Lyr Add: I folk process 'Greensleeves'
Subject: Lyr Add: I folk process 'Greensleeves'|
Date: 11 Jun 12 - 02:32 PM
So, last Friday night I was in Austin, Texas, having finished a demanding week of early music, tired and yet too wound to sleep. So I tuned my guitar, found an empty courtyard, gave the cicadas permission to buzz away, and strummed some old favorites.
Suddenly I realized that I could not tolerate the silly words to Greensleeves any more. Who ever heard of anybody caring about his lady love's sleeves? Is he so superficial that he can't mention beauty, brains, charm, kindness or loyalty? All he's noticed is her sleeves. You bet.
Then, centuries later, some twits come along, smirk, and say, "Didn't green sleeves denote a prostitute in those days?" I'm tired of being reminded of those twits every time I play this beautiful song.
'Slieve' is 'mountain' in Irish. I'm pretty sure that round about 1590, some speaker of a Celtic language (Manx, Irish Gaelic, Scots Gaelic, Cornish, Breton or Welsh) wrote a beautiful melody and gave it a title containg 'slieve' (mountain') and some other word which sounded like 'green' to English ears. It might have been a word for green, of course.
So sitting there in the warm night, I rewrote the words some. I'm not good at rhythm and rhyme, so I kept the basic structure. I made Green Slieve a place, and the rest just happened.
I abjure all copyright to this 15 minutes of work.
Alas, my love, you do me wrong
to wander thus, unheeding.
And I have courted you so long
with honey-sweet words and pleading.
Green Slieve's taken all my joy,
and Green Slieve's taken my delight.
Green Slieve grips my heart of gold, [notice alliteration]
the lonely, dark mountain of Green Slieve.
At first Green Slieve seemed awkward to me, because the words come from two languages. But then I started thinking about all the place names that mix languages:
Missouri River - native American, English
New York City - Germanic, Celtic, Latin
River Avon - English, Welsh
Indianapolis - Old Persian (Indus) and Greek
I'm rapidly getting comfortable with 'Green Slieve'.