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Why “Wildwood Flower” Lyrics Don’t Make Sense

Oral Tradition Transforms “Wildwood Flower”

In 1928 the Carter family recorded a song that had been passed down for generations based on a poem popular in the South in the 1860’s ‘I’ll Twine Mid the Ringlets’ by Maude Irving and a melody by New Hampshire composer J.P. Webster.

Much like the telephone game’s results, the lyrics evolved over time, with the Carters keeping the sounds of the words via more contemporary language, but not necessarily maintaining the meaning of the lines.

Many of the lines no longer make sense, but the popularity of the song came primarily from the guitar lines picked by Maybelle Carter. The instrumental version of the song is hallmark bluegrass tune to this day.



Some of the lyric changes:

Poem: `I’ll twine mid the ringlets of my raven black hair’
Song: `Oh, I’ll twine with my mane, golden weeping black hair…’

Poem: ‘The lilies so pale and the roses so fair…’
Song: ‘…with a rose that’s so red and the lilies so fair.’

Poem: `The myrtle so bright with the emerald hue and the pale aronatus with eyes of bright blue’

Song: `And the myrtle so bright with the emerald dew, the pale and the leader and eyes look like blue.’


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