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Friday, August 26, 2022

Lindsay - The Song That Traveled - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

 This Saturday, August 27th, the last Saturday in August is

a day that began in 2013 with the idea, "What if for one day everything stopped... And we all just listened to the music?"  You really don't have to be so formal as to register, but if you want some of the program's music videos, to register, or any of the related products (t-shirts, children's book, free graphics, and more), or maybe you just want to enjoy music go to

Often I like to include music in my storytelling.  I especially enjoy getting my audience to participate in my programs, so an easy to learn musical refrain is perfect!  Today's story has exactly that from the aptly titled book, The Storyteller, by early promoter of the Kindergarten movement and children's book author, Maud Lindsay.  The entire book can be found on Project Gutenberg for even more.

One quick note, Lindsay uses the old name of "chapman" and explains in a footnote that it means "peddlar."  Nowadays saying someone is a peddlar might leave younger audiences thinking of someone on a bicycle.  I'd prefer to call him a "traveling salesman", even though there aren't many nowadays, as  it explains what he does for a living.  I would also first ask if anybody is named or knows somebody named Chapman.  The meaning of last names is fascinating!  Never knew before this about Chapman.


One day when all the world was gay with spring a king stood at a window of his palace and looked far out over his kingdom. And because his land was fair to see, and he was a young king, and his heart was happy, he made a song for himself and sang it loud and merrily:

"The hawthorn's white, the sun is bright, And blue the cloudless sky; And not a bird that sings in spring Is happier than I, than I, Is happier than I."

Now it chanced that a ploughboy at work in a field hard by the palace heard the king's song and caught the words and the air of it.

He was young and happy and as he followed his plough across the dewy field, and thought of the corn that would grow, by and by, in the furrows it made, and of his little black and white pig that would feed and grow fat on the corn, he sang:

"The hawthorn's white, the sun is bright, And blue the cloudless sky; And not a bird that sings in spring Is happier than I, than I, Is happier than I."

"A right merry song, Robin Ploughboy," called the goose-girl who tended the farmer's geese in the next field; and she leaned on the fence that divided the two, and sang with him, for she was as happy a lass as ever lived in the king's country.

The farmer's wife had given her a goose for her very own that day, and the goose had made a nest in the alder bushes. There was already one egg in it and soon there would be more. Then she would send them to market; and when they were sold she would buy a ribbon for her hair. It was no wonder that she felt like singing:

"The hawthorn's white, the sun is bright, And blue the cloudless sky; And not a bird that sings in spring Is happier than I, than I, Is happier than I." 















The chapman,from whom she bought her ribbon in all good time, learned the king's song from her; and as he trudged along the king's highway with his pack upon his back he, too, sang it; for there is no better weather for peddling or singing, either, than that which comes in the spring.

A soldier just home from the wars, and glad enough to be there, had the song from the chapman; and in turn he taught it to a sailor who took it to sea with him.

The sailor was going to the far countries, but if all went well with his ship, and with him, he would be at home in time to see the hawthorn bloom in his mother's yard another year and another spring.

He kept the song in his heart for a year and a day, and then, because nothing had gone amiss and he was homeward bound, he sang it, too:

"The hawthorn's white, the sun is bright, And blue the cloudless sky; And not a bird that sings in spring Is happier than I, than I, Is happier than I."

On the sailor's ship there was a minstrel bound for the king's court to sing on May Day; and the minstrel learned the song from the sailor.

He was a young minstrel and very proud to sing at the king's festival, so when it was his turn and he stood before the throne he could think of no better song to sing than:

"The hawthorn's white, the sun is bright, And blue the cloudless sky; And not a bird that sings in spring Is happier than I, than I, Is happier than I."

Now the king had been so busy about the affairs of his kingdom deciding this question and that, sending messengers here and there, and listening to one and another, as all kings must do, that he had forgotten the song which he had made. But when he heard the minstrel it all came back to him; and then he was puzzled. 

"Good minstrel," said he, "ten golden guineas I will give you for your song, and to the ten will add ten more if you will tell me where you learned it."

"An easy matter that," said the minstrel. "The sailor who rides in yon white ship in your harbor taught it to me."

"The soldier who even now stands guard at your majesty's gate gave me the song," said the sailor when he was asked.

"I had it from the chapman who travels on the king's highway," said the soldier.

"I heard the little goose-girl sing it," said the chapman when they found him.

"'Tis Robin Ploughboy's song," laughed the goose-girl. "Go ask him about it."

"The king sang it first and I next," said the ploughboy.

Then the king knew that he had made a good song that everybody with a happy heart might sing; and because he was glad of this, he stood at his window and sang again:


Lindsay started as a music teacher, so this story fits her so well, too.  It also helps as once again the song travels.

Have fun with music and story on or off the porch!


This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories.  

At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my regular posting of a research project here.  (Don't worry, this isn't dry research, my research is always geared towards future storytelling to an audience.)  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my other postings as often as I can manage it.

Other Public Domain story resources I recommend-

  • There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, maybe none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I have long recommended it and continue to do so.  He has loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so you can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression you like by pressing one key.

  • You may have noticed I'm no longer certain Dr. Perez has the largest database, although his offering the Motif Index certainly qualifies for those of us seeking specific types of stories.  There's another site, FairyTalez claiming to be the largest, with "over 2000 fairy tales, folktales, and fables" and they are "fully optimized for phones, tablets, and PCs", free and presented without ads.
    Between those two sites, there is much for story-lovers, but as they say in infomercials, "Wait, there's more!"

The email list for storytellers, Storytell, discussed Online Story Sources and came up with these additional suggestions:        

         - David K. Brown -

         - Richard Martin -

         - Spirit of Trees -

         - Story-Lovers - is now only accessible through the Wayback Machine, described below, but the late Jackie Baldwin's wonderful site lives on there, fully searchable manually (the Google search doesn't work), at .  It's not easy, but go to snapshot for October 22 2016  and you can click on SOS: Searching Out Stories to scroll down through the many story topics and click on the story topic that interests you.

       - World of Tales - 

           - Zalka Csenge Virag - doesn't give the actual stories, but her recommendations, working her way through each country on a continent, give excellent ideas for finding new books and stories to love and tell.

You're going to find many of the links on these sites have gone down, BUT go to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to find some of these old links.  Tim's site, for example, is so huge probably updating it would be a full-time job.  In the case of Story-Lovers, it's great that Jackie Baldwin set it up to stay online as long as it did after she could no longer maintain it.  Possibly searches maintained it.  Unfortunately Storytell list member, Papa Joe is on both Tim Sheppard's site and Story-Lovers, but he no longer maintains his old Papa Joe's Traveling Storytelling Show website and his Library (something you want to see!) is now only on the Wayback Machine.  It took some patience working back through claims of snapshots but finally in December of 2006 it appears!

    Somebody as of this writing whose stories can still be found by his website is the late Chuck Larkin -  I prefer to list these sites by their complete address so they can be found by the Wayback Machine, a.k.a., when that becomes the only way to find them.

You can see why I recommend these to you. 

Have fun discovering even more stories

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