Won’t You Buy My Pretty Flowers?

Here is a new set of life model magic lantern slides I have just acquired. I love the twin perspectival vanishing points of the first painted backdrop, the photogrammed snow flurries in slide two, and the weirdly frozen Beckettian choreography of the passers-by in the final slide. They were made by Bamforth and Co after 1897 in the UK. The song originates from the US in 1877 and is by George W Persley, Arthur W French, George Clare. (Although interestingly it was re-published in 1887 under the names of the American stage actress Miss Jennie Calef and producer H. P. Danks, after they had used it in their play “Little Muffets” — a clear case of IP theft and copyright infringement.) Later Bamforth and Co. recycled the original shots as postcards with the choruses as printed captions. I’m looking forward to one day projecting these slides, perhaps life size and outside in an urban setting, accompanied by a singer, as part of our project Heritage in the Limelight: The Magic Lantern in Australia and the World.WYBMPF small 1

Underneath the gas light’s glitter,

Stands a fragile little girl;

Heedless of the night winds bitter,

As they round about her whirl.

While the thousands pass unheeding

In the evening’s waning hours;

Still she cries with tearful pleading,

Won’t you buy my pretty flowers?

Refrain.

There are many sad and weary

In this pleasant world of ours,

Crying in the night winds bitter.

Won’t you buy my pretty flowers?

WYBMPF small 2

Ever coming, ever going,

Men and women hurry by.

Heedless of the tear drops gleaming.

In her sad and wistful eyes.

While she stands there sadly sighing,

In the cold and dreary hours,

Listen to her sweet voice crying,

Won’t you buy my pretty flowers?

Refrain.

There are many sad and weary

In this pleasant world of ours,

Crying in the night winds bitter.

Won’t you buy my pretty flowers?

WYBMPF small 3

Not a loving word to cheer her.

From the passers by is heard;

Not a friend to linger near her,

With a heart by pity stirred.

On they rush the selfish thousands,

Seeking pleasure’s pleasant bowers;

None to hear with sad compassion,

Won’t you buy my pretty flowers?

Refrain.

There are many sad and weary

In this pleasant world of ours,

Crying in the night winds bitter.

Won’t you buy my pretty flowers?

3 thoughts on “Won’t You Buy My Pretty Flowers?

  1. I’m amazed to have found this. Lillian Calef (born Murphy; she and her sister Jennie performed under the name Calef as a result of the anti-Irish sentiments of their era) was my great-great-great grandmother. As an amateur songwriter myself, it’s troubling to learn of their apparent theft of this song from its true writers. I’ve romanticized a good deal of what I’ve learned about their careers. This is a tough one to do that with.

    Like

  2. I went back one generation too far– Lillian was actually my second great-grandmother, not third as I stated in my previous comment.

    Like

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