The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #66168   Message #3588887
Posted By: Reinhard
04-Jan-14 - 01:19 AM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: Geordie (from Sam Russell)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Geordie (from Sam Russell)
From the notes of "Virginia Traditions, Ballads from British Tradition", downloadable from Smithsonian Folkways:

4. As I Walked Over London's Bridge
[Geordie, Child 209]— S.F. “Sam” Russell, vocal.
Recorded in Marion [Smyth County], Virginia, November 13, 1936, by Sidney Robertson, 3:46.

"London's Bridge," often called "Geordie" or "Georgie" in folksong collections, has been collected in many sections of North America, but only sporadically in each locality. Davis, in both of his books, lists five examples, including one collected from Mr. Russell in 1932 and, except for minor verbal variations, sung exactly as it is sung here. All of Child's fourteen versions were collected in Scotland, including two broadside texts slightly different from the oral ones. All American versions are very similar and seem to be an amalgamation of both oral and printed versions. This joining is most evident in the ending; Child's oral versions spare Geordie's life, whereas in his broadside ones, he is hung despite his lover's attempts to buy his freedom. Some scholars feel that the "Georgie" of this song could actually be George Gordon, fourth Earl of Huntly, who was involved in a somewhat similar situation in 1554.

This ballad perfectly demonstrates the highly stylized language characteristic of ballad poetry. In much ballad poetry a white horse is a "milk white steed"; blond hair becomes "long yellow locks"; and a lover is one's "own true love." The ballad tune is also an excellent example of a very early tune type. It is pentatonic, rhythmically loose, and—as described by E. C. Mead in More Traditional Ballads of Virginia—has a "beautiful flowing melodic line whose beauty lies largely in the 'non-harmonic notes of real melodic significance.' "

Sam Russell died in 1946 when he was about 89 years old. He worked as a carpenter and cabinetmaker, but is most well known among folklorists for his dulcimer making. Although he did play with a band made up of his son Joe on fiddle, grandson Robert on guitar, and Joe's brother-in-law Worley Rolling on banjo, he more often played and sang by himself. He played at many festivals in the 1930s, most notably at the Yorktown Centennial and for Eleanor Roosevelt at the White Top festival where. incidentally, he got most of the orders for his dulcimers. He was born in Grayson County, but moved to the Marion area as a young man shortly after his marriage. He learned much of his music from his mother and father and, in addition to the dulcimer, played the fiddle and fife.

As I walked over London's Bridge
So early in the morning,
I overheard some fair one say
Lord, spare me the life of Georgie.
I overheard some fair one say
Lord, spare me the life of Georgie.

Go saddle and bridle my milk-white steed
Go saddle and bridle him quickly,
I ride away to the lone castle there
And pleading for the life of Georgie.
I ride away to the lone castle there
And pleading for the life of Georgie.

She rode all day and she rode all night
Till taken wet and weary,
A-combing back her long yellow locks
A-pleading for the life of Georgie.
A-combing back her long yellow locks
A-pleading for the life of Georgie.

And out of her pocket drew a purse of gold
The like I never saw any,
Saying, “lawyers, lawyers, come see yourselves
And spare me the life of Georgie.”
Saying, “lawyers, lawyers, come see yourselves
And spare me the life of Georgie.”

Georgie was a-standing by
Saying, “I've never killed anybody,
But I stole sixteen of the king's white steeds
And sold them in Gowandy.
But I stole sixteen of the king's white steeds
And sold them in Gowandy.”

The oldest lawyer at the bar
Saying, “George, I'm sorry for you,
That your own confession has condemned you to die,
May the Lord have mercy on you.
That your own confession has condemned you to die,
May the Lord have mercy on you.”

As George was walking up through the streets
He bid farewell to many,
He bid farewell to his own true love
Which grieved him worse than any.
He bid farewell to his own true love
Which grieved him worse than any.

George was hung with a golden chain
The like I never saw any,
Because he came of the royal race
And courted a virtuous lady.
Because he came of the royal race
And courted a virtuous lady.

I wish I was on yonder's hill
Where kisses I've had many,
My sword and pistol all on my side
And fight for the life of Georgie.
My sword and pistol all on my side
And fight for the life of Georgie.