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The World Turned Upside Down and The Cutty Wren - nhpeacenik
The World Turned Upside Down and The Cutty Wren
I was recently reminded of a song I hadn't thought about for a while, called "The World Turned Upside Down" ( not Leon Rosselson's wonderful song about the Diggers, nor yet the 16th century "Ye Noble Diggers All). Somewhere in the attic, I have a copy of the song, in a book from the 1870's, that has several verses, but all I could find on the web was this:

If buttercups buzz'd after the bee,
If boats were on land, churches on sea,
If ponies rode men and if grass ate the cows,
And cats should be chased into holes by the mouse,

     If the mamas sold their babies
     To the gypsies for half a crown;
     If summer were spring and the other way round,
     Then all the world would be upside down.

I can't tell how old the song is, but it was supposedly sung by the departing British troops after the American Revolution, in response to the Americans' singing of "Yankee Doodle", and I like to think this was a good-natured exchange between working-class soldiers acknowledging that the world had indeed been turned upside down by rebels once again, as it had time and time again in the distant past.

The theme of the song makes me think it could be very old. It uses very indirect language to imply the dangerous notion that the common people might from time to time rule over their "betters".

This song came to mind in an email exchange with Gareth of the Smerkin Merkins Band  about the song "The Cutty Wren", which did in fact stem from the 14th century revolts in England. There were apparently radical words to that early song, which were banned. The more indirect words of "The Cutty Wren" took their place. Seize the Day has recently written a modern version of the original song and named it "Ned Ludd" after the legendary founder of the early 19th century Luddites; I highly recommend it! You can hear it at Seize the Day's MySpace site.  Cecil Sharp collected the Cutty Wren tune as "Green Bushes", whatever that's worth; any song that's been in hiding so long is bound to have a lot of aliases and disguises!

The score below and this midi file  is too slow, and there should be some ornamentations , but it gives you an idea of the tune.

Score of The World Upside Down

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Current Location: Greenville NH
Current Music: Seize the Day: Ned Ludd

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