Banks of Sweet Primroses, The
DESCRIPTION: Speaker, while walking by banks of primroses, sees and courts a lovely woman. She spurns him and declares her intention to separate from men. (He tells listeners that even a cloudy, dark morning turns into a sunshiny day.)
EARLIEST DATE: 1891
KEYWORDS: courting rejection flowers
FOUND IN: Britain(England(Lond,North,South),Wales,Scotland(Aber)) Canada(Mar)
REFERENCES (14 citations):
Sharp-OneHundredEnglishFolksongs 51, "The Sweet Primeroses" (1 text, 1 tune)
Reeves/Sharp-TheIdiomOfThePeople 97, "Sweet Primaroses" (1 text)
Karpeles-TheCrystalSpring 41, "The Banks of Sweet Primroses" (1 text, 1 tune)
VaughanWilliams/Lloyd-PenguinBookOfEnglishFolkSongs, p. 17, "The Banks of Sweet Primroses" (1 text, 1 tune)
Williams-Wiltshire-WSRO Wt 387, "Banks of the Sweet Primroses" (1 text including vocal rendition)
Palmer-EnglishCountrySongbook, #79, "The Banks of Sweet Primroses" (1 text, 1 tune)
Roud/Bishop-NewPenguinBookOfEnglishFolkSongs #39, "Banks of Sweet Primroses" (1 text, 1 tune)
Greig/Duncan8 1841, "There's Mony a Dark and a Cloudy Morning" (1 fragment)
MacColl/Seeger-TravellersSongsFromEnglandAndScotland 68, "The Banks of Sweet Primroses" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Creighton/Senior-TraditionalSongsOfNovaScotia, pp. 127-128, "As I Rode Out" (1 text, 1 tune)
Butterworth/Dawney-PloughboysGlory, p. 6, "As I Roamed Out" (1 text, 1 tune, listed by Dawney as "The Banks of Sweet Primroses" although the surviving text is quite close to the "As I Roved Out" versions of "Seventeen Come Sunday" [Laws O17]; Butterworth expurgated several verses which might have clarified the origin)
OShaughnessy-YellowbellyBalladsPart1 2, "The Banks of Sweet Primroses" (1 text, 1 tune)
Purslow-TheConstantLovers, p. 5, "The Banks of Sweet Primroses" (1 text, 1 tune)
Bob & Ron Copper, "Sweet Primeroses" (on FSB01, HiddenE)
Louis Killen, "The Banks of Sweet Primroses" (on BirdBush2)
Phil Tanner, "The Sweet Prim-E-Roses" (Columbia FB 1570; on Voice01 as "The Sweet Primrose"; on Lomax41, LomaxCD1741)
NLScotland, L.C.Fol.70(141), "The Banks of sweet Primroses," unknown, c. 1830-1850
cf. "Lovely Nancy (VI)" (floating lyrics)
Three Long Steps
NOTES [330 words]: The Greig/Duncan8 fragment is a floating "cloudy morning" verse that might as well be put here.
The floating weather verse can cut both ways. Greig/Duncan8 1841, included here, has both options: "There's mony a dark and a cloudy morning Turns out a bright and sunny day And there's mony a bright and sunny morning Turns out a dark and a rainy day."
The more familiar option, usually in "The Banks of Sweet Primroses," "The Dark-Eyed Sailor" [Laws N35], "The First Time That I Saw My Love," and "Lovely Nancy" (VI) begins with the cloudy morning. "Oh! No, No" begins with "the brightest of mornings." "Nancy" (II) [Laws P12] can go either way as a follow-up to "Never cast your first true love away." - BS
In this connection, the mention of Sweet Primroses just might be significant. Ruth Binney, Nature's Way: lore, legend, fact and fiction, David and Charles, 2006, pp. 90-91, points out that "The evening primrose (Oenetherus) became the emblem of silent love because of its habit of opening its delicate pale yellow petals only at night." In general, she declares that the meaning of the primrose is that "I might learn to love you."
Purslow speculated that the final verse, which is absent in some versions, was added by a broadside printer to give the song a conclusion.
On the other hand, the form of the beginning of the song is very old and not really related to a particular flower. Compare this item from Carleton Brown, editor, Religious Lyrics of the XVth Century, Oxford University Press, 1939, #178, p. 273, which opens
As I wakyd vppone a day
To take þe aere off field and flowre,
In a mery morenynge off may
When fflowrys were ffull of swete flauowre,
As I walked upon a day
To take the air of field and flower,
In a merry morning of May,
When flowers were full of sweet flavor.
Brown's text comes from Claremont, Henry E. Huntington Library MS. HM 183; there are two other manuscript copies. Brown labels the piece, "Medicines to Cure the Deadly Sins." - RBW
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