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I sowed the seeds of love
And I sowed them in the Spring.
I gathered them up in the morning so soon
While the small birds do sweetly sing. (x 2)

My garden was planted well
With flowers everywhere,
But I had not the liberty to choose for myself
Of the flowers that I love so dear. (x 2)

The gardener was standing by
And I asked him to choose for me.
He choosed for me the violet, the lily and the pink,
But those I refused all three. (x 2)

The violet I did not like
Because it bloomed so soon.
The lily and the pink I really overthink;
So I vowed that I'd stay till June. (x 2)

In June there was red rose-bud
And that's the flower for me
I oftentimes have pluck├?┬Ęd that red rose-bud
Till I gained the willow tree. (x 2)

The willow tree will twist
And the willow tree will twine.
I have oftentimes wished I was in that young man's arms
That once had the heart of mine. (x 2)

Come all you false young men,
Do not leave me here to complain,
For the grass that have been oftentimes trampled underfoot,
Give it time it will rise up again. (x 2)

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Source: Cecil Sharp's Collection of English Folk Songs (ed. Maud Karpeles, Oxford University Press 1974)

Noted by Cecil Sharp from John England of Hambridge, Somerset, in 1903.

Although this is not an uncommon song and is available in many other places, it represents a seminal event in the first Folk Song Revival; Cecil Sharp's introduction to folksong "in the wild". Sharp was staying with the vicar of Hambridge, Charles Marson, an old friend from their days in Australia. Maud Karpeles (Cecil Sharp: His Life and Work, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1967) tells the story thus:

"Cecil Sharp was sitting in the vicarage garden talking to Charles Marson and to Mattie Kay, who was likewise staying at Hambridge, when he heard John England quietly singing to himself as he mowed the vicarage lawn. Cecil Sharp whipped out his notebook and took down the tune; and then persuaded John to give him the words. He immediately harmonised the song; and that same evening it was sung at a choir supper by Mattie Kay, Cecil Sharp accompanying. The audience was delighted; as one said, it was the first time that the song had been put into evening dress."

The song has been widespread in England in various forms and under many different names, also turning up in the USA and Scotland. William Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Time, 1859), names it, along with Cupid's Garden and Early One Morning, as "one of the three most popular songs among the servant-maids of the present generation", and mentions its appearance on the London stage, sung by Mrs. Honey, in a play entitled The Loan of a Lover. He also quotes a passage from Whittaker's History of the Parish of Whalley (1801) which ascribes the lyric to a Mrs. Fleetwood Habergham, of Habergham Hall, Lancashire, who is supposed to have written the song to console herself when, in 1689, her husband's extravagances finally led to the loss of the family's estates. This apocryphal story is not generally taken too seriously nowadays.

There are two broadside examples at Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads, the more legible being Harding B 11(1657):

I sowed the seeds of love Printed between 1819 and 1844 by J. Pitts, wholesale Toy and Marble warehouse, 6, Gt. St. Andrew Street, Seven Dials [London].

In his Additions and Corrections to vol.V of the English and Scottish Popular Ballads, Child quotes material supplementary to no.219, The Gardener, which Baring Gould had sent him; two Scottish texts of Braw Sailing, and Dead Maid's Land from Devon, all of which overlap to some degree with both song-groups; Steve Roud's Folk Song Index assigns them to the Seeds of Love group rather than to Child 219 (Roud 339); which would presumably be current consensus. Ewan MacColl (Travellers' Songs from England and Scotland, R & K P, 1977) suggests that the Seeds of Love/ Sprig of Thyme group is a worn-down lyric descendant of the ballad, which he considers to be Scottish in origin. This does not seem to be an opinion generally held.

Roud: 3 (Search Roud index at VWML) Take Six

Related Songs:  Sprig of Thyme,The (thematic)

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