The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #89022 Message #1678872
Posted By: Malcolm Douglas
25-Feb-06 - 06:37 PM
Thread Name: Origins: The Golden Glove (Dog and Gun)
Subject: RE: Origins: The Golden Glove (Dog and Gun)
Now, back to Jon's comments.
My understanding is that the academic default position nowadays would usually be a cautious one. Students of folksong in the early years of the 20th century were still heavily influenced by Fraser (for example) and very ready to read all manner of significance into the songs they discovered; commentary on such as The Streams of Lovely Nancy and The Bold Fisherman in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society became positively arcane. It's all thoroughly interesting, and of course there might be echoes in the former of a hymn to the Virgin Mary, or in the latter of Gnostic symbolism; but there are more obvious explanations, and I'd tend to place more trust in analysis that starts from the cultural context in which the songs were actually found. See, for a good example of that approach, Roger de V Renwick, English Folk Poetry (London: Batsford, 1980) chapter 1, 'The Bold Fisherman: Symbolism in English Traditional Folksong'. Renwick's take on the song is very different from Lucy Broadwood's, and, for me at least, far more convincing for concentrating on contextual evidence and involving no leaps of imagination.
Far less emphasis is placed nowadays on the question of antiquarian survivals; to an extent, perhaps, that's the result of the early folklorists having gone rather over the top in that direction. That doesn't mean that such things aren't there at all, but we are probably best off looking closer to home when seeking to understand folksong; much of the time that may tell us all we need to know.
I don't know whether or not The Golden Glove has ever been found as a folktale, or whether it may derive in part from one. It's perfectly possible; the broadside writers drew on any source that came to hand for their material. I wish that Dixon had said more about that alleged "Elizabethan incident". For what it's worth, there do seem to be a few variants on the Cinderella group of stories in which the lost shoe is replaced by a golden glove. Evidently John Clare knew one:
The golden glove wi fingers small
She lost while dancing in the hall
That was on every finger tryd
And fitted hers and none beside
When Cinderella soon as seen
Was woo'd and won and made a queen.
From The Shepherd's Calendar, quoted in Russell A. Peck's Cinderella Bibliography:
Sorry for mis-quoting your "magical" as "mystical", incidentally. Although I doubt any magical undertone here, I daresay that -if John Clare's example was at all widespread- a glove in a story of this sort might reasonably be expected to be golden. We'd need to know a fair bit more about contemporary usage before we could do more than just guess, though. Barre Toelken has devoted a whole book to the examination of cultural context and assumptions in folksong: Morning Dew and Roses: Nuance, Metaphor, and Meaning in Folksongs (Urban and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1995): although it concentrates on erotic imagery, the same principles are applicable to other areas.
On the subject of female cross-dressing in folksong (and, for that matter, in all sorts of literature) you'd find Dianne Dugaw's Warrior Women and Popular Balladry 1650 - 1850 (Cambridge University Press, 1989; since re-printed) very interesting if you haven't already read it. The context she details for the whole thing, though she doesn't deal with such songs as The Golden Glove or Sovay, is so extensive that I'm sure you'll see why I don't think that we need to go back to earlier "Lord of Misrule" customs in order to understand the appeal of this song: and, in some degree, the sociological resonances that it may have evoked or exploited.