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How many bluebells grow in the salt sea

RobbieWilson 17 Mar 10 - 04:28 PM
Jack Campin 18 Mar 10 - 02:48 PM
MartinRyan 18 Mar 10 - 03:00 PM
GUEST,mg 18 Mar 10 - 03:14 PM
RobbieWilson 18 Mar 10 - 03:34 PM
MikeL2 18 Mar 10 - 03:36 PM
Tootler 18 Mar 10 - 04:04 PM
Royston 18 Mar 10 - 05:35 PM
Willa 18 Mar 10 - 06:27 PM
MartinRyan 18 Mar 10 - 06:49 PM
Tootler 18 Mar 10 - 07:59 PM
Betsy 18 Mar 10 - 08:05 PM
MGM·Lion 19 Mar 10 - 12:01 AM
gnomad 19 Mar 10 - 04:58 AM
sciencegeek 19 Mar 10 - 06:40 AM
Arnie 19 Mar 10 - 07:41 AM
Willa 19 Mar 10 - 10:54 AM
McGrath of Harlow 19 Mar 10 - 06:29 PM
GUEST,leeneia 19 Mar 10 - 11:45 PM
NormanD 20 Mar 10 - 06:25 AM
McGrath of Harlow 20 Mar 10 - 10:17 AM
GUEST,leeneia 20 Mar 10 - 11:09 AM
Tootler 20 Mar 10 - 06:48 PM
Paul Burke 20 Mar 10 - 07:10 PM
Tootler 23 Mar 10 - 05:00 PM
RobbieWilson 25 Mar 10 - 05:02 PM
Tootler 25 Mar 10 - 08:59 PM
RobbieWilson 26 Mar 10 - 05:21 PM
Tootler 26 Mar 10 - 05:59 PM
Richard Mellish 26 Mar 10 - 07:46 PM
MGM·Lion 26 Mar 10 - 11:35 PM
Effsee 26 Mar 10 - 11:42 PM
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Subject: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: RobbieWilson
Date: 17 Mar 10 - 04:28 PM

Last night I heard an old Glaswegian friend of mine sing a version of the false bride with the phrase above. I have never heard this and as far as I can tell none of the discussions in here mention bluebells rather than strawberries. A google search brought no results. He reckons this is the version he has always known, or at least since at least the early sixties. The lyrics were generally "Jockified" or a bit Kale Yard style. Does anyone know where this comes from or of any singers who sang about bluebells?

As an aside, none of the other threads I read had the explanation I have always had for this verse:
    The men of the forest they ask it o' me
    How many strawberries grow in the salt sea?
    I answer them a' with a tear in my eye
    How many ships sail in the forest"

It is a Romeo and Juliet, wrong side of the tracks type thing; she's from a different world. What could one of them see in one of us? His response being " That cuts both ways"

Any way, any info on my original question would be appreciated
Thanks
Robert


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Subject: RE: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: Jack Campin
Date: 18 Mar 10 - 02:48 PM

I don't think I've ever heard "strawberries", it's always "bluebells". Scans better.

The version I hear most often these days comes from Orkney or Shetland.


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Subject: RE: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: MartinRyan
Date: 18 Mar 10 - 03:00 PM

There you go - I've never heard "bluebells" in this context - and "strawberries" scans better to the tune I hear...

Regards


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Subject: RE: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 18 Mar 10 - 03:14 PM

I have always heard strawberries and it scans better to me too. mg


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Subject: RE: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: RobbieWilson
Date: 18 Mar 10 - 03:34 PM

So can you point me at any recordings or performers with bluebells, Jack? As I said I have never seen or heard this until this week and every version and thread in here uses strawberries.
Thanks for the resposes so far by the way
Robert


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Subject: RE: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: MikeL2
Date: 18 Mar 10 - 03:36 PM

Hi

The versions I know say "strawberries too.

Scans better but in this version by The Corries he doesn't scan it quite right IMHO.
See what you think.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCtfZELJwJo


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Subject: RE: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: Tootler
Date: 18 Mar 10 - 04:04 PM

Is it possible someone at some time didn't catch exactly what was sung (or forgot) and put in something more or less appropriate?

Bluebells still makes sense.


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Subject: RE: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: Royston
Date: 18 Mar 10 - 05:35 PM

I sing this one and and have always sung "strawberries"...until tonight.

It makes more sense with bluebells: as they grow in forests and strawberries are not known for so doing. At least not so readily as bluebells. It fits well if you sing fairly freely, IMO.


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Subject: RE: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: Willa
Date: 18 Mar 10 - 06:27 PM

Royston:I only knew 'strawberries'and since the next line is 'how many ships sail in the forest?' I don't think it's meant to make sense.


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Subject: RE: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: MartinRyan
Date: 18 Mar 10 - 06:49 PM

That was my instinctive reaction too - but in fact it DOES make more sense with "bluebells" since it contrasts forest/bluebells with sea/ships more effectively...

Regards


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Subject: RE: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: Tootler
Date: 18 Mar 10 - 07:59 PM

Surely, it doesn't really matter what plant you choose as long as you are asking for the impossible.


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Subject: RE: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: Betsy
Date: 18 Mar 10 - 08:05 PM

I learnt this from a Corries LP in the 60's - not a definitive source I'll grant you - but strawberries it was.
Royston, as Willa says it wasn't meant to make sense complete sense - in the same way as the verses of Scarbrough Fair - they were meant to be impossibilities.

Cheers Betsy


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Subject: RE: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 19 Mar 10 - 12:01 AM

Note following from Wiki entry on 'fragaria', to which one is directed from entry on "Garden Strawberry" (which is the commercially grown sort we all think of). The one noted below, a much smaller wild strawberry, obviously, from its English name, grows in the forest as much as does the bluebell ~~

"Fragaria vesca Coville - Woodland Strawberry (Northern Hemisphere)"

I have always taken it that this is the sort ref'd in the "False Bride/Week Before Easter" song, in which strawberries feature in every version I ever recollect hearing. Whether 'bluebell' or 'strawberry' will scan better obviously depends on which tune is being used.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: gnomad
Date: 19 Mar 10 - 04:58 AM

Wild strawberries do indeed grow in woodland, though usually in scrub rather than the heavy timber most folks think of when the term forest is used.

It is worth remembering that forest originally meant a hunting ground, rather than deep woodland. The Forest of Bowland in northern England is very lightly timbered, and both the New Forest and the Forest of Dean have significant glade areas.

Like several posters I have never heard a version with bluebells, which would not scan with the tunes I've heard, but I would be interested to hear one. I don't think it is possible (or desirable) to designate a 'one true' version, especially not on the basis of flower habitat.


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Subject: RE: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: sciencegeek
Date: 19 Mar 10 - 06:40 AM

Ewan MacColl also recorded this song using strawberries, not bluebells, in the verse. It's one of the many jilted lover songs he & Peggy Seeger recorded back in the '60s.

I will admit that my take on the verses was more that he loved her but never declared his love, just expected it to be reciprocated - and his friends knew it would never be. Another starry-eyed lover bites the dust.lol

And I have picked my share of wild strawberries from both fields and woodlands. Sweet!


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Subject: RE: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: Arnie
Date: 19 Mar 10 - 07:41 AM

On the odd occasion I've sung this song, I've always used the word strawberries as the rythm of the popular tune requires a 3 syllable word here, and bluebells of course is only 2 syllables.


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Subject: RE: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: Willa
Date: 19 Mar 10 - 10:54 AM

I take your point Martin!


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Subject: RE: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 19 Mar 10 - 06:29 PM

How about "blueberries"? Or "blaeberries"?


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Subject: RE: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 19 Mar 10 - 11:45 PM

I was intrigued, so I read the three versions of The False Bride in the DT. The third one of them has this

The ladies and gentlemen asked o' me
How many black berries grow roon the salt sea
I gade aen back with a tear in my e'e
How many ships sail in the forest.

While this verse has its own internal logic, it doesn't seem to have anything to do with the story. Apparently the verse was just too much fun not to sing.


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Subject: RE: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: NormanD
Date: 20 Mar 10 - 06:25 AM

Richard Fariña's "Birmingham Sunday" also uses the verse, as in the last post:

"The men in the forest they once asked of me,
How many black berries grew in the blue sea.
And I asked them right back with a tear in my eye.
How many dark ships in the forest?"

Tune as well....


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Subject: RE: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 20 Mar 10 - 10:17 AM

Surely the logic of the images here is about impossibiLity, things that just can't happen - which relates directly to the hopeless situation of the protagonist.


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Subject: RE: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 20 Mar 10 - 11:09 AM

I agree with you, McGrath, though I wouldn't describe the man's situation at hopeless. If he had a fatal disease, that would be hopeless. Not marrying the lassie he fancies is a predicament considerably less dire.

The lines about things which cannot occur (berries in the sea, ships in the forest) remind me of a poem by John Donne:

Go and catch a falling star,
Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me where all past years are,
Or who cleft the devil's foot,
Teach me to hear mermaids singing,
Or to keep off envy's stinging,
And find
What wind
Serves to advance an honest mind.

If thou be'st born to strange sights,
Things invisible to see,
Ride ten thousand days and nights,
Till age snow white hairs on thee,
Thou, when thou return'st, wilt tell me,
All strange wonders that befell thee,
And swear,
No where
Lives a woman true and fair.


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Subject: RE: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: Tootler
Date: 20 Mar 10 - 06:48 PM

I wouldn't describe the man's situation at hopeless.

Ah, but it was hopeless, at least he would see it as hopeless. Don't forget, this song comes from a time when divorce was all but unheard of so once the girl was married to someone else, that was it; his chance was gone for ever and that is how he would see it.


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Subject: RE: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: Paul Burke
Date: 20 Mar 10 - 07:10 PM

Either scans easily.

How 'many straw 'berries
'How many 'bluebellS

Just a matter of where you take your rest.

And either way, it's always made clear sense to me from the day i first heard it.


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Subject: RE: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: Tootler
Date: 23 Mar 10 - 05:00 PM

Here is a version from Shirley Collins

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6WrqZ2SqsM

In this version it seems clear that the narrator was jilted by the girl.

As to bluebells or strawberries, Shirley sings "White Lilies"


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Subject: RE: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: RobbieWilson
Date: 25 Mar 10 - 05:02 PM

Thanks for all the responses so far. Is JC the only one to have heard bluebells then? Is there a recording from the sixties or earlier to be found?

There did not seem to be much support for my reading of this verse being about loving someone from a different background/ community to your own. This still seems to me to make more sense than the list of impossibilities idea.

Robert


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Subject: RE: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: Tootler
Date: 25 Mar 10 - 08:59 PM

This still seems to me to make more sense than the list of impossibilities idea.

The list of impossibilities is entirely consistent with your reading of the verse. The point being, however you read the situation in the song, it is being pointed out to the narrator he is asking the impossible and that is consistent with your Romeo and Juliet theory or simply that the girl has jilted the man and married someone else.


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Subject: RE: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: RobbieWilson
Date: 26 Mar 10 - 05:21 PM

I don't think there is anything to point up him being jilted over his love being unrequited. You take your pick, either fits.

My point about the impossibilities is that it is not two impossibilities, but everyone else saying "what do you expect, one of them could never go for one of us", while he is saying "why not. One of us went for one of them"

That's how I always understood it from hearing the Corries in the sixties. Whether or not there was anything in their introduction to lead me to that I can't remember.


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Subject: RE: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: Tootler
Date: 26 Mar 10 - 05:59 PM

I don't think there is anything to point up him being jilted over his love being unrequited. You take your pick, either fits.

True, but listen to the Shirley Collins version I linked further up.


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Subject: RE: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 26 Mar 10 - 07:46 PM

You might, or might not, gain a better understanding of the back story from the version that Gordon Hall sang. Rod Stradling in his review of the CD says "I question the wisdom of cramming in every verse known to man to produce a ten and a quarter minute epic".

Richard


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Subject: RE: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 26 Mar 10 - 11:35 PM

We have here, surely, yet another example of the absurdity of trying to establish a definitive version of a traditional song. In some variants, there may indeed be the R&J-type 'incompatible backgrounds' theme; in others [which I must admit I prefer as more dramatic & more in keeping if one uses the 'False Bride' title: ~ "But now she has left me and shown me false play, For she's gone and got wed to some other"], he has been jilted. Both interpretations co-exist: live with it...

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: How many bluebells grow in the salt sea
From: Effsee
Date: 26 Mar 10 - 11:42 PM

Of course, there is the Aberdeenshire version, which in the last verse the fellow says "She's jist my auld sheen", implying she's "damaged goods".


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