Mudcat Café message #2206108 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #106626   Message #2206108
Posted By: Jack Blandiver
01-Dec-07 - 04:48 AM
Thread Name: Songs for the Winter Solstice
Subject: ADD: The Holly Tree (actual title unknown)
We've just recorded a version of that (The Woodcutter's Snog) (typo, but I quite like it so I'll leave it in...) for Folkcast's Festive Selection box which goes on line on line on December 15th...

For the record, the above text is taken from Robin Williamson, who added the chorus and the 'Sirs' - otherwise it comes wholesale from a footnote on page 19 of The White Goddess by Robert Graves.

For the chorus we've used something often associated with the poem which runs thus:

Logs to burn, logs to burn,
Logs to save the coals a turn;
Here's a word to make you wise
when you hear the woodsman cry;
Logs to burn, logs to burn,
Longs to save the coals a turn.

Is this traditional? I personally doubt it, but it fits the scheme somehow. As for the tune, in the absence of any other I wrote one myself, though for the life of me I could rid myself of Robin's 'Sirs'!

Logs to Burn thread


And talking of Holly, and Ivy, and Advent - & seeing today (according to the met office) is the first day of winter, I offer the following, as collected by that emininent folklorist Colonel Killingworth-James from those 'rough, black-faced mummers' he encountered in the village of Quaking Houses, County Durham, circa 1887:
^^

The holly tree, the holly, that bears the crown of blood;
the ivy, oh the ivy that green shines in the wood.
Oh, the cutty wren was killed again, the cutty wren was slain;
who held the knife to take its life all in the darkwood then?

The holly tree, the holly, that bears the crown so bright;
the ivy, oh the ivy that shines though dark the night.
Oh, the wren was slain by four dark men who from the west did come;
they held the knife to take its life all in the darkwood then.

The holly tree, the holly, that bears the crown so pure;
the ivy, oh the ivy, green shines this night so sure.
Who were the men that killed the wren? Who are they that did come?
Who held the knife and took its life all in the darkwood then?

The holly tree, the holly, that bears the crown of peace;
the ivy, oh the ivy, green shines the white of ice.
The first that came held candle-flame to light the spring that night;
he held the knife to take its life all in the darkwood then.

The holly tree, the holly, that bears the crown of love;
the ivy, oh the ivy, around the oak has wove.
The second that came burst logs to flame by the flowering May bush then;
he held the knife to take its life all in the darkwood then.

The holly tree, the holly, that bears the crown of joy;
the ivy, oh the ivy, green this night to enjoy.
The third he came to the harvest then, to bring King Barleycorn down;
he held the knife to take its life all in the darkwood then.

The holly tree, the holly, that bears the crown of tears;
the ivy, oh the ivy, brighter shines as dawn nears.
The fourth set flame to winter then, his month brought fire and blood;
he held the knife to take its life all in the darkwood then.

The holly tree, the holly, that bears the crown of blood;
the ivy, oh the ivy that green shines in the wood.
Oh, the cutty wren was killed again, the cutty wren was slain;
we held the knife, we took its life all in the darkwood then.

(Note: A version of the above will available on Four Songs on the Fourth Day by those celebrated puveyors of darkly ceremonial folk Eleanor's Visceral Tomb - available entirely Gratis in the forthcoming update on Woven Wheat Whispers )