Blossoms On Every Bough

After one of the longest and hardest winters I can remember, spring has finally arrived here in Merrie England. It was lovely to be able to get out in the garden yesterday, feel the sun on my back and begin planting again ready for the summer. The smell of the blossom, the blue sky and the birds singing cheerfully in the trees makes everyone feel so much better.

How it must have felt for our poor medieval ancestors, emerging from their wooden hovels after managing to survive starvation and disease through a British winter is hard for modern man to comprehend. Everyone, from kings to lowly commoners in those days took part in a variety of celebrations of the dawning spring, when the earth threw off the shackles of winter and new life appeared amidst the May blossom. This was joyously reflected in the village summer games up and down the country and influenced many of our surviving Robin Hood ballads. So, along with some pictures I took last spring, I thought I would take another look at those beautiful opening stanzas and try to recapture some of that spirit.
In somer, when the shawes be sheyne,
And leves be large and long,
Hit is full mery in feyre foreste
To here the foulys song.

To se the dere draw to the dale,
And leve the hillies hee,
And shadow hem in the leves grene,
Under the grene wode tre.

Hit befell on Whitsontide,
Erly in a May mornyng,
The sun up feyre can shyne,
And the briddis mery can syng.

(Robin Hood and the Monk)

In schomer, when the leves spryng,
The bloscems on every bowe,
So merey doyt the berdys syng
Yn wodys merey now.

(Robin Hood and the Potter)

When shawes beene sheene and shradds full fayre,
And leeves both large and long,
Itt is merry, walking in the fayre forrest,
To heare the small birds songe.

The woodweele* sang, and wold not cease,
Sitting upon the spraye,
Soe lowed, he wakeneth Robin Hood,
In the greenwood where he lay.

(Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne)
 *Possibly the Golden Oriole noted for its singing voice.



Clement of the Glen said...

Robin Hood Ballads

Robin Hood and the Monk
Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne
Robin Hood and the Potter

Blossoms On Every Bough

Herns son said...

How nice to read your spring welome clement. I feel the same when spring comes around, my best times are spent biking to the woods , then walking slowly through the trees, the freshness of the the green leafs is a joy, I find my old log, and rather like Tuck, I sit among the bluebells and eat a bite of lunch, I listen to the sounds of nature and my thoughts go to the Story of Robin Hood, and for the time I spend there it is bliss.very soon the bluebells will be out and i will again be able to smell their sweet aroma, heaven.

Clement of the Glen said...

Yes,Hern's Son, this is my favourite time of the year. We can only guess how our ancestors felt after the long cold winter.

But in the winter, sat around the fire listening to the minstrel as he reminded them of spring in the greenwood, must have made them feel reassured that it was just around the corner.

Those carpets of bluebells and the smell of the blossom- no wonder they danced around their May Poles!

Neil said...

I always think that the Robin Hood legend only lives in Spring and Summertime and the film shows just that - the story told basking in Techicolor greenery throughout. To me any attempt at realism in terms of showing any thing less than this almost destroys the illusion.The scene where Richard Todd runs off with 'If I need your help I'll call' shows a beautiful warm summer day and greenery almost breathtaking in its beauty. This the stuff of legends and now we are back in Springtime. I couldnt agree more with Clement and Mike and maybe we could all learn from Mike going out into the greenwood and enjoying every moment there !

Clement of the Glen said...

You have raised an important point about how the legend sits, with its backdrop in the greenery of springtime, Neil.

The fact Robin wears the colour of green and seems to represent the comming of spring has encouraged the folklorists to insist that he was a woodland sprite or a re-incarnation of Robin Goodfellow. But all this I will trty and cover in future postings.