Alex Raichev

The Shropshire Songs

Auckland's COVID-19 Lockdown of August–September 2021 afforded much time for arts and crafts. During that period i dusted off my long-neglected ukulele and set to music a few poems from A. E. Housman's lilting, lamentful, and generally black-humored collection of 1896 A Shropshire Lad. Here are the results for your listening enjoyment, presented in the order they were recorded. All music is copyrighted CC BY-NC 4.0 by me, Alex Raichev, and all lyrics lie in the public domain.

You can listen to the songs with the audio player below, which, once started, will continue to the next track on the list. You can also and download all the songs as FLAC (lossless) and download all the songs as MP3.

  1. Loveliest of trees, the cherry now · lyrics
  2. When I was one-and-twenty · lyrics
  3. I hoed and trenched and weeded · lyrics
  4. When smoke stood up from Ludlow · lyrics
  5. Farewell to barn and stack and tree · lyrics

Lyrics

Farewell to barn and stack and tree

  "Farewell to barn and stack and tree,
   Farewell to Severn shore.
  Terence, look your last at me,
   For I come home no more.

  "The sun burns on the half-mown hill,
   By now the blood is dried;
  And Maurice amongst the hay lies still
   And my knife is in his side."

  "My mother thinks us long away;
   'Tis time the field were mown.
  She had two sons at rising day,
   To-night she'll be alone."

  "And here's a bloody hand to shake,
   And oh, man, here's good-bye;
  We'll sweat no more on scythe and rake,
   My bloody hands and I."

  "I wish you strength to bring you pride,
   And a love to keep you clean,
  And I wish you luck, come Lammastide,
   At racing on the green."

  "Long for me the rick will wait,
   And long will wait the fold,
  And long will stand the empty plate,
   And dinner will be cold."
  
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I hoed and trenched and weeded

  I hoed and trenched and weeded,
   And took the flowers to fair:
  I brought them home unheeded;
   The hue was not the wear.

  So up and down I sow them
   For lads like me to find,
  When I shall lie below them,
   A dead man out of mind.

  Some seed the birds devour,
   And some the season mars,
  But here and there will flower
   The solitary stars,

  And fields will yearly bear them
   As light-leaved spring comes on,
  And luckless lads will wear them
   When I am dead and gone.
  
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Loveliest of trees, the cherry now

  Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
  Is hung with bloom along the bough,
    And stands about the woodland ride
    Wearing white for Eastertide.

  Now, of my threescore years and ten,
  Twenty will not come again,
    And take from seventy springs a score,
    It only leaves me fifty more.

  And since to look at things in bloom
  Fifty springs are little room,
    About the woodlands I will go
    To see the cherry hung with snow.
  
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When I was one-and-twenty

  When I was one-and-twenty
    I heard a wise man say,
  "Give crowns and pounds and guineas
    But not your heart away;
  Give pearls away and rubies
    But keep your fancy free."
  But I was one-and-twenty,
    No use to talk to me.

  When I was one-and-twenty
    I heard him say again,
  "The heart out of the bosom
    Was never given in vain;
  'Tis paid with sighs a plenty
    And sold for endless rue."
  And I am two-and-twenty,
    And oh, 'tis true, 'tis true.
  
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When smoke stood up from Ludlow

  When smoke stood up from Ludlow,
   And mist blew off from Teme,
  And blithe afield to ploughing
   Against the morning beam
   I strode beside my team,

  The blackbird in the coppice
   Looked out to see me stride,
  And hearkened as I whistled
   The tramping team beside,
   And fluted and replied:

  "Lie down, lie down, young yeoman;
   What use to rise and rise?
  Rise man a thousand mornings
   Yet down at last he lies,
   And then the man is wise."

  I heard the tune he sang me,
   And spied his yellow bill;
  I picked a stone and aimed it
   And threw it with a will:
   Then the bird was still.

  Then my soul within me
   Took up the blackbird's strain,
  And still beside the horses
   Along the dewy lane
   It Sang the song again:

  "Lie down, lie down, young yeoman;
   The sun moves always west;
  The road one treads to labour
   Will lead one home to rest,
   And that will be the best."
  
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