The First American
Environmental Protest Song?

MIDI - "Woodman Spare That Tree!"
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This is a Standard MIDI file.


Woodman Spare That Tree!

This may well be one of the first environmental protest songs ever written. This song was very popular for its time.

"Woodman! Spare That Tree!" (1837)
A Ballad

The words were taken from a poem published in the New York Mirror,
written by George Pope Morris, 1802-1864,
The music was composed by Henry Russell, 1812-1900.

1.
Woodman spare that tree!
Touch not a single bough;
In youth it sheltered me,
And I'll protect it now;
'Twas my fore father's hand
That placed it near the cot,
There, woodman, let it stand,
Thy axe shall harm it not!


2.
That old familiar tree,
Whose glory and renown
Are spread o'er land and sea,
And wouldst thou hack it down?
Woodman, forbear thy stroke!
Cut not its earth, bound ties;
Oh! spare that ag-ed oak
Now towering to the skies!

3.
When but a idle boy
I sought its grateful shade;
In all their gushing joy
Here, too, my sisters played.
My mother kiss'd me here;
My father press'd my hand--
Forgive this foolish tear,
But let that old oak stand!

4.
My heart-strings round thee cling,
Close as thy bark, old friend!
Here shall the wild-bird sing,
And still thy branches bend.
Old tree! the storm still brave!
And, woodman, leave the spot;
While I've a hand to save,
Thy axe shall harm it not.

This poem and song and the conservation sentiments they embodied were in fact so popular (we know of at least 12 printed editions of the sheet music), that it spawned numerous other compositions and variations based on Russell's music.
For example, here is a MIDI of the "Woodman Spare That Tree Quickstep" composed by Alan Dodworth in 1848. Stay tuned for our next episode, where we will present the Woodman Spare That Tree Polka, and Variations On Woodman Spare That Tree.

The poem itself was so popular, that other composers also tried their hand at creating scores for the poetry. Here is the first part of a choral composition by W. J. Wakelam composed in 1840 for the poem Woodman Spare That Tree. I am still working on transcribing the rest of this unique work.

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