Wednesday 30 September 2020

*English* Country Garden?

English Country Garden was on a much-loved EP the family owned in my childhood. The tune was by Australian Percy Granger, and the words are credited to Jimmie Rodgers himself: a native of Washington State, USA. 

These lyrics start well enough with the flowers, begin to lose touch with reality when fireflies are introduced among the insects; and spin-off into transatlantic parochial fantasy with the birds. 

In the spirit of Rodgers version of Englishness, I suggest the following additional verse:


How many animals wander to and fro

In an English Country Garden?

I'll tell you now of some that I know

And those I miss you'll surely pardon:

Bobcats, Lynx and Mountain Lions

Grizzly Bears and Wolver-ines

Chipmunks, Racoons and Porcupines

There is joy every day

When the Skunks begin to spray

In an English Country Garden.

Note: Jimmie R tells us "Don't forget The Robin" - I, of course, agree; but what he means by 'robin' is not what we English mean by our favourite national bird: the Ruddock or Redbreast (to use its older names) is a different species altogether...


Anonymous said...

And a couple years after the success of this song, Disney gave Mary Poppins a robotic (or 'audio-animatronic') American Robin (or two) to sing with...

The Wikipedia article, "Country Gardens", has an link to an rollicking piano-roll made by Grainger himself, and a reference to use of a "version" in something I don't recall having heard of before, The Quaker's Opera (1728) by Thomas Walker. In a copy of the first edition in The Opera Collection of the University of Western Ontario Music Library (as scanned in the Internet Archive) someone has made a list of the songs and added titles in the margins: with "Air XX. Country Garden" (p. 37) identified as "Vicar of Bray"! It is clearly not identical with the tune as written out by Grainger, though I can see the resemblance - and am left wishing I knew more of the history! (And what a swingeingly jolly song 'The Vicar of Bray' is - with its own words!)

I also wish I knew how British glowworms get replaced by American fireflies - here and elsewhere...

For better or worse, your additional verse made me think of Mr. Bultitude in That Hideous Strength!

David Llewellyn Dodds

Bruce Charlton said...

@DLD - It's annoying when the US takes an English thing - like wheat being called corn and the robin redbreast - imposes these names onto a functional equivalent in the Americas (understandable, and indeed an endearing trait) - and then usurps the term internationally to smother the original!