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Origins: The Sweet Briar

GUEST,Julia L 26 Mar 12 - 11:58 AM
Bill D 26 Mar 12 - 04:35 PM
GUEST,Michael Cooney 06 Mar 17 - 12:32 PM
Vashta Nerada 06 Mar 17 - 02:34 PM
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Subject: Origins: The Sweet Briar
From: GUEST,Julia L
Date: 26 Mar 12 - 11:58 AM

Yesterday, I heard an intriguing song at the Sunday sing-around at Sharp's Wharf in Rockland Maine (home of the owrld famous Sail and Steam Museum)

Apparently this song was sung by Rosalie Sorrels as traditional and was performed at Utah Phillips funeral.

It sounded very "19th century" to me, so I decided to do some digging

I found only one reference to a poem in, of all places, The Phrenological journal of 1889..!

I've copied it here, along with the song, for those who might enjoy tracing its journey. I have no idea who made the melody

Best- Julia Lane


THE SWEET BRIAR
(as sung by Rosalie Sorrels)

"The sweet briar and the aurum brush
With blossoms purple gold and red
Are flames that bloom within the bush
And sacred seems the ground I tread.
The golden bees, the golden bees
Mock Memnon's sweetest melodies;
The golden bees, the golden bees
Mock Memnon's sweetest melodies.

In shadow of the wood I lie
Un-waked by dreams of noisy mart;
Where dust and soot soil not the sky
Nor hammers beat on human heart;
Nor shuttles fleet, nor shuttles fleet
Weave life into a winding sheet;
Nor shuttles fleet, nor shuttles fleet
Weave life into a winding sheet.

When the pale axman strikes his stroke
And takes the warm life from my breast,
Plant by my grave a sapling oak
And violets of azure crest.
The oaken staff, the oaken staff
My shaft, the flowers my epitaph;
The oaken staff, the oaken staff
My shaft, the flowers my epitaph."
----------

from The Phrenological journal and science of health:
incorporated with the Phrenological magazine, Volumes 87-88
Fowler & Wells, 1889
page 252

In the Country    George Washington Bungay

(George Washington Bungay (July 22, 1818 – July 10, 1892). Born in Walsingham, England, he immigrated with his family to the United States in 1827 at age nine. Bungay was a poet, journalist, biographer, and anti-slavery and temperance reformer.)

The sweet briar and the arum blush
The blossoms purple gold and red
Are flames that bloom within the bush
And holy seems the ground I tread.
The golden bees
Mock Memnon's sweetest melodies;

In shadows of the wood I lie
And dream unwaked by noisy mart;
Where smoke and dust veil not the sky
Nor hammers beat on human heart;
Nor shuttles fleet
Weave life into a winding sheet.

The summer leisure of the birds
Is mine, and brings refreshing rest
The flowers are many colored words
That happy nature writes, and blest
Is he who spells
Aright the sylvan syllables.

Here I can rest my weary brain;
And win for health and life a lease
And gather strength to fight again
The war that wins the spoils of peace
This rural calm
Soothes the tired heart like healing balm

When the pale axman strikes the stroke
And stills the quick life in my bosom
Plant near my grave a sapling oak
And violets of azure blossom
The oaken staff
My shaft! - the flowers my epitaph!


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Sweet Briar
From: Bill D
Date: 26 Mar 12 - 04:35 PM

It is the last song on one of Bruce's LPs ...I believe he put the melody to it himself.

I had not seen verses 3&4. Bruce only sang 1,2 & 5.

I sing it myself now & then...


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Sweet Briar
From: GUEST,Michael Cooney
Date: 06 Mar 17 - 12:32 PM

Phillips almost certainly learned it from Rosalie Sorrels who probably learned it from a book by Olive Wooley Burt. (Which is where she got "The Baby Trees" song.) So, probably, tune(s) by Rosalie. Best version I ever heard is sung by Larry Hanks. Most people know it by the title "Singing in the Country".


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Sweet Briar
From: Vashta Nerada
Date: 06 Mar 17 - 02:34 PM

Burt has quite a few books in her oeuvre. The Google books scans may let you look at the contents to find the right one if you want to follow that path.


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