The Poem

Set To Music

William Barnes's poem My Orcha'd In Lindèn Lea was set to music in 1901 by the English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958). At the age of 29, Linden Lea was Vaughan Williams's first publication, marking the beginning of a long career that produced no less than nine symphonies, as well as countless other works. It is written in the key of G major, and uses a "Common English" translation of Barnes's original Dorset dialect for the lyrics, the full text of which I have reproduced on this page.

Linden Lea
Ralph Vaughan Williams
Words by William Barnes

Within the woodlands, flow'ry gladed,
By the oak tree's mossy moot,
The shining grass-blades, timber-shaded,
Now do quiver underfoot;
And birds do whistle overhead,
And water's bubbling in its bed,
And there for me the apple tree
Do lean down low in Linden Lea.

When leaves that lately were a-springing
Now do fade within the copse,
And painted birds do hush their singing
Up upon the timber-tops;
And brown-leaved fruit's a-turning red,
In cloudless sunshine, overhead,
With fruit for me, the apple tree
Do lean down low in Linden Lea.

Let other folk make money faster
In the air of dark-roomed towns,
I don't dread a peevish master;
Though no man may heed my frowns,
I be free to go abroad,
Or take again my homeward road
To where, for me, the apple tree
Do lean down low in Linden Lea.

There are a couple of differences worth noting between the original poem and this translation:

These changes may have been made to improve the flow of the words when sung, as one can easily comprehend the meaning of either version.

Downloads & Related Links

Coro Nostro Chamber Choir
This mixed chamber choir based in Leicester, UK recorded their live performance of Linden Lea in October 2005, and have made it freely available to download from their website.
Folkinfo
The musical score of the melody of Linden Lea, downloadable in PDF (Portable Document Format). This website also offers a MIDI file of the melody, complete with Karaoke-style lyrics.
Pax Plena
A critique of Linden Lea by blogger Tory Fodder, who featured it as his "Song of the Week" on Thursday, 19th June 2008. His page includes a selection of videos of performances of the song.