I Will Not Be Another Flower Picked For My Beauty The Wild Wood Flower – A Great American Classic, But What Does it Mean?

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The Wild Wood Flower – A Great American Classic, But What Does it Mean?

I will braid the curls in the middle of the curls

My raven black hair,

Lilies fade so

And the roses are so beautiful.

Without a doubt, one of the most charming, intriguing, and catchy early American folk songs and poems is The Wildwood Flower. His terrible story has captured the fascination and devotion of countless thousands of people. The main feature of its fascination and staying power lies in the fact that it is a puzzle that has never been solved. Clearly, as the song develops, Wildwood Flower is the girl left behind, but what is the meaning of the other metaphors and symbols embedded in this classic?

As the heartbroken lover sits alone in the wooded valley that was once their meeting place, she deliberately winds strands of her raven-black hair around her fingers. That image is clear enough, but then the lyrics become unclear. Are lilies of the valley flowers or are they a metaphor for something else? And what do roses, myrtle and pale amanita with bright blue eyes mean? It is obvious to the discerning reader or listener that something other than the literal is intended here. Amanita is a deadly poisonous toadstool known as the death chrysalis. He doesn’t have bright blue eyes. And what can be said about the rest of the verses? Is it just lamentation and fantasy that he tries to console himself with in his broken heart and loneliness; or is it the discovery of a clever plot to take revenge on this opportunistic slob who compromised her and then lost interest?

I’m going to offer some thoughts on what this fascinating story tells me, but before I do, I want to preface it with some realities about the times it happened and the situations like this. In the lonely forests of early America, opportunities for romance and a future didn’t come along very often. Besides, in the time in which this poem was written, a girl who had lost her virtue had a greatly reduced chance of finding marriage and happiness with a respectable man. Lying to a young woman, telling her you loved her, seducing her, then walking away and leaving her was almost a death sentence. The hatred and vindictiveness that eventually arose from those numb broken hearts often resulted in the death of the perpetrator. There are many such stories that have taken root as legends from rural areas of early America. There are Frankie and Johnny, Banks of the Ohio, Barbara Allen and many others where abandoned love and betrayal resulted in the death of the perpetrator. Having said that, I want to give you my version of the meaning of this inscrutable story.

It is obvious that I do not have any special knowledge and what I am going to say is nothing more than my own opinion. It is not offered to contradict anyone else’s conclusions, to invade the sanctuary that may have been built in anyone’s mind about this gruesome story, or to offend anyone in any way. That’s just my take on what’s going on here.

I will braid the curls in the middle of the curls

My raven black hair,

Lilies fade so

And roses so beautiful,

Myrtle so bright

With an emerald hue,

And pale amanita

With light blue eyes.

The girl sits, probably together, in the wooded valley where she met her lover, where she succumbed to his lies about love and marriage and where she lost her virtue. The last line of verse 3 reveals that she is a frail girl and not a physical beauty, but she has some charms. He has raven black hair, which he twirls absently but aggressively around his fingers. The Song of Songs and other historical literature lay the foundation for the conclusion that the lilies are her breasts. The roses are her glowing red cheeks, now glowing not with love and excitement as in verse 2, but in this case with anger and pain. Myrtle is dark green eyelashes over her eyes, and pale amanita is a ghostly white face, colorless with rage and hatred (death hood), from which bright blue eyes blaze as if a scene she imagines in her mind will appear before her now in the valley.

2.

I’ll sing and I’ll dance,

My laughter will be merry;

I will stop this wild cry –

drive away sadness,

Now my heart is breaking,

They’ll never know

That name of his made me shiver

And my pale cheeks to glow.

The girl struggled with a broken heart and pain until her tears dried up. Now the desperate but futile hope that he would return to her faded. Instead, a plan for revenge began to form. First of all, she needs to stop acting like she cares. She must come to the party, throw herself into the game, charm every man she can and make herself the object of discussion and ambition. It will all be part of her plot to get revenge on him for what he did to her, but he must never find out. She has to make him believe that she doesn’t care about him more than he cares about her and that he is just another of her love affairs.

3.

I will never think of him…

I’ll be wild gay,

I will enchant every heart,

And I’ll rock the crowd,

I will live to see him again,

You lament the dark hour

When he won, then neglected,

Fragile wild flower.

Until the trap is ready to spring, she must put him out of her mind and commit to her plan. She will let her hair down and be the life of the party. She will play mistress to every man she manages to charm. Why not? What does she have to lose now? But it will be an act, not the real desires of her heart. The purpose is to make him jealous. Young people like him are selfish and possessive. There will come a time when he will start to wonder why he left and eventually he will take the bait and come back to her. When he does, their meeting place will not be a ballroom but once again the wild forest valley where he broke her heart and ruined her life. Her plan will work and he will return, but he will never leave her again. Once she puts him under her spell, the deadly hood will consume him and take his life.

4.

He told me he loved me,

And promised to love,

Through sickness and misfortune,

All others above,

Another conquered it;

Ah, woe to say;

He left me in silence –

not a word of farewell.

As the girl sits in the wild forest and thinks about her drastic plan, she begins to rationalize. It is his fault; not hers. He told her he loved her and she believed him or she would never have surrendered to him. He spoke of love and lifelong commitment and was so convincing. He callously took her life and future to fulfill his lust and greed. He crushed her dreams and high hopes for a husband, home and family, then left without even a “goodbye”.

5.

He taught me to love him,

He called me his flower

It blossomed for him

Brighter every hour;

But I woke up from my dream,

My idol was clay;

My visions of love

They all faded.

An intimate marital relationship is clearly indicated here. No girl should be “taught” how to have feelings of love and loyalty. The sweet intimacy that should have belonged only to her soul mate was given to this cheater. He told her the things she wanted to hear. “She was what he had always wanted and lived for. She was his magnificent forest flower that opened bigger and brighter flowers every hour.”

But then the dream vanished in the harsh light of reality. It was all a lie. Her miraculous idol was nothing more than a pile of dirt. He left, and with him her hopes for a happy future. He killed her, and now she had a plot to get revenge. It was justified; what he did to her, she will do to him.

Can this fragile country girl really achieve her revenge plan? Did her wild plan stand a chance of success? Was she another Frankie with a gun behind her back? Who knows? And for the narrative, it doesn’t matter. She is a broken, abandoned and heartbroken village maid who has been used and discarded; and she desperately tries to survive. She seeks satisfaction for the evil that was done to her. She will make him pay; he has to pay. If nothing else, it all played out before her in the meadow today as she sat as she had last seen him, twirling her raven-black hair vigorously around his long white fingers and seeking solace in feelings of revenge.

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