Esperance Morris Book vol 2 - online book

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

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as Crosby Hall and the Kensington Town Hall. Only the other day they appeared on a greensward in the Botanic Gardens. Perhaps you may be fortunate enough to see in the midst of the youngsters some aged representative of the scattered army which has kept the songs and the dances alive in remote valleys and uplands, from whom a dance or two, or a song maybe, has been acquired. Or you may listen to a fiddler scraping away tunes which his father played and his grandfather before him, poised on a dizzy cloud of ecstasy, his pale blue eyes gazing direct into the opened gates of heaven. Or a gipsy-looking fellow with brown eyes, darker only than his dark skin, may be alternately romping with the children and singing " Barkshire " songs ; singing a refrain, perhaps, like this—
Jacky Booy, Maastur. Sing waal? Vury waal.
To mi ay down down,
To mi o down down,
Ay o down,
Dally dally down,
'Mongst the leaves of the green-o.
Whether the rustics are present or not the Guild boys and girls will be there, very much at your service. And after all they have the most to teach you, for only they can demonstrate the ease and the grace with which they are able to clothe themselves in the mode abandoned years ago at the shrill call of the factory and during the hurried exodus from the countryside. Theirs it is to show you the unimpeachable evidence of their descent from the soil, their kinship with Mother Earth which has remained intact through all the vicissitudes of slumland and the London streets. As you watch them it is borne in upon you that if the town has borrowed from the country in this matter it is paying back with a generous interest. London is giving to the rustic dance a new element sprung from cockney alertness, assurance, and humour.
They come prancing on—to the tune of " Hey diddle dis," or perhaps " The girl I left behind me "—led by the jester and his hobby-horse. The young men wear top-hats decorated with plaited ribbons, and there is neither coat nor waistcoat above their knee-breeches ; the girls wear brightly coloured cotton frocks and sun bonnets. The bells on their legs jingle finely. And behind these big people trips a regiment of small fry, little mites in frocks of various colours and close-fitting Dutch bonnets. When they have all arrived, the children group themselves
(By kind permission of the Editor
comfortably about the edge of the stage and the dancers are precipitated without further ado into their first measure.
Perhaps it is the homely jolly tune of " Sally Luker," or the sweet, old-fashioned charm of " Shepherds Aye," or the light-hearted capers of " Jockie to the Fair; " the irresistible tap-tap-tap-tap of " Rigs o' Mallow," or the wild frolic of " Lively Jig." Whichever it is, it carries you away. It is as impossible to keep your foot still as to keep your head still. You feel as though you too were dancing. There is nothing languid or sensuous about it ; nor is there, on the other hand, any fierce beating up of emotional excitement. It is English. The kindli­ness of English scenery, the equability of English climate, the pleasant healthy sentiment of the English countryside inspired these dances. And the dancers respond with bright eyes and merry hearts. Nowhere in the world, and under no better conditions, could you hope to see young people whose limbs move more freely, whose actions combine vigour and grace in such perfect balance. The joy of it all is contagious. The sun shines and the earth smiles. It is good to be dancing, but it is also wonderfully good merely to sit and watch the dancers.
But dancing is not the only business, though there is plenty of it as the evening melts away. There are folk-songs—the voice of England. You hear tlie plaintive history of unrequited love, the ingenuous recital of lovers' tests, the bucolic narrative of dreadful deeds. You hear melodies which were crooned over the nation's cradle, tunes as old as the hills. And before you go home you have heard, with a catch at your heart, these singers' Nunc Dimittis—the " White Paternoster." Has there been anything wanting? Did not life seem to be rather a good sort of experience when the children played for you their singing games?
The children . . .
It is not easy to write about these children. Their charm is of too exquisite a fibre to adapt itself to the crudeness of the written word. Besides, there is the risk of becoming maudlin. In anything really and utterly beautiful there is always some deep-seated, in­tangible strain of sadness. Man may not behold Eden with dry eyes. He must pay mortality's reckoning.
And yet these children are not angels. They are not even the babies of duchesses. They are common children, from mean streets. And they seem to confront you as small prophets, telling of a promised land in which the child shall be paramount, a land in which the lives of children shall be singing games. When they grow up, of course, they will dance the morris.
of the " Westminster Gazette.")
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