We have thoroughly enjoyed a family outing to Micheldever Wood, Hampshire. The Wood, between our home town and the county town of Winchester, is famed for the beautiful carpets of bluebells spread out below a canopy of fresh green beech leaves.
Walking through the bluebells brought to mind the children’s song ‘In and out the dusty bluebells’.
The British Library has a short film clip dated from 1951 of children playing the circle game associated with the song.
Theories about the origins of the song are varied. The first documented record of it is from 1898 but the song must pre-date that by several if not many, many years. The song may have been a warning against wandering alone among enchanting bluebells as the magical beauty of the woods would rouse the Fairy King who spirited away trespassers. Alternatively the ‘master’ may have referenced the hiring fairs where labourers were employed for the year by a tap on the shoulder (although this type of hiring happened more usually in the Autumn rather than the Spring) or the ‘master’ may have been Death himself tapping his victims from behind – this could date the song back to the plagues of Medieval times. Strange how many of our seemingly innocent nursery rhymes and playground songs have originated from folklore or dark times in history. There is an interesting article about the myths surrounding bluebells on the History Girls website.
Thankfully we can use the gasp-out-loud beauty of bluebell woods to bring to mind the Creator, and enjoy the peace a simple colour palette infused with the hope of fresh beginnings brings to heart, mind and soul.