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Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song

DigiTrad:
NIGHT VISITING SONG


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LyrAdd: Night Visiting Song/Dat Du min Leevsten... (7)


Steve Gardham 20 Feb 17 - 02:14 PM
The Sandman 20 Feb 17 - 02:12 PM
GUEST,Acorn4 20 Feb 17 - 11:55 AM
GUEST,Rigby 20 Feb 17 - 06:44 AM
Steve Gardham 19 Feb 17 - 05:56 PM
Jack Campin 18 Feb 17 - 08:50 PM
Jim Carroll 21 Aug 14 - 03:01 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 20 Aug 14 - 08:32 PM
GUEST,Hilary 20 Aug 14 - 08:16 PM
Richard Mellish 20 Aug 14 - 04:15 PM
Jim Carroll 20 Aug 14 - 12:57 PM
Steve Gardham 20 Aug 14 - 11:47 AM
Jim Carroll 20 Aug 14 - 07:33 AM
GUEST,SteveT 20 Aug 14 - 04:55 AM
The Sandman 19 Aug 14 - 06:41 PM
Jim Carroll 19 Aug 14 - 02:57 PM
Steve Gardham 19 Aug 14 - 02:48 PM
GUEST,Desi C 19 Aug 14 - 02:10 PM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 19 Aug 14 - 01:41 PM
Jim Carroll 19 Aug 14 - 01:38 PM
Steve Gardham 19 Aug 14 - 11:24 AM
Jim Carroll 19 Aug 14 - 08:40 AM
GUEST,SteveT 19 Aug 14 - 06:22 AM
The Sandman 19 Aug 14 - 05:34 AM
GUEST,guest: Freebird 19 Aug 14 - 05:26 AM
Jim Carroll 19 Aug 14 - 04:02 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 18 Aug 14 - 07:18 PM
Steve Gardham 18 Aug 14 - 06:36 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 18 Aug 14 - 04:50 PM
Richard Mellish 18 Aug 14 - 04:25 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 18 Aug 14 - 04:04 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 18 Aug 14 - 04:02 PM
Jim Carroll 18 Aug 14 - 03:06 PM
GUEST,Arkansas Red-Ozark Troubadour 17 Aug 14 - 10:17 PM
GUEST,Arkansas Red-Ozark Troubadour 17 Aug 14 - 10:16 PM
GUEST,Cap 09 Jan 13 - 09:54 AM
Steve Gardham 27 Oct 12 - 06:43 PM
Steve Gardham 27 Oct 12 - 06:39 PM
Paul Davenport 27 Oct 12 - 05:23 PM
Steve Gardham 27 Oct 12 - 03:51 PM
Paul Davenport 27 Oct 12 - 11:43 AM
Steve Gardham 26 Oct 12 - 06:20 PM
Richard Mellish 26 Oct 12 - 05:22 PM
Steve Gardham 26 Oct 12 - 02:36 PM
Richard Mellish 26 Oct 12 - 07:18 AM
Steve Gardham 17 Oct 12 - 02:49 PM
TheSnail 17 Oct 12 - 01:41 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 17 Oct 12 - 01:04 PM
Steve Gardham 17 Oct 12 - 04:57 AM
Steve Gardham 17 Oct 12 - 04:51 AM
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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 20 Feb 17 - 02:14 PM

Or used a pair of knockers!


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Feb 17 - 02:12 PM

"I think the whole genre rather went out of fashion with the advent of double glazing?" no at all . they just knocked at double the speed.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: GUEST,Acorn4
Date: 20 Feb 17 - 11:55 AM

I think the whole genre rather went out of fashion with the advent of double glazing?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: GUEST,Rigby
Date: 20 Feb 17 - 06:44 AM

Would Young Hunting be another example? Most of Child's texts feature a talking bird who witnesses the murder and refuses a bribe to keep quiet about it. But the bribe is usually a golden cage, as in the Elfin Knight etc.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 19 Feb 17 - 05:56 PM

'can see no reason why it should not have been the case throughout England and Scotland'

Hi Jim
Only 18 months late. Better late than never. I know this is going over old ground, but apart from the few examples I've given and the obvious example of bothy ballads can you suggest some examples?

A bribe for a personified bird. Any source for this is possible, including a bit of imagination on the part of the writer.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Jack Campin
Date: 18 Feb 17 - 08:50 PM

It isn't in the least surprising that an idea like making precious offerings to a bird could survive into ballad-making times. Look at the contents of the Lovett collection of amulets from late 19th century London - the motivations behind those are not much changed from the magical practices of ancient Egypt.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Aug 14 - 03:01 AM

"Those weren't my words. I was quoting Steve."
Apologies Richard, my mistake.
Steve is somewhat prone to making such sweepingly dismissive statements based on, as far as I can see, little evidence of their accuracy.
Opinions such has these have, I believe, stood in the way of our understanding our folk literature and I really hoped we had moved on from them.
We simply don't know what the ballad makers thought or knew, simply because we have no idea who they were and when the ballads were made.
Steve seems to have done a good job in tracing when some of them first went into print, but that, as I have said, is no indication that they hadn't been taken from an existing oral form and re-made.
We know that some ballads appeared in oral story form and existed side-by-side with the sung versions.
We also know that many of the motifs are common to literary creations, as well as folk songs and tales and have been around for centuries, possibly millennia.
What little information we have put together indicates that the rural working classes, peasantry... whatever you care to call them were skilled song-makers, as far as Ireland is concerned, right up to the middle of the 20th century.
One 90-odd year old singer we are recording has recently told us "Whatever happened, somebody made a song anout it, and if nothing was happening, they made a song about that as well".   
We've recorded quite a lot of local songs made in the 20th century and have heard references to at least 100 hundred made in the immediate vicinity of this somewhat isolated one-street town in the West of Ireland.
I have little doubt that this has been the case throughout rural Ireland and can see no reason why it should not have been the case throughout England and Scotland.
One of the vital factors in song-making seems to have been the health of the oral tradition in the areas, whether song-makers had an established template on which to make new songs - certainly the case here.
I don't want to go on too much without Steve' input to all of this - just trying to sum up my general feelings on the matter
Sorry for having blamed you for somebody else s unqualified statement
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 20 Aug 14 - 08:32 PM

Aren't verses with "offerings of gold... and silver... late versions, mid-Victorian?

No versions seem older that 18th C.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: GUEST,Hilary
Date: 20 Aug 14 - 08:16 PM

On the implausibility of offering the cock gold wings and a silver comb (or some such thing), it has occurred to me that maybe the woman doesn't even mean what she is saying. Could it not be possible that she is simply offering it something valuable off the top of her head because she is desperate to keep it from crowing? She doesn't necessarily think it will hear her or accept the offering, or even that she can hold true to her promise. The offer of gold and silver is simply a commonplace way of showing her desperation. I don't think that ballads have to reflect real life in every detail. Rather, it is the questions they make us ask or the values they contain which are important.
But, having said this, the Roman connection is still very interesting to think about and I don't think the two, or more, interpretations are mutually exclusive.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 20 Aug 14 - 04:15 PM

A belated response to Jim's challenging me about:

" Some of the ballad makers were quite simple people who didn't necessarily put in a great deal of thought or sense, and often were just imitating a simple idea from elsewhere, classical mythology, folk-tale etc."
Which they got from were exactly Richard - the local lending library perhaps?

Those weren't my words. I was quoting Steve.

I am open-minded on the extent to which people from different sectors of society were the originators of songs. Jim, Steve and anyone else are entitled to their opinions, based on their respective experiences, but for most of the songs, including the night visiting song with or without the revenant aspect, we will never know for certain.

Anyway I still find the gold and silver offerings to the cock noteworthy, and I still think they are more likely to be linked somehow to the Roman votive offering than to have no such link.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Aug 14 - 12:57 PM

"I have family commitments"
Hard luck Steve - I've had all mine committed!
Will put up something to get the ball rolling shortly
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 20 Aug 14 - 11:47 AM

No, Jim, it's 11 years since I did that, but like you I have family commitments, and multiple projects on the go, and festivals etc. Keep the kettle boiling and I'll chip in in a few days' time. If the thread's dropped off by then I'll start a new one.

All the best.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Aug 14 - 07:33 AM

Happy to Steve, but will wait for response from Steve - I think he's one of those unfortunates who have to work for a living
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: GUEST,SteveT
Date: 20 Aug 14 - 04:55 AM

Since the "Night Visiting Song" is generally recognised as "trad", discussing whether "trad" songs derive from literary or "folk" sources hardly seems to be hijacking the thread (and also seems to address the original question much more accurately than opinions of who sang it best, interesting as that may be to those of us who like to hear a song sung well). Please keep discussing!


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Aug 14 - 06:41 PM

i dont object.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Aug 14 - 02:57 PM

Me too Steve, as long as nobody else objects
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 19 Aug 14 - 02:48 PM

Hi Jim,
I don't want us to hijack yet another thread but I do think it's important that we continue the debate.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 19 Aug 14 - 02:10 PM

It's usually described as Trad, best version for me is Luke Kelly's which is on You tube


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 19 Aug 14 - 01:41 PM

There are definitely far too many parodies of 'popular culture' songs
inflicted on us by smug condescending upper middle class Oxbridge 'comedy' writers and performers.....

The wanky posh pillocks.

If only Radio 4 would stop encouraging them.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Aug 14 - 01:38 PM

"but I still don't agree that this was the case in 19th century southern England"
We simply don't know Steve - we have a tip-of-the iceberg guide to what made up the repertoire of the rural communities from 1899 onward, and what was documented went through the filters of gentlemen and lady collectors who had a very fixed idea of what they were looking for - the established folk song repertoire.
At the turn of the century the oral tradition was very much on the skids and collectors like Sharp were describing to as a thing of the past.
Burstow was never interviewed to any length abort the role of his songs and whether he lumped them all together; by the time Arthur Howard came along the singing tradition was a dim and distant memory with the exception of some small survivals.
Walter Pardon had a wide range of songs - music hall, Victorian Parlor ballads, early pop songs - but he spoke for hours on which he regarded as which
Blind Traveller, Mary Delaney had somewhere between 1 and 2 hundred traditional songs in her repertoire which she could have doubled, but firmly refused to do so because "they're not what you are looking for" (we never specified - she did).
This was a continuous thread running through our work and depending on what value the singers put of their songs.
"This is just silly, Jim."
'Fraid not Steve
You can sometimes date a song by its subject matter and you can identify its possible origins by the style in which it was made, but finding the earliest printed version does nothing but - well,.... give an indication to the earliest printed version - no more.
We have no idea if most of the songs existed in oral form prior to those dates.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 19 Aug 14 - 11:24 AM

Hi Jim
'We have found that wherever there has been a rich recognised-folk tradition this has been accompanied by an equally rich locally composed anonymous tradition of songmaking, distinguishable only by the fact that collectors either missed it or rejected it because it didn't fit the perceived folk repertoire.'

I can identify with this, Jim, but I still don't agree that this was the case in 19th century southern England, so the only word I would quibble over in your statement is 'equally'. That may well have been the case in 20th century Ireland. As I've said before in my own collecting experiences I have come across plenty of song writers, but for whatever reason their songs haven't made it into oral tradition. I don't think that the earlier collectors knew enough about the songs they were collecting to distinguish between locally written pieces and the widespread broadside and theatrical pieces. Yes they discriminated but that was usually to the extent that they tried not to include parlour songs, national songs and Music Hall pieces.
You've only to look at the repertoires of Henry Burstow and Arthur Howard to be aware that they had massive wide-ranging repertoires and what we call folk songs were only a small part of the whole.

'.....any attempt to link them with printed versions is really not worth the paper it is printed on.' This is just silly, Jim.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Aug 14 - 08:40 AM

I go along with you to a point Steve T, but claims of 90%-odd percent broadside are both unfounded and illogical.
We have found that wherever there has been a rich recognised-folk tradition this has been accompanied by an equally rich locally composed anonymous tradition of songmaking, distinguishable only by the fact that collectors either missed it or rejected it because it didn't fir the perceived folk repertoire.
Once a literally composed piece arrives in the tradition needs to be examined in the context of the communities concerned and their attitude and access to literacy, which is quite complicated
We have encountered both a mistrust of and a reverence towards printed pieces - quite often they remain unchanged and do't pass into versions.
One of the popular examples around here is Byron's 'Dark Loch Na Gar' - widely sung, but totally as written.
Similarly R L Stevenson's 'Heather Ale' as sung among Irish Travellers.
Unless these songs are examined in the context of the communities they    served and the people who sang them, any attempt to link them with printed versions is rally not worth the paper it is printed on.
There are far too many gaps in our knowledge to make definitive statements.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: GUEST,SteveT
Date: 19 Aug 14 - 06:22 AM

Following the ""What strikes us today as bizarre might not have done in the 18th century and earlier" idea; it doesn't seem impossible to me that, in some cultural settings, giving an animal silver or gold replacements for body parts might have been seen as a generous upgrade! Stranger things seem to happen in mythology: for example Nuada was entitled to reclaim his kingship of Tuatha de Dannan when he had a silver arm fitted to replace his own one, lost in battle.

On another point, I agree with Jim Carroll both in finding the wording "occasionally work their way down into oral tradition" from classical sources, (rather than having sometimes worked down from oral tradition into the hands of the classical authors) condescending and also in doubting that the first publication of a song is all we need to explain and date its origin. Nevertheless I do think that plenty of classical material picked was up and used within the oral tradition. It only takes one link in a chain to have been exposed to the literature. I have read that the hedge schools may have introduced many classical ideas into Irish songs – some of the Napoleonic ballads spring to mind in particular. In other words, I don't see why the exchange couldn't have been in both directions (including starting in "folk" tradition, being trapped for a while in classical literature and then being reclaimed by "folk"). What does seem to me logical however, is that over years of being transmitted orally, what is retained in a song is that which has meaning and significance to the singer. If talking animals, golden wings etc weren't important, why were they retained? Clearly in some versions the supernatural aspects were edited out so perhaps they didn't mean anything significant to the "carriers" in that line but perhaps they did to other carriers in other lines of transmission.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Aug 14 - 05:34 AM

It displays an ignorance of traditional singing which I would have hoped we've grown out of - apparently not."
in my opinion the most important thing about singing any siong whether it be traditional or composed, is how the song is sung, tradtional singing is the same as any other genre of singing, to understand style it is necesary to have listened and absorbed the style.
   those revival singers such as Bert Lloyd who advocated singing with a smile on the face, were making it up as they went along,and were not basing their philosophy of singing on anything that was based on traditional singing styles, nearly all the traditional singers I have come across sang naturally,without ridiculous affectations such as singing with a smile and wiggling the backside.
here is harry cox singing without a smile and not wiggling his backside.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YsxG06FMA-Y to paraphrase mr punch "thats the way to do it".
in the case of BERT, I do not think it was ignorance, but more a determination to steer the uk folk revival in a certain direction, as for frankie armstrong and her shouting techniques, that was not based on traditional singing either.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: GUEST,guest: Freebird
Date: 19 Aug 14 - 05:26 AM

Does anyone remember hearing the beautiful version (after Luke Kelly) by Liverpool's Jackie and Bridie, with searing harmonies and sung with such feeling. Loved those women, with their wacky humour and joy of performing. Sadly Bridie is not with us but Jackie's still out there, I believe.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Aug 14 - 04:02 AM

" Some of the ballad makers were quite simple people who didn't necessarily put in a great deal of thought or sense, and often were just imitating a simple idea from elsewhere, classical mythology, folk-tale etc."
Which they got from were exactly Richard - the local lending library perhaps?
We recorded an hour-long folk-tale from an 80 year old local man here once, who said he had learned it from his grandfather when he was very young, placing its entry into the family at some time at the end of the 18th century, possibly earlier.
At that time, there would have been no access classical mythology or written folk tales in rural Ireland - it was a time when this part of the country would have been struggling with literacy, never mind having access to literature in any form - they would almost certainly have been mainly Irish speakers with only a rudimentary grasp of English.
I very much doubt if the urban lower classes were in a different situation as far as this kind of literature is concerned.
The tale we recorded was published, I believe for the first time, in Joyce's 'Old Celtic Romances', in 1894, totally different in all respects to the way we were given it other than the basic story-line - we gave a copy to the storyteller to get his opinion, which was, "I don't know where he got it but he has it all wrong".
The problem with discussing these subjects is we know virtually nothing of the singers and storytellers beyond their being repositories of song and stories - nobody has ever bothered to ask them.
Classical writers borrowed freely from folklore and oral literature of their time - there are several books, at least one sizeable one, on the folklore of Shakespeare.
A significant number of the big narrative ballads, came from totally illiterate Irish Travellers - look out for Martin MacDonagh's 'Lady Margaret' if you haven't heard it, a spectacular six minute rendition of Young Hunting from a man who couldn't read a street sign and who chopped and sold firewood for a living, among a dozen other basic jobs.
John Reilly, another illiterate Traveller, sang Lord Bateman, Lord Gregory and The Maid and the Palmer and a dozen other big ballads and songs - he squatted in derelict houses and died of malnutrition and neglect.
He couldn't read a word and neither could his parents, and they lived lives that gave them no access whatever to literacy.
Ballads like Lamkin, Willie of Winsbury and Fair Margaret and Sweet William (Chid 74) owe their survival, fully or in part, to non-literate Travellers.   
In the late 1970s we recorded an old West of Ireland man who had worked for McAlpines as a building worker; he sang us over 70 songs which he had learned back home in Ireland, which he had left in the mid-1940s.
His family came from an island just off the coast here which had been evacuated some time in the 1920s - he told us that when he was growing up his parents were native Irish speakers with little English though he had no Irish whatever.
In the pub after our recording sessions he used to tell us 'yarns', basically jokes with no punch lines, in fact, short folk tales.
One night he told us one entitled 'The Sea Captain and the Fiddler', about a bet between two man over whether the wife of one of them would remain faithful.
It has two recited verses:

Fiddler:
Hold tight my love, hold tight my love
For the space of half an hour,
Hold tight my love, hold tight my love,
And the ship and cargo will be ours.

Wife:
You're late my love, you're late my love,
He has me by the middle.
I'm on my back, we're having a crack,
And you have lost your fiddle.

I very much doubt if Mikey kept an edition of Durfey's 'Pills to Purge Melancholy' (1719) at his bedside, which is the only source I have ever been able to trace this story - as a full song with similar verses to Mikey's.
One of the most arrogant statements I have ever read concerning folk songs and their singers came from Phillips Barry, an eminent ballad scholar who really should have known better.

"Popular tradition, however, does not mean popular origin. In the case of our ballad, the underlying folklore is Irish de facto, but not de-jure: the ballad is of Oriental and literary origin, and has sunk to the level of the folk which has the keeping of folklore. To put it in a single phrase, memory not invention is the function of the folk".

It displays an ignorance of traditional singing which I would have hoped we've grown out of - apparently not.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 18 Aug 14 - 07:18 PM

The song in the Herd MS. says only that if the damned bird would keep quiet until day, the girl tells him its wings could be like beaten gold and its wings silver grey. But a cock crows when it feels like it, and crows early.

A very simple song, no ghosts, no suggestion of old votive practices.

When did the version with the lover returning as a ghost appear? From Steve Gardham's posts, it seems to be about mid-19th C.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 18 Aug 14 - 06:36 PM

Herd
Your neck shall be like the bonny beaten gold,
And your wings of the silver grey.

The word 'like' here seems to be significant!

According to Chappell the 'Scottified Herd version was preceded by lots of English versions printed in Vauxhall Songsters and the like with its music.' He also suggests that Hook could well have been the composer of the tune.

The English version has :
Your breast shall be of the beaming gold,
And your wings of the silver grey.

It was obviously very popular in the London pleasure gardens where this type of classical poetry was rife in the 18thc.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 18 Aug 14 - 04:50 PM

The Ballad Index puts a date of 1769 (Herd) as the earliest date.
I don't know if that version has the idea of offering the cock gold or silver body parts, or whether this is a later addition.
Has anyone posted the Herd lyrics in mudcat?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 18 Aug 14 - 04:25 PM

I evidently failed to keep up with this thread after my second posting on 26 October 2012, when I said "Are there any birds other than the cock that are offered gold and/or silver for parts of themselves? That does strike me as a bizarre notion, but it must have come from somewhere."

Steve commented "What strikes us today as bizarre might not have done in the 18th century and earlier. After all in poetry, and this is a type of poetry, anything can happen. Talking animals are fairly common. Some of the ballad makers were quite simple people who didn't necessarily put in a great deal of thought or sense, and often were just imitating a simple idea from elsewhere, classical mythology, folk-tale etc."

Yes, talking animals are common in both highbrow literature and folklore (and remain so to this day in stories for children), but fitting a cockerel with gold and silver body parts still seems to me much more unusual and remarkable. I agree that imitation of the idea of the Roman votive practice seems more likely than the idea remaining current over all those centuries, but a connection of some sort is more plausible than a random invention of those gold and silver parts by whoever first introduced them into a version of the song.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 18 Aug 14 - 04:04 PM

The Irish broadside "Willy O" is dated c. 1867 by the Bodleian.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 18 Aug 14 - 04:02 PM

"Willy O" was posted in the thread Lyr. Add: Willy O, 04 Aug. 03.
It is a simple song of a visit by the ghost of the girl's lover.

The cock only seems to indicate that dawn was breaking.

They spent the night in deep discoursing,
Concerning their courtship sometime ago,
They kissed, shook hands with sorrowful parting,
Just as the cock began to crow.

Thread 61869
Lyr. Add Willy O


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 Aug 14 - 03:06 PM

"performs a particular literal and practical function, without need to include any hidden meanings.'"
Surely these were a mixture of both Steve, and it is the arrogance of the literate to presume they have "occasionally work their way down into oral tradition" wonder why that "down" still manages to raise my hackles.
The crowing of the cock in songs like "Willie O" (Grey Cock - sort of) still carried supernatural significance to non-literate Travellers who, at the same time close the doors and cover the windows if they heard magpies, or turn back if they encountered three jackdaws on their journey.
They would make a point of stamping on stag beetles because "that little feller told the Romans where Christ was hiding".
This wasn't just a rural phenomenon.   
When I was working on the ships on Liverpool docks men used to bring live fowl to be slaughtered for their meals.
I've known old tradesmen threaten to walk off the job if it was brought on board live.
Not being superstitious, I've always found the need to rationalise some of the songs I' sang (not difficult - most songs do this easily), but I believe this to be a modern phenomenon.
Folklore surrounding birds, animals and insects pre-date Crhristianity and it is illoical to claim that these beliefs didn't make their way into the songs.
I'm sure you are well aware of my scepticism of the practice of trying to date songs by their earliest printed source.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: GUEST,Arkansas Red-Ozark Troubadour
Date: 17 Aug 14 - 10:17 PM

That should read Brennan Sisters. Sorry for the typo.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: GUEST,Arkansas Red-Ozark Troubadour
Date: 17 Aug 14 - 10:16 PM

The Brennas Sisters have a nice version on YouTube, and The Screaming Orphans have a nice recording of it. Both versions are fine as frog hair.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: GUEST,Cap
Date: 09 Jan 13 - 09:54 AM

Whichever Scotsman wrote it is neither here nor there. Do you no ken the Luke Kelly rendition on the Youtube? That is by far the best I've ever heard.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 27 Oct 12 - 06:43 PM

I also have no problem with people postulating theories of this sort as long as, when there is a good literal explanation, they add the rider that the literal explanation is more likely to be the actual meaning.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 27 Oct 12 - 06:39 PM

In some forms of art and literature I am certain there are many many uses of symbolism and I don't doubt what you say, Paul. And indeed they do occasionally work their way down into oral tradition where a ny 'hidden meanings' are often lost, but if there is a perfectly good literal meaning and no proof that any hidden meaning is present then I for one am happy to accept the literal meaning as the one intended.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 27 Oct 12 - 05:23 PM

Steve writes '…performs a particular literal and practical function, without need to include any hidden meanings.'
You're right of course Steve, but only in our world. You have to see the song through the eyes and ears of another time. In that and most earlier periods of history the 'hidden meanings' were plain for all and indeed sought out simply because of their clevernesss. Now I suppose you'll want proof of that? Just visit your local Art Gallery and examine any 19th century painting. You'll see a tradition of 'hidden meanings' that goes back further than you can possibly imagine. I have no intention of playing at being a druid but I am an ex-arts teacher and creative artist and can assure you that 'hidden meanings' are something much more widespread and important than you wish to acknowledge.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 27 Oct 12 - 03:51 PM

Of course there were classical revivals and they particularly entered folk song via the theatrical pieces of the 18th century. In fact they were riddled with classical references, but that doesn't mean the people who wrote or sang the songs believed in any of the folk-lore being inserted. Personally, in the case of the cock crowing, as eveybody has stated, the cockerel performs a particular literal and practical function, without need to include any hidden meanings.

I'm not trying to change anyone's beliefs. You can all go off and play at being druids if you want to. I just don't buy all this fakelore when there are perfectly reasonable literal explanations.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 27 Oct 12 - 11:43 AM

Steve, look carefully at the bizarre practices of states and individuals over the the past 800 years or so and you discover a really strange fact. Whether it be Napoleon, who wished to be seen as a Roman Emperor and cast in the role of Mars, or as far back as the ghastly costume designs of Inigo Jones who similarly accessed the Classical world, there is a tendency to look backwards. Now in doing so, there is also a marked leaning towards the Greeks and the Romans and their worlds. Strangely, the Romans emulated the Greeks of an earlier period whilst reviling the Geeks of their own time. Since then there have been three main Classical revivals, the first known as the Renaissance and the second in the 18th century courtesy of Messrs. Adams, Jones et al. The last one occurred in the late 19th century and seems to have been usurped by the Neo-Gothic revival which left its mark as late as the 1930s. So, the allusion to the votive cockerel could have been made during any of these 'fashions' or indeed maintained by a tradition of re-using motives in art?
By the way, cultural links going back over 2000 years are common for these and other more obvious reasons. You can't accept tradition in folk song and then say it doesn't happen in art.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 26 Oct 12 - 06:20 PM

What strikes us today as bizarre might not have done in the 18th century and earlier. After all in poetry, and this is a type of poetry, anything can happen. Talking animals are fairly common. Some of the ballad makers were quite simple people who didn't necessarily put in a great deal of thought or sense, and often were just imitating a simple idea from elsewhere, classical mythology, folk-tale etc.

At the same time as giving animals speech and intelligence of a human sort, they also gave them human desires, such as a golden cage, golden wings, silver combs etc. Our ballads are not that far removed in content and ideas from the folk tales which abound in such things.

The parrot in Lady Isabel and the Elf-Knight could well be an echo/corruption of the dove that warns sometimes the knight, sometimes the maid, as they ride off together from her father's hall, in early German versions. Such a ballad that is known all over Europe has been in and out of oral tradition and print and through the hands of antiquarians and poets for centuries. Then you have to factor in the borrowings from one ballad to another. Talking creatures and incongruities shouldn't surprise us.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 26 Oct 12 - 05:22 PM

Steve said
> Considering the likelihood is that none of these songs date back any earlier than the 18th century, you are postulating links going back over a thousand years with no intervening evidence. <

Not necessarily: as Paul said, it's also possible that the song was written by someone who had seen one of the votive offerings (and, presumably, was aware of its significance.)

> We also have to take into account when offering birds in general (not just cockerels)these rich rewards for their silence, the poetic imaginings of the writers, perhaps marginally influenced by classical references, but not just from Roman mythology or the druids. <

The two offers that spring to mind are to the parrot in the Outlandish Knight, who already lives in a cage and is offered a superior one; and to the bird in Young Hunting, who soon tells the girl what he thinks of her offer of (again) a cage. Are there any birds other than the cock that are offered gold and/or silver for parts of themselves? That does strike me as a bizarre notion, but it must have come from somewhere.

Richard


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 26 Oct 12 - 02:36 PM

Considering the likelihood is that none of these songs date back any earlier than the 18th century, you are postulating links going back over a thousand years with no intervening evidence.

We also have to take into account when offering birds in general (not just cockerels)these rich rewards for their silence, the poetic imaginings of the writers, perhaps marginally influenced by classical references, but not just from Roman mythology or the druids.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 26 Oct 12 - 07:18 AM

A little way back in this thread Steve Gardham said (typos corrected) "As far as I know the cock crowing is simply heralding the day when all ghosts must return to the grave, so the cock has no real supernatural significance in itself ..."

Or perhaps it does have. Paul Davenport provides this info:

"A small votive cockerel was recently (within the last ten years) discovered in a dig on a Roman site in York. The bronze effigy had traces of both silver and gold details. The pig and the cock are both animals sacred to Hermes/Mercury in his role as psychopomp, that is guide of the dead.

"Now one could argue that this merely means the song was written by someone who had seen one of these objects or…more excitingly, it means that the song carries forward a folk-belief in the potency of the cock as herald of the dawn. The druids had a riddle (I believe) 'Who councils the place where couches the sun? Who knows where the darkness and the dawn divide?' The answer is of course the cockerel. Its importance lies in the notion of liminality where, being in two states at one time creates the instability in which magic takes place."

While the grey cock could be just an ordinary cock about to do his thing of announcing the dawn, the offer to endow him with gold wings and silver comb (or, as I would prefer, vice versa) could be a reference to such votive offerings and an acknowledgment of his role in escorting the dead lover's soul to the afterlife. It makes little sense otherwise: one can hardly see an ordinary cock fitted with metallic prostheses. Sometimes the offer to the cock is instead a cage of gold, but that likewise makes little sense: why should he accept being caged at all?

Richard


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 17 Oct 12 - 02:49 PM

Related in plot/subject certainly, but as a researcher/cataloguer of songs we normally reserve the word 'related' for songs that have some text in common.

As far as I can see 'Willy O' was only printed by Nugent and Birmingham in Dublin c1860 although there are a few sheets with no imprint that look to have come from the same presses, and one of these might be Brereton. I certainly haven't seen anything on broadsides out of Ireland, and remnants of it in oral tradition that can be traced back to Ireland. Someone sang it at my local club on Monday.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: TheSnail
Date: 17 Oct 12 - 01:41 PM

I have already said that "euphemism" might be the wrong word but I still think there is a play on words between the young lady opening the door/window and opening her legs.

This all rather distracts attention from my original point that that extract from The Song of Solomon does appear to be a relative of the night visiting songs although, in this case, not consumated.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 17 Oct 12 - 01:04 PM

Two copies (late?) of "Willy O" are listed at the Bodleian, neither available.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 17 Oct 12 - 04:57 AM

The regular anglicised 5 st versions printed in England around 1800 have the following st 4

O then she rose and let him in,
And kist his ruby lips and chin,
And into bed she jumpt with him,
Along with a roving soldier, O.
She blest the cold rainy night,
She rose from bed and let him in,
And he did not go back again O.

The last stanza is the commonplace, she asks to marry, he declines, she curses the rainy night etc.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who wrote The Night Visiting Song
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 17 Oct 12 - 04:51 AM

The next longest version I have with 8 sts and as many choruses (The previous one had 9 sts) is again explicit rather than euphemistic.
The equivalent stanza is however closer to the first one given. It dates from 1869 and was printed in Glasgow.

The lassie rose and let him in,
No thinkin' on ocht ill bein' dune;
He kissed her rosy cheeks and chin,
And then he gained her fair,
   Oh! her sorrows began that ae nicht
   That ae, ae, ae nicht
   Her sorrows began that ae nicht,
   That she let him in, O.

The subsequent sts make it very plain what has gone on when the bottom fell out of the bed, nuirse's fees etc.


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