20th Nov 8.55
Agree that some people have used 'blanket' titles, as you say. Obviously not a mortal sin, but if you aren't aware of this, maybe because they aren't explicit, it can cause confusion, and I say this on the basis that I have been confused. It's a good point to flag up, as you did.
Another thing that can get confusing is when people don't specify whether they are referring to a tune or to words, or, perhaps to both. I think there is some confusion in discussion online (not necessarily this thread) because, I am realising, one and possibly more than one tune called "The Unfortunate Rake" was used for/with unrelated lyrics.
Nice point made above about uncertainty and the mystique of folk.
It is true that various unrelated songs end with funerals.
There are also some unrelated old songs about 'clap'. I think there was one in Samuel Pepys' collection of ballads. A US uni, forget which now, but it could be googled, has indexed these and digitised some.
At this point I will hazard a 'theory' as opposed to constitional scepticism, happy for it to be shredded, maybe we have so many late 19th century lock hospital songs because of the Contagious Diseases Acts, which were passed, I believe because the military was losing so many sick days to it. It was a big issue in the Crimean war. At first the laws allowing them to forcibly take in prostitutes only applied in selected towns with barracks, including I think, but this could be checked Cork and Dublin. I think there were some hospitals created at the time. I'm guessing most folk tried to buy over the counter quack cures,even if they were sure what they had. Hospital cost money and many would not let infectious people in. Not claiming the song did not exist prior to that, but it seems to have been printed all over at the
I conjecture only.
I wonder whether this would have been sung by the squaddies of those times, who no doubt sang all sorts when 'in their cups'?
Another marginal point is the pipe and drum: these were mainly battlefield signalling instruments, the pitches suitable to carry over noise. I know you get them in marching bands. I don't think you were allowed a military funeral for dying of the pox. Somebody mentioned the death march, and you guessed it, several composers wrote one.
I have certainly got some new and interesting ideas from this discussion.