Esperance Morris Book vol 1 - online book

A Manual Of Morris Dances Folk-songs And Singing Games With Sheet Music And Instructions

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" For the good are always the merry, Save by an evil chance, And the merry love the fiddle, And the merry love to dance."
W. B. Yeats.
A S in the songs, the gestures and the " business " used in the games should, as far as possible, be left to the initiative of the children. It has been my good fortune, for many years, lo take parties of children out of the city away into the country for a summer holiday, and nothing has impressed me more than the charming and dramatic way in which the children play when left to themselves. I have often lain on my back out in a wood, shut my eyes and pretended to be asleep, and then, when they were absorbed in their play, had a quiet look at them and listened to their improvisations. The more they play the old English singing games in this way the better, and the way in which they most easily get the spirit and the right gestures is, I think, by being told the story of the game in a dramatic way and being made to understand what lies at the back of it, and then left very much to themselves.
mother represented all the tragedy of the bereaved motherhood of the world; and the curious and quite inexplicable part of it all is that the children enjoyed it— even the tragedy perhaps more than the comedy.
The children stand round in a ring with arms crossed on their breasts, and at the refrain of each verse, "Dead and gone to his grave," bend slowly backwards and forwards. Four children should stand just outside the ring, and should enter as follows : At the verse " Old Roger is dead and gone to his grave," a child comes slowly into the ring, lies down flat with closed eyes. At the verse " They planted an apple tree over his head," another comes in, stands at old Roger's head, stretching out her arms over him, and at the next verse, " The apples were ripe and beginning to drop," slowly drops and raises her arms. At "There came an old woman a-picking them up," a child comes in, pretending to pick up apples from the ground and putting them into her apron. At the last verse Old Roger, with a dazed look, gets up very slowly, gives the old woman a knock, whereupon she goes " hipperty-hop " out of the ring, followed by Old Roger.
The children might also be told about this game that it represents the ancient belief that the souls of men after death entered into trees and other living things, and that Old Roger, having entered into his old apple tree, naturally resented his old apples being stolen.
The other night I began to teach children this game, which they had not seen before. I began by describing a mother out in the woods with her children. She suddenly sees an old woman picking up sticks, and, in a friendly, neighbourly way, says to her, by way of passing the time of day, " What are you picking up sticks for? " The old woman answers quite simply and naturally, " To light my fire." But something makes the mother ask again, "What are you lighting your fire for?" To which the old woman replies with a touch of irritability, " To boil my kettle." It begins to dawn upon the mother, in spite of the commonplace surroundings and quite natural reply that things are not quite what they seem, so she says, " What are you boiling your kettle for? " The old woman replies in a harsh and grating voice, slowly and deliberately, with a look at the children, " To boil my knives and forks." Then terror enters into the heart of the mother. Her children crowd round her, and with a cold shiver of horror she says very slowly, " What are you boiling your knives and forks for? " The murder is out, so to speak. The old woman in the woods, apparently innocently picking up sticks, makes a dash for the last child furthest away from the mother, and says, " To cut off your little girls' heads." There is a general stampede, the old woman catches the child, and the game begins all over again ; but as the chorus " Wigamy, wigamy, water-hen," etc., is being sung, the mother, pointing with her finger, looks backwards and counts her children, throwing up her arms with a tragic gesture when she realises that one is missing. I told the children the story something in this form, and with all my experience I was astonished at the dramatic power which they managed to put into it. The simple little nonsense rhyme, with the dialogue at the end, was some­how filled with the tragedy of great things, and the child-
The children dance round in a ring, singing : —
" Here we go, Looby Loo, Here v/c go, Looby Light, Here we go, Looby Loo, All on a Saturday night."
Then they stop, point the right hand out into the ring, turn round, point the right hand outside the ring, and then shake it and turn back, facing the centre of the ring as they sing :—
" Put your right hand in, Put your right hand out, Shake it a little, a little, And turn yourselves about."
This is done with the left hand, the right foot, the left foot, ears, noses, and noddles, until the final verse :—
" Put yourselves in, Put yourselves out, Shake them a little, a little, And turn yourselves about."
When all the children go into the middle of the ring, spread themselves out, shake themselves all over, and give a turn right round.
Each verse ends with a sharp clap of the hands and a call on the last note of the tune.
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