I’ve still not got around to learning this, which is pretty poor – perhaps you can learn it and send us a recording?! Again taken from Roy Palmer’s excellent Ballad History of England. Tune is know nowadays as the Broom of the Cowdenknowes.
The Deserted Village is a poem by Oliver Goldsmith published in 1770. It is a work of social commentary, and condemns rural depopulation and the pursuit of excessive wealth.Wikipedia
The location of the poem’s deserted village is unknown, but the description may have been influenced by Goldsmith’s memory of his childhood in rural Ireland, and his travels around England. The poem is written in heroic couplets, and describes the decline of a village and the emigration of many of its residents to America. In the poem, Goldsmith criticises rural depopulation, the moral corruption found in towns, consumerism, enclosure, landscape gardening, avarice, and the pursuit of wealth from international trade.
The full poem is much much longer – I have selected my favourite parts below which might be useful to read in a show sometime:
The Deserted Village by Oliver Goldsmith 1770
Sweet Auburn, loveliest village of the plain,
Where health and plenty cheared the labouring swain,
Where smiling spring its earliest visit paid,
And parting summer’s lingering blooms delayed.
Dear lovely bowers of innocence and ease,
Seats of my youth, when every sport could please,
How often have I loitered o’er thy green,
Where humble happiness endeared each scene!
Sweet smiling village, loveliest of the lawn,
Thy sports are fled, and all thy charms withdrawn;
Amidst thy bowers the tyrant’s hand is seen,
And desolation saddens all thy green:
One only master grasps the whole domain,
And half a tillage stints thy smiling plain;
And, trembling, shrinking from the spoiler’s hand,
Far, far away, thy children leave the land.
Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay:
Princes and lords may flourish, or may fade;
A breath can make them, as a breath has made;
But a bold peasantry, their country’s pride,
When once destroyed, can never be supplied.
A time there was, ere England’s griefs began,
When every rood of ground maintained its man;
For him light labour spread her wholesome store,
Just gave what life required, but gave no more:
His best companions, innocence and health;
And his best riches, ignorance of wealth.
But times are altered; trade’s unfeeling train
Usurp the land and dispossess the swain;
Sweet was the sound, when oft at evening’s close,
Up yonder hill the village murmur rose;
There, as I past with careless steps and slow,
The mingling notes came soften’d from below;
The swain responsive as the milk-maid sung,
The sober herd that lowed to meet their young,
The noisy geese that gabbled o’er the pool,
The playful children just let loose from school,
The watch-dog’s voice that bayed the whispering wind,
And the loud laugh that spoke the vacant mind,
These all in sweet confusion sought the shade,
And filled each pause the nightingale had made.
But now the sounds of population fail,
No cheerful murmurs fluctuate in the gale,
No busy steps the grass-grown foot-way tread,
For all the bloomy flush of life is fled.
All but yon widowed, solitary thing
That feebly bends beside the plashy spring;
She, wretched matron, forced in age, for bread,
To strip the brook with mantling cresses spread,
To pick her wintry faggot from the thorn,
To seek her nightly shed, and weep till morn;
She only left of all the harmless train,
The sad historian of the pensive plain.
Nick Hayes just put me on to this amazing page about the Newton Rebels of 1607 in Northamptonshire which was part of the Midlands Revolt concerning enclosure. Have a look at the photos from their 400th anniversary in 2007
I’ve just finished reading these three excellent booklets about enclosure and the open field system in East Yorkshire… Two were written in late 1950s and the third in the mid eighties. All were thoroughly researched, succinct and insightful.
The full title is ‘The Cottager’s Complaint, on the Intended Bill for Enclosing Sutton-Coldfield’ and it was written by John ‘Poet’ Freeth (1731-1808) the owner of Freeth’s Coffee House in Birmingham and a well known poet and songwriter. He published a book called ‘The Political Songster: Or, a Touch on the Times, on Various Subjects, and Adapted to Common Tunes’ which went to at least 6 editions.
How sweetly did the moments glide, how happy were the days!
When no sad fear my breast annoyed, or e’er disturbed my ease;
Hard fate! that I should be compelled my fond abode to lose,
Where threescore years in peace I’ve dwelled, and wish my life to close.
Oh the time! the happy, happy time, which in my cot I’ve spent;
I wish the church-yard was his doom, who murders my content.
My ewes are few, my stock is small, yet from my little store
I find enough for nature’s call, nor would I ask for more!
That word, ENCLOSURE ! to my heart such evil doth bespeak,
I fear I with my all must part, and fresh employment seek.
Chorus — Oh the time, &c.
What little of the spacious plain should power to me consign,
For want of means, I can’t obtain, would not long time be mine:
The stout may combat fortune’s frowns, nor dread the rich and great;
The young may fly to market-towns, but where can I retreat?
Chorus — Oh the time, &c.
What kind of feelings must that man within his mind possess,
Who, from an avaricious plan, his neighbours would distress?
Then soon, in pity to my case, to Reason’s ear incline;
For on his heart it stamps disgrace, who formed the base design.
More info at a folk song a week blog – https://afolksongaweek.wordpress.com/2013/08/10/week-103-petition-of-the-pigs-in-kent/
Original text in 1809 magazine can be found here
Petition of the Pigs in Kent
Ye owners of woodlands, with all due submission,
We humbly beg leave to present our petition,
That you will be pleas’d to recall your decree,
Which tells us that acorns no longer are free.
In Sussex and Surrey and Middlesex too,
Pigs may ramble at large without such ado;
And why, then, in Kent should pretences be found,
To drive us like culprits and thieves to the pound,
Since we, and our fathers, and others before ‘em,
Have rang’d in your woods, with all proper decorum?
No poachers are we, for no game we annoy
No hares we entrap, and no pheasants decoy;
Contented are we, if an acorn we find,
Nor wish for a feast of a daintier kind.
Besides, we are told (and perhaps not mistaken)
That you and your friends love a slice of good bacon;
But if of good bacon you all love a slice,
If pigs are to starve, how can bacon be nice?
For these and for other wise reasons of state,
We again our petition most humbly repeat,
Ye owners of woodlands, with all due submission,
We humbly beg leave to present our petition,
That you will repeal this severest of laws,
So your woods shall resound to our grunting applause.
Far spread the moorey ground a level scene
Bespread with rush and one eternal green
That never felt the rage of blundering plough
Though centurys wreathed spring’s blossoms on its brow
Still meeting plains that stretched them far away
In uncheckt shadows of green brown, and grey
Unbounded freedom ruled the wandering scene
Nor fence of ownership crept in between
To hide the prospect of the following eye
Its only bondage was the circling sky
One mighty flat undwarfed by bush and tree
Spread its faint shadow of immensity
And lost itself, which seemed to eke its bounds
In the blue mist the horizon’s edge surrounds
Now this sweet vision of my boyish hours
Free as spring clouds and wild as summer flowers
Is faded all – a hope that blossomed free,
And hath been once, no more shall ever be
Inclosure came and trampled on the grave
Of labour’s rights and left the poor a slave
And memory’s pride ere want to wealth did bow
Is both the shadow and the substance now
The sheep and cows were free to range as then
Where change might prompt nor felt the bonds of men
Cows went and came, with evening morn and night,
To the wild pasture as their common right
And sheep, unfolded with the rising sun
Heard the swains shout and felt their freedom won
Tracked the red fallow field and heath and plain
Then met the brook and drank and roamed again
The brook that dribbled on as clear as glass
Beneath the roots they hid among the grass
While the glad shepherd traced their tracks along
Free as the lark and happy as her song
But now all’s fled and flats of many a dye
That seemed to lengthen with the following eye
Moors, loosing from the sight, far, smooth, and blea
Where swopt the plover in its pleasure free
Are vanished now with commons wild and gay
As poet’s visions of life’s early day
Mulberry-bushes where the boy would run
To fill his hands with fruit are grubbed and done
And hedgrow-briars – flower-lovers overjoyed
Came and got flower-pots – these are all destroyed
And sky-bound mores in mangled garbs are left
Like mighty giants of their limbs bereft
Fence now meets fence in owners’ little bounds
Of field and meadow large as garden grounds
In little parcels little minds to please
With men and flocks imprisoned ill at ease
Each little path that led its pleasant way
As sweet as morning leading night astray
Where little flowers bloomed round a varied host
That travel felt delighted to be lost
Nor grudged the steps that he had ta-en as vain
When right roads traced his journeys and again –
Nay, on a broken tree he’d sit awhile
To see the mores and fields and meadows smile
Sometimes with cowslaps smothered – then all white
With daiseys – then the summer’s splendid sight
Of cornfields crimson o’er the headache bloomd
Like splendid armys for the battle plumed
He gazed upon them with wild fancy’s eye
As fallen landscapes from an evening sky
These paths are stopt – the rude philistine’s thrall
Is laid upon them and destroyed them all
Each little tyrant with his little sign
Shows where man claims earth glows no more divine
But paths to freedom and to childhood dear
A board sticks up to notice ‘no road here’
And on the tree with ivy overhung
The hated sign by vulgar taste is hung
As tho’ the very birds should learn to know
When they go there they must no further go
Thus, with the poor, scared freedom bade goodbye
And much they feel it in the smothered sigh
And birds and trees and flowers without a name
All sighed when lawless law’s enclosure came
And dreams of plunder in such rebel schemes
Have found too truly that they were but dreams.
The Making of the English Working Class
by E.P. Thompson
Considered a definitive text for many years this book is dense, academically rigorous and utterly superb.
I needed a dictionary, wikipedia and a notebook to get myself through the first quarter but once up to speed with the authors style and concepts, it was as compelling a read as I have ever had.
This book has the advantage of being widely respected across all academic and historical fields in a manner which some of the other books I have read are not.
by Jim Crace
This is the only fiction book I have in this section at the moment and it is a gem.
Set in medieval times, the story concerns a village about to be enclosed for sheep farming.
So powerful re-reading the words of Thomas More from ‘Utopia’ now I understand the historical context of his words.
The first part of the book is largely a critique of the society around him written in a fictional form to protect him from persecution…
“your sheep that were wont to be so meek and tame, and so small eaters, now, as I heard say, be become so great devourers and so wild, that they eat up, and swallow down the very men themselves.”
In short, communities were deprived of their access to land to make way for sheep. The wool from these sheep became the first resource to be mass produced and traded leading to massive accumulation of excess capital in the hands of a few large landowners.
This excess capital could be invested in ships which laid the foundation for empires and slavery bringing along the second big accumulation of excess capital.
Read the wikipedia entry here – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utopia_(book)