Songs of Land & Sea
Erin’s Lovely Home • Constant Lovers • Sweet Thames Flow Softly • Henry Martin
Ship in Distress • See Mine Own Sweet Jewel • Bogie’s Bonny Belle • Jack and Joan
Wilow, Willow! • Lovely Joan • Blue Flame • Cupid’s Garden
The Three Ravens • The Streams of Nantsian
I. The earliest known printed lyrics to “Erin’s Lovely Home” date from 1856 in Journal from the Catalpa. It was notated by song collector Cecil Sharp who wrote of the tune: “Taken down from John Edbrook at Bishop’s Nymopton, N. Devon, on Jan. 11th, 1904. A variant is printed in the Folk Song Society’s Journal, Vol. 1, p. 117. The words are on broadsides by Ryle, Seven Dials, and others.”
II. We first heard “Constant Lovers” on Barry Dransfield’s 2005 recording Unruly. Barry attributes his version of the song to that of singer Ron Spicer of West Hoathly in Sussex. Under the title “The Forsaken Mermaid” it is part of the Copper Family tradition of songs.
III. “Sweet Thames Flow Softly” was written by singer-songwriter Ewan MacColl (1915-1989) for a radio production based on a modern re-telling of Romeo and Juliet. He later wrote of the song: “The song refers to the pleasure boats that ply the Thames from Greenwich up to Hampton Court. Pay no attention to the fact that some of the places are geographically out of order. This is poetic license.”
VI. Musician and folklorist A. L. Lloyd described “Henry Martin” as “one of the most-sung ballads of our time.” It is the first entry in Cecil Sharp’s 100 English Folk Songs. In the United States, one of the most well-known recordings is by Joan Baez.
V. Under the title “Seamen Bold,” “Ship in Distress” is part of the Copper Family tradition of songs. Cecil Sharp also collected the song from James Bishop of Priddy, Somerset in 1905. Our version is that of Mr. Harwood of Watersfield, Sussex collected by George Butterworth in 1907 and published in the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs.
VI. “See Mine Own Sweet Jewel” represents our branching out from strictly folk songs to examples of so-called “Early Music.” The song was written by Thomas Morley (1557-1602) and is the first selection in his Canzonets to Three Voices of 1593.
VII. “Bogie’s Bonnie Belle” was a favorite “Bothy Ballad” sung by farm laborers in the northeast region of Scotland. Bothies are farm outbuildings, where unmarried laborers used to sleep. We learned our version from Robin and Barry Dransfield’s 1977 release Popular to Contrary Belief.
VIII. “Jack and Joan” is our second excursion on this release into “Early Music” territory. Written by Thomas Campion (1567 – 1620), the song appears in Two Bookes of Ayres – The First Booke of 1613.
IX. “Willow, Willow!” is collected in William Chappell’s Popular Music of the Olden Time (1855). The song appears in Thomas Dallis’s lute book manuscript of 1583 under the name of “All a greane willowe.” The song is sung by Desdemona in the fourth act of Shakespeare’s Othello.
X. Ralph Vaughan Williams collected “Lovely Joan” in 1908 from Christopher Jay of Acle, Norfolk, and it was later published in The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. We first encountered this song through the version recorded by Folkal Point on the 2020 compilation Sumer Is Icumen In: The Pagan Sound of British and Irish Folk 1966–75.
XI. “Blue Flame” appears in Sabine Baring-Gould’s Songs of the West of 1890. The melody was given by Mr. W. Crossing under the name “Rosemary Lane” with new words by Baring-Gould. It was a common belief in the West of England that a soul after death appeared as a blue flame and that a flame came from the churchyard to the house of one doomed to die.
XII. “Cupid’s Garden” comes from the repertoire of the Copper Family and is printed in The Copper Family Song Book. Cuper’s Gardens opened in the 1680s and were named after the original proprietor, Abraham Boydell Cuper. It was a tea garden on the south side of the River Thames in Lambeth, London, near where Waterloo Bridge is now located.
XIII. “The Three Ravens” is an English folk ballad first printed in the song book Melismata compiled by Thomas Ravenscroft and published in 1611. It comes to us, among other versions, from the recording by pioneering countertenor Alfred Deller.
XIV. “The Streams of Nantsian,” also known as “The Streams of Lovely Nancy” was first printed as a broadside ballad in Liverpool between 1820 and 1824 and collected by Walter Newton Henry Harding (1883-1973).