The Lark in the Clear Air

My informant is from England. He moved to the United States with my grandmother and my mother when my mother was 2. He grew up near London and still has a thick British accent, despite having now lived in the United States since the 1960s. When I go to his house to ask about folklore that he may have learned in England, anything a part of his history, he says, “Any folklore I know I have learned through listening to folk songs. Mostly, old English folk songs.” Music means everything to my grandmother and my informant. He excitedly takes me to his cabinet of CDs where he has a plethora of English and American folk CDs. This doesn’t surprise me in the slightest, because ever since I was little, I cannot remember a time when music wasn’t playing in this house. He wants to play them for me. I ask him to show me some of his favorites.

Me: “Is there one song in particular that you really love?”

Informant: “Greensleeves, is a very traditional old English song, probably 17th century. It’s been around forever and been put to music by lots of of different people…I suppose that is quite folksy….Oh this song, [ a song begins to play]… It sings about the things that these people did and how people were like. Some of the songs are about ordinary events. There is one song in here about traditions, how to approach a woman for her hand in marriage. A lot of them are very fun. This one, it’s called “The Girl I Left Behind Me,” and it’s a bout a soldier going to war and leaving a girl behind. Some of these songs are about events, like fairs… [A new song begins to play]… Oh this one is very lovely. Let’s have a listen, shall we?”


We sit and for the first few lines he is silent, then he joins in. My grandmother walks in and sits down. She begins to sing along as well.


 The Lark in the Clear Air

Dear thoughts are in my mind,

And my soul soars enchanted

As I hear the sweet lark sing

In the clear air of the day.

For a tender beaming smile

To my hope has been granted,

And tomorrow she shall hear

All my fond heart would say.


I shall tell her all my love,

And my soul’s adoration,

And I think she will hear me

And will not say me nay.

It is this that gives my soul

All its joyous elation

As I hear the sweet lark sing

In the clear air of the day.


This song was on his CD of Traditional English Folk Songs. It was so beautiful. The lyrics are simple– someone who wishes to tell a woman how he feels about her. He is inspired by the lark’s song to make this romantic gesture.