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'Historical' Ballads

Reiver 2 13 Oct 99 - 04:35 PM
NSC 14 Oct 99 - 10:04 AM
T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird) 14 Oct 99 - 11:22 AM
Marki 14 Oct 99 - 02:24 PM
Susanne (skw) 14 Oct 99 - 08:04 PM
AKS 15 Oct 99 - 05:37 AM
Ely 15 Oct 99 - 12:08 PM
Philippa 15 Oct 99 - 06:03 PM
Susanne (skw) 15 Oct 99 - 06:34 PM
Frank Hamilton 16 Oct 99 - 03:38 PM
Lesley N. 16 Oct 99 - 03:52 PM
catspaw49 16 Oct 99 - 04:00 PM
Philippa 16 Oct 99 - 06:47 PM
John Nolan 17 Oct 99 - 12:34 AM
Joe Offer 17 Oct 99 - 03:40 AM
Art Thieme 17 Oct 99 - 02:42 PM
Reiver 2 17 Oct 99 - 04:36 PM
Reiver 2 17 Oct 99 - 05:35 PM
Reiver 2 17 Oct 99 - 06:08 PM
Malcolm Douglas 17 Oct 99 - 09:52 PM
Reiver 2 17 Oct 99 - 10:55 PM
Sourdough 18 Oct 99 - 12:03 AM
Chris Seymour 18 Oct 99 - 12:14 AM
NSC 18 Oct 99 - 04:59 AM
JedMarum 18 Oct 99 - 08:52 AM
JedMarum 18 Oct 99 - 11:21 AM
Art Thieme 18 Oct 99 - 11:40 AM
JedMarum 18 Oct 99 - 11:56 AM
DougR 18 Oct 99 - 12:30 PM
JedMarum 18 Oct 99 - 01:30 PM
Frank Hamilton 18 Oct 99 - 02:17 PM
Philippa 18 Oct 99 - 02:45 PM
JedMarum 18 Oct 99 - 03:00 PM
Lesley N. 18 Oct 99 - 03:09 PM
JedMarum 18 Oct 99 - 04:56 PM
DougR 18 Oct 99 - 05:44 PM
Reiver 2 18 Oct 99 - 06:53 PM
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Lesley N. 18 Oct 99 - 08:44 PM
McGrath of Harlow 18 Oct 99 - 09:09 PM
Art Thieme 19 Oct 99 - 12:45 AM
JedMarum 19 Oct 99 - 10:28 AM
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Lesley N. 19 Oct 99 - 03:56 PM
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kendall 15 Nov 99 - 06:35 PM
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kendall 15 Nov 99 - 08:08 PM
Barry Finn 15 Nov 99 - 08:51 PM
McGrath of Harlow 16 Nov 99 - 02:32 PM
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T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird) 16 Nov 99 - 03:03 PM
Bruce O. 16 Nov 99 - 03:05 PM
Lonesome EJ 16 Nov 99 - 03:45 PM
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Midchuck 16 Nov 99 - 04:07 PM
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Midchuck 17 Nov 99 - 02:04 PM
lamarca 17 Nov 99 - 02:22 PM
McGrath of Harlow 17 Nov 99 - 03:20 PM
Art Thieme 17 Nov 99 - 05:04 PM
GUEST,coco 13 Apr 11 - 12:45 PM
Steve Gardham 13 Apr 11 - 06:37 PM
Jim Carroll 14 Apr 11 - 03:40 AM
Steve Gardham 14 Apr 11 - 05:45 PM
Jim Carroll 15 Apr 11 - 03:37 AM
theleveller 15 Apr 11 - 04:34 AM
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Jim Carroll 16 Apr 11 - 06:33 AM
Jim Carroll 16 Apr 11 - 08:18 AM
Steve Gardham 16 Apr 11 - 03:37 PM
Jim Carroll 16 Apr 11 - 04:05 PM
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Jim Carroll 18 Apr 11 - 03:13 AM
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Jack Campin 18 Apr 11 - 06:23 PM
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Stringsinger 21 Apr 11 - 05:10 PM
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GUEST,SteveG 22 Apr 11 - 01:41 PM
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Jim Carroll 30 Apr 11 - 02:44 AM
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Subject: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Reiver 2
Date: 13 Oct 99 - 04:35 PM

"Favorite Historicalstories" has been a fascinating thread! It's already quite long and this post is going to be very long, so I thought I'd start a new thread, although it's actually a continuation. I've seen mentioned so many historical ballads that I'm familiar with: Steeleye Span's Montrose, The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, Killiecrankie, The Massacre of Glencoe, Bonnie Dundee, Sink the Bismark, Woody Guthrie's Reuben James and Deportee (which some I think are referring to as the Plane Wreck at Los Gatos or 1913 Massacre) and Three Score and Ten. Incidently, I just came across an Irish song, My Lovely Rose of Clare, which has the same tune as Three Score and Ten (at least the melody that I learned -- from a Johnny McEvoy recording) -- does anyone know the history of this melody, beautiful and sometimes haunting?

I think that some distinction needs to be made between "historical" ballads (some others that come to mind are Roddy McCorley, Derwentwater's Farewell, The Black Douglas, Bannockburn, Follow Me Up To Carlow, Johnny Cope)and just good songs that tell a story. The Irish Rover, for example, is certainly not historical and others like Whiskey In the Jar, Brennan on the Moor are of doubtful historicity, though all are great songs. A third type are those that are not historically specific, but relate to actual events, social conditions or people. (The Band Played Waltzing Matilda should probably go here along with Belfast Mill, Bonniewood Green, Come My Little Son, Fighting For Strangers, Freedom's Sword, Welcome Royal Charlie -- and many other "Bonnie Prince Charlie" songs like the Skye Boat Song -- Many Young Men of Twenty, The Rising of the Moon, and two of my absolute favorites The Old Man's Song and Yesterday's Men. Oh, and don't leave out The Great White Sheep an extraordinarily powerful song about the Highland Clearances.)

Then there are many that refer to people that MAY have been real people in the situations related by the song or WERE actual people but where the situation related in the song may or may not be factual. I'm thinking here of Sir James the Rose, Geordie, Arthur McBride, The Flower of Northumberland, Dowie Dens of Yarrow, The Heidless Cross, Jock o' Hazeldean, Cape Ann, Slattery's Mounted Foot, Fenians of Cahirciveen, Johnson's Motor Car, Moses Ri-Too-Ra-Li-Ay, and another all-time favorite of mine, Willie McBride, plus more "Robin Hood" songs than can be mentioned.

I've mentioned mainly Irish and Scottish ballads and won't try to list many Am. Civil War songs (The Cumberland and The Merrimac, The Alabama), or "disaster" songs like Casey Jones, Wreck of th Old 97, The Edmund Fitzgerald, Springhill Mine Disaster, or the Frank Slide (a landslide that wiped out a small Canadian town in the Crows Nest Pass area of the Rockies -- later a baby girl was found alive among the debris and since no one knew who she was, she was given the name of "Frankie Slide").

I think, without question, historical ballads or stories are my favorite genre of "folk" music. But I think it's risky to think, as someone observed, that one can "learn history" from the songs. May are truly "historical" in the best sense of the word, but many are not. This was brought home to me most vividly when my partner and I (as The Reivers) began singing The Haughs of Cromdale. We always tried to give a little background when we sang songs that referred to historical people or events. This one baffled us for some time until a lot of digging revealed that the "second" battle described in the song was actually a battle fought many years before and many miles away from the battle at Cromdale -- and that the hero of the battle in the song(Montrose) had been dead for 40 some years at the time referred to in the song! A great song, nevertheless -- but the story it tells can hardly be called "Historical."


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: NSC
Date: 14 Oct 99 - 10:04 AM

hello Reiver 2.

In the late sixties I used to frequent a folk club in Ponteland, Northumberland, where the resident group was called "The Reivers"

They used to sing a shortened version of the Battle of Otterburn which certainly had its origins in fact. Douglas of Scotland and Percy of Newcastle both decided to hunt deer in the forestland surrounding Otterburn, on the same day.

A huge battle ensued where some hundreds of men including both Douglas and Percy were slain. A full version of the song can be found in The Northumberland Minstrilsy, a book first published in the 19th century. The song is a version of the Chevy Chase.

Historical ballads are wonderful though not always entirely accurate. They are better than history books in that they give an indication of how people were thinking. Sometimes how the ordinary person viewed an event rather than a government view. Some of the Napoleonic songs in Ireland are a fine example.

George Henderson


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird)
Date: 14 Oct 99 - 11:22 AM

Another addition to the list, if you don't have it already, would be songs of the "Springfield Mountain"/"Pesky Sarpent" type. This crosses the line, though, from "historical" songs that can be linked to a known historical event, to "occasional" songs, narrating an occasion in the private life of someone who may or may not have existed.

T.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Marki
Date: 14 Oct 99 - 02:24 PM

With regards to Riever2 comments about learning history from songs being a questionable practice.... I must argue that.

While I admit that most "historical" songs are not bang on, they do encourage most people to find out more about the subject. I know as a kid I listened religiously to Johnny Hortons "Sink the Bismarck". I swear that this is why I am totally fascinated by WWII stuff to this day. Also I find that if I hear a song that's about something like a historical battle, I research the topic to find out more. For example, my sister got me listening to Christy Moore and I really like his "The Knock Song". I swore to my sister that the song had to be about some event, and she said that it was just a nonsense type song. So I researched it and found out the background to it. Sure it's got the authors own opinions of things, but at least I now know why there's an airport up in Knock.

Okay maybe this isn't the type of knowledge one needs to store up if they intend to become a rocket scientist, but boy can you kick some butt in Trival Pursuit or Jeopardy!

I think it's a great thing to encourage our youth to listen to songs that tell stories so that they end up having a brain that works. Don't try to tell me that songs like "Barbie Girl" or anything by the Spice Girls encourages kids to ponder the mysteries of time!


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Susanne (skw)
Date: 14 Oct 99 - 08:04 PM

Marki, that's just what I was going to say! The content of a song is often just the trigger (although some of them are remarkably accurate). I learnt quite a lot about events in Britain in the years before World War I by following up the references in Bill Caddick's magnificent 'The Writing of Tipperary'. I had to trawl through half the volumes in the Encyclopaedia Britannica but it was worth it. It is as important to me as the songs themselves. (What I find I'm now trying to put on the Web. I've only got as far as D, but if anyone wants to have a look, go to http://mysongbook.de/index.html). - Susanne


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: AKS
Date: 15 Oct 99 - 05:37 AM

Does the Scottish 'Lammas Tide' refer to the Battle of Otterburn that George H. mentions above? Both 'Doughty Douglas' (bound him ride into England to drive a prey) and 'Proud Percy' (and he spake high) are involved but nothing is said about Douglas being killed (at least in the version I know) there also.

Arto Sallinen


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Ely
Date: 15 Oct 99 - 12:08 PM

Yall know a lot more about Irish and British Isles songs than I do: Does anyone know one called "John McLean's March"? The tune is very similar to "Scotland the Brave" but I can't make out the words. Also, does anyone know if there is/what is the story behind "the Burning of Achindoun"? I apologize ahead of time for butchering the spelling.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Philippa
Date: 15 Oct 99 - 06:03 PM

Ely, THE JOHN MACLEAN MARCH is in the DT database


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Susanne (skw)
Date: 15 Oct 99 - 06:34 PM

The Lammas Tide, as sung by The Corries, is a shortened version of The Battle of Otterburn. If you can, get hold of Alex Campbell's version of the latter, but Tony Cuffe's will do nicely, too.

The following is what I've got on 'Auchindoon', or 'Ferrickside' as it's called on a Tannahill Weavers album.

[1880:] In the year following the burning of Castle Towie by the Gordons in 1571, recorded in Edom O'Gordon [= Adam Gordon, a brother of the Marquis of Huntly], Auchendown, a stronghold of the Gordons, was burnt down by the Clan Chattan, in revenge for the death of William Mackintosh. William, it is said, was killed at the castle of the Earl of Huntly in 1592. The ballad on the event is evidently a fragment, but there are one or two versions of it. [...] In this gay manner did the popular voice sing of the outrage. (Ord, Glasgow Weekly Herald, April 17)

[1984:] This ballad is based on a historical incident, but two different characters with the title-name [Willie Macintosh] are confounded in it. The possible incidents are dated 1592 and 1550. The terrain is Banffshire, near Dufftown. [...] The words are very similar to Child B, but the last verse has been changed now to a final taunt, addressed presumably by Willie Macintosh to Huntly's clan, in the continuing feud which was started by the murder of the "Bonny Earl of Murray". The meaning of this taunt is not obscured by the slight variations [...] "Ye('ve) brunt yer crops" (meaning "You've brought this on yourself") [...], "I('ve) brunt/burnt ..." [...] "They burnt ...". (Munro, Revival 278ff)

[1986:] [Fiddich-side] James Stewart, son of Sir James Stewart of Doune, became the Earl of Murray when he married the daughter of the Regent Murray. [...] He was rumoured to have been one of Bothwell's party in the assault on the King's palace at Holyrood in December 1591. When the King gave orders for his apprehension, he took flight, pursued by a party of the King's supporters, led by Huntly, who (taking advantage of the situation) killed him. [Cf. The Bonnie Earl of Murray, Child 181] Following the killing [...] in February, 1592, the MacIntoshes of Clan Chattan, intent on revenge, pillaged a castle and killed four men on an estate belonging to the Earl of Huntly, whom they held responsible for Murray's death. Huntly retaliated by laying waste the lands of Clan Chattan. Returning home from this engagement, he surprised the MacIntoshes spoiling his land at Cabrach and in the ensuing fight killed sixty of them. (Peggy Seeger, notes 'Blood and Roses' vol. 4)


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Frank Hamilton
Date: 16 Oct 99 - 03:38 PM

Constitution and the Gueirierre", "Monitor and the Merrimac"...."Chester" by William Billings.....most any outlaw ballads although any resemblance between them and historical accuracy is surely suspect...."I Was Born About Ten Thousand Years Ago"....songs from the American Civil War such as "Marching Through Georgia", "Bonny Blue Flag", "Rally Round the Flag", "Unreconstructed Rebel"...there are so many that evoke history.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Lesley N.
Date: 16 Oct 99 - 03:52 PM

And in connection with Suzanne's note about The Bonny Earl of Moray - Huntly, who killed Moray was possibly the subject of the ballad Geordie (according to Child). Huntly was involved in plots for the Spanish Invasion of Scotland and engaged in open rebellion against James VI. He was imprisioned but released and reconciled to James. He later rebelled again - and was again reconciled... Charles I eventually imprisoned him in Edinburgh Castle.

Or Geordie could be about and earlier Huntly who was quite a rotten fellow (possibly setting the precedent). Huntly was imprisoned for becoming "too familiar" with the Laird of Bignet's wife. His wife, Lady Ann, went to Edinburgh to plead for his life. She was successful, but when he was freed he killed his wife.

For historical ballads you can't beat Child!


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: catspaw49
Date: 16 Oct 99 - 04:00 PM

Just a quick note..."Deportee" and "Plane Wreck at Los Gatos" are the same song. "1913 Massacre" (or Disaster) is a different song about copper miners in Michigan and a tragic Christmas party.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Philippa
Date: 16 Oct 99 - 06:47 PM

and I suspect the 'Belfast Mill' refered to by Reiver 2 is Si Kahn's Aragon Mill with the placename changed


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: John Nolan
Date: 17 Oct 99 - 12:34 AM

Greeting NSC from an ex-Coldstreamer: The Battle of Otterburn ("It fell about the Lammastide...") and Chevy Chase (God prosper long our noble king..") are quite different ballads, even if they are numerical neighbors in Child's collection. The first is about a major raid which culminated in battle on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 1388, (according to a French war correspondent)and the second is about a defiant hunt which may have occured about 1435. Different Douglas. Different Percy. The action in the first few verses of the first song takes place around Newcastle, before moving west. The second bloodbath, involving a hike from Bamburgh, could scarely have reached Otterburn, and was more likely to have occured on the flanks of The Cheviot.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Joe Offer
Date: 17 Oct 99 - 03:40 AM

Hi - you may be interested in a site called History in Song (click here). Good site.
-Joe Offer


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Subject: ADD: Harry Orchard
From: Art Thieme
Date: 17 Oct 99 - 02:42 PM

HARRY ORCHARD
Don't know where I found this...

Harry Orchard is in prison,
The reason you all know,
He killed Frank Steunenberg
Right here in Idaho.

He set his bomb out carefully,
He did not hesitate,
It blew poor Frank to kingdom come,
When he tried to close the gate.

Harry says he has killed others,
For them my heart it bleeds,
He should pray for God's forgiveness,
For his terrible misdeeds.

Harry blamed the Wobblies,
And maybe he spoke true,
For no one on this earth can tell
What a band like that will do.

The Chief's were brought from Denver,
They were shanghaid as you know,
Bill Haywood and George Pettibone,
Were brought from Idaho.

Clarence Darrow stood behind them,
The result it was not sure,
Big Bill Haywood and his comrads,
Free men walked out the door.

Now listen all you young men,
The lesson, it is plain,
Just be prepared to pay the cost,
When you set a bomb for gain.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Reiver 2
Date: 17 Oct 99 - 04:36 PM

Marki, I couldn't agree with you more that these historical ballads can tweak one's interest in an event or person(s) and get one into researching to learn more. That's one of the main reasons I enjoy them. My point was (and you reinforce this) that one need to do research into the subject of the ballad and not just take what you find at face value. Most of my knowledge of Scottish and Irish history has been a direct result of researching songs. And while doing that, I constantly find more and more of the history that leads me off into other directions! Great fun.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Reiver 2
Date: 17 Oct 99 - 05:35 PM

Sometimes one finds in researching events and people, that a song is very "bang on" in historical accuracy. "Montrose" is a good example. I was amazed at how accurate it is in all kinds of detail.

For example the verse, At Philliphaugh and Carbisdale, Bold fortune did turn cold; MacLeod, the Devil's advocate Sold James for oats and gold. In trying to learn all I could about James Graham I came across the following in John Prebble's history of Scotland, "The Lion in the North", pp. 257: "In the early spring of 1650... with a few hundred Danish mercenaries and a thousand Orkney levies, the Graham landed... on the far tip of northern Scotland. Two weeks later, at Carbisdale... his unwarlike Orcadians were slaughtered by lowland troops and he fled westward into the mountains of Assynt. A laird of the MacLeods, from whom he asked shelter, sold him to the government for twenty-five thousand pounds Scots, part of which was paid in oatmeal."

The whole song is full of accurate detail like that. Of course, the ballad itself is, I believe, of fairly recent composition. I've always assumed it was a creation of Steeleye Span, but if anyone knows how, where and when the ballad originated, please set the record straight (and help further my education!).


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Subject: Lyr Add: BELFAST MILL
From: Reiver 2
Date: 17 Oct 99 - 06:08 PM

Philippa, I don't know the song "Aragon Mill" that you refer to. The "Belfast Mill" that I know, is also a song of rather modern vintage that describes the effects of unemployment on a community. I can't remember where I found it (I can try to look it up when I have more time).

At the east end of town, at the foot of the hill
There's a chimney so tall... say's "Belfast Mill."
But there's no smoke at all comin' out of the stack
For the mill has shut down and it's never comin' back.

CHO: And the only tune I hear
Is the sound of the wind
As she blows through the town...
Weave and spin, weave and spin

There's no children playing in the dark narrow street
And the loom has shut down, it's so quiet I can't sleep.
The loom now is quiet, there's dust on the floor...
They've boarded up the windows and nailed shut the door.

The mill has shut down, 'twas the only life I know.
Tell me, what can I do? Tell me, where can I go?
I'm too old to work, and I'm too young to die...
Tell me where will I go now, my family and I?

Of course, the line in the 3rd verse is from another great song, written by Joe Glazer, and popular among those involved in Union organizing, called "Too Old To Work."

You work in the factory all of your life,
Try to provide for your kids and your wife.
When you get too old to produce any more,
They hand you your hat and they show you the door.

Too old to work; too old to work;
When you're too old to work and you're too young to die,
Who will take care of you, how'll you get by,
When you're too old to work and you're too young to die.

Come to think of it, I'm not really sure which may have been written first. The tunes, of course, are totally different, but the plight of the laid-off worker is universal. Anyone who has more information on the history of these songs, I hope will share the info. Philippa, do you think your "mill" song, is an ancestor of Belfast Mill?


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 17 Oct 99 - 09:52 PM

"Belfast Mill" is indeed "Aragon Mill" with the title changed!

Malcolm


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Reiver 2
Date: 17 Oct 99 - 10:55 PM

Malcolm, just checked it out in the Data Base, and it's definitely the same song. Do you know anything about it's background? And, Philippa, I also just checked out "John MacLean's March". It's new to me, but glad to have it -- especially considering the background. I also note it's a Hamish Henderson song. His "Farewell to Sicily" is another of my favorites. Thanks for the comments on these songs from both of you. Now -- back to my initial post: Does anyone know the story behing "My Lovely Rose of Clare" and "Three Score and Ten", which seem to be the same tune?


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Sourdough
Date: 18 Oct 99 - 12:03 AM

I think that the Springfield Mountain song "Pesky sarpent bit his heel" has been linked to a specific person. As I recall, the family name was Orcutt but I don't remember any more than that.

SD


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Chris Seymour
Date: 18 Oct 99 - 12:14 AM

Aragon Mill is by the southern US singer-songwriter Si Kahn, but Planxty recorded it and I'd guess someone in Ireland adapted their version with new lyrics. The folk process is a wonderful thing.

This thread began with a list of ballads including "Montrose" as sung by Steeleye Span. I used to wonder a lot about that song -- who it was about, what was the history, etc. Didn't follow up at the time, but seeing as we're on the subject, anybody know anything about that one?


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: NSC
Date: 18 Oct 99 - 04:59 AM

Reiver 2

Three score and ten was collected in Robin Hood Bay in Yorkshire by Norma Waterson sometime around the late fifties or early sixties. At leat I think it was Norma but it could have been Mike. The song first appeared as a poem in a newspaper in or around 1880-1890 commemorating a disaster in the North Sea.

The lovely Rose of Clare is of much more recent vintage and was written,I think, about 20 years ago. The tune was obviously borrowed but the two songs have no other relationship.

George Henderson


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: JedMarum
Date: 18 Oct 99 - 08:52 AM

In Dallas there is a local folky named Jed Marum who sings a few historical ballards he wrote about the Civil War and the Irish who fought in it, and some others. He also has songs about other historical events from Ireland and Scotland. One he sings is from the Louisianna Irish Regiment and he claims it is based on the History called Fighting Louisanna Tigers (I think that's the name). This was a part of the Louisianna army raised primarily from the Irish living in and around New Orleans, and they saw lots of action throughout the war between the states. Great song!


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: JedMarum
Date: 18 Oct 99 - 11:21 AM

ooops! I forgot to make my point in the previous post; The truth is, like history, these wonderful historical ballards are still be written! I understand that they may require validation for accuracy, but so do the text books!


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Art Thieme
Date: 18 Oct 99 - 11:40 AM

Liam, I doubt the text books are any more correct than the ballads or the Internet. I can get into the tales told in the ballads as much as any supposedly scholarly treatise. We do the best we can, but often we have an agenda we wish to propogate too. After a while it seems like religion---it's what we believe. The media is the message. And that's fine with me. Is what is--or seems to be. (I believe that.)

Art ;-)


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: JedMarum
Date: 18 Oct 99 - 11:56 AM

agreed Art! I guess that as a writer of songs, one is normally more interested in the message than the 'envelope' so if a historical song is the means to deliver your message (anti-war, anti-English rule, anti-slavery, anti-Lincoln, pro-union, etc) then the historical 'facts' become less important than they would be to a consciencious historian - but, as you point out, some historians have used the historical facts to purvey their particular message. This is far more troubling! I have no problem accepting that Roddy McCorley may or may not have been the pure hero as he is portrayed in the song, I love the song, and accept its sentiment. But I do highly resent my children's text books being written by people who care more about book sales than they do facts!


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: DougR
Date: 18 Oct 99 - 12:30 PM

In the Burl Ives song book, published in November 1953, the author has this to say about "On Springfield Mountain." "Unique among folk songs this song was originally written in 1761 as an elegy to the tune of "Old Hundred." It tells of the sad death of Timothy Myrick, twenty-two and engaged to marry, who was bitten by a rattlesnake in Framington, Massachuesetts. The melody we find here was written in 1840, when the song was performed on the stage as a comic song, "The Pesky Sarpint, a pathetic ballad."

DougR


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: JedMarum
Date: 18 Oct 99 - 01:30 PM

Framington? There is a Framingham but i don;t believe they have a Framington ... and rattlesnakes in Massachusetts would be quite a surprise, since there are so very few (I believe you'll find that rattelsnakes are not supposed to live in Massachusetts, although they do show there from time to time).


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Frank Hamilton
Date: 18 Oct 99 - 02:17 PM

Liam,

Don't know how you were educated in the school system across the pond but in high school my history classes were always tainted with ideological messages of a propagandistic nature. When I got to college, I learned that history could have many different perspectives. There were Marxist historians that weren't Marxist themselves.

I think that folk music give us more a feeling for the time than the facts of the time. History is often a "Rashomon" subject to the au current interpretations of the age. Take old Chris Columbus who is supposed to have discovered America and missed by landing on San Salvador in the Bahamas and Santa Domingo (The Domenican Republic). He has been taught in the US school system as some kind of hero where in fact he was responsible for the death and anhilation of the Arawak indians in the islands off the coast of mainland America. Myths get built up just as in folk ballads and the only significant thing about history in my view is the spin that one chooses to put on it. This is the so-called "lesson" that history teaches us. It's possible to base information on documented records found in various bureaus of health, death, birth or parishes but even these have sometimes been distorted by clerical errors or other reasons. History seems to be taught by consensus in the same way folk ballads are received and furthured.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Belfast Mill / Aragon Mill
From: Philippa
Date: 18 Oct 99 - 02:45 PM

Reiver 2, if you're interested, ARAGON MILL is in the DT database

Is it about an actual place or generic?


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: JedMarum
Date: 18 Oct 99 - 03:00 PM

Art - I believe you and I are in agreement. When taking one's history from any perspective, one must validate from several points of view .... even those sources you trust. As a famous American once said; "Trust but verify!"


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Lesley N.
Date: 18 Oct 99 - 03:09 PM

Liam - when I put up "The Pesky Sarpent" I was much amused that rattlesnakes are Massachusetts rattlesnakes "are so rare they are almost never encountered by people." (this from the U of Mass). Ives does say FarmingTon...

Art - weren't you the one who wrote "ballads are always right but sometimes historians mess up the facts.." though it was probably said much more poetically than that... It made such an impression on me that I added it to my the definition of ballads on my page!

One of the main reasons I love doing my site is that I've learned so much of the background behind the songs. The history behind the songs is interesting, and sometimes the "history" OF the song is just as interesting! True or not it's most fun!


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: JedMarum
Date: 18 Oct 99 - 04:56 PM

Lesley - Farmington it must be, then! As an old Massachusetts boy, and not being familar with the town, I had to challenge! By the way; at one point Framingham Massachusetts had the dubious of honor of being the largest 'town' in the nation - 100K plus people and still governed by town meetings and selectmen, as opposed to city governments. It is a pretty (if a bit crowded) suburb!

And the snakes? well, as your quote indicates, no one will say there are no rattlesnakes there, they just seem to be very difficult to find!


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: DougR
Date: 18 Oct 99 - 05:44 PM

Liam: Just quotin' from the book, my man! Quotin' from the book. I have no idea if the great state of Mass. has rattlesnakes or not, but I'll bet if they don't and want some, we have pleanty to spare out here in Arizona! I could probably arrange to ship them some.

DougR


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Reiver 2
Date: 18 Oct 99 - 06:53 PM

Liam, I like your statement: When taking one's history from any perspective, one must validate from several points of view .... even those sources you trust. As a famous American once said; "Trust but verify!"

Of course that's exactly what any good historian would do. Too many people confuse history with what has been taught in schools over the years. One needs to check out many different sources and many points of view, not just accept what a given book or professor (or song?)says. Much propaganda is disguised as "history", but a "historian", in my mind, is one who attempts to differentiate between the two.

Philippa, I'll check out Aragon Mill in the DT database. Should have done that in the first place. Thanks!


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Reiver 2
Date: 18 Oct 99 - 07:03 PM

Whoops! Almost forgot to thank NSC for the clarification re. "Three Score and Ten" and "My Lovely Rose of Clare." I'd wondered which came first. I would think that the tune is probably older than either of these songs. Thanks for the information.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Lesley N.
Date: 18 Oct 99 - 08:44 PM

Well Liam - I don't know if I'd accept FramingTon without looking at a map (it should be near Springfield...) because I spent several weeks in conversation with a historian trying to track down Burl Ives' information on Old John Webb. His information didn't completely match the historical records (but wow what fascinating stuff turned up!)

Which isn't to say he's wrong... it just means, as reiver2 says, it can't be verified...


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 18 Oct 99 - 09:09 PM

I think the big division is between songs from the time itself, and songs written long after - "antiquarian songs" I've heard them called. The latter are sometimes good songs, and they are often more historically accurate - but they don't have the authority a song froom the time does, in relation to the events they are dealing with. But what can happen is that a song that is ostensibly about a historical event is really using that event as a symbol for something that is happening at the time the song is written.

So, for example, when Bobby Sands wrote "I wish I was back home in Derry" he wasn't just talking about events in 1804, he was linking them to modern parallels; and when Leon Rosselson wrote about the Diggers of 1649, he was writing directly for our situation in the late 20th century.

www.bigfoot.com/~kevin.mcgrath


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Art Thieme
Date: 19 Oct 99 - 12:45 AM

Lesley N,

Did I say that?? Don't remember sayin' it. Oh, well...

What I might've said is something I know I said a few times before :

Foklore, like history, doesn't always lie. ;-)

Art


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: JedMarum
Date: 19 Oct 99 - 10:28 AM

Doug - if the snakes are dead, and prepared for cooking, I'll take 'em!

Reiver - (that's river with and extra e) I love your comment that people confuse history with what is taught in school! I guess being optimistic we could call that history pointers (ya know, "here's a taste kids, go and find out for yourselves.")

Lesley - Springfield Massachusetts, and especially its surrounding areas, are one of the nation's prettiest! There are many small hill towns out there, and I wouldn't be surprised if one is called Farmington.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Reiver 2
Date: 19 Oct 99 - 01:28 PM

Note to Chris S. who asked about Montrose. I can provide quite a lot of information about him, but as this thread is getting pretty long, I think I'll start a new one. Anyone interested in following through on this, check on "Montrose". If you have any specific questions, especially about any of the lines in the song, let me know.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: DougR
Date: 19 Oct 99 - 01:31 PM

Liam: Even a dead rattler is still dangerous. I guess if it was dressed for cooking it'd be pretty safe though.

As others have pointed out, reading something in a book doesn't necessarily make it so. I'll bet old Burl never dreamed, when he wrote that intro, that someday there would be a Mudcat Cafe, and that somebody might challenge his story. So Burl, wherever you are, you should have known better than to fabricate, or repeat, a story that cannot be verified! DougR


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Lesley N.
Date: 19 Oct 99 - 03:56 PM

Liam - my boys and I have been several times to MA. (Though last year we were in the East - at Salem). We love the state. Ye Olde Ancestors came from MA (by way of England with the Puritans). In fact, it was only with my grandmothers that the last of the relations left (though we had long since stopped being Puritans...)

DougR - what do you mean not pass on information that's not verified? Where would be the fun in that? If that were the case no one would ever know that David Rizzo (stabbed by Darnley & henchmen in front of Mary Queen of Scots) *might* have written the tune for Lass of Pattie's Mill? And the rumor that Henry VIII wrote Greensleeves for Anne Boleyn would have been squelched (or verified) long ago... No, I realize it's hardly academic practice but I like to put every rumor I can find about folksongs on my pages!

Well Art - It appears I have misquoted you. However, I will still give you credit for the statement (it's not too far from the other) - thereby perpetuating an inaccurate, unverifiable statement... I am so proud to be part of the oral tradtion!


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird)
Date: 19 Oct 99 - 04:08 PM

One (possibly unverified) assertion I've encountered is that "Springfield Mountain" is an old name for Wilbraham, Massachussetts. I think one of the versions in the DT appends a note stating that thesis.

Once when I had a job in the Mojave Desert I'd take desert strolls on my lunch hour. I never saw a snake, notwithstanding I was in the realm of the famous Mojave Green Snake, said to be somewhat less shy than other members of the same genus. So maybe the Timber Rattlers in MA aren't rare; maybe, like the dinosaurs in Dilbert, they're just hiding.

T.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: JedMarum
Date: 20 Oct 99 - 12:49 AM

T - I was half kidding about the Massachusetts rattlers. Most residents know there are a few, but they are very rare. The fireman are the ones who are forced to cope with them during the odd brush fires in the blue hills (south west of Boston. I lived in the woods as a child, and capture as many snakes as we could find ... never saw a rattler.

Perhaps with a bit of coaxing, we might find Dilbert's dinosaurs.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: SEAROSS
Date: 20 Oct 99 - 06:11 PM

About Springfield Mountain : Sam Hinton provides a several song history of this ballad in his Folkways album The traveling folksong. he also has quite a bit of background about the different versions he performs. The first is a historical ballad and the last is a comic musci hall number.

About snakes in MA: Remember this was in colonial days when Native Americans were also prevalent in MA, just look up the history of Deerfield sometime. I don't think you see many of them up there today either.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Wolfgang
Date: 21 Oct 99 - 07:30 AM

Philippa,
Aragon Mill is about an actual place. Look here, at Susanne's Folksong Notes. Susanne (skw) may not have seen this question yet or she surely would have provided this information.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Alan of Australia
Date: 21 Oct 99 - 09:17 AM

G'day,

The OAKHAM POACHERS is about a real event. I have a family connection to it - first cousins of mine are descended from George Perkins who was transported to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) for his part in the poaching incident. His eldest brother, John, was hanged, as told in this version of the same song. The song says that two brothers were "exiled in transportation", however the middle brother, Robert, died in a hulk on the Thames, as many prisoners did, these hulks being used as prisons with appalling conditions.

I have seen the transcript of the trial of the Perkins brothers, and it seems they shot & wounded two gamekeepers, one of them in the "private parts". I imagine this keeper was very keen to testify against them.

Cheers,
Alan


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Reiver 2
Date: 21 Oct 99 - 12:18 PM

Wolfgang, Thanks for the post regarding Susanne's Folksong Notes. A great resource that I hadn't been aware of, newbie that I am to the Mudcat Cafe. I've bookmarked it for future reference. I'm glad to have the background of Aragon Mill explained.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Reiver 2
Date: 14 Nov 99 - 10:26 PM

Just located my source for "Belfast Mill" on a recording by The Furies. Guess they must have taken Aragon Mill and adapted it to the home country. Just as appropriate to Ireland as to Georgia, I think. Very topical for this era of "downsizing" with shutdowns and layoffs.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Barry Finn
Date: 14 Nov 99 - 11:54 PM

As far as I know there's no Framington/Farmington, Mass but close by there's a Farmington, New Hampshire. Framingham, Mass. is home to the world famous Women's prison which they never mention out that way. We were always told as kids to watch out for the sound of the rattle when out in the woods and I'm sure would've been far more common back in those days. Barry


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Jeri
Date: 15 Nov 99 - 12:29 AM

I don't know how helpful it is, but I've been to the grave of Timothy Myrick (Mirick/Merrick) in the Deacon Adams cemetary in Wilbraham, MA. I was riding back from a festival with Linn the Bat Goddess and her husband. We also stopped at F.J. Child's grave. (And I got a rubbing of the stone, but I don't have a clue where to hang the thing.)


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From:
Date: 15 Nov 99 - 12:53 AM

There is also a Farmington in Connecticut about 45 minutes from Springfield, MA. Farmington is one of the very old towns in CT and could well be the town referred to in the song Springfield Mountain.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Anglofile
Date: 15 Nov 99 - 03:00 PM

This thread may be played out on its original subject, but I want to add that, whether a ballad contains historically accurate information or not, it usually gives the student insight into the mind of its author. And that allows us to touch the past in a unique way.

For example, in The Bonnie Fisher Lass the narrator says, "Her handsome leg and ankle, they so delighted me." It's amusing to contemplate how that fellow, so taken by that rarely exposed female extremity, would react to your average Baywatch episode. Probably have a stroke.

So, apart from historical fact (the discovering of which is half the fun of traditional music, I think), the feel for life in the past that we get from old songs is to me one of the most illuminating aspects of traditional music.

BTW, I live near Springfield and Wilbraham, MA. There are still rattlers in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains to the west of there.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: paddymac
Date: 15 Nov 99 - 03:50 PM

I get shot at (metaphorically) from time to time because of my penchant for trying to tell the "whole story" in some of the "historical" ballads I do. I'm trying to do a better job of reading the audience, but there are a lot of folks out there who seem to think that any song of more than three, possibly four, verses is "too much". The "fast food" approach to story telling in song probably speaks volumes about contemporary culture. The most frightening thing is to realize how many historians, of both the academic and song-writer varieties, look to newspaper accounts for their foundation notions about an event.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From:
Date: 15 Nov 99 - 04:42 PM

"On Springfield Mountain": according to Phillips Barry in BFSSNE the earliest form of the ballad is "The Pesky Sarpent", c 1840, as sung by Mr. Spear, the tune being "The Quaker's Wife" [Mudcat's Links- Levy sheet music collection, Box 55, item 42]


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: kendall
Date: 15 Nov 99 - 06:35 PM

Just to muddy the waters a bit, in 1761, Massachusetts was part of Maine, and there is a Farmington Maine. We no longer have rattlers, but we did in colonial times. As far as history goes, it is of course, written by the winners mostly. The battle of the iron clads was a good example, The ship that fought the MONITOR was the VIRGINIA, not the MERRIMAC. When the war broke out, there was a wooden ship on the ways in Norfolk which was named MERRIMAC. However, she was captured by confederates forces, fitted with metal plates, and renamed the VIRGINIA.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Bruce O.
Date: 15 Nov 99 - 06:54 PM

Judge Learned Hand sings "The Iron Merrimac" on Library of Congress LP AFS L29, to the tune of "Pretty Peggy of Derby, O", the tune also known from a later song as "The Landlady of France". A early longer version of Judge Hand's song, citing the latter tune, is in the Levy sheet music collection, Box 193, item. 153, "The Monitor and the Merrimack". [Levy collection is in Mudcat's Links]


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 15 Nov 99 - 07:27 PM

History in song isn't always written by the winners.

For example Stan Hugill records that when singing about Santy Anna and General Taylor, most times sailors would have Santy winning and Taylor running away, to annoy the Yanks, and bugger the history.

Sop which is the historical way to sing it - the way the history happened, or the way the people who made the song liked to sing it?

And there are lots of other examples where the songs alter the history, but where that very alteration is part of the history. For example cowardly and psychopathic outlaws given heroic status, because people needed heroes.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: kendall
Date: 15 Nov 99 - 08:08 PM

good point, I understand Billy the Kid was little more than a homicidal moron.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Barry Finn
Date: 15 Nov 99 - 08:51 PM

Hi Kendall, set me straight, Mass apart of Maine or Maine apart of the Mass Bay Colony? I didn't think that the Allagash or that Acadia even existed when Mass was voting in govenors as a matter of REAL fact Maine wasn't allowed to have grow trees there until Mass set you free. Barry


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 16 Nov 99 - 02:32 PM

Well I've heard the same, about good old Billy, kendall. But personally I think "moron" is a word it's about as good to use as "nigger". One that's passed into history, I hope. (I reckon Billy would probably have used both words.)


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From:
Date: 16 Nov 99 - 02:56 PM

Can anyone tell me if "Famous Flower of Serving Men" has any basis in historical fact. It is one of my favourites but I know little abot it. Aldus


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird)
Date: 16 Nov 99 - 03:03 PM

On a recent Woody Guthrie retrospective I heard of a song which started, "Come all you fast-food workers" (TTTO Canaday-I-O) about a McDonald's strike in Ohio. But I didn't hear who the author is, or the title. Does anyone know ?

T.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Bruce O.
Date: 16 Nov 99 - 03:05 PM

No basis known. It's by Laurence Price. See it in the L. Price file on my website. www.erols.com/olsonw. On the other hand I think Price's slightly later ballad "James Harris/ The Demon Lover/ The House Carpenter/ A Warning for Married Women" was probably based on exaggerated reports from Plymouth. His "Famous Woman Drummer" was on a Mrs. John Clarke, 1655, but this ballad is noticeably defficient in hard facts.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 16 Nov 99 - 03:45 PM

That Billy Bonney was a killer there seems little doubt, but most of the evidence indicating he was a mental deficient seems to stem from the one extant photograph of Billy, the one where he is shown wearing a narrow-brimmed hat and holding a Winchester by the barrel. The vaccuous look in his eyes seems to belie any spark of intelligence. But consider the crude photo techniques of the time, and consider that Billy was fluent in English and Spanish, that he engineered two jail-breaks and evaded capture for 4 years in the face of a bounty on his head, and that most of his victims were on the other side of a New Mexico range war in which he had the misfortune to be on the losing side. The balance of his victims were Law Officers engaged in apprehending or holding him. In this instance, contemporary songs and stories that were sympathetic to Billy may indeed be more accurate than revisionist history that paints him as a slobbering psychopath.

In the American West of the late 1800's, the Law was rarely enforced objectively, and being an Outlaw sometimes meant you were just on the wrong side of the fence in a dispute involving land,cattle, and power.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Bert
Date: 16 Nov 99 - 03:52 PM

He certainly comes across as reasonable well educated if you read his letters to the governor.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Midchuck
Date: 16 Nov 99 - 04:07 PM


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Midchuck
Date: 16 Nov 99 - 04:12 PM

Sorry about the blank. Hit "enter" instead of the tab key. Damn hair-trigger web pages anyway.

What I meant to say was:

"In the American West of the late 1800's, the Law was rarely enforced objectively, and being an Outlaw sometimes meant you were just on the wrong side of the fence in a dispute involving land,cattle, and power...."

So are you implying something's changed, other than cattle being less basic?

Compare "Claude Dallas" by Tyson and Russell. Who said outlaw ballads are a lost art?


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Bruce O.
Date: 16 Nov 99 - 04:17 PM

Sorry on my last post above in answer to the question by Aldus, I should have mentioned the subject as "Famous Flower of Serving Men". I had thought my response would follow immediately after the question, but obviously didn't.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: kendall
Date: 16 Nov 99 - 04:57 PM

Nice slant Barry, but, as Harry Truman said, "Lets take a look at the facts." The original Mass.Bay colony consisted mostly of the district of Maine. Maine covers an area of over 30,000 square miles. Mass. is just 8,000 sq. miles. Now, going by that, what was part of what? Furthermore, we wernt "let go" we escaped!! Hooray for the Missouri Compromise. Of course they have not forgiven us, and, they are buying Maine back one house lot at a time!! put um up..put um up LOL


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: kendall
Date: 16 Nov 99 - 05:01 PM

this is of course, mostly tongue in cheek.. do you get it catspaw??


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Art Thieme
Date: 16 Nov 99 - 09:44 PM

Billy was a hero to the folks fighting to keep the range open and unfenced during the Lincoln County War---was he not? One man's terrorist/psycho killer is another guy's Menachem Bagin. It's all relative I suspect. One of my favorite books of all time is Howard Zinn's PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES. If accurate, what a hell of an eyeopener. I heartily recommend it. Debunks so many myths (supposedly).
History, like folk music, does not always lie.

Art


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: kendall
Date: 17 Nov 99 - 08:29 AM

thats a fact Art, to King George the 3rd, George Washington was a terrorist.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Aldus
Date: 17 Nov 99 - 10:12 AM

On the subject of Billy The Kid, Jesse James et al... Perhaps it would be wise to keep in mind the following when mythologizing persons of this particular ilk.... The primary function of their activity was to enrich themselves at the expense of others. In doing this they murdered many people including innocent bank employees, railway passengers, bystanders, small town law officers and railway guards. Also, mental derrangement does not mean a lack of intelligence, in many cases it implies a lack of conscience. I belive the facts will bear out that many off these so-called heroes were nothing more than sociopaths who were worshipped for all the wrong reasons. To depict them as Gun toting socialists out to seek economic revenge on behalf of the suffering masses is just historical manipulation. What is wrong with much of revisionist history is that it is often an attempt to bend the facts to suit current sociology. These were bad men..they killed people for money...it is that simple.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Bert
Date: 17 Nov 99 - 10:43 AM

I don't know how you can group Billy the Kid with Jesse James, their stories are quite different.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: kendall
Date: 17 Nov 99 - 11:52 AM

hey Aldus, you are so right. We seem to have a great desire for heros, and lacking real ones, we create them. Someone said it is the deep seated desire to have a king that we turn to people like Ronald Reagan and John Wayne. People who spent their whole lives pretending to be someone else. Their make believe lives are so attractive that we get to live vicariously through them.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: aldus
Date: 17 Nov 99 - 01:05 PM

Dear Bert;

I was not suggesting that they shared the same story. I am convinced however, that they shared the same social philosophy.....life is cheap.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 17 Nov 99 - 01:18 PM

Again, I think it is easy to generalize about "badmen" of the Old West. Billy was never engaged in the kinds of activities that were designed to give him instant rewards(train, bank,and stage robbibg). He was a fairly typical saddle-bum who was handy enough with a weapon to be hired as a range enforcer- and that's when his troubles began.

Jesse was a veteran of the Guerilla Raider arm of the Confederacy, having ridden with Quantrill in the Missouri and Kansas area. He was very young when he joined up, and was soon caught up in the "gray area" of war that is guerilla fighting. A fine line between depriving the enemy of needed supply, and just plain robbing and terror.The end of the war was not clear cut to these people, and many continued this course of action against the Reconstructionist government. Frank and Jesse certainly continued to excuse many of their actions in this way, although their activity was certainly directed toward ready sources of loot, such as the banks.

Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp, lawmen and heroes, certainly walked on both sides of the law in their time, and Wild Bill Hickok was one of the most bloodthirsty of them all, but because he was Sheriff of Deadwood and had a hit tv show in the 50's, is often held up as an idol of the Old West.

What I am saying is, the more you understand about the history, the more complex are the individuals and circumstances involved in it. And personally, I find the facts much more fascinating than the stereotypes.

LEJ


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Midchuck
Date: 17 Nov 99 - 02:04 PM

"To depict them as Gun toting socialists out to seek economic revenge on behalf of the suffering masses is just historical manipulation. What is wrong with much of revisionist history is that it is often an attempt to bend the facts to suit current sociology. These were bad men..they killed people for money...it is that simple..."

...and it is always evil to kill people for money, if you don't wear a uniform....


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: lamarca
Date: 17 Nov 99 - 02:22 PM

"Outlaw ballads" and tales are as old as human history. Look at the English heritage of Robin Hood and all the sneakily sympathetic highwayman ballads like Tyne of Harrow. Going back as far as Greek mythology, many Greek heroes were portrayed as being on the wrong side of the ruling power - Perseus, Bellerophon, Hercules, Achilles, Theseus, Daedulus; all were opposed to at least one king's rulings in the myths surrounding them.

It's human nature to surreptitiously (or not) admire individuals who buck authority and get away with it - up to a point. Mythologizing them tends to gloss over the uglier parts of their actions. It's funny that in the USA we have a supposed cultural admiration for "rugged individualism", and an actual societal intolerance for non-conformity...


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 17 Nov 99 - 03:20 PM

Being an outlaw doesn't mean you're a villain, and it doesn't mean you're a hero. Nor does being on the side of the law.

Either situation lands people in situations where they can act like villains, or act like heroes. Some people no doubt are consistently one mor the other. Others no doubt make different choices on different occasions. All kinds of people can find themselves in either situation, especially in a time of occupation and civil unrest. (Normal times, you could say, for the poor and the weak.)

If you're faced with an oppressive system, you need to believe there is someone standing up to it, someone who is on your side, and you tell stories and sing songs to tell about them as heroes.

So the songs are evidence of what people felt, and in that sense they tell the truth. Whether they are factual or not in any particular case is another story.

But I think there is little doubt that on occasion being seen as a hero can push people a little more in the direction of living as a hero, and dying as a hero.

As Ned Kelly put it when they hanged him ,"Such is Life!"


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Art Thieme
Date: 17 Nov 99 - 05:04 PM

Bill Hickok grew up about 2 and a half miles from where I'm typing this out right now---Troy Grove, Illinois.(for what that's worth)

Art


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: GUEST,coco
Date: 13 Apr 11 - 12:45 PM

I need to know all about "The Robin Hood Ballads":Historical Truth and Fabrication? Please help me? send me all the result on my e-mail? katherinedizo@yahoo.com
Thank you so much,
cocokd


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 13 Apr 11 - 06:37 PM

coco
There are plenty of websites where people argue about the historical accuracy of RH stories and the places/periods he's supposed to have operated in.

Having studied the ballads in depth and the plays and the books about him, I feel there's a strong likelihood there were lots of RHs, and their exploits are in reality about as romantic as Billy the Kid. The ballads/legends are pure fiction made up for pageants and suchlike in the 16th/17th centuries, some even later. The previously mentioned Lawrence Price wrote some of them, along with Martin Parker.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Apr 11 - 03:40 AM

"The ballads/legends are pure fiction made up for pageants and suchlike in the 16th/17th centuries,"
Far, far too much of a generalisation Steve, and once again, an uncorroborated speculation only of who made them up or why.
The totally unknown ballad makers, whoever they were, made them up for a whole host of reasons we can only guess at: because the events recorded, real or imagined, touched their lives, because that is how the stories had been passed on to them, because the events depicted, sometimes real, sometimes invented, caught their imaginations enough for the makers and re-makers to have wanted them to survive... a whole host of reasons we can't possibly fathom from this distance in time.
And as for ballad accuracy, these unknown ballad makers have done no more nor less than historians have done down the ages, and presented events and tales as they would like to believe actually happened, or as they would like us to believe happened.
"The previously mentioned Lawrence Price wrote some of them, along with Martin Parker."
As I have pointed out before, we have no way whatever of knowing whether any ballad existed in oral form prior to the above mentioned getting their hands on it, or if we have, it is yet to be demonstrated.
We do have examples in places where a healthy living tradition survived (19th/early 20th century Ireland, for instance - try looking up the events surrounding Farmer Michael Hayes sometime), of ballads being made anonymously as political weapons, as rallying calls to action, as a gesture of triumphalism, or despair, or anger or simply to record an event that would otherwise have been forgotten - far, far more reliable a guide than unproveable speculation on 16th and 17th century creations about which, as I said, we can only hazard a guess.
That these pieces get changed and adapted as they are passed on orally is inevitable and is as important a part of their role in our history and culture as was their creation in the first place. Dismiss this fact and you dismiss any idea that 'ordinary people' (if there ever was such an animal) played any part in the recording of their/our history.
If any of us actually knew who wrote the ballads and why, perhaps we'd be legends in our own right, and maybe somebody would have made up ballads about us!!   
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 14 Apr 11 - 05:45 PM

Jim,
ALL of the scholars accept that those ballads Parker, Price, Lanfiere, Wade, Climsall, Deloney, etc., etc., put their names/initials to were theirs. A few from each passed into oral tradition but the majority didn't. Of course we can't prove it, just as we can't prove Harry Clifton wrote his songs. On the other hand nobody has come up with a prior version of any of them, either in ms form or print. The same goes for the broadside ballad writers.

As for RH ballads, apart from about 5, of the other 40 or so they all first appeared in a much printed and reprinted Robin Hood's Garland in the mid 17th century, and I'm quite happy to accept that's where they originated.

As for farmers writing songs, I have plenty of examples of these myself, but they very seldom get the chance to enter oral tradition. In fact none of the ones I recorded were ever sung by anyone else but the writer. There is no reason to believe that your early twentieth century Irish farmer had anything relevant in common with the origins of English songs in any century. I'm well aware Walter sang some political songs but these never had a wide circulation in oral tradition. Of course there are plenty of examples of political songs on the broadsides, but the vast majority came from urban settings and first appeared on the broadsides.

Regarding oral tradition, I'm not aware of having DISMISSED anything.
The origins of something and what happened to it afterwards are two separate issues.

'wrote the ballads and why' In the majority of cases to get their shilling from the printer. (In England that is)


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Apr 11 - 03:37 AM

"ALL of the scholars accept that those ballads Parker, Price, Lanfiere, Wade, Climsall, Deloney, etc., etc"
Doesn't mean a thing Steve; old songbooks and ballad sheets are full of traditional songs ascribed to people who obviously had taken them from earlier ones, adapted them and put their name on them to make a few pennies, or even a bit of kudos.
As I said, we have no idea whether the chicken or the egg came first and it is ingenuous to claim that we do.
All a songshheet does is capture a song at a particular stage in its developmnt - not safe grounds for disposessing a whole class of people of their creative role in their oral literature.
"As for farmers writing songs"
We've argued this before, and it's not what I'm talking about.
This area where we are living has an extremely rich song and story tradition. It has had a song repertoire of Child ballads, Anglo-Irish, native-Irish, and probably Irish-language, though Irish disappeared from here too long ago to be certain of this.
Along with this came a tradition of songmaking - not a few "farmers writing songs" but hundreds of anonymous songs reflecting the events and the life of the community. Even within the first half of the 20th century these we passing into variants and appearing in family notebooks and on the ballad sheets in numerous forms.
This happened in Scotland and produced the bothy songs, and I believed it happened under very similar circumstances to produce our sea repertoire.
I see no reason at all why it didn't happen in England in the same way - surely the English people weren't all passive recipient dullards, incapable of making songs that reflecting their lives and experiences and having to wait until somebody came along to do it for them?
We know there are anonymous mining songs - got a small sheaf of them here from Picton Library - not very good but interesting.
I did some work in The Central Library in Manchester years ago on the old Reform and Chartist newspapers, some of them running regular song/poetry columns.
Walter Pardon had a handful of songs and parodies relating to the re-establishment of the Agricultural Workers Union under George Edwards.
The Lancashire cotton industry produced songs and poems around the struggles for improvements in conditions, some of them ascribed; Bamford and Waugh, but many not bearing specific attributions, but simply headed 'A Lancashire Lady' and suchlike.
This, I have no doubt whatever, could be repeated throughout England - there is no reason why the English should be any less poetically inclined than in any other part of these islands.
We have no idea how these creations resonated on the oral tradition, or whether that tradition contains some of these compositions which were taken up and re-made, eventually becoming part of the established traditional repertoire.
Our songs were treated as artifacts by the collectors; we no virtully nothing about their making, their transition, their function within the communities, how they were regarded by the singers and the audiences - nothing at all; all we can do is draw some comparisons from the little we do know.
Taking a 17th century song and saying "That's got a name on it so it must have been written by him/her" is not a way I'm prepared to go - it is simplistic in the extreme and it means nothing whatever.
"Regarding oral tradition, I'm not aware of having DISMISSED anything."
Yes you are - you are restricting it to "passive recipient" status and rejecting the idea that the people who sang the songs might have played a part in their making - that is a damning condemnation on such flimsy 'evidence'.
"'wrote the ballads and why' In the majority of cases to get their shilling from the printer."
Again, a totally uncorroborated, definitive, dismissive and demeaning statement which flies in the face of evidence from elsewhere.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: theleveller
Date: 15 Apr 11 - 04:34 AM

"As for RH ballads, apart from about 5, of the other 40 or so they all first appeared in a much printed and reprinted Robin Hood's Garland in the mid 17th century, and I'm quite happy to accept that's where they originated."

In his excellent book 'Liberty Against the Law' Christopher Hill devotes a whole chapter to the Robin Hood ballads and discusses why they gained such popularity in the 17th and early 18th centuries.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 15 Apr 11 - 07:22 PM

Jim,
Long ago I conceded that parts of Ireland and the Bothy tradition have songs made in local communities that have become part of oral tradition. You are well aware that I am talking about the body of material collected by the likes of Sharp, Kidson, Baring Gould, Hammond, Gardiner etc.

I recently delivered a talk on this at Cecil Sharp House on the Broadside Day, in front of many highly respected scholars of folk music and the print tradition. (A version can be viewed on the TSF website). Not one attendee took me to task on any of the points I made. In fact they were most complimentary. They were certainly given plenty of opportunity to do so both in private and after the presentation itself. I do think you are looking at this through rose-coloured spectacles and to some extent burying your head in the sand.

But hey ho. that's one thing this forum is here for, and everyone is entitled to their opinions. We are polarised on this issue having followed similar paths in folk music. It's a shame, but there you go.
I do quite enjoy our little disagreements and I thank you for your input. It keeps me on my toes and stops me from becoming complacent.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Apr 11 - 06:33 AM

"You are well aware that I am talking about the body of material collected by the likes of Sharp, Kidson, Baring Gould, Hammond, Gardiner etc."
All of whom had a set ide of what constituted folk, ignored everything that didn't fit, and adopted the attitude that unless it was collected then it would be lost forever - a race with the undertaker, as a collector friend put it.
The fact that not one attendee took you to task is beside the point - I am questioning your continuing definitve statements now.
You are attempting to remove the possibility that English working people did not make their own songs on the basis of a name at the bottom of a ballad sheet - I challenge you to prove it or stop putting it forward as proven fact - which it isn't so far.
As you say, we are all entitled to put our opinions, and we are all open to challenge if those opinions don't ring true.
We know little enough about our tradition as it is without adding to that ignorance by trying to fill in the gaps with unproven and illogical hypotheses.
And "so-and-so said it, so it must be true" has never been an argument that impressed me overly
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Apr 11 - 08:18 AM

"I do quite enjoy our little disagreements"
Oh, and by the way, I usually regard being patronised (no matter how slightly) as a substitute for real argument, ad tend to reply "come back when you've worked with real traditional singers in a living tradition".
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 16 Apr 11 - 03:37 PM

Jim,
I'm sorry you feel like this.

First of all only a very small proportion of my arguments are based on a name at the bottom of a sheet. They are based on 40+ years of studying in minute detail both songs from oral tradition and those printed on street literature.

Secondly 'come back when you've worked with real traditional singers in a living tradition'. I have! My own family for starters. My recordings from the 60s and 70s are available to all on the BLSA as I think are some of yours, and I counted Fred Jordan as a personal friend, and do so Will Noble and various other singers from the east Pennine tradition.

Of course the early collectors were being very selective and did things with the songs we nowadays disapprove of, but whether we like it or not, what they collected is by and large what passes as the corpus of English folk song.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Apr 11 - 04:05 PM

"what they collected is by and large what passes as the corpus of English folk song."
That remains to be debated Steve - you say that there was not a tradition of songwriting in England - I say there must have been and there are still traces of it - and it flies in the face of all the evidence to suggest there was not.
With respect to your family; as early as Sharp and his contempories, folk songs were being remembered rather than being given from living traditions.
There have been efforts on the part of some researchers to arbitrarily re-define the tradition to include ready-made and unchanged pieces (music hall - early pop etc), but as far as I can see, this has gained little ground and the recognised tradition has been long dead.
None of which changes one iota the fact that we have no idea where the songs origniated, and probably never shall.
What we do have are indications that they arose directly from within communities that passed them on to us - the use of vernacular, the familiarity with trade terms, working practices, folklore, geography, topography... all make this fairly likely - to me, if not to you.
The suggestion that there was a school of writers with a grasp of all these seems to me arrant nonsense.
This is the impression I have gained directly from two main sources - from the Irish settled tradition which was still thriving within the lifetimes of the singers we recorded, and from the Travellers who still had a living tradition, though it quickly disappeared soon after we started working with them. The latter group included a ballad seller, a survival of the old broadside trade and the nearest we have of any detailed on-the-spot information on the practice.
I really don't want to enter into a pissing-contest with you to prove whether your 40+ years is worth more or less than my 50 years; I would much rather swap real arguments.
If you can really prove that our folksongs and ballads originated on the broadside presses - show us your willie - metaphorically, of course!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 16 Apr 11 - 04:24 PM

I think we've got back to 'You show me yours and I'll show you mine' again, Jim.

I'll extend the offer I made a few months back; YOU select any ballad from the corpus of material mentioned above, barring some of the older Child ballads, and let's take it from there.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 Apr 11 - 04:38 AM

"I'll extend the offer I made a few months back"
Better than that Steve - give me any traditional song that you can claim without fear of contradiction, originated on the broadside presses and was not in circulation in the tradition in one form or another beforehand.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 17 Apr 11 - 02:32 PM

Wow that's generous, Jim!
I could name about 2,000 off the top of my head and be confident you would not be able to find any evidence of oral tradition prior to the earliest broadside, but I'll stick to these parameters here given which you very generously offer.

Okay, the first one that jumped into my head for no particular reason was 'Young Napoleon or The Bunch of Roses O.' Pretty obviously the ballad must postdate Bonaparte's demise as it's about Maria Louisa and her son. In fact it seems to postdate the death of young Napoleon who died in Vienna in 1832. A broadside issued by Hill of London credits the ballad to one George Brown of whom we know very little other than his name and it is also appended to broadsides, 'Flora the Lily of the West', 'The Merchant's Daughter and Constant Farmer's Son', and 'The Grand Conversation on Napoleon', all since then found in oral tradition. Hill was printing at about that time. Since then the ballad has been printed by just about every broadside printer in the country, and I might add with very little variation from the usual 6 stanzas. In fact there is very little variation between any of the oral versions probably as the ballad is so recent and hasn't had sufficient time in oral tradition to accrue much variation, apart from which it was so readily available in print all over Britain.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 17 Apr 11 - 02:41 PM

Oh, and I almost forgot, 100!


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 Apr 11 - 03:35 PM

And your evidence for their not having been in oral circulation beforehand and taken by George Brown "to get his shilling from the printer" is.....?
We have recorded two songs, one in the Travellers tradition (concerning an arranged marriage) and one in the West Clare tradition (about an occurrence in the Irish War of Independence), which were made on the day of the events described and in circulation within the week - passing into variants within the month.
It is not for me to find evidence of it being in oral circulation first; I am making no such a definitive claim; it is up to you, who is making such claims, to show that it wasn't.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 17 Apr 11 - 03:58 PM

Jim,
You're the first person I've come across who's a bigger skeptic than me. I'm suitably impressed. We've come to this point before. By the way I don't suppose it makes any difference to you, but I was quoting Malcolm Douglas in post 99. I don't think anyone else on Mudcat would have been brave enough to contradict Malcolm, but then you are a one-off, and I mean that in the nicest possible way. I didn't intend to be patronising earlier on, I was being genuine.

In deference to you I will append all my future posts with IMO.

Unless you have anything new to add I think we can stop boring others with our little disagreement now. I would be pleased to continue if you can come at it from a different angle. It intrigues me because you are the first and only person to present such an argument to me. I was already fully aware of the situation in rural Ireland in the early years of the 20th century as I've spent many happy hours in Merrion Square at ITMA. I even have some of the copies of the Irish broadsides you refer to, but to relate rural Ireland of the 20th cen tury to early nineteenth century England is pushing things rather a lot.



IMO.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 17 Apr 11 - 04:11 PM

Jim,
I've just thought of a new angle. Perhaps you can suggest how you think 'The Bonny Bunch of Roses' came into being.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 Apr 11 - 05:42 PM

Steve, It really isn't a matter of scepticism - it is an attempt to take on board everything we/I have learned about the tradition through discussions with most of the singers we met.
We know for certain that here in rural Ireland peopl made songs reflecting their lives and experiences - that happened certainly throughout the 19th - early 20th century and led to an enormous number of songs which were taken up and re-made: emigration, political, love, praise of place, trades.... lyrical, narrative, humourous, tragic...... the native Irish repertoire is vast and all enveloping, and those that made it in print did so via the travellers taking them up and selling them on the sheets.
We know that the same happened in Scotland, though I am not as familiar with the nuts and bolts of this - apart from some reading on bothy songs - though I do find some of David Buchan's writing on the ballads fascinating, if flawed.
We also know it happened in England, at least, according to Walter Pardon it did.
Our knowledge is limited by the facts that:
a - The English tradition disappeared quite early and we were left with a handful of singers who remembered the songs from second hand experience.
b - Collectors treated the songs as artefacts and assumed that the singers had nothing else to offer, and so didn't bother to seek further information.
c - Collectors did not bother taking down locally made songs because they assumed that unless they resembled or were already in the national repertoire they were of no interest.
So we only have only a half a picture of the English rural repertoire.
When we discussed this subject earlier I pointed out that Leslie Shepherd considered our folk songs to have passed on to the broadsides and not vise versa - your response was that Shepherd's knowledge of folk songs was poor - not good enough, and not the impression he left me with on the few occasions I met him - I shared a platform with him when he and I spoke at MacColl's 70th birthday symposium. In my opinion you have to disprove what he believed, not denigrate his knowledge to prove him wrong.
Somewhere in Shepherd's writings there is a passage indicating that Hindley shared Shepherd's view that the country songs were passed on to the broadsides - Hindley was probably as close to the broadside trade as anybody could get.
Isaac Walton, when writing about broadsides, refers to the songs s 'country songs' - an 'accidental' turn of phrase?
You say it is a big jump from 20th to 19th century Ireland - is it really - Travellers have been dealing in the ballad trade for that length of time, making them far nearer to the the source than either you or I.
If I am going to abandon a lifelong belief that rural working people made songs which reflected their lives and experiences, using the commonplaces, vernacular, intimately familiar description of their subject, lore, topography, observance of seasons, working practices, the land, and accept that the songs were made by a school (I know you have protested this term, but that is the implication of what you are saying) with all this knowledge and observational skill, then I am going to need more than a name on the bottom of a broadside; otherwise I shall have to take up the idea that Rod Stewart wrote Wild Mountain Thyme because it has his name at the bottom (with a little (c).
Until you tackle the anomolies and contradictions raised by the idea of a broadside school of writers, all else is as nothing in this discussion.
I have no idea how Bonny Bunch of Roses came to be written, but, with respect, neither have you.
Jim arroll


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 17 Apr 11 - 06:25 PM

Interesting you mention Hindley. A little quote from his Catnach biography will suffice for now. 'Catnach.....for his halfpenny songs relying for their composition on his "Seven Bards of the Seven Dials' and when they were on the drink, or otherwise not inclined to work, being driven to write and invent them himself'. More anon.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 17 Apr 11 - 06:56 PM

Flicking through it the book is riddled with accounts of how at least some of the ballads were composed in London by Catnach and his friends.

p381 'the authors and poets who give this peculiar literature alike in prose or rhyme to the streets, are all in some capacity or another connected with the street patter or song; and the way in which a narrative or a 'copy of verses' is prepared for the press is usually this:- The leading members of the 'schools'--some of whom refer regularly to the evening papers--when they hear of any out of the way occurrence, resort to the printer and desire its publication in a style proper for the streets. This is usually done very speedily, the school, or a majority of them -- and the printer agreeing with the author.' Much greater detail ensuing over financial matters and then 'The chief residence of these parties being nearest to the long-established printer....'

Significant that both Hindley and you both refer to it as a 'school' and yet until now I haven't used the term.

'It must be borne in mind that the street-author is closely restricted in the quality of his effusions. It must be such as the patterers approve, as the chanters can chant, the ballad singers sing, and above all, such as the street buyers will buy.'

Well, you brought up Hindley!


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 17 Apr 11 - 07:10 PM

Jim, I have never denied the interaction between oral tradition and print, in fact I have lots of evidence that a lot of broadside ballads were taken from oral tradition. I am writing an article at the moment about a ballad that does just that. That doesn't take anything away from my belief that at leat 95% of them actually originated under these commercial conditions. The ones they were taking back from oral tradition had originated on broadsides or in the theatre and pleasure gardens.

As for your points b and c I absolutely agree with you and lament the situation, but that is how it is, or was when these things were being collected. Apart from the fact that nearly all of these singers had a sizable repertoire of music hall songs and parlour songs all of commercial origin from the towns.


IMO


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 Apr 11 - 03:13 AM

Steve,
There is no argument that the broadside press didn't produce their own songs - of course that did - and thumbing through Ashton and the like, they stand out like sore thumbs when placed next to the ones we rafer to as 'traditional' - often clunky and unsingable, comapred to the natural flow and stark realistic, and often incisively beautiful observations of folk songs.
If they were all produced by the same school, thenthe pupils must have led a Jeykl and Hyde existence.
More later
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 Apr 11 - 03:28 PM

"That doesn't take anything away from my belief that at leat 95% of them actually originated under these commercial conditions."
Yet so far you have failed to produce a single one that you can guarantee did so.
It is extremely misleading to make definitive claims on such a basic question when you have no proof whatever that any of them were not taken from an oral tradition.
I wouldn't claim for a minute that there weren't some that originated on the broadside presses, but claiming that 95% were is a theory (no more) that totally scuppers the idea that, unlike the Irish and Scots rural working people, the English totally failed to produce any oral literature of their own, but rather, had it produced for them. It isn't even good scholarship.
I have spent most of my musical life listening to people claim that "the folk may have produced the songs, but the ballads were far too sophistcated to have been produced by unlettered peasants". You take it a step further and claim they produced virtually nothing - shame on you Steve.
You have yet to address the question of how a school of "hacks" - your term, not mine - could produce a body of songs so representative of a whole class of people and have the skill to produce a corpus of songs with the feel and familiarity of their subject matter, and fool so many people for so long - even the people who grew up with them and kept them alive.
Let's have your proof Steve.
And really - adding IMO behind your unfounded theories is a shoddy cop-out which just won't do.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 Apr 11 - 03:45 PM

Sorry - missed a bit:
"Apart from the fact that nearly all of these singers had a sizable repertoire of music hall songs and parlour songs all of commercial origin from the towns."
Totally irrelevant to the discussion - we are folk song collectors and enthusiasts, not oral or social historians or ethnomusicologists,
A traditional singer having such pieces in their repertoire doesn't make them 'folk' or 'traditional' any more than Dame Kiri Tikanawa singing 'Wouldn't it be Loverly' makes it opera.
It was our experience that singers - particularly those with sizeable repertoires compartmentalised their songs just a much as we do (or should do).
Walter Pardon called his folk songs 'folk songs', Mary Delaney called them 'My daddie's songs' even though she learned no more than a dozen out of a repertoire of around 200 from him. She refused to sing us her 100 or so C&W songs and told us she only sang them "because that's what the lads ask for down in the pub"; and "the new songs have the old ones destroyed".
It seems that it's only us (some of us) folkies who, for some strange reason, can't tell the difference between Max Miller and Harry Cox.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 18 Apr 11 - 05:53 PM

You seem to be going around in circles, Jim.
First you complain at sharp and co for weeding out the music hall and parlour songs and anything else they may have discarded, then you say these shouldn't be included anyway. You can't have it both ways.

You say we are not social historians. I beg to differ. If you were a social historian you would have no difficulty in spotting the differences between 20th century Ireland and 19th century England.

Of course many of the 'performers' who were recorded compartmentalised their songs. I can also think of many local examples. But I can come up with 20 times as many who weren't 'performers' who didn't, as well. This doesn't prove anything.

The early collectors were absolutely right to be selective. Like us they had limited time and saw the singers dying off. They wanted to get the most useful material recorded in as much quantity as possible. What was the point in collecting the other stuff when it was readily available elsewhere.

You asked me to select a song from the corpus I considered originated as a broadside piece. I did that. I now return the request. From the same corpus a well-known ballad please that you consider did not originate under commercial conditions?


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Jack Campin
Date: 18 Apr 11 - 06:23 PM

You asked me to select a song from the corpus I considered originated as a broadside piece. I did that. I now return the request. From the same corpus a well-known ballad please that you consider did not originate under commercial conditions?

Well, I'll suggest one. Riddles Wisely Expounded.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Apr 11 - 04:41 AM

"First you complain at sharp and co for weeding out the music hall and parlour songs"
Where did I 'complain' Steve?
My complaint is that we have little information on our FOLK SONGS, other than the songs themselves from our field singers I certainly haven't complained that collectors didn't gather anything other than folk songs, which I believe to be inevitable given the conditions under which they worked.
If you are making an all round study of a singer you gather in everything, but these studies are few and far between.
The fact that the only information we have about the vast majority of our source singers is 'name, rank and serial number' leaves us extremely ignorant of our traditions and how they worked.
"Of course many of the 'performers' who were recorded compartmentalised their songs"
I didn't use the loaded term 'performers'; in my experience the field singers that were available to us over the last few decades comprise of those who happened to remember a handful of songs from family, friends, drinking companions... etc, and those who were recognised as singers within their communities - it is the latter who 'appeared' to compartmentalise (in our experience, though I believe we have too little information, gathered too late to draw any hard and fast conclusion). It is difficult to draw any conclusions whatever from what was found in England in the 20th century as the singing traditions had all but disappeared by the time the songs were being seriously sought - and even then, it was only the songs that were gathered. Making hard-and-fast statements on what was gathered in, especially in the latter half of the 20th century is bound to give a distorted picture; that is why we are forced to look elsewhere for comparisons, which we make only after taking diffrences into consideration.
I am well aware that there are differences between the circumstances between the Irish and English situations, I also recognise that there are important similarities, cross fertilisation of repertoire, similarities in the transition of songs, emigration and temporary working in Britain.... a whole bunch of reasons to compare notes.
One of the finest sean nós Irish language singers spent half of his life in Leeds, the English folk revival was floated on two extremely influential Irish singers and musicians, the building of the English roads, canals and railways brought over vast numbers of Irish people, among them singers and musicians.
I once attended a fascinating talk given by Peter Hall on how the richness of the North East Scotland song tradition was influenced by the Irish navvies who worked on laying the Aberdeenshire railways - all this needs to be taken into consideration if we are to begin to understand our song traditions.
We have worked with English, Irish, and to a far lesser extent (little more than taking down some songs and short converstions, and listening to intervies carried out by others) Scots traditional singers and have come to the conclusion that there are enough parallels in all three to draw some general conclusions about all the singing traditions. If you believe that there are differences which preclude us from doing so, then you have to say what these are, rather than hinting at them darkly.
In my opinion, the way forward to any understanding of our tradition is to pool what little we have, examine it and see if any conclusions can be drawn from it - and not fly of in what I consider to be an extremely reactionary tangent that attempts to destroy any possiblilty of an existence of a creative oral tradition, based on the flimsiest of evidence.
There are some extremely important inteviews of Sam Larner, Harry Cox, and other source singers, not counting our own work with Walter Pardon; all containing information valuable to our understanding of our tradition - maybe not enough, but we'll never know if we don't try.
A holistic approach to these questions is what is needed, not a gung-ho, go-it-alone full frontal attack which, to me, has the effect of devaluing what we do know rather than adding to it.
"From the same corpus a well-known ballad please that you consider did not originate under commercial conditions? "
Once again - it is not me who is making the definitive claims - I simple say we really don't have a clue where these song originated, and to claim we do by making definitive statements is extremely misleading
I do believe that our folk songs contain observations, references and information that is highly unlikely to have come from a school of outsider "hacks" - something you have yet to address.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 19 Apr 11 - 05:23 AM

"I think you are looking at this through rose-coloured spectacles and to some extent burying your head in the sand" Steve Gardham ···

Just a bit of a drift, but may I congratulate you, Steve, on one of the finest mixed metaphors I ever remember ~~

?? Doesn't the sand get on to the rose-coloured lenses??

Regards

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 19 Apr 11 - 05:25 AM

No wonder that a few minutes later you said he was "going around in circles"!
~M~


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Apr 11 - 06:03 AM

Steve; an additional thought.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but some time ago you suggested that not only were our folksongs created on the broadside presses, but also, many of the variants found in the tradition were attributable to the same source? Doesn't this undermining any suggestion that the rural population played any part in their creation or re-creation and reduce our folksongs, in terms of creation or function, to the same level as any pop song churned out by todays music industry, and the singers no different than today's recipients of such?
Which brings us back to the artless and cultureless noble sons and daughters of the soil so beloved by the various Romantic movements IMO.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 19 Apr 11 - 05:14 PM

You're now changing my 95% into 100%, Jim.
I have never said the rural population played no part in their creation. They certainly played a massive part in their re-creation. and function. Yes, it cetainly does place them on the same level as any pop songs churned out by today's music industry. They were the equivalent of POP songs when they hit the streets, and those that came out of the theatres and pleasure gardens and glee clubs and cellars in the towns were also pop songs. They only became folk songs when the folk started singing them. My belief is that the working rural population, decimated by the migration into towns and cities, hadn't the time, nor the inclination to write their own songs. And if they had they would have been swamped by the masses of popular material coming out of the urban areas. The widespread songs about rural life are generally sentimentalised, idealised pieces about shepherdesses, milkmaids, etc, that bear no relation to the reality of conditions, which were one step up from slavery.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 19 Apr 11 - 05:38 PM

Hi Jack,
I'm not sure how 'Riddles' originated. And I'm sure no-one else is.
It's earliest extant version on a 15thc manuscript certainly is unlikely to have anything to do with the rural common people. And by the 17thc it was a pop song that appeared on several broadsides and in D'Urfey's Pills. I haven't looked closely at all oral versions but there's a strong probablility they all derive from the 17thc print versions either directly or indirectly.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 19 Apr 11 - 05:45 PM

Michael,
You'll have to forgive my mixed metaphors/cliches. I'm currently working on a book of ballads containing sexual metaphors and there's certainly a lot of mixing going on.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 03:49 AM

"They were the equivalent of POP songs when they hit the streets,"
Which brings us back to our original problem - hitting the streets (a) assumes that they were urban creations that were peddles as commodities.
And (b)
That they came from 'elswehere' other than from the communities where they were sung.
There is no evidence for either and in our experience, both, particularly the second, because of the familiarity with detail, are highly unlikely.
So far you have not answered, or even approached any of the questions I have raised concerning your extremely dogmatic, and I believe destructive stance, in regard to our understanding of the songs.
How can a group of outside balladmakers create and fine-tune a body of songs, why were the English rural working people alone in these islands, totally unable to make songs, why do obvious creations of the broadside presses stick out like sore thumbs next to the traditional songs...... and above all, why do you continue to make your definitive claims, yet are unable to produce one song which you can caterogically show was produced on the broadside pressed and never appeared in the oral tradition....?
Given there total absence of your evidence on this claim, there is a great deal of evidence, and simple common sense which indicates the contrary, which you either dismiss without discussion or totally ignore when it is pointed out to you - a man on a mission???
"I have never said the rural population played no part in their creation."
No - you wouldn't dare, but you leave me with the impression that you would if you could get away with it.
                        Whether you say it or not - that is the implication of what you are saying, whether you intend it to be or not.
Dismiss (totally now) the creative part we have always believed was played by the people who sang the songs, in their making, and then inject doubt in the variants, and these people are left with no definite role whatever and are relegated to voiceleless, cultureless peasants... you have achieved what every romantic reactionary has aspired to down the ages - a truely silent people - well done you - I wonder why!
I wonder why you steadfastly refuse to regard all the points I've made (based on our own work) - not accept them, just look at them.
Instead you propose house-to-house street fighting - I put up a song - you provide a name - I ask how you you can prove it wasn't sung in the oral tradition beforehand - you go silent..... and so ad-infinitum.
The scholarship of the jack-hammer Steve.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 06:13 PM

Phew!
I think we need a ref.
I seem to have severely rattled your cage, Jim, and fair enough, now you're trying to rattle mine. I'll take my time and answer the points you make carefully as there's been a lot of inaccurate reading between the lines.

Before I do this I want to make absolutely clear, like you, I have dedicated my life to traditional song and fully appreciate the part played by the people of all walks of life who transmitted them and kept them alive for us. I love these things AT LEAST every bit as much as you do. However, personally, I don't think it does the songs themselves, the people who made them and the people who transmitted them, yes, and even those who study them, any favours by denying what is to me their obvious origins.

More anon.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 12:24 AM

"I'll take my time and answer the points you make "
Look forward to it with anticipation Steve.
".....fully appreciate the part played by the people of all walks of life who transmitted them and kept them alive for us."
As you have debunked the idea that they played any part in their making and thrown a king sized spanner in their part in remaking them, I find that difficult to accept; but let's see, shall we.
"like you, I have dedicated my life...."
It would help if you stopped patronising me by "removing my head from the sand" and taking off my "rose coloured spectacles" - I've spent as long as you at this work, if not longer, and the nature of the work we've done merits a degree of respect, even if we have spent thirty-odd years collecting only to get it hopelessly wrong - please stop insulting my intelligence and give me some facts to work with.
"....any favours by denying what is to me their obvious origins."   
If they are that obvious, it shouldn't be too difficult to put some factual meat on your extremely definitive and dogmatic skeletons - you've failed fairly miserably so far.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 04:32 PM

I see absolutely no reason why the contemporary writers on broadsides are wrong when they say, like Hindley did, that a specific group of people gained a living by writing these broadside ballads. the printers quite naturally had their businesses in towns and cities, and their song suppliers lived in reasonable proximity. the information which inspired them was readily available from a wide variety of sources, newspapers, books, even the rural people who were moving into the towns looking for work, sailors newly arrived on shore etc, in fact many were simply rewriting other broadsides. (The same plots appear over and over again, e.g., returning sailor/broken token)

The majority of the corpus seems to date from the latter half of the 18thc and the first few decades of the 19th. We can easily deduce this from their subject matter, their style and their earliest appearance, i.e., we can easily date the printer.

During this period in England the common people left in rural areas, who hadn't migrated to the horrific conditions in the cities to avoid starvation, were living in abject poverty, in working conditions verging on slavery, and literacy levels were very low. I personally can't see them spending what little leisure time they might have had writing songs, when there was a steady flow of songs ready-made, covering all subjects, coming out of the towns via the pedlars and chapmen. those lucky enough to live close enough to a town to go there once a week would have come into contact with ballad singers and patterers.

Nowhere have I said or impied that the rural population were incapable of making up songs; they simply did not have the time, or need when there was already a plentiful supply. cont....


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 04:47 PM

....
I have already concurred with you on several threads that ultimately no-one can prove beyond doubt that any ephemeral piece of work like this can be pinned down toan original, BUT that does not meanthat we can't lookat all the versions and come up with the most likely origin, especially, but not exclusively, where its earliest extant manifestation is a printed sheet with somebody's name attached.

Now, it might be helpful for you to understand my stance and why I won't budge an inch from it, if I explain briefly how I came by this stance.

I have an obsessive analytical mind and my love for traditional songled me to want to look in great detail at the possible origins and evolution of the songs and ballads I was interested in. Over the last 40 -odd years I have chosen a ballad and taken every available version of it, printed and oral, and compared line by line until patterns of evolution have emerged. this has included all of the extant stall copy variants. (Yes I know it's sad but it keeps me off the streets and out of the pub) I have done this, I would estimate for more than half of the previously mentioned English corpus. I have actually got copies of broadsides for about 90% of them. In most cases the earliest stall copy is its earliest manifestation by at least 70 years, i.e., 70 years before the earliest oral version was collected.
cont......


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 05:01 PM

....
Now, here is the bottom line as I see it.
I can't prove the ballads originated on the broadsides.
You can't prove they originated among the rural poor.
In the area and time period I have mentioned I CAN prove that the earliest extant version of 90% of them is either on street literature or from the theatre or similar institution.

If you will accept that, I'm quite happy to say we have here a stalemate. You're never going to convince me, I'm never going to convince you. Others can see the arguments for themselves and choose what they want to agree with or disagree with. I would imagine most people with an interest and a modicum of knowledge on the subject would be happy to stand somewhere in between our two stances.

Just as a matter of interest, you haven't actually told us where you stand. Roughly, Jim, what proportion of the corpus of English traditional song do you think originated in the way I have described?

As for your experiences in Ireland among travellers, nowhere have I disputed anything you have said about this. Just to make this clear though, I fully accept what you say about what went on in 20th century Ireland, BUT, you simply cannot apply this to 18th/19th century rural England.

'Jack-hammer Scholarship'. I am known to hold controversial views on several related topics, but I am in constant contact with a large number of academics and writers on the subject and this is the first time my views have been so directly opposed. Congratulations!

And I finish with a general apology to the OP and anyone else for having hi-jacked yet another thread on this one. At least the thread title has some relevance this time.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Stringsinger
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 05:10 PM

One of Woody's most important songs in my estimation is "The Ludlow Massacre". Howard Zinn credits it as being influential in his career which includes authorship of an important book, "The People's History of the United States".

I see historical ballads as more than the recitation of facts. History shows what people did but the songs indicate how they felt.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 03:57 AM

"The majority of the corpus seems to date from the latter half of the 18thc.... etc"
None of this in any way shows one way or the other where our songs originated - I've put up what I believe to be signposts to some sort of an educated guess on this; I can't see that we have any more to go on.
"I have an obsessive analytical mind and my love for traditional song..."
Again, it depends what you are analysing; your failure to addres some of the questions I have raised indicates - not by any means all the evidence and indications available.
And again, we have no idea if what appeared in print is the result of creativity on the part of the hack or his/her re-creative skills - or do we??
"70 years before the earliest oral version was collected."
And you know as well as I do that collecting never came into its own before the beginning of the 20th century - we have always acknowledged that we missed far, far more than we saved - not even a starter for ten.
"I can't prove the ballads originated on the broadsides" - "I CAN prove that the earliest extant version of 90%"......
There you go again Steve - you can not prove anything of the sort, you can only provide us with the earlies printed copy and CLAIM that there were no printed versions before this one - not even close to proving anything, especially whether or not they were circulating in the oral tradition prior to tha date.
"Roughly, Jim, what proportion of the corpus of English traditional song do you think"
I have no idea whatever Steve, there again, it is not me making dogmatic claims.
There is nothing new to the idea of examining the link between broadsides and traditional songs; my old friend Bob Thomson was working at it before he departed for America thirty-odd years ago.
Another friend, John Moulden has carried out some fascinating research on the subject and I thingk he came up with something like 25%, (if you are looking in on this John, I apologise if I got this wrong; it was a hurried conversation) and John is far more open minded that you are proving to be. Even then, from what we learned through our own fieldwork, I am extremely reluctant to either state or accept any set figure without discussion.
"BUT, you simply cannot apply this to 18th/19th century rural England."
If you mean you cannot 'simply' apply this to 18th/19th century rural England, I agree totally, but to ignore the lessons that are to be drawn from the two (which I have pointed out, and you, once again, have ignored) is utter, single-minded arrogance.
"but I am in constant contact with a large number of academics..."
And once again you seem to be presenting a number of character references rather than facts - doesn't wash wit me, I'm afraid.
As far I am concerned, we are dealing with the unknown, and probably the unknowable, due largely to an attitiude not unsimilar to yours that there is nothing to be learned from the tradition, so why bother to look.
Your inflexble refusal to accept your/our ignorance and plough ahead with your definitive pronouncements, far from bringing us any nearer to an understanding of our traditions, will have the opposite effect and set that ignorance in amber for all times - sorry Steve, not for me.
The question was summed up beautifully for me by MacColl in his ending to what still remains after half a century the best summing up of our traditional songs ever - The Song Carriers:
"Well, there they are; the songs of our people. Some of them have been centuries in the making; some were undoubtedly born on the broadside presses. Some have the marvellous perfection of stones shaped by the sea's movement; others are as brash as a cup-final crowd.
They were made by professional bards and by unknown poets of the plough-stilts and the hand-loom.
They are tender, harsh, passionate, ironical, simple, profound; as varied indeed as the landscape of this island.
We are all indebted to the Harry Coxs and Phil Tanners, to Colm Keane and Maggie McDonagh, to Belle Stewart and Jessie Murray and all the sweet and raucous unknown singers who have helped to carry our peoples' songs across the centuries."

Still brings a lump to the throat!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 05:23 AM

Sorry - missed a bit - my first draft went awol:
"I personally can't see them spending what little leisure time they might have had writing songs, when there was a steady flow of songs ready-made, covering all subjects,"
The idea that conditions in rural England were any harder than in Ireland or Scotland is an utter nonsense.
The non-mechanisation of farms in Ireland lasted well into the middle of the 20th century - they were still saving the hay by hand in the early seventies here.
Far from deterring the making of songs, poor conditions, permanent political unrest, mass emigrations, total reliance on the weather, avaricious landlords, murderous invasions by military thugs (The Tans) - all served as a spur to make songs rather than go out and buy them.
There was little produced during tha famine years - hardly surprising - but otherwise, hardship and struggle was highly-combustible fuel to the rural songmakers.
The same was true of rural Scotland and the near-slavery conditions of the hiring fairs and prison-like bothy life.
And also, I believe, to the merchant seaman in his enclosed conditions and plenty to make songs about.
Taking all into consideration, it must have been a relief, almost and essential escape-valve, to be able to vent your feelings by making a song about what was happening to all these people.
Surely all this is a hint that you have not looked at the whole picture and applied a little logic if you feel it necessary to make a point like this, don't you think?
And again; I've pointed out before ballad seller Mikeen McCarthy's comment when asked whether he made any songs to put on his ballad sheets - "why go to the trouble when there were plenty all round to pick from?"
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: GUEST,SteveG
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 01:41 PM

Jim,
I don't think I need say much more. Your MacColl quotation may have brought tears to your eyes, but I can't tell for the rose-coloured spectacles.

I will try to remember to put IMO on any other responses. We will no doubt cross swords again on another thread somewhere.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 03:11 PM

"but I can't tell for the rose-coloured spectacles."
It works for me Steve - much more than a gut reaction anyway, and there's nothing whatever you have put up AS FACT, to persuade me otherwise.
Of course, it is a tad romantic to believe that ignorant peasants could possibly make songs and not have to have them made for them.
I await with interest to see if you come up with any of this evidence you have promised, but I won't hold my breath.
Best,
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 04:37 PM

Jim,
Nothing romantic about it. For the umpteenth time nowhere have I said that 'ignorant peasants' were incapable of making up songs. I'm sure they did, but many did not make it as far as the time of collection and as I have said, by the end of 18th century the market was absolutely flooded with material coming out of the towns and cities, which swamped them. I have plenty of examples of songs that were obviously made in the countryside by the workers but they only constitute a very small proportion of the whole corpus and generally they didn't stray much further than the county boundary.

Jim, the evidence you keep bleating about lies in the songs themselves, their structural devices, subject matter, idealism, phraseology etc. To produce that evidence here for just one song even would fill this thread and 20 more.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 04:20 AM

"Jim, the evidence you keep bleating about lies in the songs themselves,"
Not entirely true Steve, unless you totally disregard what the few singers (and ballad sellers and buyers) that were asked had to say, which apparently you do, as you have pointedly not taken them into consideration in your 'analysis'. As far as I am concerned, these are the sources of our material and could be a way to a greater understanding of it if we pull together what little was got from them and examine it closely. To separate the songs from those who sang them and possibly made them , and the communities that kept them alive, is an act of almost criminal negligence in my book.
The song texts give some clue to their origins; use of vernacular, familiarty with subject matter, etc., which you have persisted in avoiding discussing the implications of.
All of this is sparse enough, but coupled with earlier scholarship - which apparently you have written off as rose-tinted romanticism, it beats hands down (IMO) desk-bound paper pushing and head-counting, and I suspect you are aware of this, from your reluctance to discuss it.
There is an undeniable link between our songs and ballads and print, but it is by no means as simplistic as you make out. David C Fowler did some fascinating work on the subject, research that places the origins of many ballads much earlier than the broadside presses. He also places the ballads on a far higher plane that your putting them on par with Lennon's and McCartney's output, and the people who kept them alive through the ages as being no different than attendees of a Boyzone concert.
My objection to what you have to say is not that I disagree with it; rather that its is set in such arrogant finality that it rules out further discussion.
         
The truth is, we don't know the answer to who made the ballads and songs, and probably never will, and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous and damaging to further understanding.

I did find your patronising tone somewhat amusing at first; I am now finding it downright insulting. You appear to counter the work of those who disagree with you by denigrating them as researchers rather than being prepared to discuss their ideas head-on - I'm a hopless romantic, Leslie Shepherd was an ignoramus when it comes to folk-song, Peter Buchan was a liar and a cheat - not good scholarship in my book, and certainly not the way to an understanding of a complex subject.
Absence of definite knowledge is best handled with a degree of humility, which you apparently lack.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 24 Apr 11 - 12:18 PM

Nothing rules out further discussion, Jim.

I am pretty certain your valuable work with the later broadside printers and travellers in Ireland has relevance to the broadside trade in general and may even prove to have some bearing on what was going on in England c1800. Even 5% is a hell of a lot of songs. And if this evidence were to be neglected it certainly would be criminal. Have you published on it?

'Vernacular' in my experience can and was very easlily imitated and I have plenty of examples of this. Just one for instance. One of our East Riding pieces full of local dialect and unmistakably set in Yorkshire which I recorded in the sixties, later turned out to be a late music hall song adapted from southern English dialect. One of the largest and most popular genres in the broadside trade was dialect pieces, some of which entered oral tradition and lasted.

'Familiarity with subject matter' I have already dealt with.

I'm not familiar with the Fowler study, but I suspect you are referring to Child Ballads which form only a very small part of the corpus under discussion, i.e., the Child Ballads found in that corpus largely are made up of versions from nineteenth century broadsides. (I'm not suggesting they originated in that time or medium)

If you are referring to Child Ballads then of course a large number of these are much older than the corpus under discussion, though at least a third can be found on broadsides.

You continue to put words into my mouth that I have not used. Leslie Shepherd was most certainly not an 'ignoramus' of any sort. It just so happens his expertise was in the history of the printed ballads.

As for Peter Buchan, I just happen to agree with Child, having closely studied all of PB's ballads, and everything written about him.

I unreservedly apologise for any patronising. Some of what you took to be patronising was just intended as cameraderie.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Brian Peters
Date: 29 Apr 11 - 08:01 AM

I've no great desire to re-open the battle between Steve and Jim on this thread, but I was intrigued by a remark Steve made at one point:

"I think Price's slightly later ballad "James Harris/ The Demon Lover/ The House Carpenter/ A Warning for Married Women" was probably based on exaggerated reports from Plymouth."

I have a bit of an interest in this ballad and was wondering whether there exist actual contemporary reports from Plymouth relating to a maritime tragedy with or without a supernatural element, or whether you're extrapolating backwards from the broadside title?

Regarding Child 1, Steve wrote:

"I haven't looked closely at all oral versions but there's a strong probability they all derive from the 17thc print versions either directly or indirectly."

I haven't had your access to the broadsides, Steve, but I'm curious to know whether the ones you refer to contain references to the Devil, or were all of the romantic "get the riddles right and I'll marry you" variety.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Apr 11 - 08:12 AM

"I've no great desire to re-open the battle between Steve and Jim"
Fear not Brian - been busy and am now away from home, but by no means finished yet!!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 29 Apr 11 - 01:49 PM

Hi Brian,
Will check both of these later tonight and report back.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 29 Apr 11 - 04:13 PM

Brian,
The best article on the Price ballad is in Folk Music Journal 25 1989, Vol 5, Number 5, pp592-607, by David Atkinson.

The above quote is paraphrasing William Chappell writing about the ballad in The Roxburghe Ballads Vol 3 p200. in 1880.

Here's what he says
'This is a tale of a married woman who is prompoted by the spirit of her deceased lover to leave her husband and three children, and to go with him. She had waited three years for her lover, and heard that he was dead, before she married; so, this being the seventh year, she was badly treated by this member of the spiritual world. her husband hanged himself, and she was never heard of more. the warning to other married women herein conveyed (unless it be against the tricks of evil spirits) is rather obscure. Of course, it did not occur to any one that the old lover could have returned in the flesh. The miracle saved Mrs Jane Reynolds's reputation.' My comment is based on the last 2 sentences of Chappell which, having studied many similar ballads, I think is probably the case. The supernatural was widely believed in in the 17th century and ballad writers often used it to hammer home a point or make a ballad more dramatic. But David is much more qualified than I am to write about the history of ballads, although I am often very honoured when he consults me or complements me on my papers and presentations.

Riddles.
No, Brian. The 17th century rewrite is simply a wit combat prior to marriage between a knight and a maiden as in most oral versions that contain more than just the riddles themselves. So your second type.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 29 Apr 11 - 05:29 PM

Jim and Steve,

I wonder how significant is the distinction between the kinds of people whom you respectively believe to have been responsible for making many/most of the songs.

Only a few people, then or now, have much skill at making verses. Those who have the skill tend to use it. If (say circa 1800) such people happened to live in a town where there was a broadside printer, they might sell their verses and be thus motivated to produce more. If they happened to live in the country they would necessarily get their living in some other way and would have less time and less motivation to churn out many songs; and the songs that they did make might or might not subsequently find their way into print.

However I am with Steve in seeing internal evidence of the broadside hacks' hands; in stock phrases such as "we hear" used to fill up lines; in all those milk-white steeds and dapple greys; in things that go on for "a day/league/year but barely three" and suchlike.

Richard


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 30 Apr 11 - 02:44 AM

Richard,
The information, from Clare people and Travellers is that when something song-worthy happened in the community there were whole numbers of people capable of making songs.
Two descriptions we recorded - one Traveller and one from a fishing village (Quilty) told of groups of people getting together to make songs - the former on an 'arranged marriage', the latter on the burning of a police barracks. The form of the older songs - stock phrases and all - seem to have served as a template to make new ones.
In the Traveller case, we got several versions of the same song; we only ever recorded one version of the Quilty song, and little information on the incident itself - the only evidence of it having taken place being the song an the fact that the happening described was a common tactic employed during the Irish War of Independence - more evidence that the songs had a common source rather than a commercial one.
No argument that the ballad trade didn't develop their own forms, but these always seemed rather chunky and unsingable to me until the folk knocked the corners off and smoothed them out.
This is why I believe it necessary to examine the forms the songs took in order to come to a conclusion as to their authorship - something Steve disregards.
More later - the broadband system in this part of Liverpool seems to have a nasty dose of St Vitus Dance.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Brian Peters
Date: 30 Apr 11 - 07:37 AM

Thanks, Steve, for taking the trouble to look those up. It seems a bit discourteous for me to reward your efforts by now disagreeing with what you said before. However, I can't square your belief that the oral versions of Child 1 are all derived from the 17th century broadside, with the fact that the Devil turns up independently in oral versions ranging from Motherwell's MS to Williams' Folk Songs of the Upper Thames and Mrs. Rill Martin's in Virginia in 1922. Which rather suggests that Devil versions were circulating independently of the 17th century broadside, perhaps right back to the 15th century Inter Diabolus et Virgo you mentioned earlier... doesn't it?


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 30 Apr 11 - 05:53 PM

No problem at all, Brian, and no discourtesy at all. Child 1 is one of the very few Child ballads that does go back beyond the late 16th century when the ballads we're familiar with were (IMO) starting to be made.
In stating an opinion on oral versions deriving from the broadside, I think I used the word 'probably' and I was definitely talking off the top of my head. I'll have a closer look at the versions you mention now and get back to you. Of course the 17th century broadside is only one stage in the development and there could have been plenty of others that didn't survive. I'm fully aware of examples of ballads that have existed in oral tradition for several centuries seemingly without the assistance of print, but these are few and far between.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 30 Apr 11 - 06:51 PM

Brian,
Yes, you don't really need to go any further than Child to see this.
I must admit when you asked I had a quick glance at the beginnings of the obvious versions and they all started with a knight as did the broadside. Had I looked more closely at his notes to the 15thc version which he came across just before he died I'd have spotted it. It's not a ballad I have ever sung or done a study on. The versions do have an echo of the same idea and in fact one of them actually uses the word 'fiend' although as you'd expect over such a stretch of time there is no other wording in common other than the riddles themselves.

A closer study of all the versions that have this conclusion might throw up some interesting possibilities. I'll put it on the list of things to do when I get time. I only have about 50 versions and many of these are just remnants of the riddles, or repeated publishing of the Child versions so it shouldn't take long to pull them out, unless you have already done this.

I also see that I used the word 'probably' in connection with the other ballad, ironically in a similar context regarding the supernatural. That'll teach me not to make hasty statements on ballads I haven't studied.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Brian Peters
Date: 03 May 11 - 07:28 AM

Steve: yes, you did say 'probably' in both cases!

"A closer study of all the versions [of Child #1] that have this conclusion might throw up some interesting possibilities. I only have about 50 versions and many of these are just remnants? so it shouldn't take long to pull them out, unless you have already done this."

I haven't made a comprehensive study ? my interest was mostly in constructing a singable version that included the Devil's appearance. However, what seems pretty clear from the British oral versions I've looked at (those that aren't just remnants), is that the mysterious knight who comes calling is a universal character, as are the three sisters who make him comfortable, and the last sister who gets either romantically or carnally involved with him (except in Child 1E, in which he addresses the riddles to all three sisters). The 15th century MS version does not open with any such scene-setting, so it looks as though, between the 15th and 17th century, someone created a ballad around the original riddles, in which the Devil disguises himself as an eligible male. This later became rationalised with the disappearance of the Devil, thus transformed into the romantic tale of Child 1A, and further bowdlerised in 1B with the disappearance of the stanza in which the third sister beds the knight.

A refrain involving "bent" or "bank" and "bonny broom" occurs in 1A, C, D, and E, all of which, barring A, have some reference to the Devil (in the case of D ? which consists of riddles only ? the reciter remarked that it described a conversation with the devil) . 1A (the 17th century broadside) is the oldest known example of this knight/sisters strain of the ballad, but if we accept that this strain began as a Devil ballad, that would push the time of its creation back before the broadside, to early 17th or possibly 16th century.

The North American versions include 'Ninety-Nine and Ninety', which is the one most often heard from American revival singers, most of whom have taken as their model the recording by Texas Gladden in which the line "I'll take you off to hell alive" (which belongs in this version as originally collected from Rill Martin) is omitted in favour of something more anodyne. Hence the incorrect assumption in some quareters that Child 1 lost its Devil in North America. The version collected by Gainer (see below) is clearly related to 'Ninety-Nine and Ninety' but the threat is more oblique. Neither of these includes the knight / sisters element, so either they lost it, or they derive from a different British strain. The other North American version, from Maine, is a highly poetic translation-of-a-translation of the D'Urfey broadside, and doesn't add anything to the picture.

I've also added the verses collected by Alfred Williams in Wiltshire, from 'Folksongs of the Upper Thames', which includes some of the most violent imagery to be found with this ballad. Neither of the two versions below occurs in Child or Bronson, so I thought it might be useful to paste them up here.


Child #1, from Blanche Kelley, Gilmer County West Virginia, date uncertain but maybe 1920s. Appeared in Patrick Gainer's (1975) Folksongs from the West Virginia Hills, posted to a previous Mudcat thread by Kent Davis, who mentioned that: "The word "peart" in the refrain is a dialect word meaning cheerful and becoming."

If you can't answer these questions to me,
O maid so peart and bonnie,
Then you'll be mine and go with me,
and you so peart and bonnie.

O what is higher than the tree?
O maid so peart and bonnie,
And what is deeper than the sea?
And you so peart and bonnie.

O what is louder than the horn?
O maid so peart and bonnie,
And what is earlier than the morn?
and you so peart and bonnie.

O heaven is higher than the tree,
As I am peart and bonnie,
And hell is deeper than the sea,
And I am peart and bonnie.

O thunder is louder than the horn,
As I am peart and bonnie,
And sin is earlier than the morn,
And I am peart and bonnie.


Child #1, from Folksongs of the Upper Thames, Alfred Williams (1923):

There was a knight came to the gate,
He knocked high, he knocked late.

Chorus

Bow down, bow down, sweetheart, and a bonny lass,
And all things shall go well.

If thou canst answer me three times three,
In ten thousand pieces I'll tear thee.

Verse 2

What is louder than a horn?
What is sharper than a thorn?
What is whiter than milk?
What is softer than silk?
What is higher than a tree?
What is deeper than the sea?

Chorus

Verse 3

Thunder's louder than a horn,
Hunger's sharper than a thorn.
Snow is whiter than milk,
Down is softer than silk.
Heaven is higher than a tree,
And hell is deeper than the sea.

Chorus

Then he clapped his wings, and aloud did cry,
And a flame of fire he flew away.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 03 May 11 - 11:17 AM

Hi Brian,
Yes, I did get time to do a quick study which you mostly cover in the above. You mention the broadside 'Knight' insipid version possibly going back to the 16th century, but I see no reason why it wasn't a rerwrite by Laurence Price as claimed by him, which would make it about 1650-70. It's certainly his style.

I am on the track of a stall copy mentioned by Baring Gould and printed in Northern Ireland in the late 18th century, but I've a sneaky suspicion it will turn out to be a fairly common version of 'Captain Wedderburn's Courtship'.

I also came to the conclusion the Kentucky/Vermont/North Carolina versions were pretty much the same and well copied and probably derived from Rill Martin via Gladden.

I found the Maine version fascinating and a brilliant example of how literate translators can pass ballads back and forth between languages. Apparently Herder translated the D'Urfey version of the broadside, and then Aytoun translated the German back into English and then it turns up in Maine in oral tradition. I have similar parallels with a German ballad passing into French then Portuguese and being collected in Brazil in oral tradition, all in the space of a century.

If the Williams/Hill Martin/McQueen versions turn out to be survivals from the 15th century version without intervening print that's a remarkable, but not unique, survival.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Brian Peters
Date: 03 May 11 - 11:30 AM

"I see no reason why it [the 17th C broadside] wasn't a rewrite by Laurence Price as claimed by him, which would make it about 1650-70."

"If the Williams/Hill Martin/McQueen versions turn out to be survivals from the 15th century version without intervening print that's a remarkable, but not unique, survival."

What I was driving at was whether there was a version - possibly a broadside - preceding Price's, using the old riddles set in the three sisters / diabolic visitor storyline, which then went on to spawn all of the oral Devil versions and form the basis of the Price rewrite. I don't see how you get to those several similar Devil versions from Inter Diabolus et Virgo without some intervening stage that brought in the sisters and the 'unco' knight.


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Subject: RE: 'Historical' Ballads
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 03 May 11 - 11:36 AM

Ah yes, I see. Steve and I are still delving into hitherto inaccessible 18thc collections currently and hopefully we might come across something. Of course the further you go back the bigger the chunk of printed sheets that didn't survive.


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