Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafemuddy

Post to this Thread - Sort Descending - Printer Friendly - Home


Myth or history

Davetnova 07 Apr 10 - 03:30 PM
GUEST,highlandman at work 07 Apr 10 - 04:16 PM
Bert 07 Apr 10 - 04:40 PM
Jim Carroll 07 Apr 10 - 05:03 PM
Stower 07 Apr 10 - 05:21 PM
Arkie 07 Apr 10 - 06:11 PM
Bert 07 Apr 10 - 06:25 PM
Jack Campin 07 Apr 10 - 06:55 PM
GUEST,Kendall 07 Apr 10 - 07:10 PM
Les from Hull 07 Apr 10 - 07:10 PM
Gern 07 Apr 10 - 08:36 PM
GUEST,rvana 07 Apr 10 - 09:26 PM
dick greenhaus 07 Apr 10 - 09:37 PM
JohnInKansas 07 Apr 10 - 09:42 PM
MGM·Lion 07 Apr 10 - 10:08 PM
catspaw49 07 Apr 10 - 10:10 PM
Deckman 07 Apr 10 - 10:27 PM
Rob Naylor 08 Apr 10 - 03:20 AM
theleveller 08 Apr 10 - 04:04 AM
GUEST,kendall 08 Apr 10 - 04:06 AM
GUEST,Davetnova 08 Apr 10 - 04:07 AM
theleveller 08 Apr 10 - 04:49 AM
TheSnail 08 Apr 10 - 04:54 AM
theleveller 08 Apr 10 - 05:16 AM
doc.tom 08 Apr 10 - 06:04 AM
Jim Carroll 08 Apr 10 - 06:05 AM
beeliner 08 Apr 10 - 06:24 AM
theleveller 08 Apr 10 - 06:41 AM
Stringsinger 08 Apr 10 - 08:59 AM
Les from Hull 08 Apr 10 - 09:06 AM
GUEST,Allan Connochie 08 Apr 10 - 09:31 AM
IanC 08 Apr 10 - 09:43 AM
theleveller 08 Apr 10 - 10:04 AM
GUEST,Longlankin 08 Apr 10 - 10:31 AM
theleveller 08 Apr 10 - 11:04 AM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 08 Apr 10 - 01:06 PM
GUEST,Allan Connochie 08 Apr 10 - 01:18 PM
GUEST,Allan Connochie 08 Apr 10 - 01:34 PM
Steve Gardham 08 Apr 10 - 01:44 PM
Jim Carroll 08 Apr 10 - 06:13 PM
GUEST,Allan Connochie 08 Apr 10 - 06:49 PM
Bobert 08 Apr 10 - 07:24 PM
Stringsinger 08 Apr 10 - 07:31 PM
kendall 08 Apr 10 - 07:54 PM
Stringsinger 08 Apr 10 - 08:00 PM
Bert 08 Apr 10 - 10:05 PM
Jim Carroll 09 Apr 10 - 03:51 AM
LadyJean 10 Apr 10 - 12:55 AM
MGM·Lion 10 Apr 10 - 01:17 AM
Rowan 10 Apr 10 - 01:39 AM
Bert 10 Apr 10 - 03:25 AM
GUEST,Allan Connochie 10 Apr 10 - 04:39 AM
Jim Carroll 10 Apr 10 - 07:03 AM
Les from Hull 10 Apr 10 - 10:10 AM
Share Thread
more
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:



Subject: Folklore: Myth or history
From: Davetnova
Date: 07 Apr 10 - 03:30 PM

Some of the recent acronimious threads got me thinking. When it comes to song which is more important, myth or history, truth or legend? I know history is important but in song and story I can't help but thinking that the myth is more important, no matter what is known historically about any figures involved. Anybody any thoughts? DaveT


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Myth or history
From: GUEST,highlandman at work
Date: 07 Apr 10 - 04:16 PM

There are too many dimensions to the idea of 'important' to answer the question directly. I think I know what you mean, and I tend to agree with you if you mean what I think you mean. I think. ;/
Of course history is important; if the facts of a thing are knowable they ought to be preserved and respected in some way.
But much of the impact a song has on a hearer is derived from outside the song itself, from the emotional and mythic resonance it brings along with it. And in many cases the popular, if mistaken, idea about the meaning of a song carries more emotional weight than the bare boring facts would.
So in that sense I think the myth may be more 'important' in the moment of experiencing a song than the fact. Nevertheless I still enjoy learning the truth about the background of songs when I can, even if it goes in the face of what most people assume it means.
-Glenn


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Myth or history
From: Bert
Date: 07 Apr 10 - 04:40 PM

However good a song may be to sing I find that it is offensive if it propagates lies.

Take "The Battle of New Orleans" for example. It implies that the British were cowardly and that they ran away.

Recently, I was reading a report of the battle which said that there were about 2,000 British troops and that they attacked the American fortifications three times. When they finally withdrew they left 1,971 dead and wounded on the field.

Not quite what the song implies.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Myth or history
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Apr 10 - 05:03 PM

Neither one nor the other.
History can be got from books while myth is invariably the record of aspiration.
History is usually written by winners so who is to say which is more important - or accurate for that matter.
Jim Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Myth or history
From: Stower
Date: 07 Apr 10 - 05:21 PM

Davetnova: "When it comes to song which is more important, myth or history, truth or legend?"

That depends entirely who you are, where your interests lie, what you are trying to find out. If you're interested in myth, allegory and the power of a story you probably won't be fussed about historicity, though it may not be *entirely* irrelevant (perhaps) if there was a real event. If you're a sociologist, you'll be interested in how the ballad reflects and reinforces (or indeed changes, perhaps) social attitudes and mores - regardless of whether there was an actual event behind the ballad. If you're a historian, you'll want to know if a ballad tells a story accurately (I doubt a historian would find much joy searching among ballads, though).

Of course, the question presupposes there is any real-world history behind a given ballad. If there isn't, then myth is all we have left.

And truth perhaps. It depends what sort of truth we're after. Historical truth? Moral truth? Emotional truth? The truth of what is it is to be X sort of person in Y sort of situation?

Stower


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: Arkie
Date: 07 Apr 10 - 06:11 PM

Seems to be a lot of good responses here. I think the singer has to determine for themselves what is important. I do not like encouraging lies or misunderstanding with song or anything else for that matter. But myth can have its own kind of truth. People are most likely to act upon that which they believe to be true than on what is actually factual. When a song reports an act based upon even a false belief there may be some merit in the song not for what it tells of the historical event but for what it tells of the people involved in the event. In the case of songs such as the "Battle of New Orleans" which are a sort of fiction to begin with having been composed more than a century after the event, the singer might check on the facts that are known and be armed with some truth about the event. The Battle is a glorified account but might represent what some of the members of Jackson's army might later tell the home folks. While Jimmy Driftwood claimed to have written the Battle of New Orleans as a way of teaching history to his students, one might question that claim. Jimmy did know factual details about historical events and would have known what actually occurred. He was also a master teller of tall tales and that is what the song seems to be; a tall tale. On the other hand, it reflects the jubilation of the victors in the battle.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: Bert
Date: 07 Apr 10 - 06:25 PM

The victory at the "Battle of New Orleans" was an overwhelming one for the Americans. The British lost about 2,000 men the Americans about 70. A decisive enough victory to make a good song even telling the truth.

It was completely unnecessary to wrongly impugn the courage of the enemy who were to all practical purposed wiped out while attacking.
It makes the song a lie, it makes Jimmy Driftwood a liar and it detracts from the honor of the American victory and of those who fought the battle.

The song should be ignominiously forgotten.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: Jack Campin
Date: 07 Apr 10 - 06:55 PM

"Johnny Cope" is misleading in much the same way.

They're both very good songs.

By now we should be able to appreciate both myth and history and tell which is which.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: GUEST,Kendall
Date: 07 Apr 10 - 07:10 PM

The British forces didn't stand a chance in the first place, and when their leader, General Peckenham(sp) was killed they simply didn't know what to do so they left the field. They were not cowards, just smart.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: Les from Hull
Date: 07 Apr 10 - 07:10 PM

Some historians claim that the British were unduly influenced by the performance of the American Militia at the Battle of Bladensburg. They also place the blame on the party of the 44th(East Essex) Regiment who were supposed to bring forward the fascines and ladders needed to breach the American defences. In any event the song is rank bad history.

If a song purports to be about actual historical events then I for one prefer that it should stick to the facts. Someone could write a sensible song from the point of view of a British infantryman stuck in front of the guns of Line Jackson seeing his commanders and his friends cut down by American fire and waiting in vain for the scaling ladders to let him go forward or the order to withdraw.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: Gern
Date: 07 Apr 10 - 08:36 PM

Maybe it works out so that the winners write the History, but anyone can write the Myth. Only time tells which will win out, or if one colors the other.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: GUEST,rvana
Date: 07 Apr 10 - 09:26 PM

I'm quite comfortable with the concept of "Mythtory"


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 07 Apr 10 - 09:37 PM

Folksongs are always true. Not necessarily accurate, though


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 07 Apr 10 - 09:42 PM

The history should be accurate, and as complete as possible.

But the history should include the myth, its origins, and when and how it came to be associated with that particular history, and the relationship of that association with other uses of that (and the most similar other) myths.

One can recite dates and numbers; but one cannot understand the history without also knowing the lore, myth, and superstitions of those who made it (and of the - usually - others who wrote it).

But it sort of spoils the act if one attempts to include it all in each and every performance.

John


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 07 Apr 10 - 10:08 PM

Doesn't only apply to songs. I don't expect that The Death Of Nelson or The Execution Of Lady Jane Grey actually looked much like the famous paintings purporting to represent them; did the battle of Borodino actually follow the process watched from the hilltop in War & Peace by Pierre Bezukhov?

I'll give you a for·example from my own experience: the film Dance With A Stranger, about Ruth Ellis, the last woman hanged in England. I happened to know her slightly. Even better, I knew her victim, her lover David Blakeley, a racing driver who was a regular customer at my mother's restaurant in S Kensington, with whom I would always share a drink & a chat when he came ~~ usually alone, as Ruth worked as a nightclub hostess so couldn't generally come out evenings, tho he did bring her occasionally which is how I met her [she once politely admired my singing, BTW; but that is another story]. My main point is that the saturnine, filthy-tempered, abusive representation of Blakeley in the film, in an excellent-in-its-way performance by Rupert Everett, bore not the least resemblance to the charming, affable, companionable young man with whom I spent so many sociable half-hours all those years ago.

Myth? Or did Shelagh Delaney, who wrote the script but never met him, but doubtless consulted others who did, actually know more about him than did I, who had frequently met him but only on these restaurant-based public social occasions?

Who to say?

~Michael~


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: catspaw49
Date: 07 Apr 10 - 10:10 PM

Robert Wuhl has a couple of funny HBO specials called "Assume the Position" that are about American History. In one of them he discusses hostory as pop culture and relates it to "The Liberty Valance Effect." In the movie, "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" there is line that in many ways is quite true:

"When the Legend becomes Fact...Print the Legend."

This is generally the case with song. We need the hero or the great battle or the loss or the whatever to go a certain way so "liberties" are taken with the truth and when we go back and research it, we find that the L-V Effect has come into play. I dunno' what the right thing to do always is but I find some aspects of these things kinda' humorous.

In almost every rail disaster song we find the engineer has died "with his hand on the throttle and was scalded to death by the steam."   My Dad was an engineer and he found those lines ridiculous. What the hell are you going to do? Steer the thing off the track?   No, you put it in the hole, throw the air into Emergency, and if you're about to hit something......get the hell out!

In one old song we know the true story quite well and it was a whitewash all the way. The engineer did all he could and jumped. The fireman was trying to follow when the engine crashed and he was thrown against the boiler and died. The engineer survived the jump but struck his head on another rail and also died. So you can't say he stumbled off the cabin platform and hit his head on a rail so the song puts him back in the cab, hand on the throttle, etc...........


Spaw


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: Deckman
Date: 07 Apr 10 - 10:27 PM

The more "versions" of contests that happen ... the more songs we have. To me, folk song history has much more to do with the passions than the actual events ... who won ... who lost.

And it's the human passions that drive these songs. That's one reason that the song of a 200 hundred year old conflict rings so true today ... the passions remain the same. bob(deckman)nelson


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: Rob Naylor
Date: 08 Apr 10 - 03:20 AM

Deckman: But often the myth or the songs drive the passions, so you end up with a "feedback loop".

The number of people I've met who think that "Braveheart", for instance, is an accurate depiction of Wallace's life, is worryingly high. It's fine for the myth to be there, and to be celebrated in song, as long as it doesn't take the place of the history. If the myth (and that can include some representations of history) is *all* that people encounter, the myth can morph into an almost unshakeabl "reality".


Jim C said: History can be got from books while myth is invariably the record of aspiration.
History is usually written by winners so who is to say which is more important - or accurate for that matter?


I'd agree with the first sentence but not with the second. Yes, how history is presented is often skewed by those who succeeded in a certain arena, but the basic facts (or at least some of them) still underly the events and make it possible for a disinterested researcher (or an iconoclast) to review and re-present what happened. In some cases physical or documentary evidence may have been destroyed or manipulated by the "victors", but overall, it's almost invariably a fair bet that the original source material is far more accurate than the myth.

It doesn't make a song any less powerful, though. The sentiment behind, say, "John Condon" is still valid, even though we now know from census records and his birth certificate that John Condon was 18, not 14, when he died, that he'd joined the British army before the war even started and that the strong likelihood is that the body in the grave at isn't even his. All put together by diligent research into source material. I'll still sing the song, though.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: theleveller
Date: 08 Apr 10 - 04:04 AM

"History is usually written by winners"

The historian, Christopher Hill, picked up in this and also that history has generally been written by an educated upper-class elite, ignoring the effects on the poor. He sought to give another perspective in his book 'Liberty Against the Law' which uses as its sources, history as seen by popular culture, including folk songs, Robin Hood ballads, the plays of Gay and Shakespeare, sermons, political tracts and more. It's a book that anyone interested in how myths and events influenced the thinking of the common majority should read.

In the same vein, Cobbett's Rural Rides give an excellent insight into the conditions prevailing at that time (although his tirades against Jewish and Quaker financiers do make slightly uncomfortable reading today).


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: GUEST,kendall
Date: 08 Apr 10 - 04:06 AM

Ladders or no, they still had to do a frontal assault and it would still have been a disaster.
The British forces did not know how to deal with this type of warfare and they paid a terrible price for that.

As far a Braveheart goes, anyone who goes to a movie and expects the truth is delusional.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: GUEST,Davetnova
Date: 08 Apr 10 - 04:07 AM

Lots of thoughtful answers. I haven't abandonded the thread but these answers are giving me a lot to think on. My own feelings are that a song, or story, takes on a life of its own which may diverge from the actual story or incident that inspired it. It doesn't change the history but is something seperarate. - DaveT.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: theleveller
Date: 08 Apr 10 - 04:49 AM

"how history is presented is often skewed by those who succeeded in a certain arena, but the basic facts (or at least some of them) still underly the events and make it possible for a disinterested researcher (or an iconoclast) to review and re-present what happened."

Just read your interesting post, Rob. I agree with what you say up to a point but I think we must distinguish between the 'old school' historians like Trevelyan and the modern historians from, say Tawney and Hill onwards. Whilst the facts may have been presented reasonably accurately (though not always), the effects have often been seen from a biased perpective. The effects of the enclosures is a case in point - whilst benefitting rich landowners of the middle and upper classes, it destroyed a whole, long-established rural economy (the commoners)and created a new class of landless and homeless 'masterless men' who were later forced to become the workforce for the industrial revolution (phew, that's a pretty big sweeping statement for one sentence!). I recently came across a wonderful local song called Snaith Marsh, that gives the viewpoint of a commoner deprived of grazing rights.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: TheSnail
Date: 08 Apr 10 - 04:54 AM

Shakespeare's history plays are considered as some of the greatest literature in the World but as history they are just a little biased towards the expectations of his patrons.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: theleveller
Date: 08 Apr 10 - 05:16 AM

True, Snail, but what is interesting in this context is the attitudes expressed in the sub-plots and by the 'low' characters.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: doc.tom
Date: 08 Apr 10 - 06:04 AM

Absolutely. A very levelling comment from the leveller!
TomB


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Apr 10 - 06:05 AM

Myth is an essential part of history;
This is something I researched for a talk I gave some years ago on how folksong dealt with historical reality.

The Battle of Cromdale took place at the end of the Scots Jacobite rebellion of 1698. In May of that year a 1,500 strong Jacobite army encamped near the Haughs of Cromdale on the banks of the Rive Spey; haugh being a Scots word for a flat meadowland beside a river. Their leader, General Cannon, neglected to ensure that sentries were posted, so the English army was able to surround the rebels and put them to rout.
The ballad, "The Haughs of Cromdale", which written about the events, describes how the Scots, despite stiff resistance, were forced to flee, and goes on to tell how they re-grouped under James Graham, the Marquis of Montrose, returned and defeated the English. The ballad became a great favourite throughout highland Scotland, and soon after its composition it was being sung all over The North.   It is still to be found as a march in the repertoires of the pipe bands of the Highland regiments.
Essentially, the facts presented in the ballad are true; the Scots army was routed at Cromdale and General Montrose did lead an army against the English and defeated them. Unfortunately, the second battle described in the ballad took place 43 years before the first, and General Montrose had been dead for over forty years before the defeat at Cromdale. It appears that the unknown ballad maker, unable to accept such an ignominious defeat, joined two different battles together making the Scots army the final victors, thus playing his part in keeping the Jacobite cause alive for another 48 years until the final downfall at Culloden in 1746 under "Bonnie Prince Charlie".

Jim Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: beeliner
Date: 08 Apr 10 - 06:24 AM

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned "Remember the Alamo".

Written by HISTORY TEACHER Jane Bowers, about the only thing accurate in the song is at the beginning, when Travis allowed anyone who wished to leave to do so, and only one man left, claiming obligations to wife and family, plus possibly some slaves.

Thr rest stayed only because they knew that reinforcements were on the way and were willing to take the chance that they would arrive in time.

It was sad day for both sides and both nations, with nothing heroic occurring.

I never saw the Cinerama movie with the Duke, I doubt that it was much more accurate than the song.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: theleveller
Date: 08 Apr 10 - 06:41 AM

That's very interesting, Jim.

Another example would be the two Ballads of Chevy Chase. Ostensibly based on the Battle of Otterburn, fought in 1388 between Henry 'Harry Hotspur' Percy, Earl of Northumberland, and the Scottish Lord Douglas, the ballads are historically inaccurate, implying that the battle resulted from a hunt on disputed land. Must have been a pretty big hunt as 2000 men were killed and, in fact, the ballads may refer to skirmishes that occurred up to 50 years later.

My own interest in this is that I live in a village in the East Riding of Yorkshire that contains the remains of a once-large castle owned by the Percy family. Local legend has it that Hotspur took all the able-bodied men from the village to fight at Otterburn and that every one was killed (except, of course, Hotspur, who met his end rather later). I have actually written a song which is based on this legend.

Legend, myth or historical fact ? what's important is that there's a good song in it!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: Stringsinger
Date: 08 Apr 10 - 08:59 AM

History attempts to explain factual information. Folklore and songs tell how the people felt.

Of course what some advance as history are mythological such as "I can not tell a lie" reputed to G. Washington.

How much mythology is being offered as "news" today?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: Les from Hull
Date: 08 Apr 10 - 09:06 AM

Kendall - on the contrary British forces in the Peninsular War had executed three successful escalades (assault by scaling ladders) just three years previously, Ciudad Rodrigo in January, Badajoz in April, and the Salamanca forts in June 1812. There are other examples in the Peninsular Wars, veterans of which formed Pakenham's forces at New Orleans. At the time escalade was a normal military tactic and the British Army was the most experienced in the world at it. It could easily have worked but for the unlucky clearing of the mist during the approach of the storming parties and the failure to bring up the ladders.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: GUEST,Allan Connochie
Date: 08 Apr 10 - 09:31 AM

"the ballads (ie Otterburn and Chevy Chase) are historically inaccurate, implying that the battle resulted from a hunt on disputed land."

That is true of Chevy Chase but I don't think it is necessarily so of the Scottish "Battle of Otterburn" in which the Scots simply go into England to "drive a prey". I always just read this as implying that they are preying on the English and their goods rather than hunting deer etc. I wouldn't imagine that there would be recriminations against the Jardines simply for not going on a hunting trip - whereas if they refused to join in on a large scale raid.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: IanC
Date: 08 Apr 10 - 09:43 AM

Thanks Jim

I'm in complete agreement with your conclusion but it's also true that your useful note about Cromdale illustrates the triumph of a rather wider mythology over fact.

In fact, as with most of the Jacobite battles in Scotland, there was no English army at Cromdale. Sir Thomas Livingston was commander of the forces at Inverness and these were very largely (possibly completely) made up of (mainly lowland) Scots loyal to the government. Both the Jacobite cause, and more especially General Buchan, were pretty unpopular in Scotland as a whole at the time which explains why the 1200 men he started with had reduced to 800 by desertion by the time of the battle (despite vigorous attempts at recruitment).

:-)
Ian


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: theleveller
Date: 08 Apr 10 - 10:04 AM

Allan, the history of the Battle of Otterburn, as I understand it, was that Percy was seeking redress for a previous skirmish when Douglas captured his banner whilst attempting to take the city of Newcastle. Percy followed him with around 8000 men but Douglas chose the better ground and, because it was a battle through the night, Percy couldn't use his archers. Anyway, despite being the victor, Douglas was killed, fulfilling his premonition:

"Last night I dreamed a dreary dream,
From beyond the Isle of Skye,
I saw a dead man win a fight,
And I think that man was I."


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: GUEST,Longlankin
Date: 08 Apr 10 - 10:31 AM

Folk songs are an important historical source in that they can reveal the feelings, opinions and social values of people at the time as well as their view of historical events. Look at the number of songs about sailors being inconstant lovers or whose lovers are only interested in their money.

Irrespective of the "winner writes the history", views of what is historical truth also change over time so the songs can also reveal something of how people at a particular time thought of their own history. "Flower of Scotland" is a good example of the Scottish mythologising of their own history (and before anyone starts - I am part Scots and yes the English, Irish and Welsh, and no doubt Americans, are just as bad) and reveals more about the views at the time of its writing than any historical event.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: theleveller
Date: 08 Apr 10 - 11:04 AM

It's certainly the myths that often make the better story or song than the history. But if there's a combination of the two ? you've got a winner.

In the church at Flamborough, on the East Yorkshire coast, is the tomb of Sir Marmaduke Constable, who died in 1530. He was called 'Little' Sir Marmaduke but despite being of small stature, was a distinguished soldier, fighting for Edward lV in France, at the Battle of Bosworth with Richard lll, at the Siege of Berwick and, at the amazing age (for that time) of 70, he commanded the left flank of the English army at Flodden, engaging in hand-to-hand combat throughout and personally despatching many opponents. But the strangest thing is that he is reputed to have died after swallowing a live toad ? which ate his heart. In fact, on his tomb is a representation of the upper part of a skeleton, the rib cage being still visible, revealing a bulbous heart and a curious lump of stone said to be the representation of a toad.

Now I hadn't come across this amazing man before (although his family are still prominent East Yorkshire landowners) and thought there had to be a song in there ? so I wrote one, based on the epitaph on his tomb. Anyone who happens to come to Kirkby Fleetham Folk Club on 24th April can hear the first public performance as we (Whipstaff) are supporting Steve Tilston.

Hey - history, myth, a story, a song, AND a commercial all in one post ? how about that? ;-)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 08 Apr 10 - 01:06 PM

From George Washington's "cherry tree" to Davy Crockett's tall tales to local windbags "embroidering" the truth, it is an old and grand tradition. I know we shouldn't lie or assign God-like qualities to real people, alive or otherwise. But,sometimes,the myth-busters and revisionist historians, in their zeal to reveal, do a disservice in exploding all our cherished myths. You can find warts on every historic figure and errors of fact in every folk song or story, if you want to look hard enough. Does it serve some higher purpose, or simply disappoint and disillusion us? Would you really want to live in a world without myths? I'd rather just enjoy the music and take my history with a grain of salt.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: GUEST,Allan Connochie
Date: 08 Apr 10 - 01:18 PM

"Essentially, the facts presented in the ballad are true; the Scots army was routed at Cromdale and General Montrose did lead an army against the English and defeated them. Unfortunately, the second battle described in the ballad took place 43 years before the first, and General Montrose had been dead for over forty years before the defeat at Cromdale."

Ian's already pointed out that Cromdale and in fact all the battles during the 1689 revolution were Scot against Scot and he is absolutely right. There was no English army in Scotland at that time.

I'm also not sure what battle you are referring to 43 years prior to this though. Montrose did initially campaign against the Royalist English when he was involved in the Scottish Covenanting governement's invasion of northern England. However he later betrayed the Covenanters and became the main Royalist general in Scotland. He could find no support within Scotland until he went north to meet up with an invading Irish army who were joined by various MacDonalds. In between comitting atrocities they won several battles against Scottish government armies until eventually they split up, with some of the Irish and islesmen deciding that killing Campbells in Argyl was their main aim, whilst Montrose rode south with the rest of the army believing many leading Borderers would support him. They didn't and the main Scottish army returned from campaigning in England and routed his army at Philiphaugh massacring the Irish amongst the ranks in the process. Montrose was a fugitive for about a year before fleeing the country. He later tried another invasion this time using German and Dutch troops and was again defeated by the Scottish government army made up of Covenanters and Highlanders, taken back to Edinburgh and executed. I may be mistaken but I know of no battle within Scotland where as a Royalist general Montrose defeated or even faced an English army.

I think it is possible that whover made the original song up mixed up James Graham of Montrose with James Graham of Claverhouse who sparked the 1689 rebellion. Later romanticists nicknamed Claverhouse by the name Bonnie Dundee but in Lowland Scotland at that time he was called Bluidy Clavers (ie Bloody Clavers) because of his position as chief royalist henchman during the Killing Times and general suppression of the Covenanters during the Restoration. When James VII of Scotland was ousted from the English throne the Scottish Estates took advantage of his losing his English power base, named him as a traitor and stripped him off his throne. Claverhouse fled Edinburgh to rally support for James in the Highlands - probably because he knew he was a marked man as soon as James was ousted. The rebel Jacobite army was met by Scottish government troops at Killiecrankie in the first conflict of the 1689 rebellion and although the Jacobites got the better of the battle Claverhouse was killed.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: GUEST,Allan Connochie
Date: 08 Apr 10 - 01:34 PM

"Flower of Scotland" is a good example of the Scottish mythologising of their own history (and before anyone starts - I am part Scots and yes the English, Irish and Welsh, and no doubt Americans, are just as bad) and reveals more about the views at the time of its writing than any historical event."

In what way does Flower of Scotland mythologise anything? It is simply a modern day nationalist invoking the spirit of independence as shown by the Scots at Bannockburn when they did defeat Edward's army and sent them home. It may be unnecesarily militaristic though I suspect Williamson was simply trying to write a modern day "Scots Wha Hae" type song but there is nothing mythological about it.

Saying that of course there is plenty of mythologising elsewhere in the Scottish canon.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 08 Apr 10 - 01:44 PM

A very interesting thread and by no means one with an easy solution.
Shakespeare's history plays already mentioned, mostly myth and/or made up by the writer to please his patrons, but how do the majority nowadays perceive the likes of Macbeth and Richard III?

My own gut feeling is that a film (unless it's a documentary) is fiction or faction, and to a degree the writer has almost carte blanche. If it's loosely based on history there has to be some semblance of fact usually to add to the realism. Do songwriters have any more duty to tell the truth as film writers? Or for that matter other genres? In an historical novel we would expect there to be some facts, but at the end of the day the writer has to fill out the story and sell books. IMHO many songs are written with a commercial purpose in mind (Sorry Jim!) and if you are going to sell your song you've got to make it interesting in some way. One way might be distorting the facts.

As I said, there is no easy answer.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Apr 10 - 06:13 PM

(Sorry Jim!)
Sorry Steve, can't let that one go.
It seems fairly obvious to me that songs like 'Cromdale (thanks for the correction in detail Allan) were written purely for propaganda purposes, which, to me, makes your 'for profit' theory a nonsense - you don't 'sell' propaganda, you give it away and hope someone takes it. This is why I believe these songs to be a part of history and not a contradiction of it.
This is another song I researched for the same talk I gave.
Jim Carroll

"The song, 'Ballyshannon Lane', purports to be about atrocities said to have been committed by the Government troops at Scullabogue, County Wexford in the July of that year, at the same time as the battle for New Ross. It is a lament for the rebels said to have died at the hands of the Hessians and, somewhat confusedly, "Cromwell's crew"; Cromwell having died some 140 years previously.
The truth of the matter is somewhat different. In fact the atrocities were carried out by the fleeing rebels against mainly Protestant loyalists. The following description of events from Thomas Pakenham's 'The Year of Liberty' is based largely on contemporary documents.

Twenty-five miles away to the west, the beleaguered loyalists of Wexford waited in trepidation for news of the battle. But while all eyes were turned to New Ross, a ghastly scene was being enacted at Scullabogue which was to have a still more indelible mark on Irish history than the battle now raging.
The loyalists imprisoned at Scullabogue had been lodged in an empty house and adjoining barn belonging to a gentleman called Captain King. The barn was a small narrow building of wood and thatch with thick stone walls. Into this had been thrust more than a hundred prisoners - nearly two hundred according to one account - including about twenty women and children. The great majority were, of course, Protestant, though there were some Catholics who had fallen foul of the rebels, some family servants who would not quit their masters, the wife of a militia man, and an old musician whom they accused of playing a loyal tune on his bagpipes. Soon after the first attack on New Ross, a messenger reached Scullabogue with a wild story that the King's soldiers were butchering rebel soldiers; and that orders had now been given to kill loyalist prisoners in retaliation. The rebel captain in charge of the prisoners refused, unless directly ordered by the general. Another order came, to the same effect, and again received the same refusal. Then a third order, supposedly issued by a priest, and the guards could no longer be restrained.
One group hauled out the prisoners from the house. After taking off their coats and uttering a short prayer, they began the work of execution. The prisoners were made to kneel down and were shot four at a time while the next four were being lined up; countrywomen rushed forward regardless of risk to strip the bodies and take their valuables. All told, thirty-five men were shot on the lawn at Scullabogue, each fusillade provoking a cheer from the rebel guards, according to a loyalist who somehow survived.
Meanwhile a second group of rebels were dealing with the families in the barn. Someone had already put a ladder to the walls and set fire to the thatched roof. In their terror of being burnt or suffocated the wretched people inside apparently tried to push open the heavy door at the back. The guards rushed to the door, hacking at their hands and fingers; the door was jammed shut again. By weight of numbers, the prisoners again forced the door open - to be again thrust back by pikes. One two-year-old child actually crept under the door and lay unobserved by the house, till someone spotted the wretched creature and ran it through with his pike.
At last the business was over, the screams faded into silence and the flames died away. In the ruins of the barn they found over a hundred charred bodies, families huddled together and still standing upright for want of space.
For several days, the guards were occupied turning over the bodies to look for coins or other valuables."

It's little wonder that the perpetrators of such an atrocity should want to shift the blame to the other side. This contemporary illustration is a depiction of the scene at Scullabogue by cartoonist George Cruikshank. Usually such illustrations tend to exaggerate the events depicted, though it's fairly clear from the description that there has been little exaggeration here.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: GUEST,Allan Connochie
Date: 08 Apr 10 - 06:49 PM

I've done a little research and it seems the second much earlier battle interloped into the Haughs of Cromdale is the Battle of Auldearn which was a battle in Montrose's campaign. The mixed Irish and Scottish Royalist army led by Montrose and Alasdair MacDonald defeated a Scottish Covenanting army led by General Hurry


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: Bobert
Date: 08 Apr 10 - 07:24 PM

IMHO, songs that have a historical basis (with a liberal smathering of poetic license) are the most interesting... Plus...

...they make for better intros 'cuase the singer/songwriter gets an opportunity to educate the audience about some aspect of history that the audience might find entertaining and educational...

I wrote a long (33 verses) song awhile back about a train that got buried in a tunnel underneath of Richmond, Virginia entitled the "Legend of the Churchill Tunnel" and it's about 50/50 fact and poetic/artistic license (I don't use the term mythology in terms of good song writing unless it is just that)...

B~


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: Stringsinger
Date: 08 Apr 10 - 07:31 PM

I love a mythtory.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: kendall
Date: 08 Apr 10 - 07:54 PM

Where would we be without poetic license? Or, if you prefer, licence.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: Stringsinger
Date: 08 Apr 10 - 08:00 PM

Or poetic, licentious.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: Bert
Date: 08 Apr 10 - 10:05 PM

Another such song is McDonald's Kitchen

It gives a completely false impression of American Fast Food. You can go to any of many major Fast Food chains anywhere in the country and get a good meal at a reasonable price.

Such songs are fun to sing but it is the duty of the singer to point out the inaccuracies to the audience.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Apr 10 - 03:51 AM

Or poetic, licentious.
Mmmmmmm - as Homer Simpson would say.
"You can go to any of many major Fast Food chains ...."
Now look what you've done Bert - gone and introduced controversy into an otherwise civilied thread!
Jim Carroll

The Fast-Food Song        

There is today around this land, a most unhealthy fad,        
Inspired by neighbour Uncle Sam, promoting all that's bad;        
With eating soggy burger buns, and half-hot pies also,        
These ould deep-fryin' pans and fast food vans are the gourmet's overthrow

This fast-food stuff is all the go as any schoolchild knows,        
With stainless steel at every meal and tables in neat rows;        .
Kebabs and burgers thick with grease go sliding down young throats,        
While Pizza Kings, and onion rings, the growing body bloats.

Now you will find, as I'll remind, at many of these stalls        
The toxic smell of burning oil upon your senses palls,        
While beneath your feet, upon the street, quite plainly to be seen        
Are the remains of spuds and cardboard tubs and meat that's turning green.

Now it is a pleasant pastime if you have the time to spare,
To stand a while at such a place all for to gawk and stare,
Just to observe your neighbours with their bellies full of stout Crying:
"Two burgers there?th'oul' Miracle spare, One with and one without!"

Like hurlers just outside the goal they jostle and they push,
They loudly cry and madly vie for all this instant mush;
And when in hand this drooling band discard without a care,
Those plastic forks and plastic box, the tools of this vile fare.

Oh Ireland, Mother Ireland, what has become of you?
Give us back our pots of coddle and our bowls of Irish stew.
You've replaced our rippling muscle with reams of rolling fat
By eating stuff that near enough you wouldn't feed your cat.

Oh, McDonald Mor*, a curse on you, down in history you will go
For the increasity in obesity from eating your oul' dough.
Oh Pizza Hut and BurgerLand, you've rounded my slim waist,
On yous I blame this overhang composed from flour and paste.

So come all you healthy Irishmen, these mistakes do not be makin',
Short life preclude, fast food exclude, don't forsake your hairy bacon;
And you must chew raw turnips too, in your colon they won't lie,
For if you do not it'll be your lot to tumble down and die.

*Irish = Big Mac

Tim Lyons (written after a nasty dose of food-poisoning at the Willie Clancy Summer School)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: LadyJean
Date: 10 Apr 10 - 12:55 AM

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe most of what we know of William Wallace comes from a ballad by a minstrel called Blind Harry that was written after the fact.

Of course, in the U.S. we have Frank and Jesse James, who owe much of their repututations to minstrelsy.

"Macbeth" was my father's favorite play. I don't remember a time in my life when I didn't know it, and I can recite hefty chunks. But it doesn't have a lot to do with what actually happened.

As an interesting addition: At New Orleans, General Packenham built a barricade of barrels full of sugar. Anybody who knows what happens when sugar burns would have told him that was a recipe for disaster.
If Packenham had learned to cook at some point in his life, history might be different.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 10 Apr 10 - 01:17 AM

Ah, yay ~~ Jesse James. Stole from the rich to give to the poor, it sez here. Now where can they have found that formulation from, eh wot?

~M~


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: Rowan
Date: 10 Apr 10 - 01:39 AM

"History" is supposed to be constructed from documentation of "facts", while song is a form of "oral history"; both are constructed according to the author's agenda. Sometimes the facts are "correct" and sometimes the author's agenda is neutral and benign but, always, the most useful question to ask of any representation (especially the more successful ones) is "Who benefits?"

One of the current heavies involved with the Greenwich Museum wrote his PhD thesis on the involvement of Australians in the Gallipoli theatre in WWI and subsequently edited "The diaries of C.E.W. Bean"; Bean was the official Australian War Correspondent at the time. When the thesis writer was, subsequently, setting exam questions for his history students at Monash Uni, one favourite was to print out the text of Eric Bogle's "The band played Waltzing Matilda" and invite the candidates to enumerate (with justification) the errors in the text.

Bean certainly had an agenda but there was a lot of other material (some corroborating and some contradicting him) in the Australian War Memorial. A PhD thesis, by definition, has an agenda but it's usually to be "neutral and objective" in reassessing received wisdom. Given that he wrote the song while living near the Enoggera Barracks around the time Australia was extricating itself from Vietnam and when Alan Seymour's Anzac Day play, "The One Day of the Year" (1960) was a hot topic of dissension, I'm confident that Eric's main agenda was to highlight the wastefulness of war and produce a singable song that got the emotional and social effects "right".

Which he did. Incidentally, it scored second prize in the 1974 National Folk Festival's Song Contest; nobody now recalls the song that came first.

Cheers, Rowan


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: Bert
Date: 10 Apr 10 - 03:25 AM

I didn't say healthy Jim;-)

But compared with the last time I ate out in England, American Fast Food is bloody great. I can remember the one Wimpy burger I ever had, it was about two inches diameter and one eight of an inch thick. It looked and tasted like cardboard.

Also an otherwise civilied thread! You made that word up on purpose for this thread.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: GUEST,Allan Connochie
Date: 10 Apr 10 - 04:39 AM

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe most of what we know of William Wallace comes from a ballad by a minstrel called Blind Harry that was written after the fact."

Yes Blind Harry's epic poem about Wallace was written in the 15thC and was written in Scots. Hamilton of Gilbertsfield did an English translation in the 18thC and this was the work Randall Wallace based much of his novel on though he also supposedly interwove some of the emements of story of Christ into it. Right from Harry's version it was a swashbuckling adventure full of imagination, exaggeration and even distortion.

Some of the things that get most criticism for being 'made up' by the film makers were actually taken directly from the poem or adapted from the poem. For instance the blue face of Wallace! But in the poem Wallace is visted in a dream by a fairy (in the later version the Virgin Mary) who crosses his face with a Saltire. The liason with the Princess in the film is much criticised but again this is simply adapted from the poem except in the poem it is the English Queen herself who has the liason with Wallace.

One of the big differences between film/book and poem is how the Irish soldiers are portrayed which I suppose is a sop to Irish Americans. In the film when the Irish serving under Edward of England actually come face to face with the Scots they down weapons and both sides start hugging each other in some kind of Celtic solidarity whilst the English king simply shrugs his soldiers and whispers something like "bloody Irish". However in the poem when Wallace's army catches up with the Irish and Scottish Highlanders serving under Edward he spares all the Highlanders who swear allegiance to him (because they are fellow Scots) but all of the Irish are massacred on the spot for being foreign invaders.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Apr 10 - 07:03 AM

" civilied" "You made that word up on purpose for this thread."
No I didn't but I wish I had - I must remember it for future reference.
Re fast foord - haven't eaten a burger since the "scabby kangaroo meat on polystyrene bread rolls" libel case.
Jim Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Myth or history
From: Les from Hull
Date: 10 Apr 10 - 10:10 AM

'At New Orleans, General Packenham built a barricade of barrels full of sugar.' I would be interested in a source for this statement. None of the major sources mention it. Even if sugar barrels were used as impromptu gabions they would contain earth and stones.

Jackson's famed cotton bales in the barricade were only used under the guns. They were a bit inflammable to protect troops.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
  Share Thread:
More...

Reply to Thread
Subject:  Help
From:
Preview   Automatic Linebreaks   Make a link ("blue clicky")


Mudcat time: 23 February 2:13 PM EST

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.