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The Poem

My Orcha'd in Lindèn Lea was written by Dorset writer and poet William Barnes (1801–1886). It was first published in 1859 in Hwomely Rhymes. A Second Collection of Poems in The Dorset Dialect (page 3), and was then entitled My Orchet in Linden Lea. The second edition of this book, published in 1863 as Poems of Rural Life in The Dorset Dialect. Second Collection, saw the title amended with "Orchet" respelled "Orcha'd" and a grave accent added to the "e" in "Linden". Some changes were also made to the poem itself, the two instances of the word "auver" in the first and second verses being replaced with the more conventional spelling of "over". However, although I have used the later version of the title on this page, I have decided to remain faithful to the original text of the poem.

My Orcha'd in Lindèn Lea

William Barnes

'Ithin the woodlands, flow'ry gleäded,
By the woak tree's mossy moot,
The sheenèn grass-bleädes, timber sheäded,
Now do quiver under voot;
An' birds do whissle auver head,
An' water's bubblèn in its bed,
An' there vor me the apple tree
Do leän down low in Linden Lea.

When leaves that leätley wer a-springèn
Now do feäde 'ithin the copse,
An' païnted birds do hush their zingèn
Up upon the timber's tops;
An' brown-leav'd fruit's a-turnèn red,
In cloudless zunsheen, auver head,
Wi' fruit vor me, the apple tree
Do leän down low in Linden Lea.

Let other vo'k meäke money vaster
In the aïr o' dark-room'd towns,
I don't dread a peevish meäster;
Though noo man do heed my frowns,
I be free to goo abrode,
Or teäke ageän my hwomeward road
To where, vor me, the apple tree
Do leän down low in Linden Lea.

The majority of the poem can be understood without needing prior knowledge of the Dorset dialect. Nevertheless, I have provided a "Common English" version ("translation" is too strong a word) on the following page, wherein I describe how, forty-two years after it was written, My Orcha'd in Lindèn Lea was Set To Music.

One word, however, deserves particular attention, not least as it appears in both versions of the poem. Many will be familiar with the word moot in its various modern usages, and would be forgiven for thinking that "the woak tree's mossy moot" was some sort of woodland meeting place. But this wasn't Barnes's intention at all. In the Dorset dialect (as defined by Barnes himself in A List of Some Dorset Words on pages 459–467 of Poems of Rural Life in The Dorset Dialect, the combined volume of his three collections of poems published in 1879) the word moot is actually taken to mean "the bottom and roots of a felled tree" – or simply, a tree-stump – a definition that fits much better with the natural tranquility evoked by Barnes's words.

It's quite possible that the Dorset dialect word moot has some cognation with the Anglo-Norman motte, meaning a mound of earth or a hillock. If we consider that as a tree grows, its roots might push the earth up around the base of the trunk, and that moss might then grow on that mound of raised earth and roots; and later, when the tree has been felled, that same moss might eventually expand to cover the rotting stump entirely; and that the stump and roots might finally decompose to become little more than a mossy mound of earth – it's perhaps easy to imagine how the word motte could develop into moot in a part of England with as strong a local accent as Dorset.

A personal connection

I have long felt a particular affinity towards the third verse of this poem, with its determination to plough one's own furrow, albeit at the expense of wealth and having someone to complain to. I find the concept of another person being my "master" and exercising any significant control over my life quite distasteful; and while I do appreciate the need for money in order to live, I've never felt compelled to "seek my fortune" but have instead been happy to live frugally and within my limited means.

I've also been fortunate to be able to enjoy the freedom to go where I please at my whim – although I rarely go very far, much preferring to stay close to home and sleep in my own bed. Home has always been of great importance to me, so in an attempt to forge a tenuous link between the house where I lived in Mangotsfield and this poem, I invite you to read about My Own Orchard at Lyndenlea.

Downloads and related links

Poems of Rural Life, in the Dorset Dialect: with a Dissertation and Glossary
The first book of Barnes's poems, published in 1844, complete with A Dissertation on the Dorset Dialect of the English Language that runs to 35 pages and a Glossary (throughout which are references back to the Dissertation) of 91 pages.
Hwomely Rhymes. A Second Collection of Poems in The Dorset Dialect
The second book in the series, published in 1859, which includes My Orchet in Linden Lea on page 3.
Poems of Rural Life in The Dorset Dialect. Second Collection
The second edition of Hwomely Rhymes, published in 1863, with amendments to our poem's title and text.
Poems of Rural Life in The Dorset Dialect. Third Collection
The third and final book in the series, first published in 1862.
Poems of Rural Life in The Dorset Dialect
This combined volume of all three collections in the series, published in June 1879, contains the same amendments to My Orcha'd in Lindèn Lea as the 1863 edition of the second collection, the poem appearing here on page 186. This volume also includes at the end A List of Some Dorset Words (pages 459–467) from which the above definition of "moot" was taken.
Poetry Connection: William Barnes
A short biography of William Barnes along with a selection of his poems, including his last in the Dorset dialect, The Geäte a-Vallen to, which he dictated shortly before his death in 1886. It was featured as their "Poem of the Day" on Monday, 30th June 2003, My Orcha'd in Lindèn Lea being similarly featured on Tuesday, 31st January 2006.