Can you not see the English bard’s logic in this?

William Shakespeare, 1564-1616

William Shakespeare, 1564-1616

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’ed.

William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116, published in 1609 but perhaps written as much as 10-15 years earlier

Categories: Love, Poetry, Shakespeare | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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