THE SINGING-GAME OF "THE SPRING-GREEN LADY"

From Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard by Eleanor Farjeon

INTRODUCTION

In Adversane in Sussex they still sing the song of The Spring-Green Lady; any fine evening, in the streets or in the meadows, you may come upon a band of children playing the old game that is their heritage, though few of them know its origin, or even that it had one. It is to them as the daisies in the grass and the stars in the sky. Of these things, and such as these, they ask no questions. But there you will still find one child who takes the part of the Emperor's Daughter, and another who is the Wandering Singer, and the remaining group (there should be no more than six in it) becomes the Spring-Green Lady, the Rose-White Lady, the Apple-Gold Lady, of the three parts of the game. Often there are more than six in the group, for the true number of the damsels who guarded their fellow in her prison is as forgotten as their names: Joscelyn, Jane and Jennifer, Jessica, Joyce and Joan. Forgotten, too, the name of Gillian, the lovely captive. And the Wandering Singer is to them but the Wandering Singer, not Martin Pippin the Minstrel. Worse and worse, he is even presumed to be the captive's sweetheart, who wheedles the flower, the ring, and the prison-key out of the strict virgins for his own purposes, and flies with her at last in his shallop across the sea, to live with her happily ever after. But this is a fallacy. Martin Pippin never wheedled anything out of anybody for his own purposes--in fact, he had none of his own. On this adventure he was about the business of young Robin Rue. There are further discrepancies; for the Emperor's Daughter was not an emperor's daughter, but a farmer's; nor was the Sea the sea, but a duckpond; nor. . . . . . . But let us begin with the children's version, as they sing and dance it on summer days and evenings in Adversane.

THE SINGING-GAME OF "THE SPRING-GREEN LADY"

(The Emperor's Daughter sits weeping in her Tower. Around her, with their backs to her, stand six maids in a ring, with joined hands. They are in green dresses. The Wandering Singer approaches them with his lute.)

THE WANDERING SINGER
Lady, lady, my spring-green lady,
May I come into your orchard, lady?
For the leaf is now on the apple-bough
And the sun is high and the lawn is shady,
Lady, lady,
My fair lady!
my spring-green lady!

THE LADIES
You may not come into our orchard, singer,
Because we must guard the Emperor's Daughter
Who hides in her hair at the windows there
With her thoughts a thousand leagues over the water,
Singer, singer,
Wandering singer,
my honey-sweet singer!

THE WANDERING SINGER
Lady, lady, my spring-green lady,
But will you not hear an Alba, lady?
I'll play for you now 'neath the apple-bough
And you shall dance on the lawn so shady,
Lady, lady,
My fair lady,
my spring-green lady!

THE LADIES
O if you play us an Alba, singer,
How can that harm the Emperor's Daughter?
No word would she say though we danced all day,
With her thoughts a thousand leagues over the water,
Singer, singer,
Wandering singer,
my honey-sweet singer!

THE WANDERING SINGER
But if I play you an Alba, lady,
Get me a boon from the Emperor's Daughter--
The flower from her hair for my heart to wear
Though hers be a thousand leagues over the water,
Lady, lady,
My fair lady,
O my spring-green lady!

THE LADIES
(They give him the flower from the hair of the Emperor's Daughter, and sing--)
Now you may play us an Alba, singer,
A dance of dawn for a spring-green lady,
For the leaf is now on the apple-bough,
And the sun is high and the lawn is shady,
Singer, singer,
Wandering singer,
my honey-sweet singer!

[The Wandering Singer plays on his lute, and The Ladies break their ranks and dance. The Singer steals up behind The Emperor's Daughter, who uncovers her face and sings--)

THE EMPEROR'S DAUGHTER
Mother, mother, my fair dead mother,
They have stolen the flower from your weeping daughter!

THE WANDERING SINGER
O dry your eyes, you shall have this other
When yours is a thousand leagues over the water,
Daughter, daughter,
My sweet daughter!
Love is not far, my daughter!

The Singer then drops a second flower into the lap of the child in the middle, and goes away, and this ends the first part of the game. The Emperor's Daughter is not yet released, for the key of her tower is understood to be still in the keeping of the dancing children. Very likely it is bed-time by this, and mothers are calling from windows and gates, and the children must run home to their warm bread-and-milk and their cool sheets. But if time is still to spare, the second part of the game is played like this. The dancers once more encircle their weeping comrade, and now they are gowned in white and pink. They will indicate these changes perhaps by colored ribbons, or by any flower in its season, or by imagining themselves first in green and then in rose, which is really the best way of all. Well then--

(The Ladies, in gowns of white and rose-color, stand around The Emperor's Daughter, weeping in her Tower. To them once more comes The Wandering Singer with his lute.)

THE WANDERING SINGER
Lady, lady, my rose-white lady,
May I come into your orchard, lady?
For the blossom's now on the apple-bough
And the stars are near and the lawn is shady,
Lady, lady,
My fair lady,
O my rose-white lady!

THE LADIES
You may not come into our orchard, singer,
Lest you bear a word to the Emperor's Daughter
From one who was sent to banishment
Away a thousand leagues over the water,
Singer, singer,
Wandering singer,
O my honey-sweet singer!

THE WANDERING SINGER
Lady, lady, my rose-white lady,
But will you not hear a Roundel, lady?
I'll play for you now neath the apple-bough
And you shall trip on the lawn so shady,
Lady, lady,
My fair lady,
O my rose-white lady!

THE LADIES
O if you play us a Roundel, singer,
How can that harm the Emperor's Daughter?
She would not speak though we danced a week,
With her thoughts a thousand leagues over the water,
Singer, singer,
Wandering singer,
O my honey-sweet singer!

THE WANDERING SINGER
But if I play you a Roundel, lady,
Get me a gift from the Emperor's Daughter--
Her finger-ring for my finger bring
Though she's pledged a thousand leagues over the water,
Lady, lady
My fair lady,
O my rose-white lady!

THE LADIES
(They give him the ring from the finger of The Emperor's Daughter, and sing--)
Now you may play us a Roundel, singer,
A sunset-dance for a rose-white lady,
For the blossom's now on the apple-bough,
And the stars are near and the lawn is shady,
Singer, singer,
Wandering singer,
O my honey-sweet singer!

As before, The Singer plays and The Ladies dance; and through the broken circle The Singer comes behind The Emperor's Daughter, who uncovers her face to sing--)

THE EMPEROR'S DAUGHTER
Mother, mother, my fair dead mother,
They've stolen the ring from your heart-sick daughter.

THE WANDERING SINGER
O mend your heart, you shall wear this other
When yours is a thousand leagues over the water,
Daughter, daughter,
My sweet daughter!
Love is at hand, my daughter!

The third part of the game is seldom played. If it is not bed-time, or tea-time, or dinner-time, or school-time, by this time at all events the players have grown weary of the game, which is tiresomely long; and most likely they will decide to play something else, such as Bertha Gentle Lady, or The Busy Lass, or Gypsy, Gypsy, Raggetty Loon!, or The Crock of Gold, or Wayland, Shoe me my Mare!--which are all good games in their way, though not, like The Spring-Green Lady, native to Adversane. But I did once have the luck to hear and see The Lady played in entirety--the children had been granted leave to play "just one more game" before bed-time, and of course they chose the longest and played it without missing a syllable.

(The Ladies, in yellow dresses, stand again in a ring about The Emperor's Daughter, and are for the last time accosted by The Singer with his lute.)

THE WANDERING SINGER
Lady, lady, my apple-gold lady,
May I come into your orchard, lady?
For the fruit is now on the apple-bough,
And the moon is up and the lawn is shady,
Lady, lady,
My fair lady,
my apple-gold lady!

THE LADIES
You may not come into our orchard, singer,
In case you set free the Emperor's Daughter
Who pines apart to follow her heart
That's flown a thousand leagues over the water,
Singer, singer,
Wandering singer,
my honey-sweet singer!

THE WANDERING SINGER
Lady, lady, my apple-gold lady,
But will you not hear a Serena, lady?
I'll play for you now 'neath the apple-bough
And you shall dream on the lawn so shady,
Lady, lady,
My fair lady,
my apple-gold lady!

THE LADIES
O if you play a Serena, singer,
How can that harm the Emperor's Daughter?
She would not hear though we danced a year
With her heart a thousand leagues over the water,
Singer, singer,
Wandering singer,
O my honey-sweet singer!

THE WANDERING SINGER
But if I play a Serena, lady,
Let me guard the key of the Emperor's Daughter,
Lest her body should follow her heart like a swallow
And fly a thousand leagues over the water,
Lady, lady,
My fair lady,
O my apple-gold lady!

THE LADIES
(They give the key of the Tower into his hands.)
Now you may play a Serena, singer,
A dream of night for an apple-gold lady,
For the fruit is now on the apple-bough
And the moon is up and the lawn is shady,
Singer, singer,
Wandering singer,
my honey-sweet singer!

(Once more The Singer plays and The Ladies dance; but one by one they fall asleep to the drowsy music, and then The Singer steps into the ring and unlocks the Tower and kisses The Emperor's Daughter. They have the end of the game to themselves.)

Lover, lover, thy/my own true lover
Has opened a way for the Emperor's Daughter!
The dawn is the goal and the dark the cover
As we sail a thousand leagues over the water--
Lover, lover,
My dear lover,
my own true lover!

(The Wandering Singer and The Emperor's Daughter float a thousand leagues in his shallop and live happily ever after. I don't know what becomes of The Ladies.)

"Bed-time, children!". . . . . . .In they go.

You see the treatment is a trifle fanciful. But romance gathers round an old story like lichen on an old branch. And the story of Martin Pippin in the Apple-Orchard is so old now--some say a year old, some say even two. How can the children be expected to remember?

But here's the truth of it.


Eleanor admits that this whole game is her creation, but it seems so real as she presents it, just the sort of thing children did in the olden days before television took over their souls. It forms an Introduction to the plot of her book Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard.

This story is from Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard by Eleanor Farjeon - first published in 1921. My thanks to Batsy Bybell, who has put this volume Online for us to enjoy.


Eldrbarry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Batsy

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