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Origins: 'When First Unto This Country' Epigraph?

GUEST,TaylorBrown 21 Apr 15 - 09:45 AM
Lighter 21 Apr 15 - 10:42 AM
GUEST,Hootenanny 21 Apr 15 - 11:14 AM
GUEST,Hootenanny 21 Apr 15 - 11:18 AM
GUEST,# 21 Apr 15 - 11:24 AM
GUEST 21 Apr 15 - 12:11 PM
GUEST,# 21 Apr 15 - 12:41 PM
Lighter 21 Apr 15 - 12:57 PM
GUEST 21 Apr 15 - 01:10 PM
Steve Gardham 21 Apr 15 - 01:26 PM
The Sandman 21 Apr 15 - 04:57 PM
Deckman 21 Apr 15 - 05:00 PM
Steve Gardham 21 Apr 15 - 05:30 PM
Steve Gardham 21 Apr 15 - 05:42 PM
GUEST,TaylorBrown 21 Apr 15 - 08:29 PM
Lighter 21 Apr 15 - 08:31 PM
GUEST,TaylorBrown 21 Apr 15 - 08:39 PM
GUEST,TaylorBrown 21 Apr 15 - 08:40 PM
Deckman 21 Apr 15 - 10:04 PM
GUEST,guest Betsy 22 Apr 15 - 07:42 PM
GUEST,Jon Dudley 23 Apr 15 - 03:52 PM
GUEST,TaylorBrown 23 Apr 15 - 04:03 PM
Newport Boy 23 Apr 15 - 05:00 PM
GUEST,TaylorBrown 24 Apr 15 - 06:42 PM
Lighter 25 Apr 15 - 11:34 AM
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Subject: Origins: 'When First Unto This Country' Epigraph?
From: GUEST,TaylorBrown
Date: 21 Apr 15 - 09:45 AM

Hi Guys/Gals of The Mudcat Cafe,

My name is Taylor Brown and I'm a fiction writer in North Carolina. My first novel, FALLEN LAND, is coming out from St. Martin's Press in Winter 2016.

The novel is actually loosely inspired by the song "When First Unto This Country", which I'm sure most of you know. I'd like to use the first two lines as the epigraph for the book:

When first unto this country,
A stranger I came...

Or perhaps one of the other verses.

However, I'm having trouble determining whether the song is in the public domain or not. I know the Lomax brothers first recorded the Gant family singing it in Austin in 1934. I've contacted Todd Harvey, the Lomax Collection curator at the Library of Congress but haven't heard anything back so far.

I know these first two lines are also used in at least two other traditional ballads, so I can't imagine they are subject to copyright, but the liability is on me as the author if I'm wrong. My publisher would prefer that the song be in the PD before signing off on its use as an epigraph. On all of the albums I've seen, the song attribution is "Traditional." I'm not sure how this relates to public domain.

I'm hoping you guys could maybe point me in the right direction. How to confirm whether the song is PD or not? Whom I should contact? I feel like I need something substantive to set myself and my publisher at ease. The last thing I'd like is some kind of copyright troubles impacting my first novel! :)

Thanks so much, y'all!


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'When First Unto This Country' Epigraph?
From: Lighter
Date: 21 Apr 15 - 10:42 AM

> the Lomax brothers

The Lomaxes were father and son. Maybe you're thinking of the Grimm brothers.

Try this thread:

http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=15862

The song is more usually called "Pretty Saro." If St. Martins's lawyers see a copyright problem, maybe an alternative title or simply "Old Song" would resolve it.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'When First Unto This Country' Epigraph?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 21 Apr 15 - 11:14 AM

As a matter of interest (or perhaps not) Alan Lomax was not the only child of John Lomax, there was a son John and also of course they had a sister Bess Lomax who was also involved with field recordings with brother Alan.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'When First Unto This Country' Epigraph?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 21 Apr 15 - 11:18 AM

I was going to add that the song I know titled "When First Unto This Country" is not more usually called "Pretty Saro". I don't know a version of "Pretty Saro" which includes horse stealing, imprisonment and shaving off of head a cleaning off of chin.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'When First Unto This Country' Epigraph?
From: GUEST,#
Date: 21 Apr 15 - 11:24 AM

http://www.lizlyle.lofgrens.org/RmOlSngs/RTOS-WhenFirst.html

Some song history.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'When First Unto This Country' Epigraph?
From: GUEST
Date: 21 Apr 15 - 12:11 PM

Doh! My bad on the Lomaxes!

I know "Pretty Saro" has a very similar opening (identical, sometimes), and the two songs are related, I'm sure, but I am indeed talking about the version that Hootenanny suggests: courting Nancy, stealing the Colonel's/Captain's horse, coat of many colors like Jacob's/Joseph's of old, etc.

That Lyle Lofgren article, originally from a 1999 issue of Inside Bluegrass, has been really helpful to me! I actually tried to post it in my original message, but I wasn't sure if guest users could include hyperlinks.

I'm wondering if we simply use those first two lines, along with a credit like this:

When first unto this country,
A stranger I came...

-Traditional ballad opening

I seriously doubt anyone could claim copyright on those two lines, appearing as they do so many traditional ballads. BUT, I do feel like it would be better to have something in writing. The thing is, it seems like a Catch 22 of a kind: if no one owns a copyright on the lines, who authorizes their usage?


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'When First Unto This Country' Epigraph?
From: GUEST,#
Date: 21 Apr 15 - 12:41 PM

"I wasn't sure if guest users could include hyperlinks."

Yes you can, but

1) only one
2) be sure to copy your post before you try to get it on Mudcat, because sometimes they just float away into the heavens, never to be read again.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'When First Unto This Country' Epigraph?
From: Lighter
Date: 21 Apr 15 - 12:57 PM

If there's no current copyright, no one needs to authorizes usage.

My guess, however, is that someone does hold a copyright on some recorded arrangement or adaptation. Possibly the best known was recorded by Ian & Sylvia about 1962.

If they sued, St. Martins would presumably be able to show that at least one version of the song with the words you want is truly in the PD.

This is something you should take up with them. It may be that the quotation is so trivial that no copyright holder could object with any expectation of gain (particularly of you don't include music).


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'When First Unto This Country' Epigraph?
From: GUEST
Date: 21 Apr 15 - 01:10 PM

The lines also open the Banks of the Bann (amongst others), and you may be able to find a ballad sheet of that to show it is out of copyright.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'When First Unto This Country' Epigraph?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 21 Apr 15 - 01:26 PM

Another avenue would be to investigate the percentage you can use freely of a copyrighted work. If say you're only using 2% of a known work you may be able to do so freely anyway.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'When First Unto This Country' Epigraph?
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 Apr 15 - 04:57 PM

Banks of the Bann (3)
When first to this country a stranger I came
I placed my affection in a girl that was young
She being fair and tender, her waist small and slender
'Twas nature that formed her for my overthrow.

On the banks of the Bann, it was there I first met her
She appeared like an angel or Egypt's fair queen
Her eyes were like diamonds or stars brightly shining
She's one of the fairest in the world that I've seen

Oh it was her cruel parents that first caused a variance
Because she is rich and above my degree
But I do endeavor to gain my love's favor
Although she is come of a high family

oh, me name it is Delaney, it's a name that don't shame me
And if I'd saved money I'd never have roamed
But drinking and sporting, night rambling and courting
Are the cause of all my ruin and me absence from home

But had I the wealth that is in the Indies
I'd put rings on her fingers and gold in her ears
And there on the banks of the lovely Bann River
In all kinds of splendor I'd live with my love.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'When First Unto This Country' Epigraph?
From: Deckman
Date: 21 Apr 15 - 05:00 PM

I sincerely appreciate Taylor Brown's serious inquiry here. However, I for one, am getting darned fed up with the focus on "COPYRIGHTS."

I recently wrote a sea song titled "The Old Fisherman." It was based on a true story that I witnessed when I was fifteen years old. Just a couple of weeks ago a friend of mine wanted me to record that ballad for a new CD she is producing. However, she insisted that I change the melody I used as the melody I used might be copyrighted."

I responded in my usual contrite fashion by saying something like $^%&$%^#%#^& or words to that effect.

To Taylor, I would say ... use the lines if they fit your theme. TO HELL WITH THE LAWYERS!   bob(deckman)nelson


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'When First Unto This Country' Epigraph?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 21 Apr 15 - 05:30 PM

Here's another, a right mixture from the Greig-Duncan Collection.

When first to this country a stranger I came
There was no person knew me, nor yet knew my name,
I was well educated in the days of my youth;
And into good company I was well introduced.
    For she's aye been my ruin, my sad, sad downfall,
    She has got my heart enclosed, like a stone and lime wall.

Like a sheet of white paper, her neck and breast round,
Her body neat and handsome, and her hair hanging down,
She's a pattern to many and an idol to me,
I'd quit my devotion, and follow Mally.

At the foot of yon mountain there runs a clear stream,
It was there I courted Mally, pretty Mally's her name,
Her parents being angry, they caused for to say,
That she was the girlie that carried the sway.

It's not for her money it's her I adore,
So grant me my wish, I'll ask for no more,
Now she's no more my ruin, my sad, sad downfall,
For I've married pretty Mally, who did my heart enthral.

The more discerning among you will recognise bits of 'American Stranger'/'Gra Gael Ma Chroi'/'Streams of Lovely Nancy'.

There are another 11 fragments of the same song with it under the title 'Stone & Lime'. It has a decided Irish flavour, but that may be from the bits of songs that are patched together.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'When First Unto This Country' Epigraph?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 21 Apr 15 - 05:42 PM

Another Irish one: albeit American Irish

When first in this country a stranger, curiosity caused me to roam......'The Green Mossy Banks of the Lea'.

This one is nearly 2 centuries old. This one is well in the public domain. Say this is where you got it from. I guarantee no-one will be able to claim copyright.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'When First Unto This Country' Epigraph?
From: GUEST,TaylorBrown
Date: 21 Apr 15 - 08:29 PM

Thank you guys so much for the outpouring of information and advice.

Ultimately, I decided to avoid any risk of an issue and took a different approach. Basically, we're going to include a dedication along these lines:

"This book owes much to the traditional ballads of Ireland and Appalachia. To the musicians who keep alive those old songs of horse thieves and highwaymen, lovers and lonesome pines—thank you."

I have zero musical talent or skill, and in some way the novel is my own version/performance of the music. I've done the same in the past, with short stories loosely based on "I Know You Rider," "In the Pines," and of course "When First Unto This Country." I think such a dedication communicates this appreciation and influence perhaps even better than the proposed epigraph, you know?


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'When First Unto This Country' Epigraph?
From: Lighter
Date: 21 Apr 15 - 08:31 PM

True story:

A colleague wished to include a line or two from a song by on of the most famous and successful folk-rock singer-songwriters of the '60s in a free-ranging discussion of poetry aimed at university students.

The songwriter's people wanted (and I hope you're sitting down)$5,000.00.

So my friend dug up another quote for free.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'When First Unto This Country' Epigraph?
From: GUEST,TaylorBrown
Date: 21 Apr 15 - 08:39 PM

Yup, I spoke with an attorney today, and figures like that and higher were being talked about. Scared the hell out of me.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'When First Unto This Country' Epigraph?
From: GUEST,TaylorBrown
Date: 21 Apr 15 - 08:40 PM

^^ That was for infringement, but still.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'When First Unto This Country' Epigraph?
From: Deckman
Date: 21 Apr 15 - 10:04 PM

To Taylor, while I understand your fear, I dare say that to "give in to them" is only to encourage the "music thugs." bob(deckman)nelson


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'When First Unto This Country' Epigraph?
From: GUEST,guest Betsy
Date: 22 Apr 15 - 07:42 PM

There was a song Garbutt used to sing ( I think he un-earthed it in the late 60's) opening with those Subject words called " Sweet mossy banks of the Lea (or Lee).
It has it's American connections - the man "came to Europe as a Ranger"
I wonder if this can help you


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'When First Unto This Country' Epigraph?
From: GUEST,Jon Dudley
Date: 23 Apr 15 - 03:52 PM

Trad. Arr.Garcia/Grisman from the album 'Not for kids only...

But it was also on the compilation album 'Bringing it all back home' about Irish emigration which had 'everyone' on it, and in this version the Lee Valley String Band performed it...still attributed to traditional though...hooray!

When first unto this country
A stranger I came
I courted a fair maid
And Nancy was her name

I courted her for love
Her love I didn't obtain
Do you think I've any reason
Or right to complain

I rode to see my Nancy
I rode both night and day
I stoled a fine stallion
From Colonel Charles Grey

I rode to see my Nancy
I rode both day and night
I courted fairest Nancy
My own heart's true delight

The sheriff's men they followed
And overtaken me
They carted me away
To the penitentiary

They opened up the door
And then they threw me in
They shaved off my hair
And they cleared off my chin

They beat me and they banged me
And they fed me on dry beans
'Til I wished to my own soul
I'd never been a thief

With my hands stuck in my pockets
And my cap set on so bold
My coat of many colors
Like Joseph's of old

When first unto this country
A stranger I came
I courted a fair maid
And Nancy was her name


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'When First Unto This Country' Epigraph?
From: GUEST,TaylorBrown
Date: 23 Apr 15 - 04:03 PM

Thank you, Betsy!

I think we could have possibly used those first two lines on the basis of Sweet/Green Mossy Bank of the Lea/Lee, given the age of the song. However, I did really want to use "When First Unto this Country" because there are other images/themes from the song echoed in the novel: a coat of many colors, a Colonel's stolen horse, a cap set on bold, etc.

The novel is actually based on a short story I wrote entitled "Unto This Country." We changed the story's title to and making it the title story of my collection In the Season of Blood and Gold, which came out last year.

I would love to use those first two lines as an epigraph for the novel, or even a whole verse, but in some ways I think the dedication does an even better job and with zero risk of complications.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'When First Unto This Country' Epigraph?
From: Newport Boy
Date: 23 Apr 15 - 05:00 PM

The words posted by Jon above are, with the exception of verse 3, the same as those recorded by Peggy Seeger on a 10" LP - Topic 10T9 in 1957. I've long ago lost my copy, but if I recall correctly she suggested that it was the combination of fragments of two songs.

I've always put a guitar break between verses 3 & 4 on that basis.

Peggy's verse 3 ran:

I rode to see my Nancy
I rode both night and day
'til I noticed a stallion
White looking and grey

Phil


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'When First Unto This Country' Epigraph?
From: GUEST,TaylorBrown
Date: 24 Apr 15 - 06:42 PM

And here's verse three from the original Lomax recording:

I rode to see my Nancy,
I rode both day and night,
Till I sto_le a fine dray horse
From Captain William White.

Have you guys heard the Crooked Still version? One of my favorites. Here's their verse three:

Till I came across a stallion
That was both white and gray


Here on Youtube.

Love the variations.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'When First Unto This Country' Epigraph?
From: Lighter
Date: 25 Apr 15 - 11:34 AM

Nice musicianship wrecked by awful sound mixing. I could make out nary a word!


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