Celtic Moments: The Ash Grove

I’m starting a new series to share a selection of Celtic melodies that I’ve enjoyed. The roots of Celtic music go back a long way to the 12th century or maybe even earlier. It still resonates today, not only in traditional Celtic strongholds like Ireland, Scotland and Wales, but around the world through the Celtic folk/country songs of Karan Casey, Nathan Carter, Donna Taggart and Derek Ryan and others. You will soon hear their enchanting voices. For today, I present the lovely angelic voice of Laura Wright singing The Ash Grove, a traditional Welsh folk song whose melody has been set to numerous sets of lyrics. As with most ancient folk songs, there are no definitive lyrics but the standard English version handed down to us by Thomas Oliphant in the 19th century has beautiful lyrics, and is the version that Wright sings.

The friends of my childhood again are before me
Each step wakes a memory as freely I roam
With soft whispers laden, its leaves rustle o’er me
The ash grove, the ash grove alone is my home

Full lyrics below


Lyrics

The ash grove, how graceful, how plainly ’tis speaking
The harp through it playing has language for me
When over its branches, the sunlight is breaking
A host of kind faces is gazing on me
The friends of my childhood again are before me
Each step wakes a memory as freely I roam
With soft whispers laden, its leaves rustle o’er me
The ash grove, the ash grove alone is my home.

Down yonder green valley where streamlets meander
When twilight is fading, I pensively roam
Or at the bright noontide in solitude wander
Amid the dark shades of the lonely ash grove
T’was there while the blackbird was cheerfully singing
I first met that dear one, the joy of my heart
Around as for gladness the bluebells were ringing
Ah then little knew I, how soon we would part.

My lips smile no more, my heart loses its lightness
No dream of the future my spirit can cheer
I only can brood on the past and its brightness
The dead I have mourned are again living here
From every dark nook they press forward to meet me
I lift up my eyes to the broad leafy dome
And others are there, looking downward to greet me
The ash grove, the ash grove alone is my home.

With soft whispers laden, its leaves rustle o’er me
The ash grove, the ash grove alone is my home.

2 comments

  1. Is any of the ash grove song refering to pre-history burials of dead bodies being hung in the trees in in a burial bag or a burial platform?

    • Good question. The song is a folk melody of Welsh origin that has been used translated into English for many songs, including church hymns. There are several sets of lyrics that tell somewhat different stories. A somewhat typical version of the lyrics follows the course of a man’s life from childhood to death. Other versions are more focused on the love story, and one very dark plotline has a chieftain shooting an arrow at his daughter’s sweetheart but missing and instead killing the girl. There are legends about the symbolism of the ash tree, but we don’t have any hard evidence of their validity, so they remain folklores.

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