‘The sweet Queen of May’

Bonfield Block-Printers

‘The sweet Queen of May’
  • £145.00

This image is summoned from the old, melodious and haunting Somerset song, ‘As I walked through the Meadows’. It tells the tale of a boy who comes across a country maid - ‘so pretty, so dapper and pert’ - wandering the Spring fields. Although just a young, innocent girl, she is the embodiment of all that is natural, bountiful and good - a Ceres, a goddess to him. He crowns her ‘the sweet Queen of May’.

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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