‘But I had not the liberty’

Bonfield Block-Printers

‘But I had not the liberty’
  • £145.00

This image is concocted from the folk ballad, ‘The Seeds of Love’. The song, burgeoning with metaphors and symbolism, is written from an unmarried woman’s point of view. In it, she reflects on a series of missed romantic opportunities - represented by the violet, the lily and the pink. Despite the song’s melancholic tone, the woman strikes a defiant note at its end: ‘For the grass that have been oftentimes trampled underfoot, Give it time it will rise up again.’

Printed in Carbon black linseed-based ink on Somerset ‘Antique’ 285gsm paper. Limited to an edition of 50. Numbered and signed in pencil by the artist, Janet Tristram. Dimensions - Width: 28cm Height: 38cm

The story behind the ‘Songs of Somerset’ prints - This collection of block prints (originally conceived for the linings of our ‘Song Coats’) celebrates the exploits of song-hunter Cecil J Sharp in 1903. Over the course of a few years, Sharp roamed Somerset on his humble bicycle, amassing more than 1,600 songs from 350 singers. His quest took the form of exploration. A diary entry reads:

‘Folk-song takes refuge in the poor cottages and outlying hamlets. It harbours in the heathen kingdoms and the wilder parts. It is a treasure to be sought and found in nooks and corners...’

Sharp understood that these songs wove generations together, and bestowed on folk a sense of identity and belonging. They were among the most intimate possessions of the poor. He wrote:

They come out very shyly, late at night, and are heard when the gentry have gone to bed, when the barrack-room has exhausted its Music-Hall menu.’

Sharp’s objective was preservation, and he recorded both lyrics and melodies expertly - his only tools a pencil and a well-trained ear. Many of the songs tell fanciful and peculiar stories - some dark, some light - providing us, the artists, with an abundance of rich imagery to interpret. We conceived and carved around twenty new blocks, the fruit of which you have before you. 

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