Wednesday, 31 January 2018

My mother had a pure soul

My mother had a pure soul.

Swearing, or bad language was forbidden in our home.

Bloody was off limits, as it was thought to be a shortened form of the oath "By Our Lady".

Bugger was a very bad word because of  its connection with (what was then a crime in the U.K.) buggery.

Damn was forbidden.  It's short for damnation, we were taught that God alone can damn people.

Even the common British expletive "strewth" was questionable  because there's chance that it derived from another oath - "God's truth".

None of this was bad.  I confess that I use coarse language, to my shame.

But Mum could get frustrated.  No wonder, with nine children, some of them being rambunctious.

At those times she would utter "God speed the plough".

This confused me.  As a child I thought it had something to do with her East Anglian heritage, but that made no sense, for her father was a fisherman, not a farmer.

Whether or not Mum knew it "God speed the plough" derived from a Ploughman's song.  It's not clear if the song derived from the 19th century, or from much earlier.

You can read about it, and listen to it here:

http://www.worksongs.org/blog/2014/06/06/god-speed-the-plough


(Note that only the first verse is original, the others were added much later)


Victorian God Speed the Plough Mug


The sentiments of the song remind me of "Linden Lea", which I first sang when I was about 11 years old.  Here is an  arrangement by Ralph Vaughan Williams:

https://youtu.be/fp9KsTXg7-I

Linden Lea
William Barnes


Within the woodlands, flow'ry gladed,
By the oak trees' mossy moot,
The shining grass blades, timber-shaded,
Now do quiver underfoot;
And birds do whistle overhead,
And water's bubbling in its bed;
And there, for me, the apple tree
Do lean down low in Linden Lea. 

When leaves, that lately were a-springing,
Now do fade within the copse,
And painted birds do hush their singing,
Up upon the timber tops;
And brown-leaved fruits a-turning red,
In cloudless sunshine overhead,
With fruit for me, the apple tree
Do lean down low in Linden Lea. 

Let other folk make money faster
In the air of dark-roomed towns;
I don't dread a peevish master,
Though no man may heed my frowns.
I be free to go abroad,
Or take again my homeward road
To where, for me, the apple tree
Do lean down low in Linden Lea




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