The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #151087   Message #3596425
Posted By: Richie
29-Jan-14 - 12:31 AM
Thread Name: Origins: Child Ballads: US Versions Part 6
Subject: RE: Origins: Child Ballads: US Versions Part 6
I'm posting this from my website, see it here: http://www.bluegrassmessengers.com/the-mermaid--lewis-ma-c1808-kittredge-joafl.aspx

In 1913 JAFL Kittredge published what I believe is the earliest US version on record learned in 1808. It's very close to Child E (Motherwell c. 1824), which Francis Barton Gummere in 1907 (The Popular Ballad, page 125) called a burlesque. What Kittredge didn't know (he compared the first measure to Child A) was that the Lewis version's first two measures closely resemble the earliest version (not then known) "The Praise of Sailors" pre 1632:

As I lay musing in my bed,
    full warm, a well at ease,
I thought upon the lodging hard
    poore sailors have at Seas.

They bide it out with hunger and cold,
    and many a bitter blast,
And many a time constrain'd they are
    for to cut down their Mast.

This is a very significant comparison since I don't believe the first verses of "Praise of Sailors" have been known to be recovered. Here's the Lewis ballad:


3. THE MERMAID
The following fragmentary version of "The Mermaid" (Child, No. 289) I took down on January 4, 1878, from the recitation of Mrs. Sarah G. Lewis, who was born in Boston, Mass., in 1799, but lived most of her days in Sandwich and Barnstable. Mrs. Lewis thought she learned the song about 1808. The version is interesting because of its relation to Child's A in the first stanza. For a text from Missouri, contributed by Professor Belden, see this Journal, vol. xxv, pp. 176-177; for the tune (from Vermont) see Barry, this Journal, vol. xxii, p. 78. For broadside texts, see, for example, "Roxburghe Ballads" (ed. Ebsworth, viii, 446), Harvard College Library, 25242.4 (I, 207), 25242.17 (III, 36, 102, IV, 16, 147). The ballad is contained in "The Forget Me Not Songster" (New York, Nafis & Cornish), p. 79.

1. One night as I lay on my bed,
A-taking of my ease,
Thinking what a lodge the poor sailors have
While they are on the seas.

2. Sailors they go through hot and cold,
Through many a bitter blast,
And oftentimes they are obliged
To cut away the mast.

3. [Forgotten by the reciter.]

4. Up speaks up our captain so bold,
And a clever old man was he:
"I've got a wife in fair England,
And a widow I'm afraid she will be."

5. Up speaks up our mate so bold,
And a clever man was he:
"I've got a wife in fair Ireland town,
And a widow I'm afraid she will be."

6. Up speaks up our bos'n so bold,
And a clever fellow was he:
"I've got a wife in fair Ireland town,
And a widow I'm afraid she will be."

6. Up speaks up our bos'n so bold,
And a clever fellow was he:
"I've got a wife in fair Scotland,
And a widow I'm afraid she will be."

7. Up speaks up our little cabin-boy,
And a smart little fellow was he:
"I'm as sorry for my father and my mother too
As you are for your wives all three."

8. . . . . .
. . . . . . . . .
This goodly ship she did split,
And down to the bottom she did go.