Friday, May 27, 2016

Dancing at Whitsun

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The tradition of Morris Dancing had been performed exclusively by men for several hundred years. During the First World War, when the male mortality rate in some English towns and villages approached seventy percent, this tradition would have been lost were it not for the women who chose to carry it on. Austin John Marshall has written this poignant song as a tribute to the widows, sweethearts, sisters and daughters of those men, who kept the tradition alive. 
(Note from Priscilla Herdman's album The Water Lily)

It's fifty-one springtimes since she was a bride,
But still you may see her at each Whitsuntide
In a dress of white linen and ribbons of green,
As green as her memories of loving.
The feet that were nimble tread carefully now,
As gentle a measure as age do allow,
Through groves of white blossom, by fields of young corn,
Where once she was pledged to her true love.
The fields they are empty, the hedges grow free,
No young men to tend them, or pastures go see.
They've gone where the forests of oak trees before
Had gone to be wasted in battle.
Down from their green farmlands and from their loved ones
Marched husbands and brothers and fathers and sons.
There's a fine roll of honour where the Maypole once was,
And the ladies go dancing at Whitsun.
There's a row of straight houses in these latter days
Are covering the Downs where the sheep used to graze.
There's a field of red poppies, a wreath from the Queen.
But the ladies remember at Whitsun,
And the ladies go dancing at Whitsun.
By Adrian Pingstone (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Morris Dancing at Wells
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