DESCRIPTION: Coming from "the holy land Of Blessed Walsingham," the singer asks (a jolly palmer) about the singer's love. The (palmer) asks questions and is told that she has left him, but his love endures
EARLIEST DATE: 1765 (Percy folio; tune dates at least to 1596)
KEYWORDS: love separation travel
FOUND IN: Britain(England)
REFERENCES (5 citations):
Percy/Wheatley II, pp. 101-105, "As Ye Came From the Holy Land" (2 text, one from the Percy folio and the other the touched-up version in the _Reliques_)
Chappell/Wooldridge I, pp. 69-71, "Walsingham" (1 tune, partial text)
BBI, ZN284, "As I went to Walsingham"
ADDITIONAL: Norman Ault, _Elizabethan Lyrics From the Original Texts_, pp. 282-284, "As You Came From the Holy Land" (1 text)
E. K. Chambers, editor, _The Oxford Book of Sixteenth Century Verse_, Oxford, 1932 (corrected edition, 1966), pp. 468-469, "Walsinghame" (1 text)
ST Perc2101 (Partial)
NOTES [913 words]: This piece has been very popular in poetry anthologies; Granger's Index to Poetry lists some two dozen printings, it mentions the attribution to Sir Walter Raleigh, without accepting the attribution.
One of those who tentatively accepts the attribution to Raleigh is Ault, who dates the manuscript containing it (Bodley MS. Rawl. Poet. 85) "before 1600." This dating is also accepted, at least by implication, by Chambers, who also prints the Bodleian text (with no indication of doubt about whether this is by Raleigh.) Of course, Ault also claims that this is "How Should I Your True Love Know." Which it isn't, though it has similar lines; I wouldn't be surprised if this inspired that.
The tune too is different (at least from the version of "How Should I" that I've heard), though again there are some similarities, probably caused more by the metrical form than anything else.
Several references mention the great popularity of this song, and it is quoted in John Fletcher and Francis Beaumont's 1611 play "The Knight of the Burning Pestle," Act II, scene vii:
As you came from Walsingham,
From that holy land,
There met you not with my true love
By the way as you came?
There seem to be two openings to the piece, the one above (found also in the Percy folio) and that quoted by Chappell:
As I went to Walsingham,
To the shrine with speed,
Met I with a jolly palmer,
In a pilgrim's weed.
Something similar is quoted in the Pepys collection. I have not seen a full text of the latter, and it is possible that they are distinct, but I cannot prove it. The piece does not seem to survive in oral tradition, but there are enough references to it that I thought it proper to include it here. It also seems to have given rise to yet another song,
King Richard's gone to Walsingham,
To the Holy Land,
To kill the Turk and Saracen, that the truth do withstand....
According to Nettel, p. 89, this song is "traditionally associated with Ophelia," but gives no details. This would argue that the tune predates Raleigh, however. Another popular tune, "The Merrry Milkmaids," is supposedly a version of this converted to the major mode. (The version in Chappell/Wooldridge is in natural minor with some sharpened thirds.)
The notes to Chappell and Percy (on "Gentle Herdman, Tell to Me") note that Walsingham was a pilgrimage site at least from the time of Henry III. It seemingly acquired its reputation around the Norman Conquest.
The shrine was the result of a vision by one Richelde de Faverches, who had a vision of the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary (for which see Luke 1:26-38) at Walsingham. Mary told her to make a model of the "Holy House" there (Porter, pp. 117-118). She managed to get the thing built (Kerr, p. 164), and somehow people came to believe that the vision was real and the model was holy. Alexander, p. 308, says that Whit Monday was a particularly popular day for pilgrimages to Walsingham.
Walsingham seems to have been well-patronized -- e.g. Cunningham, p. 12, tells of a pilgrimage to Walsingham by Edward IV and his brother Richard of Gloucester when Edward's throne was under threat by the Earl of Warwick. Allmand, p. 158, mentions that Henry V went there after the Treaty of Troyes made him the heir to the French throne. Edward I visited the site while working on his great alliance in France during the 1290s (Powicke, pp. 665-666). Queen Margaret of Anjou went there in thanks once she finally became pregnant after years of steriiity (Laynesmith, p. 111). No doubt other kings went there at less memorable times -- e.g. Henry III, who loved to go on pilgrimage, made one of his journeys there (Tyerman, pp. 339-340).
Ironically, Elizabeth of York, the mother of Henry VIII, went there in 1495.
Nor was the patronage confined to royalty. The Pastons of Norfolk, in the 1400s, were only of the gentry (and relatively new even to that status), but they at least contemplated pilgrimages there and at least once offered a wax statue (Castor, p. 30).
Walsingham figures in other poems as well, also seemingly as a pilgrimage destination. Walter de la Mare, Come Hither, revised edition, 1928, in the notes to #473 prints a fragment beginning, "Gentle herdsman, tell to me, Of courtesy I thee pray, Unto the town of Walsingham Which is the right and ready way" (compare the item in Percy).
The supreme irony came in 1511, when Katherine of Aragon bore a son, Henry, to Henry VIII. The king went on a pilgrimage to Walsingham -- and the baby died after seven weeks (Skidmore, p. 11). One cannot help but wonder if that influenced Henry's later actions. To add to the irony, Henry VIII's chief councilor Cardinal Wolsey once went there to give thanks for recovering from the Sweating Sickness (Scarisbrick, p. 68).
Walsingham was closed down in 1538 when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries. Supposedly people still go on pilgrimage to Walsingham (Kerr, p. 165), but not to the original site; all that still stands of the church at Walsingham is the east wall -- really, not much more than a gateway arch. (The original site was excavated in 1961, according to Porter, p. 118, locating parts of the original construction and one of the original wells by which it was located.) Despite the destruction of the original, the site was re-opened for pilgrimages in 1931 (Alexander, p. 309), although the restored image doesn't look much like we would expect of a Palestinian setting in Roman times (there is a photo following p. 260 of Alexander). - RBW
Last updated in version 4.2
- Alexander: Marc Alexander, A Companion to the Folklore, Myths & Customs of Britain, Sutton Publishing, 2002
- Allmand: Christopher Allmand, Henry V, University of California Press, 1992
- Castor: Helen Castor, Blood & Roses: The Paston Family in the Fifteenth Century, Faber & Faber, 2004
- Cunningham: Sean Cunningham: Richard III: A Royal Enigma ([English] National Archives, 2003)
- Kerr: Nigel and Mary Kerr, A Guide to Medieval Sites in Britain, Diamond Books, 1988
- Laynesmith: J. L. Laynesmith, The Last Medieval Queens: English Queenship 1445-1503, Oxford, 2004 (I use the 2005 paperback edition)
- Nettel: Reginald Nettel, Seven Centuries of Popular Song, Phoenix House, 1956
- Porter: Enid Porter, The Folklore of East Anglia, Batsford, 1974
- Powicke: Sir Maurice Powicke, The Thirteen Century, 1216-1307, Oxford, 1962 (I use the 1998 Oxford paperback edition. And if you're wondering how the thirteenth century came to be defined as 1216-1307, it is the reigns of Henry III and Edward I)
- Scarisbrick: J. J. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, University of California Press, 1968
- Skidmore: Chris Skidmore, Edward VI, St. Martin's Press, 2007
- Tyerman: Christopher Tyerman, Who's Who in Early Medieval England (1066-1272), (being the second volume in the Who's Who in British History series), Shepheard-Walwyn, 1996
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