Wildwood Flower (I’ll Twine Mid the Ringlets)

by Maud Irving, 1860


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. 

I'll sing and I'll dance,
  My laugh shall be gay;
I'll cease this wild weeping --
  Drive sorrow away,
 Tho' my heart is now breaking,
  He never shall know
That _his_ name made me tremble
  And my pale cheeks to glow. 

I'll think of him never --
  I'll be wildly gay,
I'll charm ev'ry heart,
  And the crowd I will sway,
 I'll live yet to see him,
  Regret the dark hour
When he won, then neglected,
  The frail wildwood flower. 

He told me he loved me,
  And promis'd to love,
Trough ill and misfortune,
  All others above,
 Another has won him;
  Ah, misery to tell;
He left me in silence --
  no word of farewell. 

He taught me to love him,
  He call'd me his flower
That blossom'd for him
  All the brighter each hour;
 But I woke from my dreaming,
  My idol was clay;
My visions of love
  Have _all_ faded away. 

Note the differences between the song lyrics and the original poem?

After watching the movie “Walk the Line” about the Johnny and June Cash affair, I started to get curious about some of the history and poetry behind their music. It turns out that NPR did little story on Wildwood Flower as part of their “100 most important American songs in the 20th century”. Unfortunately the audio for the program doesn’t seem to work anymore, and based on the text introduction it seems they acknowledge that not much is known about the origins of the poem.

With a little bit more searching I found a reference to another poem by Maud Irving called “Mildred” in the Volume LXI, July-December 1860 edition of Godey’s Lady’s Book. Louis Godey’s publication (edited by Sarah Josepha Hale) was an American institution before the Civil War. Filled with poetry (from authors such as Edgar Allen Poe) it had a circulation of 150,000 and over a million readers. Unfortunately the war undermined Godey’s market, in spite of his attempts to remain neutral and keep up with the latest poetry/verse at the time. I wonder if anyone has captured any more information about Irving and his writing? According to Vicki Betts, a Librarian, “the Robert R. Muntz Library at the University of Texas at Tyler holds microfilm for Godey’s Lady’s Book for 1840-1892”. Might be a fun field-trip, or maybe someone will help convert the actual texts to a searchable database…

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