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The Cuckoo Bird question

DigiTrad:
CUCKOO SHE'S A PRETTY BIRD
CUCKOO'S A BONNY BIRD
CUCKOOS NEST
CUCKOO'S NEST
THE CUCKOO
THE CUCKOO (4)
THE CUCKOO IS A FUNNY BIRD
THE CUCKOO'S NEST
THE CUCKOO's NEST (2)
THE CUCKOO'S NEST (3)


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Tune Req: The Cuckoo Bird (Merle Watson) (1)


Jayto 13 Aug 08 - 12:19 PM
dick greenhaus 13 Aug 08 - 12:26 PM
Jayto 13 Aug 08 - 12:33 PM
Uncle_DaveO 13 Aug 08 - 01:07 PM
Jayto 13 Aug 08 - 01:20 PM
nutty 13 Aug 08 - 01:46 PM
Bee 13 Aug 08 - 02:02 PM
Steve Gardham 13 Aug 08 - 02:57 PM
Stringsinger 13 Aug 08 - 03:39 PM
Steve Gardham 13 Aug 08 - 03:43 PM
nutty 13 Aug 08 - 04:05 PM
nutty 13 Aug 08 - 04:09 PM
Stewie 13 Aug 08 - 08:23 PM
Joe_F 13 Aug 08 - 08:53 PM
Kent Davis 14 Aug 08 - 12:02 AM
Jim Carroll 14 Aug 08 - 03:27 AM
DG&D Dave 14 Aug 08 - 05:04 AM
The Sandman 14 Aug 08 - 07:42 AM
Steve Gardham 14 Aug 08 - 03:52 PM
GUEST,Redlick. 15 Aug 08 - 04:25 AM
Nigel Parsons 15 Aug 08 - 04:55 AM
Steve Gardham 15 Aug 08 - 10:41 AM
Joe_F 15 Aug 08 - 09:41 PM
Snuffy 17 Aug 08 - 06:40 PM
GUEST,BanjoRay 18 Aug 08 - 08:55 AM
GUEST,Jean 29 Aug 08 - 08:54 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 29 Aug 08 - 02:49 PM
GUEST 21 Dec 10 - 11:11 PM
MissouriMud 22 Dec 10 - 11:40 AM
The Sandman 22 Dec 10 - 01:32 PM
The Sandman 22 Dec 10 - 01:34 PM
Don Firth 22 Dec 10 - 01:40 PM
MissouriMud 22 Dec 10 - 02:39 PM
GUEST,Hilary 22 Dec 10 - 08:33 PM
ChanteyLass 22 Dec 10 - 10:28 PM
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Subject: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: Jayto
Date: 13 Aug 08 - 12:19 PM

I have heard that the Song The Cuckoo Bird is an old song from England. I first heard Dock Boggs do it and later Doc Watson. Does anyone know if that is correct?

"Oh the cuckoo she's a pretty bird
Lord she warbles when she flies"


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 13 Aug 08 - 12:26 PM

Yep. Many versions.


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: Jayto
Date: 13 Aug 08 - 12:33 PM

Thanks


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 13 Aug 08 - 01:07 PM

In some treatments, "She wobbles as she flies".

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: Jayto
Date: 13 Aug 08 - 01:20 PM

Yeah your right. There seems to be alot of variations of this song.


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: nutty
Date: 13 Aug 08 - 01:46 PM

Can't remember where I learnt my version but I sing ......


"Oh the cuckoo she's a pretty bird
She sings as she flies
She brings us good tidings
Tells us no lies
She sucks the pretty birds eggs
To keep her voice clear
And when she sings 'Cuckoo'
The summer is near"


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: Bee
Date: 13 Aug 08 - 02:02 PM

Version I learned to sing:

Oh the cuckoo she's a good bird
She wobbles as she flies
And she never hollers cuckoo
'Til the fourth day of July

Gonna build me a log cabin
On a mountain so high
So that I can see my darlin'
As he walks on by

Jack o' Diamonds, Jack o' Diamonds
I know you of old
You robbed my poor pockets
Of my silver and gold

I've gambled in England
I've gambled in Spain
I bet you ten dollars
I'll beat you the very next game

Oh the cuckoo she's a good bird
She wobbles as she flies
And she never hollers cuckoo
'Til the fourth day of July


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 13 Aug 08 - 02:57 PM

The Cuckoo is one of those lyric pieces that easily transmutes into other songs and has done so for centuries so you're quite likely to find what have become some of its stock verses in a wide variety of other similar lament-for-lost-love/ regret lyrics. This side of the pond its verses can be found in 17thc broadside ballads such as 'The Young Man's Lamentation' at the Bodleian Broadside Ballad website. Douce Ballads 2 (261b). The image is very obscured. I have a transcription online and will post its reference in a few minutes when I can find it.


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: Stringsinger
Date: 13 Aug 08 - 03:39 PM

Jean Ritchie does a fine version. Clarence Ashley also.

Frank


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 13 Aug 08 - 03:43 PM

Okay.
If this doesn't work Malcolm or somebody will have to do a blue clicky thing.
www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/dungheap.htm
Then click on article 17 and you've got background and text to one of the very early usages of Cuckoo's verses.


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: nutty
Date: 13 Aug 08 - 04:05 PM

www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/dungheap.htm


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: nutty
Date: 13 Aug 08 - 04:09 PM

I'll try again

www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/dungheap.htm


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: Stewie
Date: 13 Aug 08 - 08:23 PM

Meade's earliest printed citation is to Journal of the Folk-Song Society (London 1899-1931) III, 90; VI, 14 and to Alfred Williams 'Folksongs of the Upper Thames' (London, Duckworth, 1923) p 165. The earliest American recording was by Kelly Harrell in June 1926 but not issued until April 1929. There were also recordings in 1928 by Grayson and Whitter and by Bradley Kincaid. Clarence Ashley made his well-known recording in October 1929.

Apart from Ashley's, I reckon my favourite recording of this is a live performance by Townes Van Zandt (with unknown fiddler) which was released on his 'Roadsongs' album. Roadsongs.

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: Joe_F
Date: 13 Aug 08 - 08:53 PM

From my journal, 24 April 1972:

I discovered today, by accident (browsing in a Shakespeare glossary), that "to be forsworn" can mean "to perjure oneself". This may shed light on a verse that to me is one of the most beautiful in English (from "The Cuckoo"):

If I am forsaken I'll not be forsworn,
And he's surely mistaken if he thinks that I'll mourn.
I'll get myself up in some right high degree
And pass as light by him as he can by me.

Most women, in particular, are moved by this; I wrote it in the notebook of a whore I met in a psychiatrist's office in New York, and the secretaries at Phys. Rev. preserved a sheet of paper I'd doodled it on in a meeting as an attempt at a new style of calligraphy. But what does the first line mean? My guess was "Just because he forsakes me I won't let the whole male sex swear off me", but that seems rather farfetched. Could it mean "...I won't pretend that my feelings are other than they are (i.e., relief)"? It's still pretty obscure.


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: Kent Davis
Date: 14 Aug 08 - 12:02 AM

Joe F, I've never heard that verse but I like it. I would take it to mean: "If I were forsaken, I would still speak the truth, and the truth is that, instead of mourning, I would choose to behave as if I were just as uncaring as my betrayer".

Kent


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Aug 08 - 03:27 AM

The 'cuckoo' image is often used as a 'floater'; an often unrelated verse which is tacked on to a song (Bee's version, which is similar to Clarence Ashley's is virtually made up of 'floaters'.
The cuckoo motif is best known in Ireland in association with the song 'Bunclaudy'.
IMO the image of 'sucking on small birds eggs to make her voice clear' in 'Nutty's' version is one of the most beautiful to be found in folksong.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: DG&D Dave
Date: 14 Aug 08 - 05:04 AM

At the risk of lowering the tone, there is even a bawdy version in the English 'Book of Rugby Songs':
Oh the cuckoo she's a strange bird, She sits on the grass
With her wings neatly folded and her beak up her A***
Whilst in this position she murmers "twit-twit"
'cos it's hard to say cuckoo with a beak full of S***!

Dave.


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: The Sandman
Date: 14 Aug 08 - 07:42 AM

I have recorded an English version.,which I think was collected in Dorset.
Peter Kennedy has collected an English version,The tune is in the major key and slower than the American version.
http://www.dickmiles.com


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 14 Aug 08 - 03:52 PM

Joe,
In the 17thc version your stanza runs thus:-

Tho' I am forsaken, yet she is forsworn,
Yet she is mistaken if she think that I'll mourn,
I'll set as slightly by her as e'er she did me,
And for ever will deny her, let her go, farewel she.

This may throw some light on your interpretation, though it is quite likely there were even earlier versions.

Note the last line which eventually evolved into a separate lament.
Steve


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: GUEST,Redlick.
Date: 15 Aug 08 - 04:25 AM

There is a lovely English version of "The Cuckoo" sung by Bob Lewis of Sussex on the Veteran CD "Stepping it Out!" (VTC1CD).


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 15 Aug 08 - 04:55 AM

Reading the verse above:
"Tho' I am forsaken, yet she is forsworn,
Yet she is mistaken if she think that I'll mourn,
I'll set as slightly by her as e'er she did me,
And for ever will deny her, let her go, farewel she."

Had me reaching for my dictionary to check the relationship between 'cuckoo' & 'cockold'. Collin's states the latter is derived from the French for cuckoo.

Also brought to mind was:

The elephant is a curious bird.
It flits from bough to bough.
It makes its nest in rhubarb trees
And whistles like a cow.


Cheers
Nigel


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 15 Aug 08 - 10:41 AM

Nigel.
Spot on. Obviously it derives from the cuckoo's propensity to lay its eggs in other birds' nests, although this of course is the female cuckoo, not the male. Folklore often gets its males and females mixed up.


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: Joe_F
Date: 15 Aug 08 - 09:41 PM

Echoing the last line of the old stanza is that of the lovely "Dewdrop" (like the recent versions of "The Cuckoo", it too is about a lady keeping a stiff upper lip), as sung by Margaret MacArthur of blessed memory:

Take half a pound of reason and quarter pound of sense,
A small sprig of thyme and so much impudence.
Stir 'em all together and then you'll plainly see
He's a false deceiving lover, let him go, farewell he.

(The grammar of that makes we wonder why we say "Fare thee well". One would expect "Fare thou well"; cf. "Go thou and do likewise".)


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: Snuffy
Date: 17 Aug 08 - 06:40 PM

"Fare thee well" is a contraction of "May it fare well to thee"


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: GUEST,BanjoRay
Date: 18 Aug 08 - 08:55 AM

Clarence Ashley's superb version on Youtube here.
Ray


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: GUEST,Jean
Date: 29 Aug 08 - 08:54 AM

Anyone familiar with a verse that says enigmatically
"I never give her water
till (or on) the first day of July"


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 29 Aug 08 - 02:49 PM

Some versions in the DT, and several short threads. Enter -cuckoo- in Search.


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: GUEST
Date: 21 Dec 10 - 11:11 PM

So i know this is like two years later but i heard a different version of this song that i can't seem to find any where but on this one kids rthyme c.d. it goes:

The cuckoo she's pretty
She sings as she flys
She brings us good tidings
She tells us no lies
She sucks on white flowers
As to keep her vioce clear
and the more she sings Cuckoo
The summer draws near


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: MissouriMud
Date: 22 Dec 10 - 11:40 AM

Not being particularly bird knowledgeable and not living in an area that seems to have many cuckoos (outside of clocks) - what is the connection between Cuckoos and July?   Is it just the normal matter of birds returning in the Spring and thus being a harbinger of the coming summer or is there something more unique to the cuckoo.

The line "She never says 'cuckoo' til the 4th day of July " in the version I know best always seemed a bit puzzling if cuckoos normally show up in the spring when most other birds do. Do cuckoos not show up until later? Do cuckoos that come earlier say something different before July? The line "And when she sings 'Cuckoo' the summer is near" in other versions would suggest that cuckoos can and do show up with their usual call in spring - but perhaps different cuckoos do different things in different places?


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: The Sandman
Date: 22 Dec 10 - 01:32 PM

Cuckoos sing in april and may and july fly away the english version is more accuratehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGoYfU2-A54


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: The Sandman
Date: 22 Dec 10 - 01:34 PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGoYfU2-A54


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: Don Firth
Date: 22 Dec 10 - 01:40 PM

OH—!

I'm sorry! I thought this was a political thread. . . .

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: MissouriMud
Date: 22 Dec 10 - 02:39 PM

Ahh. Perhaps the "4th day of July" version comes from wherever it is that cuckoos go in July.


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: GUEST,Hilary
Date: 22 Dec 10 - 08:33 PM

In Folk Songs of North America, Alan Lomax offers a fascinating discussion of two versions of "The Cuckoo." According to him it is a symbol of adultery.


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Subject: RE: The Cuckoo Bird question
From: ChanteyLass
Date: 22 Dec 10 - 10:28 PM

Deana Carter does a version of this song on the CD based on songs from (wait for it) Songcatcher. It is not a cast recording. I've also heard a version sung by a chantey singers at Mystic Seaport, not as a chantey but as a song from the shore.


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