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Percy Grainger, "Lincolnshire Posy"

Lincolnshire Posy

I. Lisbon

II. Horkstow Grange

III. Rufford Park Poachers

IV. The Brisk Young Sailor

V. Lord Melbourne

VI. The Lost Lady Found

Percy Grainger

Born: July 8, 1882, Melbourne, Australia

Died: February 20, 1961, White Plains, New York


Duration: 20 minutes

Lincolnshire Posy was written as a commission for the 1937 American Bandmasters Association convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and was partially premiered on March 7, 1937, by the Milwaukee Symphonic Band. Much to Grainger's chagrin, this mostly-amateur ensemble was not able to perform the entire work, instead premiering only movements one, two, and four - three and five were considered too difficult, and Grainger had yet to finish the final, sixth movement. Adding to the composer's frustration, the premiering ensemble was made up mostly of bandsmen from the workers' ensembles of Milwaukee's Pabst Blue Ribbon and Blatz breweries. Grainger, a famously obstinate teetotaler, would later write angrily in the published score that the performers cared "more about their beer then the music."

Photo of the Lincolnshire Posy premiere, at the 1937 ABA Convention, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Albert Austin Harding Papers of the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music

Housed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

(click to enlarge)

Grainger is on the center right, leaning to the right, speaking to A.A. Harding, on his right.

On Grainger's left is composer and conductor Edwin Franko Goldman.

Percy Grainger's Extended Program Note: (heavily edited)

This bunch of 'musical wildflowers' (hence the title Lincolnshire Posy) is based on folksongs collected in Lincolnshire, England (one noted by Miss Lucy E. Broadwood; the other five noted by me, mainly in the years 1905-1906, and with the help of the phonograph), and the work is dedicated to the old folksingers who sang so sweetly to me. Indeed, each number is intended to be a kind of musical portrait of the singer who sang its underlying melody--a musical portrait of the singer's personality no less than of his habits of song--his regular or irregular wonts of rhythm, his preference for gaunt or ornately arabesqued delivery, his contrasts of legato and staccato, his tendency towards breadth or delicacy of tone...

For these folksingers were kings and queens of song! No concert singer I have ever heard approached these rural warblers in variety of tone-quality, range of dynamics, rhythmic resourcefulness and individuality of style. For while our concert singers (dull dogs that they are--with their monotonous mooing and bellowing between mf and ff, and with never a pp to their name!) can show nothing better (and often nothing as good) as slavish obedience to the tyrannical behests of composers, our folksingers were lords in their own domain--were at once performers and creators. For they bent all songs to suit their personal artistic taste and personal vocal resources: singers with wide vocal range spreading their intervals over two octaves, singers with small vocal range telescoping their tunes by transposing awkward high notes an octave down...

These musical portraits of my folksingers were tone-painted in a mood of considerable bitterness--bitterness at memories of the cruel treatment meted out to folksingers as human beings (most of them died in poor-houses or in other down-heartening surroundings) and at the thought of how their high gifts oftenest were allowed to perish unheard, unrecorded and unhonoured.

It is obvious that all music lovers (except a few 'cranks') loathe genuine folksong and shun it like the plague. No genuine folksong ever becomes popular--in any civilised land. Yet these same music-lover entertain a maudlin affection for the word 'folksong' (coined by my dear friend Mrs. Edmund Woodhouse to translate German 'volkslied') and the ideas it conjures up. So they are delighted when they chance upon half-breed tunes like Country Gardens and Shepherd's Hey (on the borderline between folksong and unfolkish 'popular song') that they can sentimentalise over (as being folksongs), yet can listen to without suffering the intense boredom aroused in them by genuine folksongs. Had rural England not hated its folksong this form of music would not have been in process of dying out and would not have needed to be 'rescued from oblivion' by townified highbrows such as myself and my fellow-collectors. As a general rule the younger kin of the old folksingers not only hated folksong in the usual way, described above, but, furthermore, fiercely despised the folksinging habits of their old uncles and grandfathers as revealing social backwardness and illiteracy in their families. And it is true! the measure of a countryside's richness in living folksong is the measure of its illiteracy; which explains why the United States is, to-day, the richest of all English-speaking lands in living folksong.

Grainger's Original Field Recordings

0:00 Lisbon - 0:48 Horkstow Grange - 1:58 Rufford Park Poachers

3:06 The Brisk Young Sailor - 4:05 Lord Melbourne - 5:22 Lost Lady Found

I. Lisbon (Sailor's Song)

Percy Grainger, Lincolnshire Posy, I. Lisbon

"The President's Own" United States Marine Band, Major Michelle Rakers, conductor

Grainger's notes:

The first number in my set, Dublin Bay [Lisbon], was collected under characteristic circumstances. In 1905, when I first met its singer--Mr. Deane, of Hibbaldstowe--he was in the workhouse at Brigg, N.E. Lincolnshire. I started to note down his Dublin Bay, but the workhouse matron asked me to stop, as Mr. Deane's heart was very weak and the singing of the old song--which he had not sung for forty years--brought back poignant memories to him and made him burst into tears. I reluctantly desisted. But a year or so later, when I had acquired a phonograph, I returned to get Mr. Deane's tune 'alive or dead'. I thought he might as well die singing it as die without singing it.

I found him in the hospital ward of the workhouse, with a great gash in his head--he having fallen down stairs. He was very proud of his wound, and insisted that he was far too weak to sing. 'All right, Mr. Deane,' I said to him, 'you needn't sing yourself; but I would like you to hear some records made by other singers in these parts.' He had not heard half a record through before he said, impulsively: 'I'll sing for you, yoong mahn.' So the phonograph was propped up on his bed, and in between the second and third verse he spoke these words into the record: 'It's pleasein' muh.' Which shows how very much folksinging is part of the folksinger's natural life.

Folk Song Lyrics:

1a. Lisbon

'Twas on a Monday morning, all in the month of May,

Our ship she weighed her anchor, all for to sail away;

The wind did from the southwest blow, for Lisbon we were bound,

The hills and dales were covered with pretty young girls around.

I wrote a letter to Nancy, for her to understand

That I should have to leave her, unto some foreign land,

She said, "My dearest William, these words will break my heart,

Oh, let us married be tonight, sweet Willie, before you start."

"For ten long weeks and better I've been with child by thee,

So stay at home, dear William, be kind and marry me."

"Our captain has commanded us, and I shall have to go,

The Queen's in want of men, my love, I'd never dare answer, 'No.'"

"I'll cut my long yellow hair off, your clothing I'll put on,

And I will go with you, love, and be your waiting-man,

And when it is your watch on deck, your duty I will do,

I'd face the field of battle, love, in order to be with you."

"Your pretty little fingers, they are both long and small,

Your waist it is too slender to face the cannonball,

For loud the cannons rattle, love, and blazing bullets fly,

And silver trumpets sound, my love, to cover the dismal cry."

"Pray do not talk of danger, for love is my desire,

To see you in the battle, and with you spend my time,

And I will go through France and Spain, all for to be your bride,

And I will lay me down upon the battlefield at your side.

'Twas on a Monday morning, all in the month of May,

Our ship she weighed her anchor, all for to sail away;

The wind did from the southwest blow, for Lisbon we were bound,

The hills and dales were covered with pretty young girls around.

1b. Duke of Marlborough

You generals all and champions bold who take delight in the field,

Who knock down palaces and castle walls and fight until they yield:

Oh I must go and face the foe without my sword and shield.

I always fought with my merry men, but now to death I must yield.

I am an Englishman by my birth, and Malborough is my name;

In Devonshire I drew my breath, that place of noted fame.

I was belovèd by all my men, by Kings and Princes likewise,

Though many towns I often took, I did the world surprise.

Well, good Queen Anne sent us abroad, to Flanders we did go;

And we left the Banks of Newfoundland, for to face the daring foe.

We climbed those lofty hills so high where guns stones broke, likewise,

And all those famous towns we took and we won great victory.

King Charles II I did serve to face the foes in France,

And at the battle of Ramilles we boldly did advance.

The sun was down and the moon did shine; so loudly did I cry:

"Fight on, me lads, for Fair England! We'll conquer or we'll die!"

Now we have gained the victory and bravely held the field,

We took a number of prisoners and forced them to yield,

That very day my horse got shot, all by a musket ball,

And 'ere I mounted up again, my second man did fall.

Now on a bed of sickness prone, I am resigned for to die;

You generals all and champions bold, stand true as well as I.

Unto your colours stand you true and fight with courage bold;

I've led my men through fire and smoke but n'er was bribed by gold.

You generals all and champions bold who take delight in the field,

Who knock down palaces and castle walls and fight until they yield:

Oh I must go and face the foe without my sword and shield.

I always fought with my merry men, but now to death I must yield.

II. Horkstow Grange (The Miser and his Man: A local Tragedy)

Percy Grainger, Lincolnshire Posy, II. Horkstow Grange

"The President's Own" United States Marine Band, Major Michelle Rakers, conductor

Grainger's notes:

Mr. George Gouldthorpe, the singer of Harkstow [sic.] Grange (born at Barrow-on-the-Humber, North Lincolnshire, and aged 66 when he first sang to me, in 1905) was a very different personality. Though his face and figure were gaunt and sharp-cornered (closely akin to those seen on certain types of Norwegian upland peasants) and his singing voice somewhat grating, he yet contrived to breathe a spirit of almost caressing tenderness into all he sang, said and did--though a hint of the tragic was ever-present also. A life of drudgery, ending, in old age, in want and hardship, had not shorn his manners of a degree of humble nobility and dignity exceptional even amongst English peasants; nor could any situation rob him of his refreshing, but quite unconscious, Lincolnshire independence. In spite of his poverty and his feebleness in old age it seemed to be his instinct to shower benefits around him. Once, at Brigg, when I had been noting down tunes until late in the evening, I asked Mr. Gouldthorpe t o come back early the next morning. At about 4:30 I looked out of the window and saw him playing with a colt, on the lawn. He must have taken a train from Goxhill or Barrow, at about 4.0 a.m. I apologised , saying 'I didn't mean that early, Mr. Gouldthorp e.' Smiling his sweet kingly smile he answered: `Yuh said: Coome eearly. So I coom'd.'

Towards the end of his life he was continually being pitch-forked out of the workhouse to work on the roads, and pitch-forked back into the workhouse as it was seen he was too weak to work ('When Ah gets on to the roäds I feel thaht weeäk!'). But he was very anxious to insist that no injustice was done to him. In the midst of reciting his troubles he would add quickly, impulsively: 'Aw, boot Ah'm nawt cumplaainin'! They're verra kahn tummuh (kind to me) at the workkus; they're verra kahn' tummuh!'

His child-like mind and unworldly nature, seemingly void of all bitterness, singularly fitted him to voice the purity and sweetness of folk-art. He gave out his tunes in all possible gauntness, for the most part in broad, even notes; but they were ad orned by a richness of dialect hard to match.

"In recalling Mr. Gouldthorpe I think most of the mild yet lordly grandeur of his nature, and this is what I have tried to mirror in my setting of Harkstow [sic.] Grange.

Folk Song Lyrics:

2. Horkstow Grange

In Horkstow Grange there lives an old miser, You all do know him as I've heard tell, It was him and his man that was called John Bowlin', They fell out one market day.

Pity them what see him suffer, Pity poor old Steeleye Span, John Bowlin's deeds they will be remembered, Bowlin's deeds at Horkstow Grange. With a blackthorn stick old Steeleye struck him, Oftens had threatened him before, John Bowlin' he turned round all in a passion, Knocked old Steeleye on to the floor. Steeleye Span, he was felled by John Bowlin', It happened to be on a market day; Steeleye swore with all his vengeance, He would swear his life away.

III. Rufford Park Poachers (Poaching Song)

Percy Grainger, Lincolnshire Posy, III. Rufford Park Poachers (Version A)

University of Illinois Symphonic Band, Harry Begian, conductor

Percy Grainger, Lincolnshire Posy, III. Rufford Park Poachers (Version B)

"The President's Own" United States Marine Band, Major Michelle Rakers, conductor

Grainger's notes:

There are, however, some exceptions to this prevailing connection between folksong and illiteracy. Mr. Joseph Taylor, the singer of Rufford Park Poachers--who knew more folksongs than any of my other folksingers, and sang his songs with 'purer' folksong tradition--was neither illiterate nor socially backward. And it must also be admitted that he was a member of the choir of his village (Saxby-All-Saints, Lincolnshire) for over 45 years--a thing unusual in a folksinger. Furthermore his relatives--keen musicians themselves--were extremely proud of his prowess as a folksinger. Mr. Taylor was bailiff on a big estate, where he formerly had been estate woodman and carpenter. He was the perfect type of an English yeoman: sturdy and robust, yet the soul of sweetness, gentleness, courteousness and geniality. At the age of 75 (in 1908) his looks were those of middle age and his ringing voice--one of the loveliest I ever heard--was as fresh as a young man's. He was a past master of graceful, birdlike ornament and relied more on purely vocal effects than any folksinger known to me. His versions of tunes were generally distinguished by the beauty of their melodic curves and the symmetry of their construction. His effortless high notes, sturdy rhythms and clear unmistakable intervals were a sheer delight to hear. From a collector's standpoint he was a marvel of helpfulness and understanding and nothing could be more refreshing than his hale countrified looks and the happy lilt of his cheery voice.

Folk Song Lyrics:

3. Rufford Park Poachers

A buck or doe, believe it so, a pheasant or a hare

Were sent on earth for every man quite equally to share.

So poacher bold, as I unfold, keep up your gallant heart,

And think about those poachers bold, that night in Rufford Park.

They say that forty gallant poachers, they were in distress,

They'd often been attacked when their number it was less.

Among the gorse, to settle scores, these forty gathered stones,

To make a fight for poor men's rights, and break the keepers' bones.

The keepers went with flails against the poachers and their cause,

To see that none again would dare defy the rich man's laws.

The keepers, they began the fray with stones and with their flails,

But when the poachers started, oh, they quickly turned their tails.

Upon the ground, with mortal wound, head-keeper Roberts lay,

He never will rise up until the final Judgment Day.

Of all that band that made their stand to set a net or snare

The four men brought before the court were tried for murder there.

The judge he said, "For Roberts' death transported you must be,

To serve a term of fourteen years in convict slavery."

So poacher bold, my tale is told, keep up your gallant heart,

And think about those poachers bold, that night in Rufford Park.

IV. The Brisk Young Sailor (returned to wed his True Love)

Percy Grainger, Lincolnshire Posy, IV. The Brisk Young Sailor

"The President's Own" United States Marine Band, Major Michelle Rakers, conductor

Grainger's notes:

Mrs. Thomson (the singer of The Brisk Young Sailor), though living in Barrow-on-Humber, North Lincolnshire, came originally from Liverpool.

Folk Song Lyrics:

4. The Brisk Young Sailor

A fair maid walking all in her garden, a brisk young sailor she chanced to spy,

He stepped up to her thinking to woo her, cried thus: "Fair maid, can you fancy I?"

"You seem to be some man of honor, some man of honor you seem to be,

I am a poor and lowly maiden, not fitting, sir, your servant for to be."

"Not fitting for to be my servant? No, I've a greater regard for you.

I'd marry you, and make you a lady, and I'd have servants for to wait on you."

"I have a true love all of my own, sir, and seven long years he's been gone from me,

But seven more I will wait for him; if he's alive, he'll return to me.

If seven long years thy love is gone from thee, he is surely either dead or drowned,

But if seven more you will wait for him, if he's alive, then he will be found.

He put his hand all in his bosom, his fingers they were both long and small.

He showed to her then the true-love token, and when she saw it, down then she did fall.

He took her up all in his arms, and gave her kisses, one, two and three,

Here stands thy true and faithful sailor, who has just now returned to marry thee.

V. Lord Melbourne (War Song)

Percy Grainger, Lincolnshire Posy, V. Lord Melbourne

"The President's Own" United States Marine Band, Major Michelle Rakers, conductor

Grainger's notes:

Mr. George Wray (the singer of Lord Melbourne) had a worldlier, tougher and more prosperously-coloured personality. He, too, was born at Barrow-on-Humber, and was eighty years old when he sang to me in 1906. From the age of eight to seventeen he worked in a brick yard, after which he went to sea as cook and steward, learning some of his songs aboard ship. After that he again worked at a brick yard, for forty years; and, later on again, he sold coals, taking them to Barton, Barrow, Goxhill, etc ., in his own ship, and also carrying them round on his back (in `scootles'), as much as twenty tons a day. This he did to the age of seventy-three, and then he 'give over'. In his old age he enjoyed independence, and said" 'And thaay saay (they say) a poor mahn 'ahsn't a chahnce!' He used to be a great dancer. (Yet, in spite of this association with strict rhythm, his singing was more irregular in rhythm than any I ever heard.) He took a prize--a fine silver pencil--for dancing, at Barton, at t he age of fifty-four, performing to the accompaniment of a fiddle, which he considered 'better than anything to dance to'. His brother was a 'left-handed' fiddler (bowing with his left hand, fingering with his right). Mr. Wray held that folksinging had be en destroyed by the habit of singing in church and chapel choirs, and used to wax hot on this subject, and on the evils resultant upon singing to the accompaniment of the piano. He was convinced that most folks could keep their vigour as late in life as he had, if they did not overfeed.

He lived alone, surrounded by evil-smelling cats. I asked him if he often went to town, and he answered: 'It's too temtatious for a mahn of my age!' A consciousness of snug, self-earned success underlay the jaunty contentment and skittishness of his renderings. His art shared the restless energy of his life. Some of his versions of tunes were fairly commonplace (not Lord Melbourne, however!), yet he never failed to invest them with a unique quaintness--by means of swift touches of swagger, heaps of added 'nonsense syllables', queer hollow vowel-sounds (doubtless due to his lack of teeth) and a jovial, jogging stick-to-it-iveness in performance. He had an amazing memory for the texts of his songs. Lord Melbourne (actually about the Duke of Marlborough) is a genuine war-song--a thing rare in English folksong.

Folk Song Lyrics:

5. Lord Melbourne

I am an Englishman to my birth, Lord Melbourne is my name;

In Devonshire I first drew breath, that place of noble fame.

I was beloved by all my men, by kings and princes likewise.

I never failed in anything, but won great victories.

Then good Queen Anne sent us on board, to Flanders we did go,

We left the banks of Newfoundland to face our daring foe.

We climbed those lofty hills straightway, with broken guns, shields likewise,

And all those famous towns we took, to all the world's surprise.

King Charles the Second we did reserve, to face our foemen French,

And to the battle of Ramillies we boldly did advance.

The sun was down, the earth did shake, and I so loud did cry,

"Fight on, my lads, for old England's sake, we'll gain the field, or die."

And now this glorious victory's won, so boldly keep the field,

When prisoners in great numbers took, which forced our foe to yield.

That very day my horse was shot all by a cannonball,

As soon as I got up again, my aide-de-camp, he did fall.

Now on a bed of sickness lie, I am resigned to die,

You generals all and champions bold, stand true as well as I.

Stand to your men, take them on board, and fight with courage bold,

I've led my men through smoke and fire, but now to death must yield.

VI. The Lost Lady Found (Dance Song)

Percy Grainger, Lincolnshire Posy, VI. The Lost Lady Found

"The President's Own" United States Marine Band, Major Michelle Rakers, conductor

Grainger's notes:

The last number of my set (The Lost Lady Found) is a real dance-song--come down to us from the days when voices, rather than instruments, held village dancers together. [See also Grainger's notes for Green Bushes and Let's Dance gay in Green Meadow, above. (Ed.)] Miss Lucy E. Broadwood, who collected the tune, writes of its origins as follows, in her English Traditional Songs and Carols (Boosey & Co.):

Mrs. Hill, an old family nurse, and a native of Stamford (Lincolnshire), learned her delightful song when a child, from an old cook who danced as she sang it, beating time on the store kitchen-floor with her iron pattens. The cook was thus unconsciously carrying out the original intention of the 'ballad', which is the English equivalent of the Italian 'baletta' (from ballare, 'to dance'), signifying a song to dance-measure, accompanied by dancing.

Folk Song Lyrics:

6. Lost Lady Found

'Twas down in yon valley a fair maid did dwell,

She lived with her uncle, they all knew full well.

'Twas down in yon valley where violets grew gay

Three gypsies betrayed her and stole her away.

Long time she'd been missing and could not be found;

Her uncle, he searched the country around,

Till he came to the trustee, between hope and fear.

The trustee made answer, “She has not been here.”

The trustee spoke over with courage so bold,

“I fear she's been lost for the sake of her gold,

So we'll have life for life, sir,” the trustee did say,

“We'll send you to prison, and there you shall stay.”

There was a young squire that loved her so,

Oft times to the schoolhouse together they did go.

“I'm afraid she's been murdered, so great is my fear.

If I'd wings like a dove I would fly to my dear.”

He travelled through England, through France and through Spain,

Till he ventured his life on the watery main.

And he came to a house where he lodged for a night,

And in that same house was his own heart's delight.

When she saw him, she knew him, and fled to his arms;

She told him her grief while he gazed on her charms.

“How came you to Dublin, my dearest, I pray?”

“Three gypsies betrayed me and stole me away.”

“Your uncle's in England, in prison does lie,

And for your sweet sake is condemned for to die.

“Carry me to old England, my dearest,” she cried,

“One thousand I'll give thee, and will be your bride.”

When they came to old England her uncle to see,

The cart it was under the high gallows tree;

“Oh, pardon, oh, pardon, oh, pardon I crave.

I'm alive! I'm alive! your dear life to save!”

Then from the high gallows they led him away,

The bells they did ring and the music did play.

Every house in that valley with mirth did resound,

As soon as they heard the lost lady was found.

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