GD Display


Two pigeons flying high
Chinese vessel sailing by
Weeping Willow hanging or
Bridge with three men if not four
Chinese Temple here it stands
Seems to cover all the land
Apple tree with apples on
A pretty fence to end my song

To Orwell Today,

I am sending the Blue Willow Poem as I learned it from my Grandmother more than 60 years ago. Some differences, but I am sure the same poem.

Barbara Johnston

Greetings Barbara,

Was your grandmother par chance from England? Maybe if she was, she learned the poem there (the Blue Willow dish pattern had its origins in England) and when she moved to Tennessee she adapted it to fit the Tennesseans. Yours has got that little bit of a country feel to it, like the Tennessee Bird Walk song.

Actually, I just did a search to find some history on the Blue Willow dishes and I came across the following website which quotes the line "a bridge with either two or three" which is similar to a line in your grandmother's version, ie "bridge with three men if not four":

ANTIQUE ENGLISH VICTORIAN BLUE WILLOW: "The blue willow pattern has been used extensively by potters all over the world, shortly after transfer printing was first developed. It is a Chinoiserie design containing a willow tree, a temple, two love birds in flight, a bridge with either two or three people crossing it, and a boat set in an Asian, exotic or distant land. Antique blue willow probably originated with Thomas Minton c1780 for the Caughley pottery in Shropshire, England. The blue willow design was extensively used in Staffordshire, and eventually it was even copied in China. Several stories have been invented attempting to explain the significance of this pattern. One myth says that two lovers are running across the bridge fleeing from a disapproving father. The lovers then escape in a boat to an island. The blue willow design is still being used today."

So maybe your Grandmother and my Grandmother were adapting their poems from the original Blue Willow poem which has yet to be found.

All the best,
Jackie Jura

PS - The Blue Willow pattern having had its origins in Shropshire is a bit Orwellian because as a boy Orwell used to spend summer holidays in Shropshire with his friend Jacintha Buddicom. And at Eton he was famous for knowing many of the poems from A SHROPSHIRE LAD off by heart (he was a great Housman fan).

A. E. Housman and A SHROPSHIRE LAD

Jackie Jura
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