> Folk Music > Songs > I Wandered by the Brookside

I Wandered by the Brookside

[ Roud 2418 ; Ballad Index CrMa035 ; VWML AW/3/143 ; Bodleian Roud 2418 ; Wiltshire 601 , 835 ; Richard Monckton Milnes, 1st Baron Hougthon (1809-1885)]

Bob Copper printed I Wandered by the Brookside in the appendix “Old Songs from Rottingdean” of his 1976 book Early to Rise.

The Portway Pedlars (Len and Barbary Berry) sang I Wandered by a Brookside [VWML AW/3/143] in 1984 on their Greenwich Village album of songs of Oxfordshire collected by Alfred Williams, In Greenwood Shades. The tune is by Barbary Berry. Their son and daughter-in-law Bob and Gill Berry sang it in 2006 on their WildGoose album Bittersweet. This video shows them at Bath Folk Festival in 2011:

Whippersnapper sang I Wandered by a Brookside on their 1987 album Tsubo.

Archie Fisher sang I Wandered by a Brookside in 1988 on his album Sunsets I've Galloped Into….

The Askew Sisters sang I Wandered by the Brookside on their 2019 CD Enclosure. They noted:

Whilst searching through the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library archives. Hazel [Askew] found this text collected by Alfred Williams from Miss Leah Serman of Stanton Harcourt, Oxfordshire, circa 1916 [VWML AW/3/143] . She was struck by the profound sense of disconnection that runs through the song, whether from the natural world or some deeper internal struggle, and in the absence of a melody, one quickly wrote itself. There is a wonderful openness and ambiguity in the lyrics, which felt unusual for a traditional song, and some further digging revealed some other traditional versions and broadsides with more words and a clearer narrative. This eventually led back to what appears to be the poem it originated from, The Brookside by Richard Monckton Milnes, Lord Houghton (1809-1885). We also later discovered that it was made famous by Eva Cassidy on her [Time After Time] album to a very different tune that Barbara Berry wrote.

Lyrics

Richard Monckton Milnes's poem The Brookside I Wandered by the Brookside in Early to Rise

I wandered by the brookside,
I wandered by the mill;
I could not hear the brook flow,—
The noisy wheel was still;
There was no burr of grasshopper,
No chirp of any bird,
But the beating of my own heart
Was all the sound I heard.

I wandered by the brookside,
I wandered by the mill;
I could not hear the brook flow,
The noisy wheel was still;
There was no sound of grasshopper
Or sound of any bird,
And the beating of my own heart
Was the only sound I heard.

I sat beneath the elm-tree;
I watched the long, long shade,
And, as it grew still longer,
I did not feel afraid;
For I listened for a footfall,
I listened for a word,—
But the beating of my own heart
Was all the sound I heard.

I sat beneath the elm-tree;
And watched its long, long shade,
And, as it grew still longer,
I did not feel afraid;
I listened for a footstep,
I listened for a word,
But the beating of my own heart
Was the only sound I heard.

He came not,—no, he came not,—
The night came on alone,—
The little stars sat, one by one,
Each on his golden throne;
The evening wind passed by my cheek,
The leaves above were stirred,—
But the beating of my own heart
Was all the sound I heard.

He came not, no, he came not,
The night grew on alone,
The little stars sat, one by one,
Each on his silvery throne;
The evening wind passed by my cheeks,
The leaves fell here and there,
But the beating of my own heart
Was the only sound I heard.

Fast silent tears were flowing,
When something stood behind;
A hand was on my shoulder,—
I knew its touch was kind:
It drew me nearer,—nearer,—
We did not speak one word,
For the beating of our own hearts
Was all the sound we heard.

Fast silent tears were flowing
As something stood behind;
A hand fell on my shoulder,
I knew the touch was kind:
He drew me nearer, nearer,
I could not speak one word,
And the beating of my own heart
Was the only sound I heard.

Links

See also the Mudcat Café article Lyr Add: I Wandered by a Brookside.