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THE SONGS OF HENRY RUSSELL 131
the money was paid to him, and the daughter of the woodman pledged her word that the tree should stand as long as she lived.
11 This incident made a deep impression on me, and I suggested it to Morris as a fine subject for poetic treatment. He took the hint and wrote the now well-known poem :—
Oh, woodman, spare that tree,
Touch not a single bough ! In youth it sheltered me,
And I'll protect it now—
which I immediately set to music."
The song caught on with startling rapidity in America, and afterwards in England, becoming immensely popular. But if Russell's assertion that he sold the song for a couple of dollars is correct, he was considerably out of pocket over the transaction !
As an instance of how this song impressed people who heard it, Russell relates an occasion when he was singing it in the North of England. At the close a gentleman in the audience got up and said excitedly, "Was the tree spared, sir?' " It was," said Russell. " Thank God for that! " the other answered with a sigh of heartfelt relief as he sat down again.
"Woodman, spare that tree" was followed by "A life on the ocean wave," which also enjoyed a good deal of popularity. The words were