Saturday, December 9, 2017

"The Ash Grove" and its Welsh origins

Many camps and youth groups sing "The Ash Grove," a lovely song about the memories evoked by a walk in the woods.  The melody is the same one used in the original version of the song, which appeared in Wales in the early 19th Century.  The title, "Llwyn Onn," is Welsh for "ash grove."

Where it differs is the lyrics, which detail a tale of young lovers who die tragically.  Here is the English translation:

In the grand Ash-grove Palace, there lived a bold chieftain
And he was a squire and ruler of the land.
He had a fair daughter with many to court her
But none would she take for to give up her hand
Save her sweetheart, so handsome, so poor but of pure heart.
Her father unwilling and threatening the worst
Did shoot at the lad, but the bowstring was twisted
So crooked the arrow struck deep in her breast.

Too late to recall the dart back to the bowstring,
The poor girl lay dying, so mournful and sad.
In anger, the squire, his sword at the ready,
Did thrust at the heart of the unflinching lad.
Oh wealth is a master, so old and so peevish,
And from its cruel clutches she desperately strove.
"'Tis better to die by my own lover's side
Than to live in sorrow in the Palace Ash-grove."

Let's listen to both versions, each sung by a popular baritone in decades past. First, the modern version:

And here is the Welsh version:

Whatever the lyrics or language, the song retains its haunting beauty.

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