The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #64414   Message #1053065
Posted By: Malcolm Douglas
13-Nov-03 - 09:36 AM
Thread Name: Origins: Prince Heathen
Subject: RE: Origins: Prince Heathen
Child prints two texts (vol. II pp. 424-426); the first an eight-stanza garland text, The Disconsolate Lady (undated; the original is in The jovial rake's garland in the Douce collection, PP 164(18) at the Bodleian library; it was printed in Edinburgh) and the second, of 14 stanzas, from Peter Buchan's MSS (I, 97). Also referred to is a copy in Motherwell's MSS (p 665) which is derived from Buchan's. Child considered the B text to be "no doubt some stall-copy, reshaped from tradition". We should also remember that Buchan is not always above reproach where the authenticity of texts is concerned.

He makes no reference to analogues in other traditions. One further example has since come to light; a text from Bell Robertson of Aberdeenshire, which appears in The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection, VII, 461. There seems to be no record of any occurrence outside Scotland. I don't have vol. VII, but a look at the notes for the song may be helpful; perhaps Joe would oblige? I don't expect any revelations, though.

Much of the exotic feel of the song as Martin Carthy has re-shaped it probably lies in the melody and phrasing he uses; these are entirely his, however (there is no known traditional tune for the ballad) and need to be disregarded when looking for clues as to the song's past history. Encounters with Heathen Knights of one sort or another are not that uncommon in the ballads, and stories about them persisted -and were made- long after there were any left to encounter.

Finally, I should refer to the form of the song that Frankie Armstrong recorded. This appears to be a very free re-write of Martin Carthy's re-write, incorporating much material which does not appear in traditional versions. Perhaps some of it is adapted from Bell Robertson's text; we shall have to see. That notwithstanding, the Armstrong adaptation, though it tells us a lot about the ways in which the folk song revival has employed traditional material to new purposes, can tell us nothing about the history or antecedents of the ballad.