Roses and Thorns
For some reason I found myself humming this today. OK, it's Good Friday so very appropriate. Also, I recently went back to a school reunion, and I've been revisiting more of my schooldays via email (tales of weird physics experiments, the time one of my classmates hid in a cupboard and reappeared in mid-lesson, the time I and a colleague were briefly suspended for arranging a torrent of junk mail for an unpopular cleaner, that kind of stuff) - and I remember singing this in the school choir (it must have been for a Founder's Day service - just before Easter - and I was singing the bass line so early 1970s). I remember being very taken with the harmony - I wasn't terribly familiar with Tchaikovsky - and the last verse knocked me out. I also remember thinking the words were quite unusual too.
It seems to be number 5 in a set of sixteen Songs for Children. Interestingly, the lyrics to The Crown of Roses are a translation by Geoffrey Dearmer of the Russian of Aleksey Nikolayevich Pleshcheyev, but that in turn is a translation of a poem Roses and Thorns by Richard Henry Stoddard.
The young child Jesus had a garden,
Full of roses, rare and red:
And thrice a day he watered them,
To make a garland for his head.
When they were full-blown in the garden,
He called the Jewish children there,
And each did pluck himself a rose,
Until they stripped the garden bare.
"And now how will you make your garland?
For not a rose your path adorns."
"But you forget," he answered them,
"That you have left me still the thorns."
They took the thorns, and made a garland,
And placed it on his shining head;
And where the roses should have shone
Were little drops of blood instead!
And my reading of that Wikipedia page has guided me to a piece of music I had never heard before, but which will definitely take its place in my playlist:
It's only just occurred to me that the original English verse, unlike the retranslated one, emphasises the Jewishness of Christ's tormentors. As I don't read Russian I don't know whether the antisemitic trope was smoothed out when translating into or out of Russian. Thinking about it further, why is it considered antisemitic to state the fact - embarrassing though it may be - that it was Jews who were responsible for the mocking, torment and crucifixion of Jesus? Do people consider it anti-American to make any reference to Hiroshima and Nagasaki?