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Origins: The Priest and the Nuns

Gibb Sahib 13 Jul 12 - 01:59 AM
Joe Offer 13 Jul 12 - 04:12 AM
stallion 13 Jul 12 - 06:00 AM
Charley Noble 13 Jul 12 - 09:10 AM
GUEST,Lighter 13 Jul 12 - 09:13 AM
Gibb Sahib 13 Jul 12 - 01:26 PM
stallion 13 Jul 12 - 01:50 PM
GUEST,Lighter 13 Jul 12 - 04:58 PM
GUEST,Lighter 13 Jul 12 - 06:28 PM
Joe Offer 14 Jul 12 - 04:35 PM
GUEST,Lighter 14 Jul 12 - 05:03 PM
Gibb Sahib 14 Jul 12 - 06:13 PM
GUEST,Lighter 14 Jul 12 - 07:20 PM
Joe Offer 14 Jul 12 - 10:27 PM
stallion 15 Jul 12 - 06:50 AM
GUEST,Lighter 15 Jul 12 - 09:25 AM
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Subject: Origins: The Priest and the Nuns
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 13 Jul 12 - 01:59 AM

I'd like to know more about the supposed sea song (maybe chanty) called "The Priest and the Nuns." Are there any obvious antecedents or other sources besides Harlow?

By way of background, I'll just cut and paste this blurb from a YouTube rendition I recently posted:

This comes from Harlow's collection of chanteys and sea songs. I do not know where Harlow got iy from, however. Sure, he may have learned it orally, but the composition of the section of his book in which it appears suggests he imported it from elsewhere. And yet he does state that he doubts it had ever previously been in print. This could be an anomaly in the section -- a song Harlow really did learn in tradition and which really was used as a chanty, as he says, for pumping out ship.
http://www.saltydick.com/lyrics/05-the-priests-and-the-nuns.htm

The only other performance of this I have heard (realizing this only after I recorded it) is Salty Dick's. As I understand it, Salty Dick also revived it from Harlow's text, and had not heard any other renditions. He renders it as a forebitter, with a somewhat changed melody and in more of a fast boom-chick rhythm.

Despite my not having any other historical info, I'll note that the chorus reminds me of some of the Scandinavian chanties I've learned. Perhaps the song here is an English adaptation of something Germanic -- with the Austrian priest as a clue.


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Subject: ADD: The Priest and the Nuns
From: Joe Offer
Date: 13 Jul 12 - 04:12 AM

Well, of course we ought to have the lyrics posted:


THE PRIEST AND THE NUNS

A priest in Austria thought one day
Ho ho ho,
He'd go to France without delay.
Halla-ralla-ray, halla-ralla-rah.
He'd go to France without delay.
Halla-ralla-ray ho ho!

And when the father came to France
Ho ho etc.
'Twas seven sick nuns he found by chance
Halla-ralla-ray etc.

He saw these nuns in the convent yard
All lying down on benches hard.

To one he said, "What can I do?
I'm priest as well as doctor, too."

The sick nun made a quick reply,
"Oh treat me, Father, ere I die."

He took in hand his mighty prick
And he fucked that nun so very quick.

The others ran that they might see,
And they asked the priest what could it be.

"A medicine stick in my hand I hold
To cure all sick nuns in my fold"

Another nun who lay close by
Cried, "Father, none so sick as I!"

He fucked each nun with all his might
And said he'd come another night.

Their pleasure gone they looked in vain
For the priest who carried the medicine cane.


Source: http://www.saltydick.com/lyrics/05-the-priests-and-the-nuns.htm

Original Source: Jerry Bryant's "resurrection" of an old pumping shanty from Frederick Pease Harlow's book Chanteying Aboard American Ships


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Priest and the Nuns
From: stallion
Date: 13 Jul 12 - 06:00 AM

The Johnson girls recorded it, Barry Finn learnt it from an east European Shanty singer( I think it was east european, maybe Polish, Charlie will know) Haven't heard Salty Dicks version before but essentially the same as the unexpurgated version I sing, it isn't difficult to work out the substituted words!. When I mentioned to Barry that I was going to sing it he said " Don't sing it over here, people are a bit sensative about having religion on both ends of the pump handle" Its too bawdy for mixed company although I was persuaded to sing it at half past midnight in McHugh's, Seattle, during Northwest Folklife Fest. it was the ladies that asked for a bawdy song, they loved it!


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Priest and the Nuns
From: Charley Noble
Date: 13 Jul 12 - 09:10 AM

Gibb-

According to Barry Finn's notes what he sings on Fathom This! is based on Jerry Bryant's "resurrection" of an old pumping shanty from Frederick Pease Harlow's book Chanteying Aboard American Ships.

You should get a copy of Barry's CD if you don't already have one; I'll mail you one for $15 (any anyone else) from my current inventory. Barry's renditions of shanties were a deliberate attempt to take them back to their roots in terms of singing style.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Priest and the Nuns
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 13 Jul 12 - 09:13 AM

Harlow's is the only known non-revivalist version. I've never seen anything very similar to it.

Compare it to the bawdy songs in the recently published "Bawdy Songsters of the Romantic Period." These were songs performed in disreputable English saloons in the 1830s. The quasi-literary style of "The Priest and the Nuns" is similar. On the other hand, the other songs all take place in England.

Anti-Catholicism might account for the priests and the nuns, but the reference to Austria must be unique in American folksong. Why not France or Germany or Italy?

At any rate, considering the subject matter and the unusual tune, I have to believe that Harlow is printing something he really heard.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Priest and the Nuns
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 13 Jul 12 - 01:26 PM

Thank you, all. I had the sneaking suspicion that something else was out there, under another name or cover, that I was missing. Now I can rest easy for a while, and maybe if something turns up one day, this thread will come back!

We should note that the lyrics so kindly posted by Joe are Bryant's adaptation of those in Harlow. It's absolutely clear that Harlow often bowdlerized, and there is a good chance he did it here. The "unexpurgated" version, however, is one person's interpretation of what might have been, not necessarily what must have been. The song is already bawdy however you slice it. There is no compelling need for the profanity, "fuck," in place of the perfectly clever "treated". Anyway.

Attribution added to the lyrics. Thanks, Gibb. -Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Priest and the Nuns
From: stallion
Date: 13 Jul 12 - 01:50 PM

I agree Gibb, I sing "In his hand a mighty prick, was up that Nun so very quick"


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Priest and the Nuns
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 13 Jul 12 - 04:58 PM

To judge from other bawdy songs actually printed in the 19th C., I see no reason to assume that Harlow bowdlerized this one.

Maybe he did, maybe he didn't. But the song seems wittier with double rather than single entendres.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Priest and the Nuns
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 13 Jul 12 - 06:28 PM

And Harlow, as a writer, isn't very witty.


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Subject: ADD Version: The Priest and the Nuns
From: Joe Offer
Date: 14 Jul 12 - 04:35 PM

Here's the text from Frederick Pease Harlow's book Chanteying Aboard American Ships, page 167

THE PRIEST AND THE NUNS

A priest in Austria thought one day,
Ho! Ho! Ho!
He'd go to France without delay.
Hal-ler-al-le-re. Hal-ler-al-le-ra.
He'd go to France without delay.
Hal-ler-al-le-re Ho! Ho!

So when the father came to France,
'Twas seven sick nuns he found by chance.

He saw these nuns in a convent yard,
All lying down on benches hard.

He gave these nuns his calling card,
And asked, "May I come in the yard?"

To one he asked what he could do,
"I'm priest as well as doctor too."

A sick nun then in quick reply
Said, "Treat me, Father, ere I die."

With cane in hand (a walking stick)
He touched the nun so very sick.

The others quickly ran to see,
And asked the priest, "What could it be?"

"A medicine stick in my hand I hold
To cure all sick nuns in my fold."

Another nun that laid close by
Cried, "Father, none so sick as I."

He treated all the nuns alike
And said he'd call another night.

Their money gone, they looked in vain
For the priest that carried a walking cane.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Priest and the Nuns
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 14 Jul 12 - 05:03 PM

"Money" is presumably a euphemism for something like "virtue."

If he'd printed "virtue," there'd be no doubt that the song wasn't "really" just about a magic walking stick.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Priest and the Nuns
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 14 Jul 12 - 06:13 PM

That makes sense, Lighter.

My mind processed it as the sailor song cliché of the sailorman who wakes up after a night of sex and finds the woman and his money gone -- in reverse! More cliché than something that should make sense.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Priest and the Nuns
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 14 Jul 12 - 07:20 PM

I like your suggestion that there's something Teutonic about it. Maybe the "Hal-ler-al-er-e" choruses.

In any case, it's an unusual piece, and I wonder if it was known to more than a relative handful of people, shantymen or otherwise.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Priest and the Nuns
From: Joe Offer
Date: 14 Jul 12 - 10:27 PM

Barry used "treasure" instead of "money." I think I like "treasure" better. In general, I think I like the song better in Harlow. A bit of subtlety is far more interesting and entertaining.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Priest and the Nuns
From: stallion
Date: 15 Jul 12 - 06:50 AM

Oh was that Barry being a bit wicked, I think Barry was nowt but direct!


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Priest and the Nuns
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 15 Jul 12 - 09:25 AM

"Treasure" would work too because it's a cliche' in a way that "money" isn't.

It wasn't their cash he was after.


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