"As I was walking in a grove All by myself as I supposed," the singer meets a pretty girl who asks "To tell her when I would marry." He sets conditions: "When saffron grows on every tree," "When Michaelmas falls in February," etc., then he will marry
Things Impossible Partial text(s) *** A *** From Emelyn Elizabeth Gardner and Geraldine Jencks Chickering, Ballads and Songs of Southern Michigan, pp. 385-386. "[F]rom the Gernsey Manuscript." Down by one green and shady grove, 'Twas all alone as I supposed, Down by one green and shady grove, 'Twas all alone as I supposed, There did I spy most comely maid Which caused me long time to tarry; And there with me she did entreat For to well her when I meant to marry. When carrots grow in meadows green And rivers flow with milk and honey, When sugar grows on cherry trees, And men refuse to take hard money, When turtle shells turn diamond rings With pearl and brass they are compared When gold does grow on eagle's wings, Fair maid, with you will I be married. (Stanzas 1, 3 of 6)
This song has lyrics in common with the one indexed as "My Wife Went Away and Left Me"; both involve lists of impossible conditions. But this is a song in which the girl seeks the young man's hand; that is a song in which the man begs her to return after she abandons him. The conditions set are similar, the plots are not.
In addition, although there is a report of this song from Michigan, it seems to exist mostly in Britain, whereas "My Wife Went Away and Left Me" seems to be mostly from the southern United States. On this basis, I split them; Roud of course lumps them.
Rorrer's notes on "My Wife Went Away and Left Me" mention a song by Charles D. Vann called "Then My Darling I'll Come Back to Thee." I have not seen it, but it strikes me as possible that Vann took the English piece and rewrote it, resulting in the American version. - RBW
- cf. "My Wife Went Away and Left Me" (lyrics)
- Gardner/Chickering 158, "Things Impossible" (1 text)
- Logan, pp. 360-362, "Improbability" (1 text)
- ST GC158 (Partial)
- Roud #3686
- BI, GC158