"Wildwood Flower" is an American song, best known through performances and recordings by the Carter Family. It is a variant of the song I'll Twine 'Mid the Ringlets, published in 1860 with lyrics by Maud Irving and melody by Joseph Philbrick Webster.[1] A song with a similar theme, entitled The Pale Amaranthus, was reported in 1911.[2] The original Carter Family first recorded the song in 1928 on the Victor label.

Lyrics[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The lyrics from the 1860 song "I'll Twine 'Mid the Ringlets", the basis of "Wildwood Flower", have many variations, one of which follows.

I will twine, I will mingle my raven black hair,
With the roses so red and the lilies so fair,
And the myrtle so bright with its emerald hue,
The pale emanita and the hyssop so blue. I will dance, I will sing and my laugh shall be gay,
I will charm every heart, in his crown I will sway,
I woke from my dreaming, my idol was clay,
All portions of loving had all flown away. But he taught me to love him and promised to love,
And to cherish me over all others above,
My poor heart is wondering no misery can tell,
He left with no warning, no word of farewell. Well you told me you love me and called me your flower,
That was blooming to cheer you through life's dreary hour,
I live to see him regret life's dark hour,
He's gone and neglected this pale wildwood flower.

History[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Sarah Carter, and the original Carter Family, performed the earliest recording in 1928.Woody Guthrie used the tune of "I'll Twine 'Mid the Ringlets" for the verses of his song "The Sinking of the Reuben James", although he added a chorus to the song.[3]

Although originally a parlor song, the song had undergone the folk process by the time the Carter Family recorded it. For example, one version of the original first verse was

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.

whereas the Carter Family version begins

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 dew,
The pale and the leader and eyes look like blue.[4]

The latter verse may be a mondegreen, and later musicians produced further variants. For example, Iris DeMent sings "...the pale emanita and hyssop so blue". Joan Baez sings "...the pale and the leader and eyes look so blue", but retains the original reference to "raven black hair" on her album Joan Baez; that variant is also printed in The Joan Baez SongbookRoger McGuinn sings "...the pale amaryllis and violets so blue".

Gardening author Ed Hume is unaware of a plant known as aronatus.[5]

In 1955, Hank Thompson and Merle Travis recorded an instrumental version of the song that reached number five on the Country charts.[6] In 1960, Joan Baez included the song on her debut album. In 1961, country instrumentalists Gerald Tomlinson and Jerry Kennedy recorded a version called "Golden Wildwood Flower", which reached number 93 in the Music Vendor pop chart.

In 1964, Don Bowman appropriated the tune as a background for "Wildwood Weed", a monologue about marijuana.[7] Ten years later, performed by Jim Stafford, it peaked at number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100.[8]

In the 2005 film Walk the LineReese Witherspoon, playing June Carter, sings "Wildwood Flower" solo while strumming her autoharp. The film also features an instrumental version performed on guitar by Bill Frisell.

Robin & Linda Williams recorded a version of the song, with the original title and lyrics, for their album Visions of Love. The title of the album is taken from the last line, "My visions of love have all faded away."