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raredance Origins: Sweet Fern (34) RE: Help: Sweet Fern origin 13 Jul 02

Here's text "B" from FCBCNCF. From a manuscript song book of Juanita Tillett of Wanchese, 1923. Main difference is different order for stanzas

Tell me, sweet bird, is he thinking of me
And the promise he made long ago?
If he would return, how happy I'd be!
Oh, why does the years creep so slow?
I'm tired and heart-sick of waiting so long
For my lover who's far o'er the sea.
Go to him and sing him your beautiful song
And tell him to come back to me.

O bird, sweet bird
Tell me my lover is true
O bird, sweet bird
I'll be as happy as you.

He told me when parting he loved only me,
He called me his joy and his pride
Said when he returned from over the sea
He'd make me his own happy bride
I fear he has found in some far distant land
A face that is fairer to view
I'd give the whole world for a grasp of his hand
And to know that my lover is true.

When the birds are a-tuning their sweet notes of spring
And the brooks and the meadows I see
Now in the deep they joyously sing
And the silver brooks sparkles so clear
I'll sit myself down in a shadow so deep
For my lover who's far o'er the sea
I'll ask all the birds as they go off to sleep
Do they think that he truly loves me?

Also reported but not printed is a version "D" collected in 1911 that is described as "somewhat reduced, but introduces no new elements". They also say the song is in a Beech Mountain Folk song book from 1936 and reported by Davis in Folk-songs of Virginia.

rich r

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