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Origins: The 'gifts' bestowed; Barbara Allen

Richie 02 Mar 15 - 04:55 PM
Richie 03 Mar 15 - 01:06 AM
Steve Gardham 03 Mar 15 - 11:45 AM
Richie 03 Mar 15 - 03:20 PM
Steve Gardham 03 Mar 15 - 06:14 PM
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Subject: Origins: The 'gifts' bestowed; Barbara Allen
From: Richie
Date: 02 Mar 15 - 04:55 PM

Hi all,

I'm working on US versions of Barbara Allen Child 84.

I'm curious about the gifts or promised gifts given Barbara Allen; the tocher (dowery) and the blood-letting.

Child addresses this in the second paragraph of his headnotes:

The Scottish ballad is extended in Buchan's Manuscripts, I, 90, Motherwell's Manuscript, p. 671, to forty-one stanzas. In this amplified copy, which has no claim to be admitted here, the dying lover leaves his watch and gold ring, his Bible and penknife, a mill and thirty ploughs, nine meal-mills and the freights of nine ships, all to tocher Barbara Allan. This is the ballad referred to by Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe in Stenhouse's edition of the Museum, IV, 300*, as sung by the peasantry of Allandale. Doubtless it was learned by them from some stall-print.

Was this version from Buchan ever published? If so where? If not where is the MS now?

Realizing that Buchan is not a reliable source- still - what can be made of these gifts?

Melinda S. Collins in Ideology and Folksong Re-creation, page 128; 2007 reports this about Child C from Motherwell:

In a version from Motherwell's MS, the young man's ungallant claim that he woos Barbara Allen for her "tocher good" rather than for her "bonny face" or "beauty bonny" elicits her retort: "If it be not for my comely face/ Nor for my beauty bonnie/ My tocher good ye'll never get paid/ Down on the board before ye" (Child 1956:278).

A "tocher" is Scottish for dowery which is a marriage settlement given the groom by the bride's family. Version of these gifts are somewhat rare in the US and Canada. The addition of the gift stanza (4th stanza) in The Forget-Me Not Songster is one of the main differences between the Songster version and the Glasgow version which is Child A:

O see you not yon seven ships,
So bonny as they are sailing,
I'll make you mistress of them all,
My bonny Barbara Allan.

Are there other examples of this stanza in tradition? In print?

The blood-letting stanza is found in Virginia, Canada and New England:

5 "Look down, look down at my bedside,
A basin you'll see sitting
With just a drop of my heart's blood;
It was shed for Barbara Ellen." [Virginia T]

Is this found in printed versions? Barry (1935) says this is found in Irish variants. Is it?

I have more questions, especially about categorizing version and dating them,

TY for your help,


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Subject: RE: Origins: The 'gifts' bestowed; Barbara Allen
From: Richie
Date: 03 Mar 15 - 01:06 AM


Has anyone has read the article "Comments on the texts" by Ed cray which identifies four main types of texts by their opening stanzas. These have been examined by the Traditional Ballad Index and may be correlated with Bronson's 4 main music types (Although they don't line-up completely)? Coffin story types (see below A-G) do little to organize the ballad by source age.

I was also wondering if types could be identified by location, for example, Child A, could be considered Scottish and the derivatives 9including the Forget-Me Not Songster) which have the "Martinmas" opening.

Would Child B then be English?


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Subject: RE: Origins: The 'gifts' bestowed; Barbara Allen
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 03 Mar 15 - 11:45 AM

Off the top of my head, as Child would have told you, I wouldn't bother too much re Peter's many extensions to his ballads unless you are interested in literary forgeries, but if you are then all of his material is available in 2 sets of Mss, one set in the Houghton Library which includes Secret Songs and a publisher's proof for ABSN, the other is a later ms in the British Library. I have partial copies of both. They are extensive so I only copied the material that looked as if it might have some value from oral tradition. The Barbara Allen version mentioned is at BL Vol I p90. and Child deliberately didn't include it for reasons given above. it has 41 verses!

My own opinion on the origins is the so-called 'Scotch' ballad was a pseudo Scottish stage production written in London and what was the 'English' version (Scarlet/Reading) was a parody on this, both from the 17thc. I base this on very little evidence however.

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Subject: RE: Origins: The 'gifts' bestowed; Barbara Allen
From: Richie
Date: 03 Mar 15 - 03:20 PM

TY Steve,

I suppose I could check with Harvard and see if I can get a copy. I'm curious because of the few "gifts" versions found in the US if they correlate to Buchan/Motherwell MS. Assuming Peter padded the ballad, it still would have come from some source outside himself.

There are about a dozen 'gift' versions I've found so far - most have the "seven ships" stanza also found in the Songster. This stanza is similar to a stanza from The House Carpenter.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The 'gifts' bestowed; Barbara Allen
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 03 Mar 15 - 06:14 PM

Harvard would have a copy because Child had the BL MSs copied out for him, but it isn't in the Harvard MSs that Kittredge bought after Child died.

Why should it come from another source outside Peter's head? But I agree with you, if any American version can be correlated with what is in the MSs, then that would certainly make it more interesting if these stanzas are not found in any other British versions.

Broadside hacks were fond of nicking stanzas from other ballads, but so were all of the Scottish editors.

Just a reminder, you are working on the ballad that is the most widespread and popular in the English-speaking world. It has been constantly in print and oral tradition for more than 300 years. It has been rewritten and reworked many times in both spheres and in both versions many times.

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