The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #14485   Message #2153487
Posted By: GUEST,Seamus
20-Sep-07 - 12:08 PM
Thread Name: Lyr/Tune Add: Hurdyknute / Hardyknute
Subject: RE: LYR & MUS ADD: Hurdyknute - what date?
The well-described "dreary" Hardyknute (aka Battle of Largs), far from being an authentic period account of the battle of that name, is an old fake.

It was penned by Elizabeth Halket, Lady Wardlaw, (1677 -1727), the wife of Sir Henry Wardlaw of Pitrearie near Dunfermline. The ballad of Hardyknute, or the Battle of Largs, was, she claimed, mysteriously discovered in a vault near Dunfermline, but (as in so many cases!) no original manuscript ever appeared. The 1767 edition of Percy's Reliques ascribes the ballad to her.

Comparing it with genuine period pieces, like the songs on the battles of Harlaw and Otterburn, we see measurable differences in both quality and content. Both of those genuine pieces retell the events, participants, and times with a fair degree of accuracy (allowing for the inevitable biases and agendas). "Hardyknute" bears little, if any, relationship to the actual battle, except by chance in one or two particulars.

To be fair, forging antique ballads was apparently common practice in at least some Scottish literary circles for many years. In a later time, we see that many of Hogg's so-called "Jacobite Reliques" are pastiches at best, forgeries at worst ("Donald MacGillivray"), and Scott and Burns before Hogg were all guilty of "polishing" or even composing "ancient" songs.

While understandable from a poetic or musical perspective, it certainly makes the study of the songs and their times more difficult.

That said, the song is now over 250 years old, and as the facts of its authorship have been confused or forgotten, one could make a case for its inclusion on sites like this - even though its author was most certainly not part of the "folk tradition" - being a toff.

Hope this helps clarify the matter.