The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #46310 Message #3889304
Posted By: Brian Peters
19-Nov-17 - 10:45 AM
Thread Name: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
I've just checked back on the MacKenzie (1909?) version from Nova Scotia. There are several differences from Sharp / Donald: the victim is female, not male; she asks her mother, not her father, to 'pity my case'; there's an additional verse beginning 'once on the street I used to look handsome'.
There are sufficient similarities to suggest the two variants arose from the same basic stock, but probably at more than one degree of separation. This again militates against transmission between Virginia and Nova Scotia. It also rather argues against another possibility (I'm surprised this one hasn't been advanced yet) that the song was included in some 19th Century songbook (like 'Forget-me-Not', though it doesn't seem to be in there), which was very probably a source for a few of the songs Sharp collected.
Lighter, you're probably right, but I'm still digging.