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My one man, my two men shall mow me down my meadows,
My three men, my four men shall carry my grass away,
My four, my three, my two, my one, nay not mo,
For to mow my hay and carry it away
On a beautiful midsummer’s day.
In The Idiom of the People (1958), James Reeves revisited the manuscripts of the folklorist Cecil Sharp to produce a selection of traditional English verse undiluted by early twentieth-century propriety. The Everlasting Circle (1960), his successor volume, takes a similarly faithful approach to the folk-verse collections of Sabine Baring-Gould, H. E. D. Hammond and George B. Gardiner.
Restored to their original vitality, the lyrics assembled here sing out joyfully and strong. Songs familiar to us still – ‘The Cuckoo’, ‘The Carpenter’s Wife – sit alongside lesser-known verse in a vibrant collection of England’s folk heritage.
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