The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #15944   Message #3230184
Posted By: Artful Codger
27-Sep-11 - 05:57 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Req/ADD: Winter / When the Trees Are All Bare
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Trees Are All Bare
Modern sensibilities applied anachronistically to earlier times. My dear, you'd have a heydey attempting to expung all the objectionable sentiments (by modern standards) embedded in old songs of every stripe, producing Disney-McDonald's bastardizations of the originals by your "folk process." Hunting songs would be about camera safaris, murder ballads would end with prisoners getting time-outs, and your sailors would spend their sleepovers with buxom dames having pillow fights and telling ghost stories with candles held under their chins. Perhaps you were the one who made the dog sit on the tucker box. You can take your "icky" reactions and impel them with force into the deep recess between your nether fleshy protuberances.

Consider: it may just have been the images which skirted propriety which originally kept this poem from quickly fading into obscurity, as did the vast majority of "proper" poems about nymphs a-play, balmy zephyrs, verdant hills and wandering streams that nowadays make our digestive tracts involuntarily heave with sucrose poisoning when we have the misfortune to encounter them.

To interpret the stanza as you did reflects more about the contortions of your mind than about the views or character of either the author or his onlooking rustics, as actually presented in the poem. Turn on your television--for example, to "America's Funniest Home Videos"--and you'll see that our attitudes haven't really evolved; if anything, the reverse: we laugh outright when people fall on their asses and we leer when people have wardrobe dysfunctions. Why blame the messenger? Winter reminds one of ice; ice reminds one of people slipping and falling; Brerewood only described what must've happened quite commonly, given the dress of the day. You say "dirty old man", but what can we say about our modern character when half our TV shows during "prime time" gratuitously depict couples fornicating, and actresses have to wear a D cup and Botox their lips to stay in work? Your outrage seems grossly misdirected, if you're condemning a poem nearly 300 years old instead of railing against the sexploitation of today.

As for the much touted (undeservedly) folk process, its tendency to devolve rather than improve well-crafted songs is reflected in the Coppers' version. While the original poetry does leave room for improvement as a song text, this improvement wasn't realized through the application of the "folk process"; we were left with just bits of the original text--not exactly the best bits--supplemented by mediocre filler, badly rhymed. Comparing the Lockhart and Coppers tunes, the latter may have a bit more interesting pattern, with the repeated half-line, and the former may sound too arty to satisfy our ears now (if we're expecting "folk"), but the Lockhart tune is by far the more interesting and musical one overall. The folk process, on the whole, does not have an unerring ear for quality, and only tends toward improvement when the original is substandard; otherwise, it tends toward mediocrity, as in this case.

I realize you only cited this as an isolated case of improvement (according to your beliefs), but it's one of my pet peeves when people hype the "folk process"; it reminds me of religious people touting "intelligent design" as if it were some rational argument or fact rather than a widespread superstition unsupported by the real evidence.