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The trees they grow so high And the leaves they grow so green, And many a cold winter’s night My love and I have seen. Of a cold winter’s night, My love, you and I alone have been, Whilst my bonny boy is young He’s a-growing. “O father, dearest father, You’ve done to me great wrong, You’ve tied me to a boy When you know he is too young.” “O daughter, dearest daughter, If you wait a little while, A lady you shall be While he’s growing.” I’ll send your love to college All for a year or two, And then in the meantime He will do for you; I’ll buy him white ribbons, Tie them round his bonny waist To let the ladies know That he’s married. I went up to the college And I looked over the wall, Saw four and twenty gentlemen Playing at bat and ball. I called for my true love, But the would not let him come, All because he was a young boy And growing. At the age of sixteen, He was a married man And at the age of seventeen He was a father to a son And at the age of eighteen The grass grew over him, Cruel death soon put an end To his growing. And now my love is dead And in his grave doth lie. The green grass grows o’er him So very, very high. I’ll sit and mourn His fate until the day I die, And I’ll watch all o’er his child While he’s growing.
When you are old and grey and full of sleep, And nodding by the fire, take down this book, And slowly read, and dream of the soft look Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep; How many loved your moments of glad grace, And loved your beauty with love false or true, But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you, And loved the sorrows of your changing face; And bending down beside the glowing bars, Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled And paced upon the mountains overhead And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
Early one morning, just as the sun was rising, I heard a maid sing in the valley below. “Oh, don’t deceive me, oh, never leave me, How could you use a poor maiden so?” “O gay is the garland, fresh are the roses I’ve culled from the garden to bind on thy brow. O don’t deceive me, O do not leave me! How could you use a poor maiden so? Remember the vows that you made to your Mary, Remember the bow’r where you vowed to be true. Oh, don’t deceive me, oh, never leave me. How could you use a poor maiden so!” Thus sung the poor maiden, her sorrow bewailing, Thus sung the poor maid in the valley below; “O don’t deceive me! O do not leave me! How could you use a poor maiden so?”
In Chester town there liv’d A brisk young widow. For beauty and fine clothes None could excel her. She was proper, stout and tall, Her fingers long and small, She’s a comely dame withall, She’s a brisk young widow. A lover soon there came, A brisk young farmer, With his hat turn’d up all round, Seeking to gain her. “My dear, for love of you This wide world I’d go through If you will but prove true You shall wed a farmer.” Says she: “I’m not for you Nor no such fellow. I’m for a lively lad With lands and riches. ‘Tis not your hogs and yowes Can maintain furbelows, My silk and satin clothes Are all my glory”. “O madam, don’t be coy For all your glory, For fear of another day And another story. If the world on you should frown Your top-knot must come down To a Lindsey-woolsey gown. Where is then your glory?” At last there came that way A sooty collier, With his hat bent down all round, And soon he did gain her: Whereat the farmer swore, “The widow’s ‘mazed, I’m sure. I’ll never court no more A brisk young widow!”
Sweetheart, do not love too long: I loved long and long. And grew to be out of fashion Like an old song. All through the years of our youth Neither could have known Their thoughts from the other’s, We were so much at one. But O, in a minute she changed— O do not love too long, Or you will grow out of fashion Like an old song.
The water is wide I cannot get o’er, And neither have I wings to fly. Give me a boat that will carry two, And both shall row, my love and I. O down in the meadows the other day, A gath’ring flowers both fine and gay, A gath’ring flowers both red and blue, I little thought what love can do. I leaned my back up against some oak Thinking that he was a trusty tree; But first he bended, and then he broke; And so did my false love to me. A ship there is and she sails the sea, She’s loaded deep as deep can be, But not so deep as the love I’m in: I know not if I sink or swim. O love is handsome and love is fine, And love’s a jewel while it is new, But when it is old, It groweth cold, And fades away like morning dew.
Easter day was a holiday Of all the days in the year, And all the little schoolfellows went out to play But Sir William was not there. Mamma went to the School Wife House and knocked at the ring, Saying, “Little Sir William If you are there, Pray let your mother in.” The School Wife open’d the door And said “He is not here today. He is with the little schoolfellows Out on the green Playing some pretty play.” Mamma went to the Boyne water That is so wide and deep, saying, “Little Sir William if you are there, Oh pity your mother’s weep.” “How can I pity your weep, mother And I so long in pain? For the little penknife Sticks close to my heart And the School Wife hath me slain. Go home, go home my mother dear, And prepare my winding sheet, For tomorrow morning before eight o’clock, You with my body shall meet. And lay my prayer book at my head, And my grammar at my feet, That all the little schoolfellows as they pass by May read them for my sake.”
How sweet the answer Echo makes To music at night; When, rous’d by lute or horn, she wakes, And far away, o’er lawns and lakes, Goes answering light. Yet love hath echoes truer far, And far more sweet, Than e’er beneath the moonlight’s star, Or horn, or lute, or soft guitar, The songs repeat. ‘Tis when the sigh, in youth sincere, And only then The sigh, that’s breath’d for one to hear, Is by that one, that only dear, Breath’d back again.
I whispered, ‘I am too young,’ And then, ‘I am old enough’; Wherefore I threw a penny To find out if I might love. ‘Go and love, go and love, young man, If the lady be young and fair.’ Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny, I am looped in the loops of her hair. O love is the crooked thing, There is nobody wise enough To find out all that is in it, For he would be thinking of love Till the stars had run away And the shadows eaten the moon. Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny, One cannot begin it too soon.
As sweet Polly Oliver lay musing in bed, A sudden strange fancy came into her head. “Nor father nor mother shall make me false prove, I’ll list as a soldier and follow my love.” So early next morning she softly arose, And dressed herself up in her dead brother’s clothes. She cut her hair close, and she stained her face brown, And went for a soldier to fair London Town. Then up spoke the sergeant one day at his drill. “Now who’s good for nursing? A captain, he’s ill.” “I’m ready,” said Polly To nurse him she’s gone, And finds it’s her true love all wasted and wan. The first week the doctor kept shaking his head, “No nursing, young fellow, can save him,” he said. But when Polly Oliver had nursed him back to life He cried, “You have cherished him as if you were his wife.” O then Polly Oliver, she burst into tears And told the good doctor her hopes and her fears And very shortly after, for better of for worse, The captain took joyfully his pretty soldier nurse.
There’s none to soothe my soul to rest, There’s none my load of grief to share Or wake to joy this lonely breast, Or light the gloom of dark despair. The voice of joy no more can cheer, The look of love no more can warm Since mute for aye’s that voice so dear, And closed that eye alone could charm.
Never give all the heart, for love Will hardly seem worth thinking of To passionate women if it seem Certain, and they never dream That it fades out from kiss to kiss; For everything that’s lovely is But a brief, dreamy, kind delight. O never give the heart outright, For they, for all smooth lips can say, Have given their hearts up to the play. And who could play it well enough If deaf and dumb and blind with love? He that made this knows all the cost, For he gave all his heart and lost.
Sail on, sail on, thou fearless bark, Wherever blows the welcome wind; It cannot lead to scenes more dark, More sad than those we leave behind. Each smiling billow seems to say “Tho’ death beneath our surface be, Less cold we are, less false than they, Whose smiling wreck’d thy hopes and thee!” Sail on, sail on, through endless space, Through calm, through tempest, stop no more; The stormiest sea’s a resting place To him who leaves such hearts on shore. Or, if some desert land we meet, Where never yet false-hearted men Profaned a world, that else were sweet, Then rest thee, bark, but not till then.
Oliver Cromwell lay buried and dead, Hee-haw, buried and dead, There grew an old apple-tree over his head, Hee-haw, over his head. The apples were ripe and ready to fall; Hee-haw, ready to fall, There came an old woman to gather them all, Hee-haw, gather them all. Oliver rose and gave her a drop, Hee-haw, gave her a drop, Which made the old woman go hippety hop, Hee-haw, hippety hop. The saddle and bridle, they lie on the shelf, Hee-haw, lie on the shelf, If you want any more you can sing it yourself, Hee-haw, sing it yourself.
O can ye sew cushions and can ye sew sheets, And can ye sing ballulow when the bairn greets? And hie and baw, birdie, and hie and baw, lamb, And hee and baw, birdie, my bonnie wee lamb. Hie-o, wie-o, what will I do wi’ ye? Black’s the life that I lead wi’ ye, Many o’ you, little for to gi’ ye, Hie-o, wie-o, what will I do wi’ ye? I’ve placed my cradle on yon hilly top, And aye as the wind blew my cradle did rock. O hush-a-by, babie, O baw lily loo, And hee and baw, birdie, my bonnie weedoo
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths, Enwrought with golden and silver light, The blue and the dim and the dark cloths Of night and light and the half-light, I would spread the cloths under your feet: But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
Down by the Salley Gardens my love and I did meet; She passed the Salley Gardens with little snow-white feet. She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree; But I, being young and foolish, with her did not agree. In a field by the river my love and I did stand, And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white hand. She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs; But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.
Ca’ the yowes to the knowes, Ca’ them where the heather growes, Ca’ them where the burnie rowes, My bonnie Dearie. Hark, the mavis' evening sang Sounden Clouden's woods amang; Then a-folding let us gang, My bonnie Dearie. We'll gang down by Clouden side, Through the hazels spreading wide O'er the waves, that sweetly glide To the moon sae clearly. Fair and lovely as thou art, Thou hast stol’n my very heart; I can die - but canna part, My bonnie Dearie. Ca' the yowes to the knowes...
I bring you with reverent hands The books of my numberless dreams, White woman that passion has worn As the tide wears the dove-grey sands, And with heart more old than the horn That is brimmed from the pale fire of time: White woman with numberless dreams, I bring you my passionate rhyme.
Down yonder green valley where streamlets meander, When twilight is fading, I pensively rove, Or at the bright noontide in solitude wander Amid the dark shades of the lonely ash grove. ‘Twas there while the blackbird was joyfully singing, I first met my dear one, the joy of my heart; Around us for gladness the bluebells were ringing, Ah! then little thought I how soon we should part. Still glows the bright sunshine o’er valley and mountain, Still warbles the blackbird his note from the tree, Still trembles the moonbeam on streamlet and fountain; But what are the beauties of nature to me? With sorrow, deep sorrow, my bosom is laden, All day I go mourning in search of my love. Ye echoes, O tell me, where is the sweet maiden? She sleeps ‘neath the green turf down by the ash grove.
Dear Harp of my Country! In darkness I found thee, The cold chain of silence had hung o’er thee long; When proudly, my own Island Harp! I unbound thee, And gave all thy chords to light, freedom, and song! The warm lay of love and the light tone of gladness Have waken’d thy fondest, thy liveliest thrill; But so oft hast thou echo’d the deep sigh of sadness, That e’en in thy mirth it will steal from thee still. Dear Harp of my Country! Farewell to thy numbers, This sweet wreath of song is the last we shall twine; Go, sleep with the sunshine of fame on thy slumbers, Till touch’d by some hand less unworthy than mine. If the pulse of the patriot, soldier, or lover, Have throbbed at our lay, ‘tis thy glory alone; I was but as the wind, passing heedlessly over, And all the wild sweetness I waked was thy own!
I wonder as I wander out under the sky How Jesus our Saviour did come for to die For poor or’n’ry people like you and like I, I wonder as I wander out under the sky. When Mary birthed Jesus ‘twas in a cow stall With wise men and shepherds and farmers and all, On high from god’s heaven the stars’ light did fall And the promise of the ages it did then recall. If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing, A star in the sky or a bird on the wing Or all of God’s angels in Heav’n for to sing, He surely could’ve had it for he was the King! I wonder as I wander out under the sky How Jesus our Saviour did come for to die For poor or’n’ry people like you and like I, I wonder as I wander out under the sky.
At the mid hour of night when stars are weeping, I fly To the lone vale we lov’d when life shone warm in thine eye; And I think that if spirits can steal from the region of air, To revisit past scenes of delight; Thou wilt come to me there, And tell me our love is remembered e’en in the sky. Then I’ll sing the wild song, which once ‘twas rapture to hear, When our voices, both mingling, breathed like one on the ear, And, as Echo far off thro’ the vale my sad orison rolls, I think, Oh my Love! ‘tis thy voice from the kingdom of souls Faintly answering still the notes which once were so dear!
When my arms wrap you round I press My heart upon the loveliness That has long faded from the world; The jewelled crowns that kings have hurled In shadowy pools, when armies fled; The love-tales wrought with silken thread By dreaming ladies upon cloth That has made fat the murderous moth; The roses that of old time were Woven by ladies in their hair, The dew-cold lilies ladies bore Through many a sacred corridor Where such grey clouds of incense rose That only God’s eyes did not close: For that pale breast and lingering hand Come from a more dream-heavy land, A more dream-heavy hour than this; And when you sigh from kiss to kiss I hear white Beauty sighing, too, For hours when all must fade like dew, But flame on flame, and deep on deep, Throne over throne where in half sleep, Their swords upon their iron knees, Brood her high lonely mysteries.
‘Tis the last rose of summer, Left blooming alone; All her lovely companions are faded and gone; No flow’r of her kindred, No rosebud is nigh To reflect back her blushes, Or give sigh for sigh. I’ll not leave thee, thou lone one, To pine on the stem; Since the lovely are sleeping, Go sleep thou with them; Thus kindly I scatter Thy leaves o’er the bed Where thy mates of the garden Lie senseless and dead. So soon may I follow, When friendships decay, And from love’s shining circle The gems drop away! When true hearts lie wither’d And fond ones are flown, Oh! Who would inhabit This bleak world alone?


The Wild Song is an innovative album which alternates between Benjamin Britten's folksong arrangements, nature soundscapes by the Oscar-winning composer Mychael Danna, and poetry by W.B. Yeats recited by Sir Simon Russell Beale. It reminds us that we are part of nature and not separate from it.


released June 2, 2020

Music by Benjamin Britten and Mychael Danna

Executive Producer: Marci Meth
Recording producer and engineer: Patrick Allen
Benjamin Britten’s folksongs recorded 4-7 July, 2016 at the Britten Studio, Snape Maltings, Suffolk, U.K.
Recordings: ℗ 2018 Modern Poetics LLC
Photos: © 2017 Lucie Falchier
Graphic design: Sanni Sorma
Complete Folksong Arrangements by Benjamin Britten
© Copyright 1943, 1946, 1947, 1960, 1961 by Boosey and Co., Ltd.
Copyright for All Countries. All Rights Reserved.


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Marci Meth Paris, France

Marci Meth is a soprano and creative. Her new album The Wild Song pays hommage to Benjamin Britten's relationship with Nature. It reminds us that we are part of something bigger and more beautiful than we can see, and that each of us has a responsibility to leave this world more beautiful than we found it. ... more

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