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Origins: Willow Green turned into White - meaning

Stower 09 Dec 10 - 07:07 AM
MGM·Lion 09 Dec 10 - 07:48 AM
Stower 09 Dec 10 - 08:00 AM
theleveller 09 Dec 10 - 08:24 AM
Stower 09 Dec 10 - 08:49 AM
Stower 09 Dec 10 - 09:26 AM
GUEST 07 May 13 - 06:47 AM
GUEST,leeneia 07 May 13 - 12:41 PM
GUEST 08 May 13 - 09:55 AM
GUEST,leeneia 08 May 13 - 11:16 AM
Artful Codger 08 May 13 - 06:27 PM
GUEST,leeneia 11 May 13 - 10:10 AM
GUEST,Grishka 11 May 13 - 12:23 PM
GUEST,leeneia 11 May 13 - 06:39 PM
GUEST,Grishka 12 May 13 - 04:28 AM
Jim Carroll 12 May 13 - 05:53 AM
GUEST,Julia L 12 May 13 - 09:04 AM
Bob the Postman 12 May 13 - 09:21 AM
GUEST,Grishka 12 May 13 - 11:34 AM
Suzy Sock Puppet 12 May 13 - 11:42 AM
Jim Carroll 12 May 13 - 12:33 PM
Suzy Sock Puppet 12 May 13 - 02:41 PM
Suzy Sock Puppet 12 May 13 - 03:37 PM
GUEST,Grishka 12 May 13 - 03:53 PM
Suzy Sock Puppet 12 May 13 - 05:26 PM
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Subject: Origins: Willow Green turned into White - meaning
From: Stower
Date: 09 Dec 10 - 07:07 AM

Here, on the English Broadside Ballad Archive, is 'The Willow Green turned into White; Or, The Young mans Joy and the Maids Delight.'

I wonder if 'Catters could point me in the right direction with 2 questions, as I'd like to sing this?

It states, "Tune is, My Love sleeps on another mans Pillow. Or, The Willow Green." Another version of the broadside indicates this was a tune known from the theatre. I have been unable to track down this tune. I have trawled the web generally and found nothing in Playford's Dancing Master that might help. Here's verse one, in case the scansion helps:

WHat ails my Love to be so sad,
    why art thou troubled so in mind,
I am come now to make thee glad.
    to thee I will prove true and kind;
Then cast away sorrow and care,
    and be joyful as thou hast been,
Chear up thy heart and do not fear,
    thou shalt not wear the Willow Green.


I'd also like some help on the symbolism. Every verse ends with a reference to the willow green. The penultimate verse is:

At this the young man rejoyced greatly,
    to hear his Sweet-hearts kind Reply
He then imbraced her most neatly
    with kisses then so lovingly:
They went unto the Priest with speed
    in a brave mnner as e're was seen
Where as they Married was indeed,
    now he cast off the Willow Green.

And the last lines of the last verse are:

And there's an end of my new Song.
      call'd the Willow green turn'd into White.

I know that green willow or some other greenery was worn by both sexes as a sign of constancy when a love was absent, but I don't know which period of history people did this and if it's relevant here. Anyone know? Also why, symbolically, does it turn to white at the end of the song?

Any thoughts?

Stower


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willow Green turned into White - meaning
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 09 Dec 10 - 07:48 AM

Tennyson's The Lady Of Shallott contains the words "Willows whiten, aspens quiver, Little breezes dusk and shiver". I have always taken this to refer to the way that willow leaves blowing in a certain direction appear white rather than green. One commentary on wiki suggests that their "whitening " in the poem suggests grief & death are on the way.

Hope this helps.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willow Green turned into White - meaning
From: Stower
Date: 09 Dec 10 - 08:00 AM

Thanks, Michael. In the song, the willow turning to white is an end to sorrow. Wearing the green willow seems to indicate the absent lover and it turning white an end to the grief rather the beginning of it. It would be great to have references from the 17th century, as symbols can change and evolve over time.

Thanks again.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willow Green turned into White - meaning
From: theleveller
Date: 09 Dec 10 - 08:24 AM

Physically, there are three ways that the willow can change from green to white: by turning the green leaf over to reveal its white underside; by stripping off the green bark to reveal the startlingly white wood underneath; and when, in the light of a full moon, the willow, above all trees, seems to reflect the silver light.

The willow is a particularly magical and mystical tree, regarded as feminine and closely associated with the moon and water. It is seen as a melancholic tree representing sadness, and it is believed that sitting underneath it will soothe the emotions and banish depression and sadness. In addition it was associated with love, healing, rhythms, and the gaining of eloquence, inspiration, growth and skills. It is also said to protect from enchantment.

In folklore, a willow wand was used to banish grief and was, presumably stripped of its green bark to reveal the white wood underneath, so this might be what is referred to in the song.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willow Green turned into White - meaning
From: Stower
Date: 09 Dec 10 - 08:49 AM

"In folklore, a willow wand was used to banish grief and was, presumably stripped of its green bark to reveal the white wood underneath, so this might be what is referred to in the song."

That's a wonderful image. Thank you, leveller.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willow Green turned into White - meaning
From: Stower
Date: 09 Dec 10 - 09:26 AM

Any help of finding the possible tune would be appreciated, too. The balladsheet states, "Tune is, My Love sleeps on another mans Pillow. Or, The Willow Green."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willow Green turned into White - meaning
From: GUEST
Date: 07 May 13 - 06:47 AM

sdasdasdsa


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willow Green turned into White - meaning
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 07 May 13 - 12:41 PM

It's a lovely poem, and I wish I could find the tune, but I searched all the ways I could think of to find it online, and I couldn't.

I think that the willow green in the song refers to some kind of clothing, and that in the time and place where the ballad was published, people understood the reference. In the first verse, she says to her lover:

"Chear up thy heart and do not fear,
    thou shalt not wear the Willow Green."


And at the end of the poem we are told:

"Where as they Married was indeed,
    now he cast off the Willow Green."

It may refer to a military uniform or perhaps a servant's livery. Whatever it means, by marrying he escapes having to wear it.

Thanks for posting, Stower.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willow Green turned into White - meaning
From: GUEST
Date: 08 May 13 - 09:55 AM

Wearing the green willow seems to indicate the absent lover
As in "All Around My Hat"
The green willow references make sense although the idea of it turning white is new to me.

I think sometimes we try and read too much into songs. Too many people seem to imagine the "myffic" symbolism that they set so much store by passed unchanged through generations of singers.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willow Green turned into White - meaning
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 08 May 13 - 11:16 AM

Yep.

Anybody got the tune?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willow Green turned into White - meaning
From: Artful Codger
Date: 08 May 13 - 06:27 PM

According to my researches into "On one April morning" (derived from the broadside song "The Green Willow"), wearing a wreath of green willow was a sign of forsaken love.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willow Green turned into White - meaning
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 11 May 13 - 10:10 AM

The link above didn't work, but I found the ballad by going to the English Broadside Ballad Archive and searching for Willow Green turned into White.

My, what a lovely display of smudgy, black-lettered print, begging to be studied and puzzled over. This is what we English majors live for!

One verse says:

Although the wars at first seemed double
yet let sorrow no more be seen.
I now will free thee from the trouble
of wearing of the willow green.

So no matter what willow green may mean in other songs, in this work, it's something he wears. Again, I think it's a uniform, most probably a soldier's. She's rescuing him from war.

Nobody's submitted a tune, so I wrote one this morning.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willow Green turned into White - meaning
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 11 May 13 - 12:23 PM

Now I am not an English major, not even a lieutenant, but I found a scan that is not smudgy at all, and which reads: "Although the woes at first seemed double ...".

The explanation is also given in rhymes: the lady had pretended to be "disloyal" in order to test the gentleman's love, and is now certain of it and agrees to marry him. The green willow may have been worn as a visible sign that the wearer feels committed to a proposal of marriage (though it does not say to how many ladies ...). A white handkerchief or flower may have been used as a token of brideship, a cheaper alternative to an engagement ring. Pure guesswork, of course; enlightenment is welcome.

Yes, it is a lovely poem.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willow Green turned into White - meaning
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 11 May 13 - 06:39 PM

Yes, it does look more like woes than wars. Good point.

Given a good dusting and a little touching up, this would be a good song for a Renaissance Faire.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willow Green turned into White - meaning
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 12 May 13 - 04:28 AM

More precisely, the line runs "Although thy woes at first seemed double ...".

It takes some stretching to count the 1670s as Renaissance, but I guess they are not that critical on those Faires.

The original tune "The Willow Green" was by a professional composer for a theatre play; it seems to be lost. The lyrics (are these the original ones?) suggest a sad melody, with many Baroque affections. Obviously the tune became popular and thus subject to parodies like "My Love sleeps on another mans Pillow". "The willow green turned into white" is therefore sold as a "sequel" - the maiden's reply - to the same tune. A joyful tune would be more adequate, and we are free to invent one.

The poem "The Willow Green" specifies:
Come all that bears good will unto me,
do so much as tell me how,
This green garland doth become me,
which I am forst to wear now,
Because obdurate she doth prove,
whose beauty might become a Queen,
And most unfaithful is in Love,
which makes me wear the willow green.
In the illustration I fail to see such a garland - it might not be meant physical at all. Willow + green = sorrow with some hope left; this is a very common symbolism. English poets, in all degrees of sophistication, are particularly fond of the willow; one of the reasons being that it neatly rhymes with mill-o and many other -o's.

Desdemona's
The poor soul sat sighing by a sycamore tree,
Sing all a green willow:
Her hand on her bosom, her head on her knee,
Sing willow, willow, willow.
is as English as can be; the Italian translation "Salce, salce, salce" in Giuseppe Verdi's "Otello" just does not work. (The rest of this ingenious opera is quite true to Shakespeare and truly taking the story home to Italy, a must-hear for all music lovers including despisers of typical Italian operas.)


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willow Green turned into White - meaning
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 May 13 - 05:53 AM

"The Lady Of Shallott"
Sorry - couldn't resist but I was quite taken with the lady smelling of onions
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willow Green turned into White - meaning
From: GUEST,Julia L
Date: 12 May 13 - 09:04 AM

Here in New England, the willow tree appears on many colonial tombstones.
I'm interested in the transformational aspect of the symbol "turning to white"... there's obviously a transition happening here . Green is sometimes associated with promiscuity, white with purity. Perhaps waywardness transforms to constancy?

On another note (la!) I'm curious about the phrase in another song to " hang my harp on a willow tree"... any ideas?

best- Julia


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willow Green turned into White - meaning
From: Bob the Postman
Date: 12 May 13 - 09:21 AM

Psalm 137: We hanged our harps upon the willows


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willow Green turned into White - meaning
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 12 May 13 - 11:34 AM

For the other non-majors' convenience, I transcribe the last two stanzas, containing touching eye-rhymes:
At this the young man rejoyced greatly,
to hear his Sweet-hearts kind reply
He then imbraced her most neatly
with kisses then so lovingly:
They went unto a Priest with speed,
in a brave manner as e're was seen,
Where as they Married was indeed,
now he cast off the Willow green.

So Lovers all I bid adieu,
I pray much of my Verses make
These Lines I here present to you,
wherein you may a pattern take,
I wish you may continue long,
in Pleasure, Comfort, and Delight,
And theres an end of my new Song.
call'd the Willow green, turn'd into White.
So "white" stands for wedding, "willow" for sorrow, "green" for (faint) hope.

Certainly not by Shakespeare's heir, but heart-felt. I am tempted to write an almost genuine Baroque tune to this, with virginals accompaniment, answering "I pray much of my Verses make".


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willow Green turned into White - meaning
From: Suzy Sock Puppet
Date: 12 May 13 - 11:42 AM

"I know that green willow or some other greenery was worn by both sexes as a sign of constancy when a love was absent, but I don't know which period of history people did this and if it's relevant here. Anyone know? Also why, symbolically, does it turn to white at the end of the song?"

Really? You don't know that white symbolizes a wedding? I can't tell if you're a fool or if you are just trying to make fools out of other people by getting them to talk about something that is so obvious it practically jumps up and bites your nose off!

C'mon!


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willow Green turned into White - meaning
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 May 13 - 12:33 PM

Child references white willow to the ballad Sir Andrew Barton:
"White willow wand on the mast sign of a merchant vessel".
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willow Green turned into White - meaning
From: Suzy Sock Puppet
Date: 12 May 13 - 02:41 PM

In a love song, it means wedding. And you think I read too much into things? Honestly.

I meant no offense Grishka. How flows the Don? Here's my little sweetheart:

Nazar


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willow Green turned into White - meaning
From: Suzy Sock Puppet
Date: 12 May 13 - 03:37 PM

Am I hijacking this thread? Oh dear me!


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willow Green turned into White - meaning
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 12 May 13 - 03:53 PM

Some questions are not as easy as they look, in folk symbolism and elsewhere. For instance, SJ, what unmeant offence are you talking about? By chance your reply to Stower? And what has Ukrainian folk-pop to do with the Don (in Russia)?

Anyway, enjoy whatever you are drinking.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willow Green turned into White - meaning
From: Suzy Sock Puppet
Date: 12 May 13 - 05:26 PM

Grishka, you're right. It was Stower who wondered what the color white symbolized. In this case, the question is as easy as it looks. My apologies to Stower. Grishka, must be your ethnic handle caught my eye.

White Russians. And that's a song about cossacks- Zaporozhian, Don, same difference. Cossacks are not really Russian or Ukrainian. Cossacks come from Cossacks. A lot of people believe that the Holodomor was a campaign of genocide against the Ukrainian people perpetrated by the Russians. That's not really true. It was a campaign of genocide aimed at the Cossacks and was concentrated in the Cossack held territories in both Russian and Ukraine. They had been the main opposition to the Red Army and the feeling was that they needed to be crushed once and for all.

This is a very old folk song. As you can see, the audience all know it. Nazar turned it into folk rock. I like the guitar. Sounds like Edge. In fact Nazar might be the Ukrainian Bono :-)))

Again, I apologize for changing the subject. It is kind of rude and annoying isn't it? So I'll stay right on topic from now on. Promise.
Wouldn't want to be a bad catter now would I?


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