The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #141964   Message #3291752
Posted By: John Minear
17-Jan-12 - 05:36 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: Demon Lover in New England?
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Demon Lover in New England?
In a footnote to our ongoing discussion, I would like to add a suggested correction to one conclusion that Heylin draws. In this section, Heylin is discussing an important text from Virginia, collected by Winston Wilkinson from Miss Tyrah Lam of Elkton, Virginia in 1935. He suggests that this text is an important link between the English broadside and a separate English oral tradition:

"Though Clay Walters' rendition [from Kentucky] also includes two of the three verses in De Marsan not in Diverting Songs, it omits any reference to the "banks of Italy." A complete text containing all three 'orally-acquired' verses - drawn from a stream independent of either broadside - has been collected in twentieth century America. It suggests that a collision between (a derivative of) the English broadside and an entirely separate British oral tradition - resulting in the De Marsan derivative - occured in America before any naturalizing process had taken hold. This rare example of a British undercoat intact can be found in Winston Wilkinson's manuscript, housed at the University of Virginia. Collected by Mr. Wilkinson himself from a Miss Tyrah Lam in Elkton, Virginia in 1935, eight of the first eleven verses accord with the first eight verses of De Marsan. However, verse five preserves our banks of Italy:

If you will leave your house carpenter,
And go along with me.
I'll take you where the grass grows green,
On the banks of sweet Italy.15

The denouement, though, entirely omits the moralizing coda, concluding with the increasingly familiar visions of heaven and hell: (vss. 12 & 13)

What hills, what hills, my false true love,
What hills so black and blue?
The hills you see are the hills of Hell,
Awaiting both me and you.

What hills, what hills, my false true love,
What hills so white as snow?
The hills you see are the hills of Heaven,
Where you and I can't go.16

The reader may have started to think that there is nothing unusual about the hills' appearance in American tradition. Not so, my friend. Of the 86 versions in Bronson that qualify as more than fragments, just 14 feature these verses, barely more than those featuring "the banks of Italy."

The Lam text is central to any understanding of the relationship between the American 'House Carpenter' and its British parent. Though verses five and eight correspond to two of the three De Marsan verses unreplicated by the earlier English broadside, the reference to "the banks of sweet Italy" confirms a source preceding the De Marsan transliteration. The surely symbolic couplet, "She turned herself three times around/ And looked at her babies three," otherwise unreplicated in American tradition, suggests perhaps an Old World superstition designed to ward off evil. The reference in the third verse to having "forsaken those crowns of gold," may occur in A Collection Of Diverting Songs but it also crops up in Scottish oral tradition - in Motherwell (Child E), as "I refused the crown of gold," and in Buchan (Child C), as "I despised the crown o' gold," while the uniquely English description of golden slippers and gilded boats remains absent.

What we have in Lam are three verses that cannot be traced to either broadside - yet also occur in Walters' and Dylan's renditions - integrated into a version containing nine of the De Marsan verses. The similarities between Lam's and Dylan's renditions are striking (all of Dylan's ten verses have their equivalent here, save for his attack of amnesia at the end of verse six), though Lam has lost the anachronistic "fee" and Dylan has not. But it is unlikely Dylan had recourse to a direct derivative of Lam. In Lam's rendition the otherworldy status of the "false true love" (an oxymoron in the true sense) remains implicit at song's end, nor does Dylan provide an equivalent to Lam's second verse, which yields another core constituent of the ballad's most ancient tradition:

O hold your tongue of your former vows,
For they'll bring bitter strifes.
O hold your tongue of your former vows,
For I have become a wife.17

This begs an obvious question: what former vows?"

These comments are helpful in understanding and giving some context to the Andrews/De Marsan broadside that we have been looking at. However, the correction I want to suggest has to do with Heylin's comment about Dylan not having had access to the Lam manuscript.

As Heylin says, this manuscript is a part of the Winston Wilkinson collection at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA. It is very probable that a friend of Dylan's not only had access to this collection and this version of "The House Carpenter," but worked with it. This was Paul Clayton (Worthington), who

"... attended the University of Virginia where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, with honors, in English Literature. He continued with his graduate studies at the University of Virginia, studying folklore under professor, folklorist, and archivist Arthur Kyle Davis, Jr." (University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Library Archives and Special Collections)

He lived in the mountains west of Charlottesville, up Brown's Cove, for a while. So it is entirely possible that Dylan did have access to this version through Paul Clayton Worthington. Here is a link that says a little bit more about Paul Clayton Worthington and Dylan.