Amazement! Found treasure amidst the rubble when I stumbled upon “Wildwood Flower” a year or so ago on YouTube when searching for flower songs. I’ve been meaning to blog about it ever since. The first version I listened to was EmmyLou Harris (melody) with Iris Dement (harmony) and Randy Scruggs (flatpicking guitar). Go ahead and click the first video below and listen while you read. I was smitten by the old fashioned lyric and lovely harmonies eminating from these two songbirds, so thought to dig deeper and find out more about the song. And of course, had to learn it for myself.
This video is the Original Carter Family singing and playing their version of Wildwood Flower. The Carter Family really brought it forward when they first recorded the song in 1928 on the Victor label. It was A.P. the husband who wrote, or rewrote the lyric:
As recorded by The Carter Family
Written by A. P. Carter
Oh, I’ll twine with my mingles and waving black hair
With the roses so red and the lilies so fair
And the myrtle so bright with the emerald hue
The pale amanita and eyes look like blue.
Oh I’ll dance, I will sing and my (*laugh) shall be gay
I will charm every heart, in his crown I will sway
When I woke from my dreaming, my idol was clay
All portion of love had all flown away.
Oh he taught me to love him and promised to love
And to cherish me over all others above
How my heart is now wond’ring no mis’ry can tell
He’s left me no warning, no words of farewell.
Oh, he taught me to love him and called me his (*flow’r)
That was blooming to cheer him through life’s dreary hour
Oh, I long to see him and regret the dark hour
He’s gone and neglected this pale wildwood flow’r.
A Wikipedia page on Wildwood Flower says it’s “a variant of the song I’ll Twine ‘Mid the Ringlets, published in 1860 by composer Joseph Philbrick Webster, who wrote the music, with lyrics attributed to Maud Irving”. The link will take you to the original words which reflect the language of the day. Here’s the first verse just to give a taste of the difference between that lyric and A.P. Carter’s version. Fun!
I’ll twine ‘mid the ringlets
Of my raven black hair,
The lilies so pale
And the roses so fair,
The myrtle so bright
With an emerald hue,
And the pale aronatus
With eyes of bright blue
I decided to draw from both lyric versions for the rendition I play mainly because I don’t feel the word mingles is one many people will get these days. Also it’s closest to what Iris and Emmy sing and that is the version of the song I fell in love with: the first line of the song being “I will twine and will mingle my waving black hair”.
As far as meaning goes, wildwood flower isn’t a name of one flower so it’s meaning would be too broad to make a difference. Wiki says “Gardening author Ed Hume is unaware of a plant known as aronatus” and I notice amanita turns up as a mushroom on a google search. So there you go.
By the way, here is Reece Witherspoon singing Wildwood Flower when she played June Carter in the movie Walk the Line.