The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #47060   Message #3880421
Posted By: GUEST,KH UK
05-Oct-17 - 06:30 AM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: Handful of Laurel
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Handful of Laurel
I have been tracing these words through supposed ancestors of The Streets of Loredo.

Before I go into detail, I think it may be useful if I point out that Laurel traditionally was a symbol of victory. Think of the wreaths of laurel of the Roman Emperors. So it gets associated with death in battle. But along comes Christianity and laurel gets associated with the Christian view that Christ won a victory over death on behalf of mankind. So Laurel gets associated with Christian death and burial. You will find lots of funeral businesses using the name to this day.

It is often said that an old version of The Unfortunate Rake includes the word 'laurel', confusion added to by A L Lloyd who put the words in his own version of the song.

The word laurel appears in the funeral request fragment that is the only verse quoted of a song called My Jewel My Joy. This song was collected by WIlliam Forde and published by Joyce. In my view, this song is not in the Rake cycle. It makes no sense to try to fit these words into that cycle, as the verse is addressed to a loved one, using the 'vocative' 'My jewel, my joy'. This is completely unlike the genre that came after the early Buck's Elegy/The Unfortunate Rake versions. One has to imagine that the jewel in question was the person passing by the hospital/pleasure garden, and that their loved one confessed to having venereal disease and then had the cheek to ask them to provide them with a respectful funeral. It makes more sense to assume that the song is one of those in which a dying soldier, or one who expects to die in war, asks for a respectful funeral. This is an extant genre, so this is a reasonable assumption.

People have jumped to the conclusion that this song is in the cycle since the days of Philips Barry, who as far as I am aware, was the first person to claim that it was.

Laurel does not appear in any of the 19th century broadsheet versions of Rake that I have seen, and is not quoted in being in a 19th century broadsheet by anybody reliable (and I am excluding those involved with A L Lloyd). You get perfumed flowers mentioned, but not laurel (which doesn't actually have much of a smell, even though it is used in cooking, being called bay leaves in the UK).

If you reads a liner note or other comment that this word does appear in a 19th century broadsheet, my advice is to ignore it/check whether any reference is cited in support of the idea. Also I suggest that liner notes published with commercial folk-lore revival LPs may not be reliable sources.

The 'laurel' wording in the final verse does appear in two versions of The Unfortunate Rake-type songs collected in the early 20th century and reported in the British EFSS/EFSD journals. One is a 1913 article on songs from different counties. The other is a 1937 article in the EFSD.

Bizarrely, the article calls both the songs listed here St James Hospital, though neither includes any reference to that place.

The key piece of data here is that this came out after Maud Karpeles and Cecil Sharp's visit to the Southern Appalachians. It was there that they found the words St James Hospital being sung, and they brought those words back across the Atlantic and attached them to similar songs that were found in England.

You will find wording about laurel in a version of The Unfortunate Rake sung by A L Lloyd and released on at least three different LPs.
The one edited by Goldstein states that Lloyd is singing a broadside version, but Lloyd is not. On one of the LPs featuring this song, he admits to having changed the words to some of the songs to suit himself, and you have to conclude that his version of the Rake is one such.

For example, there is no broadsheet version from England cited in any book I have seen (after months of research) or to be found on any internet broadside source that uses the words St James Hospital, which first appears in the Appalachians. Goldstein was either mistaken or romanticising to give a more 'authentic' feel to his product. In addition, Goldstein gives as 'references' a) an article by Lodewick which includes various misunderstandings and b) a piece written by A L Lloyd, who is not always reliable.

It is only when you trace the chain of references back, as I have done, that you being to see how a story about origins has been written, and almost become a piece of folklore in itself.