The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #168688   Message #4074773
Posted By: Brian Peters
08-Oct-20 - 02:18 PM
Thread Name: Twisted roots of John Barleycorn...
Subject: RE: Twisted roots of John Barleycorn...
Interesting blog, Black Acorn. I was intrigued by the comparison with Christ's passion, though in general I'm of the Steve Roud / Pete Wood opinion on the song. A couple of points:

Bert Lloyd was far more in thrall to Frazer's Golden Bough when he wrote 'The Singing Englishman', the full text of which can be found at the Musical Traditions site and is worth checking for the section on the 'Corn King' etc. He had backed off the whole witch-cult / paganism thing by the time he got round to 'Folk Song in England', presumably in a drive for greater credibility - not that FSE isn't still full of dodgy theories. And personally I wouldn't place too much reliance on 'Where is St George?'.

There's an interesting article by Andy Letcher of Telling the Bees, wearing his academic's hat, on Paganism and the British Folk Revival, available free at Academia, which discusses the importance of JB to neo-pagans, but is as sceptical as Roud about any actual pagan content. He mentions the Frost and fire sleeve notes too, though he doesn't seem to have twigged that Lloyd wrote them. I think he's right when he says that ‘traditional music in Britain is categorically not of pagan provenance’, but identifies a ‘need for that assumption to be true’.

Is Shepherd Haden's tune really 'Dives and Lazarus'? I can hear some similarities but they are not the same tune, whereas the other numerous examples of the D&L tune in traditional song generally conform to it much more closely. I did some research on the tunes for JB at one point, and was struck by how many quite different ones there were.

BTW (since you're welcoming sub-editing), your link to Pete Wood's page on MT is pointing the wrong way.