The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #46310   Message #3888695
Posted By: GUEST,Karen
15-Nov-17 - 08:35 AM
Thread Name: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
Hello Lighter

Very good point to compare tune of My Jewel My Joy with the old tune called 'The Unfortunate Rake'. Wish I had thought of that. But not using the Lloyd version from the Folkways LP. Because Lloyd is quite explicit that he was using the My Jewel My Joy song, claiming that it had some similarities with some US version (but it hasn't to my eyes or ears). He isn't using an old tune called 'The Unfortunate Rake'.

As for odd tune names, I always thought The Rakes of Mallow was an odd name, especially since as a child mallow to me meant marshmallow so I thought it must be about sweeties or candy! Weirdly I used to play this tune without knowing its name. That's 'folk' transmission I guess. There appear to be a number of songs with 'rake' in the title; not sure how traditional these are : Rakes of Limerick? Rakes of Kildaire? Stuff about 'rakes' is all over the place: Hogarth's Rake's Progress was printed about 1735. There's a song called 'The Rakish Young Fellow' about a soldier whose fighting days are over, but no hints at all about venereal disease, with funeral request. 19c printed in Liverpool, England.

So for me, not a surprise that the idea of an unfortunate rake might crop up in several contexts: it was part of the culture of the day.

In case you are interested, the earliest reference I have found which suggests that the tune The Unfortunate Rake might originally have gone with the words of The Unfortunate Lad is 1904, is an EFFS article Vol 1 No 5 pages 228-257. The article is about a song called The Unfortunate Lad, the same title as used on the 19th century broadsheets. The author refers to those broadsheets, but has one with no printers name on. This must be the article Lloyd referred to in his early article, when he did not know the name of the printer, which had had found out by the second article. As you may know, broadsheets were printed without tunes in the 19th century. The author or editor comments that the broadside "might" have been sung to the tune The Unfortunate Rake as in Crosby's Repository, printed 1908 and in volume 2 of Holden's Irish airs. So all we have to do is locate those volumes.   

On My Jewel My Joy, might be, might be, yes. But this is tenuous guess work, and Forde's informant would have had to have remembered it very badly, since in his version the final verse is addressed to a loved one (my jewel, my joy). On any scenario I can think of this is unlikely if he is dying of venereal disease, whether or not she gave it to him. It seems more likely, I think, if you wear 'songs with funeral requests must be about venereal disease' blinkers mentally, but there were a number of different sorts of songs which ended with funeral requests. There are several about a pregnant deserted woman wishing for death. Others, sometimes called 'Goodnight' or 'neck' ballads about condemned highwaymen, a common topic for song, as public hangings were lively social events in London. I found an example of a sad song with funeral request in Shakespeare, again, nothing to do with venereal disease, just a depressed song by somebody very down in the dumps.

Take off the blinkers and think in terms of this wider context, I suggest, and who knows which of these various groups of songs My Jewel may have been in originally?

Interesting discussion. Thanks to all.