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How old are the oldest Child ballads?

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Roberto 26 Aug 11 - 01:44 AM
Paul Davenport 26 Aug 11 - 04:23 AM
Sandra in Sydney 26 Aug 11 - 06:37 AM
Sandra in Sydney 26 Aug 11 - 06:40 AM
Mark Ross 26 Aug 11 - 10:09 AM
Roberto 26 Aug 11 - 10:30 AM
Roberto 26 Aug 11 - 12:12 PM
Skivee 26 Aug 11 - 12:52 PM
Paul Davenport 26 Aug 11 - 02:27 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 27 Aug 11 - 07:10 AM
Paul Davenport 27 Aug 11 - 10:32 AM
GUEST,Raymond Greenoaken 28 Aug 11 - 05:42 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 28 Aug 11 - 10:28 AM
GUEST,Lighter 28 Aug 11 - 10:45 AM
GUEST,Chris Wright 28 Aug 11 - 10:48 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 28 Aug 11 - 10:59 AM
Paul Davenport 28 Aug 11 - 11:29 AM
GUEST,Lighter 28 Aug 11 - 01:14 PM
Paul Davenport 28 Aug 11 - 06:46 PM
skipy 28 Aug 11 - 06:49 PM
GUEST,Lighter 28 Aug 11 - 07:00 PM
MGM·Lion 29 Aug 11 - 12:56 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 29 Aug 11 - 04:28 AM
Paul Davenport 29 Aug 11 - 05:30 AM
MGM·Lion 29 Aug 11 - 06:59 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 29 Aug 11 - 02:31 PM
GUEST,leeneia 29 Aug 11 - 06:02 PM
Brian Peters 30 Aug 11 - 07:21 AM
GUEST,Lighter 30 Aug 11 - 07:29 AM
GUEST,Seonaid 30 Aug 11 - 01:36 PM
Rozza 30 Aug 11 - 02:20 PM
Brian Peters 30 Aug 11 - 03:18 PM
GUEST,Lighter 30 Aug 11 - 03:29 PM
GUEST,SteveG 30 Aug 11 - 06:11 PM
michaelr 30 Aug 11 - 06:53 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 31 Aug 11 - 03:55 AM
Brian Peters 31 Aug 11 - 07:18 AM
GUEST,Lighter 31 Aug 11 - 07:49 AM
GUEST,Raymond Greenoaken 31 Aug 11 - 11:21 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 31 Aug 11 - 12:20 PM
michaelr 31 Aug 11 - 03:21 PM
Brian Peters 01 Sep 11 - 07:57 AM
GUEST,SteveG 01 Sep 11 - 05:11 PM
GUEST,Lighter 01 Sep 11 - 06:04 PM
Susan of DT 01 Sep 11 - 07:12 PM
GUEST,Katie Letcher Lyle 24 Jan 13 - 05:42 PM
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Subject: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: Roberto
Date: 26 Aug 11 - 01:44 AM

In the back cover of B. H. Bronson, The Singing Tradition of Child's Popular Ballads, we read that these ballads were written down between the thirteenth and the nineteenth century.

If we check the most important among these ballads, we find we generally have to do with songs whose first written text is from the seventeenth and eighteenth century.

So far as the knowledge on these ballads has gone, what are the most preeminent ballads that can actually be traced back to the medieval and Renaissance times?


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 26 Aug 11 - 04:23 AM

I understand that the oldest of Child's collection is 'Judas' (C. 23). This single text appears to be in Middle English and dates back to the 13th century. Liz and I just recorded a version in more modern English. I think its the only commercial recording of the ballad.


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: Sandra in Sydney
Date: 26 Aug 11 - 06:37 AM

I've never really looked at Child ballads, I just sing along with those which have choruses, & listen to the others!

So I did a search on child ballads and judas found this

pre-1600 ballads

Sixteenth Century Ballads: A work in progress

Now all I need to do is read it all

sandra


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Subject: LYR ADD: Child ballad 23 - Judas
From: Sandra in Sydney
Date: 26 Aug 11 - 06:40 AM

Child Ballad 23: Judas

23.1        HIT wes upon a Scere-thorsday that ure loverd aros;
        Ful milde were the wordes he spec to Judas.
23.2        'Judas, thou most to Jurselem, oure mete for to bugge;
        Thritti platen of selver thou bere up othi rugge.
23.3        'Thou comest fer ithe brode stret, fer ithe brode strete;
        Summe of thine tunesmen ther thou meiht imete.'
23.4        . . . . .
        Immette wid is soster, the swikele wimon.
23.5        'Judas, thou were wrthe me stende the wid ston,
        For the false prophete that tou bilevest upon.'
23.6        'Be stille, leve soster, thin herte the tobreke!
        Wiste min loverd Crist, ful wel he wolde be wreke.'
23.7        'Judas, go thou on the roc, heie upon the ston;
        Lei thin heved imy barm, slep thou the anon.'
23.8        Sone so Judas of slepe was awake,
        Thritti platen of selver from hym weren itake.
23.9        He drou hymselve bi the cop, that al it lavede a blode;
        The Jewes out of Jurselem awenden he were wode.
23.10        Foret hym com the riche Jeu that heihte Pilatus:
        'Wolte sulle thi loverd, that hette Jesus?'
23.11        'I nul sulle my loverd [for] nones cunnes eihte,
        Bote hit be for the thritti platen that he me bitaihte.'
23.12        'Wolte sulle thi lord Crist for enes cunnes golde?'
        'Nay, bote hit be for the platen that he habben wolde.'
23.13        In him com ur lord Crist gon, as is postles seten at mete:
        'Wou sitte ye, postles, ant wi nule ye ete?
23.14        ['Wou sitte ye, postles, ant wi nule ye ete?]
        Ic am ibouht ant isold today for oure mete.'
23.15        Up stod him Judas: 'Lord, am I that . . .?
        'I nas never othe stude ther me the evel spec.'
23.16        Up him stod Peter, and spec wid al is mihte,
        . . . . . .
23.17        'Thau Pilatus him come wid ten hundred cnihtes,
        Yet ic wolde, loverd, for thi love fihte.'
23.18        'Still thou be, Peter, wel I the icnowe;
        Thou wolt fursake me thrien ar the coc him crowe.'


I'm looking forward to hearing your version, Paul & Liz

sandra


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: Mark Ross
Date: 26 Aug 11 - 10:09 AM

I heard that Child's criteria for picking which ballads to add to the collection, was that he could prove that they existed before 1475, which was the date of the introduction of the printing press into England. Therefore, they were truly from the ancient oral tradition.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: Roberto
Date: 26 Aug 11 - 10:30 AM

Mark, I think the information on Child's criteria is fake. There are many ballads his first text is more recent, and he doesn't worry at all to invent older origins.


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: Roberto
Date: 26 Aug 11 - 12:12 PM

Thanks to Paul Davenport, I'm also interested in your recordings. R


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: Skivee
Date: 26 Aug 11 - 12:52 PM

I think that most musicologists and scholars would agree that those older than 13-14 years should be considered "Young Adult" ballads.

You're welcome.


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Subject: ADD Version: Judas (Child 23)
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 26 Aug 11 - 02:27 PM

Here's our 'modern' version.
The recording is on 'Spring Tide Rising'
http://www.hallamtrads.co.uk
Enjoy

JUDAS (Child 23)
(Modern version by Paul Davenport)

At Passover-tide our Lord he arose
And gentle the words that he spoke to Judas
To Jerusalem go and take there for to try        
Thirty pieces of silver our supper to buy

Judas met with his sister, a wicked woman
Who cruel words spoke so he wished her be gone
If I had my will, I should stone thee with stone
All for that false prophet thou dotest upon

Ah, peace, dearest sister, my heart ye would break
For my dear Lord he would die for thy sake
Then forgive me, said she, come now, sleep in my barn
Then this wicked woman took him by the arm

But upon the next morning when he did awaken
Thirty pieces of silver from him she had taken
A crying and a screaming he went in the street
And there that rich man Pontius Pilate did meet

What ails thee, what ails thee? then Pilate he said
I betrayed my Lord's trust and I wish myself dead
Thirty pieces of silver he trusted to me
For to buy bread and wine our supper to be

Then up spoke Pilate, saying I'll give thee gold
If that you will tell me where to find your Lord
I want not your gold, but if thou give to me
Thirty pieces of silver, I'll tell it to thee

Then in came Lord Jesus and sat down to eat
Unto his apostles these words he did speak
Come, eat dear apostles, take the bread that I break
For I am bought and sold all for this supper's sake

Then up spoke Peter crying, What hast thou done?
You have sold our Lord who is God's only son!
Be still Peter, said Jesus, for this I do know
You shall sell me three times, e'er the cocks they do crow

    I added attribution and formatted the title, Paul. Did I attribute it correctly? -Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 27 Aug 11 - 07:10 AM

Intuition & instinct tell me that the ones that haunt your dreams are sure to be the most ancient. I've been haunted by Child #19 for the past 30 years and I'd say it was pretty ancient in terms of language, melody, structure, and subject matter of course - in terms of mythic analogue you don't get much older really. Of course if it turns out to be rather less so I won't mind too much. Other's haunt similarly - #32 is effective on various levels (though English versions invariably miss the essential humour of the thing) whilst I believe #102 to be one of the finest things ever written. In the absense of a melody, I set it to the tune of Adam de la Halle's Bergeronnette Douce Baisselete back in 1990 & we still sing it today - we've a version featured on John Barleycorn Reborn as well as an ambient remix featured on the forthcoming John Barleycorn Rebirth CD. With our ballads session coming up at Fylde festival next week, I've just uploaded the basic live take onto our Soundcloud page which captures the inner essence of the thing (though we no longer use the accordion drone):

Rapunzel & Sedayne : Child #102


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 27 Aug 11 - 10:32 AM

Suibhne has a really good point here. Child #19 (King Orfeo) is a well documented story dating back into Ancient Greek myth. As such it's a candidate for a very early ballad. But I suppose that, although the theme is old, the real question would be; is it a traditional 'remainder' or is it a 'classical revival' piece?


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: GUEST,Raymond Greenoaken
Date: 28 Aug 11 - 05:42 AM

there's a southern English poem – Sir Orfeo – on the same theme, which dates back at least to the early 14th century, and most scholars believe it to be a translation of a lost French/Breton original. Textually it shares little with Child 19, though the narrative has more in common with the ballad than with the Greek myth; but it is in the same couplet form as Child 19 and could easily be sung to the ballad tune (though it would take at least an hour to sing it...)


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 28 Aug 11 - 10:28 AM

An hour eh? Sounds like my kind of thing...

Thing is though, I remember when I first heard King Orfeo (sung by Fred Lane on a record of Talharp / Jouhikko music by Stybjorn Bergelt some 30 years ago) but I don't remember when I first heard the story of Orpheus & Eurydice. At the same time I was listening to a lot of Willian Lawes Dialogues (on a record by the Consort of Musicke) which touched on similar themes - Charon, Orpheus, Eurydice et al (one line ran Orpheus, oh Orpheus, gently touch thy lesbian lyre..., all a far cry from Scowan Urla Grun...)

Thing is, for the life of me I can't conceive of 'The Tradition' in sense of any sort of specialised purity cultural continuity as fantasised over by folkies. What goes around comes around, & by any means possible too - be it TV, Education, Book, Radio, Bards, Broadsides, Records or whatever. Cultural Process is Tradition enough. I know that first hearing King Orfeo touched me because of of my familiarity with the old myth, which I've known all my life though in all probability I learnt in school when I wasn't even listening. Even now my ADD is pretty ghastly; back then my brain would be a riot of day dreams & longings & gazing out the window watching the colliery engines, but things went in inspite of myself, paving the way for King Orfeo with his Lesbian Lyre & Gabber Reel...


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 28 Aug 11 - 10:45 AM

The issue isn't how old is the *story* of "King Orfeo," or what they might have done with it in the Middle Ages. The issue is how old is the British *ballad*.

The answer is unknown.

Donald S. Taylor offered the suggestion that, based on a possible twelfth-century allusion, that "Sir Aldingar" in one form or another was the oldest Child ballad.

That was sixty years ago, and nobody, AFAIK, has challenged Taylor's evidence - though there's not quite enough of it to prove that he was right.


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: GUEST,Chris Wright
Date: 28 Aug 11 - 10:48 AM

Here are some notes of mine on 'Sir Cawline' (Child 61):

Until recently, only three versions of this ballad were known. Child included all three in his 'English and Scottish Popular Ballads', with his main text, an English version called 'Sir Cawline', derived from Bishop Percy's 'Reliques of Ancient English Poetry' (1765). The other two versions, one collected from a Mrs Harris of Perthshire in 1859, and another reproduced from Peter Buchan's 'Ancient Ballads and Songs of the North of Scotland' (1828) were considered by Child to be corruptions of the Percy MS version.

However, in the early 1970's, Marion Stewart discovered a late-sixteenth century (c. 1583) Scots poem entitled 'Ane Taill of Sir Colling the Knyt' in a manuscript at Register House in Edinburgh. Her analysis demonstrates that both the Harris MS and Buchan MS versions are derived from a source shared with this 'Sir Colling', and not the Percy MS. Moreover, Child had dismissed the first two stazas of the Percy MS, mentioning Christ and Edward Bruce's campaign in Ireland, as belonging to another ballad. 'Sir Colling' shows that these stanzas are relevant to the setting of the story.

See:
'English and Scottish Popular Ballads' vol. 2 (F. J. Child, 1882-1898) pg. 56-63
'Scottish Studies' 16 (M. Stewart, 'A Recently Discovered Manuscript', 1972) pp. 23-35
'The History of Scottish Literature' (ed. R. D. S. Jack; Hamish Henderson 'The Ballad and Popular Tradition to 1600', 1986). Reproduced in 'Alias MacAlias' (Hamish Henderson ed. Alec Finlay, 1994, 2004) pp. 78-94


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 28 Aug 11 - 10:59 AM

The issue isn't how old is the *story* of "King Orfeo," or what they might have done with it in the Middle Ages. The issue is how old is the British *ballad*.

Not for me. The issue will always be the cultural continuity that makes us receptive to such things in the first place. This is how the ballad came about - with its vivid imagery & bilingual verse structure. As such I'd say it's essentially timeless in terms of mythic archetype and dreaming in which we all share.


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 28 Aug 11 - 11:29 AM

The issue is solved by looking at Child himself. I quote, '23 Judas'.
'MS. B 14, 39, of the thirteenth century, library of Trinity College, Cambridge'
There isn't an earlier attribution in Child, nor is there another ballad in such early English.


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 28 Aug 11 - 01:14 PM

Except that we don't know for sure that "Judas" was ever sung.

If it had no tune, it wasn't a ballad; it was just a poem.

Anyway, if Taylor is correct, "Judas" isn't the oldest anyway. Taylor showed that an actual song somewhat resembling "Sir Aldingar" existed in the twelfth century. Of course, we don't have the lyrics or the tune, and there is no evidence of continuity across several centuries. The resemblance could still be coincidental.

As for "Sir Orfeo," the continuity and evolution of motifs is one thing, but if we're talking about the actual *ballad* of "Sir Orfeo," it's the ballad we're talking about rather than its antecedents.

If, for example, I want to know the name of the oldest member of the current U.S. Senate, I want the person's actual name. Just being told that old geezers have served in the Senate since 1789 won't do.

IIRC, the oldest text in Child (that is, the oldest in manuscript) is "Riddles Wisely Expounded" (Child 1). It dates from the middle of the fifteenth century.

Frankly, it doesn't have much of a story; so it isn't much of a ballad.


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 28 Aug 11 - 06:46 PM

Sorry, Guest - Lighter. The thread is about the oldest Child ballad. Not the oldest ballad in any other collection. The oldest is 'Judas' why? Because Child says so! Thirteenth century is two hundred years older than Fifteenth century isn't it? I just posted the provenance from Child in the note above yours. There are several Child ballads that were never sung, what's your point?

Note to Joe, thanks very much for the formatting, spot on but it's a verse translation (with some bits missed out for brevity and to maintain the story. (People may want to dispute this but, in the interest of getting a sung version of what I find a quite moving story, I took some liberties.)


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: skipy
Date: 28 Aug 11 - 06:49 PM

18?


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 28 Aug 11 - 07:00 PM

My point is that the question was "What is the oldest Child ballad?"

It was not "What is the oldest item in Child's collection?" (obviously "Judas"), or "What is the oldest piece that Child thought of as a ballad?" (also "Judas").

My second point is that a popular ballad, which is what Child was interested in, has at least one tune, sung traditionally. Even if "Judas" really was sung, there is no evidence that it became traditional, i.e. was sung across more than one generation. "Riddles Wisely Expounded," on the other hand, exists in numerous versions and is known to have been sung traditionally.

I chose to answer the question in a helpful way.


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 29 Aug 11 - 12:56 AM

This thread has thruout been getting bogged down by confusion between the two discourses represented by above exchange: viz

1. Which can be demonstrated by adducing an identifiable source in an accessible place? ~~ clearly Judas;

2. Which can be shown, or believed on fair evidence, to have the longest antecedence in terms of theme & narrative?; in which case King Orfeo, Riddles Wisely Expounded [leading to several others like CambricShirt/ScarboroFair or Capt Wedderburn being cited as clear offshoots of its theme], et al, must all be candidates.

So that disagreements like the above which are bound to occur, are category disputes.

Should not the original question be taxonimically defined in these terms by OP before the thread can become coherent?

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 29 Aug 11 - 04:28 AM

We Who Love Ballads are of the faith that our precious narratives are not only archaic in & of themselves, but spun from a far older lore that gives meaty provenance to their very ancientness. Moreover - we hold these truths be be archetypical - nay atavistic - with respect of both Cultural & Mythic Process which recognises that whilst a quiestion like How Old is The Oldest...? might appeal on one level, one another is utter nonesense because (for the most part) these things don't operate with respect of conventional cronology. Looking for mythic analogues & prototypes is far more interesting than seeking vainly for the oldest version of something that must only be a written record of something even older...


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 29 Aug 11 - 05:30 AM

Ok Lighter, point taken. Michael is right, it's not a hundred percent clear. I had presumed (wrongly?) that the original thread concerned the Child collection itself. If we're going to admit other ballads alluded to in that collection then maybe we should also look at stuff he didn't include? In which case a serious contender is 'Polly Vaughan'. This is a story so persistent that, apart from the ballads of Europe, it also has its place in Japanese Noh theatre and is a basic story in the dreamings of the indigenous Australians and you don't get a lot older than that.


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 29 Aug 11 - 06:59 AM

Of course, archetypal memories of ancient beliefs can surface as a sort of race-memory in much later work. Think of The Old Oak Tree ~~ an early-C19-melodrama type tale if ever there was; you can practically see Squire MacAllin's cloak and tall hat and mustachios: and yet in the middle crops up the ancient idea that a murdered corpse will induce a confession by bleeding afresh in the presence of its murderer.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 29 Aug 11 - 02:31 PM

Race memory, eh? Like the purging of the Martian hives we have to deal with on a daily basis - assuming Nigel Kneale got it right, and assuming Quatermass & the Pit isn't a race memory in itself, or that any narrative morphology doesn't operate in that way. They say ballads were the soap opera of the day; but are soap operas truly the ballads of our times?? Watch out for the Mythic archetypes abounding in EastEnders, including analogues of Opheus being played out again & again. Singing some ballads you feel like offering the audience a help-line number in case they've been affected by any of the issues therein...


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 29 Aug 11 - 06:02 PM

We all know we could argue all week about the definition of a ballad, but I think we can agree that one thing about ballads is that they were widespread. Real ballads in the sense of 'Child Ballads' are found in many versions in different places. Furthermore, they may be found to be of different ages.

I have read of ballads collected in England whose plots were retold as far away as Lithuania and Turkey.

That 'Judas' poem, now. I have studied Middle English, and rarely have I come across anything as obscure and nonsensical as that. I think that after it was written down, it stayed shut up in an old MS for centuries. Therefore, it's not a ballad. It never got to roam.


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 30 Aug 11 - 07:21 AM

Lighter wrote:

"Taylor showed that an actual song somewhat resembling "Sir Aldingar" existed in the twelfth century. Of course, we don't have the lyrics or the tune, and there is no evidence of continuity across several centuries."

Those caveats are wise: the 12th century version of 'Sir Aldingar' (postulated by Christopherson in 'The Ballad of Sir Aldingar, its Origins and Analogues') seems to be completely conjectural, although historical / mythical prose accounts on a similar theme do go back to that period. The oldest Scandinavian ballad analogue (which tells a story different in several respects) is from the 16th century, while the Percy Folio, from which the English ballad (Child 59A) originates, is from the 17th century.

The stories of ballads like 'Hind Horn' and 'Sir Eglamore' (= 'Old Bangum') occur in medieval metrical romances, but how they were made into ballad form is unknown. The hero's disguise as a beggar in 'Hind Horn' also echoes the Odyssey. As Suibhne says, several ballad themes are ancient, even if the ballads themselves are not demonstrably so.

Other authors have agreed with those above who have questioned 'Judas' as a true ballad (though I don't doubt Paul D has put together a good version). I tend to agree that Child 1 ('Riddles') is the oldest known of the true ballads, although as Lighter points out, the 1445 copy 'Inter Diabolus et Virgo' doesn't have the narrative framework surrounding the riddles, which seems to have been grafted on later.

There's a good online summary of early Child ballads here from Greg Lindahl, early music enthusiast and founder of the 'Society for Creative Anachronism'.

I'm surprised that Steve Gardham hasn't visited this thread yet!


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 30 Aug 11 - 07:29 AM

Thanks for the link, Brian. Greg's is a very handy summary.


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: GUEST,Seonaid
Date: 30 Aug 11 - 01:36 PM

It's fascinating to follow the disputes of all these "Child's Guardians of Verses"...
(Oof! Bad pun -- 20-yard penalty!)


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: Rozza
Date: 30 Aug 11 - 02:20 PM

So, is the earliest datable Child Ballad we have, with tune and words is?

1.Riddles Wisely Expounded
Group A Version 1 (Bronson I, p.4)
"Pills to Purge Melancholy", T.D'Urfey, 1719-20

or...


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 30 Aug 11 - 03:18 PM

No, Rozza - see the link to Greg Lindahl's site in my last post, where he writes:

"The only Child ballads for which we can document words and matching music prior to 1650 are "The Baffled Knight" (Child #112) and "John Dory" (Child #284) from Thomas Ravenscroft's Deuteromelia (1609) and "The Three Ravens" (Child #26) from his Melismata (1611)."


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 30 Aug 11 - 03:29 PM

That's right.

It's tempting to assume that "Inter Diabolus et Virgo" had a tune in 1450 because there are many trad variants from later centuries fitted with various tunes. A poem confined to a 15th C. manuscript would be unlikely to develop a tune later.

However, as is true of so many things, we really don't know.

Sidelight: the Latin of the title ("Between Devil and Maiden") is clearly ungrammatical. Whoever gave it that title seems to have been a real neophyte in Latin: a teenager perhaps?


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: GUEST,SteveG
Date: 30 Aug 11 - 06:11 PM

Hi Brian,
I'm lurking in the background and don't have a lot of interest in the pre-1500 ballads as they make up such a small portion of the main corpus.
I am however very interested in the likely origins of the rest as you know.
I thoroughly enjoyed your presentation at Whitby.

Sorry I didn't get to see you, Ruairidh. You'll have to come over soon.

Steve


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: michaelr
Date: 30 Aug 11 - 06:53 PM

Lighter: ...the question was "What is the oldest Child ballad?" It was not "What is the oldest item in Child's collection?"

Excuse me if I'm being thick, but what is the distinction you're making here?


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 31 Aug 11 - 03:55 AM

Any ballad loving Fylde goers be sure to check out our open ballad session in the Steamer Sunday 2.30 - 4.00. Essentially a singaround for traditional ballads...


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 31 Aug 11 - 07:18 AM

"It's tempting to assume that "Inter Diabolus et Virgo" had a tune in 1450 because there are many trad variants from later centuries fitted with various tunes. A poem confined to a 15th C. manuscript would be unlikely to develop a tune later.
However, as is true of so many things, we really don't know.
"

Indeed we don't. But I wonder whether the absence of a refrain (cf. all the other texts in Child) might argue against it having been sung in that form? And of course we don't know the source from which 'Inter Diabolus et Virgo' was copied into that book in 1450.

Just by the way, I was interested to find some of the riddles from Child 1 turning up in an otherwise unrelated spoken piece by Harry Green, Essex pub singer, as recently as the 1960s (to be found on Veteran's 'The Fox and the Hare' CD.

Steve, thanks for the kind comment.


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 31 Aug 11 - 07:49 AM

Michaelr: fair question.

Child identifies 306 ballads. But he prints many more than 306 texts because a traditional ballad comes in more than one version.

Since "The English and Scottish Popular Ballads" was published in 1898, thousands more versions of something like two thirds of Child's 306 ballads have been collected.

Taylor found new evidence to suggest that a version of "Sir Aldnigar," unknown to Child, was sung in the twelfth century. If true, that would make "Sir Aldnigar" the oldest known "Child ballad."

The one known version of "Judas" is the oldest piece in Child's collection. But it is not necessarily the oldest "Child ballad."


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: GUEST,Raymond Greenoaken
Date: 31 Aug 11 - 11:21 AM

Of course, the date of the Judas manuscript is not necessarily the terminus post quem of the poem. It might have been around long before it was copied out onto that manuscript. Really, we're grasping at sunbeams here...

Interesting, mind! Don't stop.


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 31 Aug 11 - 12:20 PM

Whist we're on about taxidermy, here's some choice examples of just what an imperfect science it can be...

Orrori Impagliati


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: michaelr
Date: 31 Aug 11 - 03:21 PM

Thanks, Lighter, that clears it up.


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 01 Sep 11 - 07:57 AM

"Taylor found new evidence to suggest that a version of "Sir Aldnigar," unknown to Child, was sung in the twelfth century. If true, that would make "Sir Aldnigar" the oldest known "Child ballad."

Sorry to nitpick, Lighter, but what Taylor actually says is:

"It seems reasonable to assume that there may have been ballads by the middle of the thirteenth century and perhaps even by the middle of the twelfth." [my italics]

but:

"The tradition behind "Sir Aldingar" gives no conclusive proof that popular ballads were sung in England before the thirteenth century."

He specifically refutes the 'smoking gun' claim by Entwistle in European Balladry, based on a (mis)translation of William of Malmesbury's Gesta Regum Anglorum, that "a poem about the false accusation and surprising deliverance of Canute's daughter Gunhild was sung publicly in England in the mid-twelfth century."

Plenty of people have wanted 'Sir Aldingar', with all of its medieval touches, to represent a true ballad from that period, but no-one's nailed it yet!


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: GUEST,SteveG
Date: 01 Sep 11 - 05:11 PM

Whilst admitting my lack of knowledge of pre-1500 balladry the sceptic
in me points out I have not come across any notable evidence for the type of ballad that constitutes the bulk of Child's anthology pre-1500. What little there is is very scant, not just in Britain, but the rest of Europe. The subject matter is often earlier but there is no evidence to show that a ballad was written contemporary with the earlier events. There seems to be a big gap between the writing of the last sagas and romances, and the appearance of the first ballads.
Even so it would be great surprise if some of the content of the sagas and romances had not been incorporated into the later ballads. I have seen it expressed somewhere that the ballads predated the sagas, but I find this difficult to swallow. Most of the older books I've read present the theory that the European ballad style evolved in France from the carols which would seem reasonable to a layman like me.


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 01 Sep 11 - 06:04 PM

It's difficult for us to imagine a time more recent than the Old Stone Age when people did not "tell short stories in song," i.e., sing ballads.

OTOH, if we didn't know better, it would be nearly as difficult to believe that singers just a hundred years ago didn't need or even often appreciate instrumental accompaniment.


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: Susan of DT
Date: 01 Sep 11 - 07:12 PM

When is a song the same song - a perennial problem. I remember my Brit Lit course (45 years ago) using Norton Anthology with a version of the Riddle Song (I gave my love a cherry) as something like "I Had a Young Syster" from the 1100s or 1200s. This appears in Captain Wedderburn, #46.


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: GUEST,Katie Letcher Lyle
Date: 24 Jan 13 - 05:42 PM

I just stumbled on this website. How interesting! Barbara Allen (spelled variously) just might be the oldest, because of the tag about the rosebush and the brier -- a Celtic notion that of course predates any Christian ideas about life after death. And it's such a timeless story!!!


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 24 Jan 13 - 05:57 PM

Even if the rose-brier bit is ancient (are we certain that it is), there's no reason to assume the ballad is too.

Maybe it was tacked on to a give a happy ending to a hopeless tragedy. Or (more likely) the ballad was made by somebody familiar with an already ancient belief.

There's no way to know.


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: Mary Humphreys
Date: 24 Jan 13 - 06:31 PM

Rose & briar motifs are found in several of the Child ballads - Lord Thomas & Fair Eleanor immediately springs to mind. It may not be a specific marker of age.


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: doc.tom
Date: 25 Jan 13 - 06:48 AM

Just our of interest, if we're going to attribute age to endings of Barbara Allen - "In terms of endings, from those in Bronson (215 versions) and other collections which have something approaching full texts, 10 just say 'take warning' but, of those that follow the burial ending – with roses and briars growing from the graves to the top of the church and there entwining in a true-lovers' knot – 6 don't specify which grew from which grave, but of those that do, 49 attribute the rose to William and the briar to Barbara, while only 9 do it the other way round - the folk tradition makes its own value judgements and recycles motifs at will!"


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 25 Jan 13 - 08:24 AM

"Folk tradition" is just a fancy way of saying "people who sing these songs."

By the time the collectors got to them, some may have forgotten the original order and others may mot have "got" the symbolism in the first place.

It isn't quite metaphorical chaos, but one can't judge from one or two well-known texts.


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Subject: RE: How old are the oldest Child ballads?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 25 Jan 13 - 11:02 AM

Whilst the rose/briar motif is a commonplace in ballads it would be interesting to find the earliest record of a ballad that uses it. Like many of the ballads BA first appeared on broadsheets in the 17thc and at a guess without the aforementioned motif, but that's off the top of my head.


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