Some of the older traditional ballads involve the central character answering difficult or seemingly impossible questions. Naturally, as in this song, the pure heart and motives of the rescuer are stronger than the evil enchantment. In the 1960s there were several versions of this song going round the folk clubs in Hertfordshire.
As I’m out for a longish hilly ride this morning I think a song about cycling is called for. It’s from my unique album of veteran verse of the wheeling life I compiled from early publications and folk tradition. The tune’s mine.
Haymaking was a really important time in the country calendar at which everyone who was able might help, especially before mechanisation. It meant feed for the livestock for the year to come. Continuing wet weather could ruin the hay, the farmer and all the workers and their families. A good long summer might yield two crops of hay bringing a degree of prosperity and great celebration.
Many of the old photos show the labourers with their bottles of cider, ale or small beer to help see them through the long hard day from dawn to dusk. The three women were probably land girls in the second world war. There are numerous traditional songs about harvest time and they’re always on the hopeful, celebratory side!
The month of May is the traditional time, if one were to believe English folksong, for lovers to be meeting, or in this case meeting happily again.James Thomas Linnell (1820 – 1905) painted The Haymakers and Springtime in Surrey, where I first drew breath.