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Info requested re: 'The Deserter'

DigiTrad:
DESERTER
LE DÉSERTEUR
THE BOLD DESERTER
THE DESERTER (2)
THE DESERTER (3)


Related threads:
Lyr: The Letter/The Deserter/Le Deserteur (Vian) (30)
Lyr Req: Don't Despise the Deserter (John Richards (6)
Lyr Req: The Deserter (from Wiggy Smith) (5)
Lyr Add: The Deserter (trad. Newfoundland) (1)
Lyr Add: The Deserter from Kent (3)
Lyr Req: The Deserter (Jon Richards) (5)


GUEST,JimFog 20 May 00 - 04:50 PM
Richard Bridge 20 May 00 - 06:30 PM
Malcolm Douglas 20 May 00 - 09:11 PM
GUEST,david martinez 24 Feb 02 - 05:03 PM
GUEST,Q 10 Feb 03 - 06:25 PM
Joe Offer 10 Feb 03 - 08:29 PM
michaelr 10 Feb 03 - 08:50 PM
McGrath of Harlow 10 Feb 03 - 08:59 PM
Malcolm Douglas 10 Feb 03 - 09:07 PM
GUEST,Q 10 Feb 03 - 09:10 PM
Malcolm Douglas 10 Feb 03 - 09:11 PM
Malcolm Douglas 10 Feb 03 - 09:13 PM
toadfrog 10 Feb 03 - 09:26 PM
Malcolm Douglas 10 Feb 03 - 09:40 PM
toadfrog 10 Feb 03 - 09:49 PM
Malcolm Douglas 10 Feb 03 - 10:34 PM
McGrath of Harlow 11 Feb 03 - 06:07 PM
Malcolm Douglas 11 Feb 03 - 07:32 PM
McGrath of Harlow 11 Feb 03 - 07:48 PM
Malcolm Douglas 11 Feb 03 - 09:50 PM
GUEST,Allen 05 Jun 05 - 02:46 PM
Leadfingers 05 Jun 05 - 07:50 PM
Le Scaramouche 01 Jul 05 - 02:25 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 01 Jul 05 - 04:12 PM
MGM·Lion 19 Aug 09 - 11:20 AM
Jim Carroll 19 Aug 09 - 12:23 PM
MGM·Lion 19 Aug 09 - 12:50 PM
Rumncoke 19 Aug 09 - 01:14 PM
Howard Jones 19 Aug 09 - 03:54 PM
Peace 19 Aug 09 - 11:50 PM
MGM·Lion 10 Feb 11 - 10:06 PM
RTim 26 Dec 17 - 10:22 PM
Big Al Whittle 28 Dec 17 - 06:16 AM
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Subject: Info requested re; 'The Deserter'
From: GUEST,JimFog
Date: 20 May 00 - 04:50 PM

hi,
great forum you have here! I'm enjoying it immensely. I wonder if anyone could give me any info, historical perspective, or additional lyrics to the song " The Deserter", as sung by Sandy Denny on teh Fairport Convention's "Liege and Lief" album.
It's a lovely song, and I wouldn't mind knowing more about it.
Thanks!
-Jim Fog
Click for lyrics in The Digital Tradition


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Subject: RE: Info requested re; 'The Deserter'
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 20 May 00 - 06:30 PM

I believe the last verse is a victorian neologism, and cut it. THere haas been a ppevious threaad which touched onn this.


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Subject: RE: Info requested re; 'The Deserter'
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 20 May 00 - 09:11 PM

A.L. Lloyd considered it to be an 18th century song, with Prince Albert "as a substitute for one of the Georges".  If you go to the  Bodleian Library Broadside Collection and search for Deserter and New Deserter, you'll find some interesting variants.  There were two songs, really; the earlier Deserter was quite different; the version recorded by Sandy Denny and Fairport was one of the "New" Deserter ones, though sometimes the two titles got confused.  Look around and you'll see what I mean.  All the Bodleian versions are early-to-mid 19th century, so Albert isn't at all anachronistic, but there may well be earlier sets that I'm not aware of.  Bruce Olson would know more.

Malcolm


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Subject: RE: Info requested re; 'The Deserter'
From: GUEST,david martinez
Date: 24 Feb 02 - 05:03 PM

greetings from texas.

does anyone know the chords to 'the deserter"? i like playing folk songs, from all over, and i like this one. and, it seems a good time to learn it, at the moment.

if anyone knows, could they send the chords to :

moleverde@mail.utexas.edu

that would be swell!

cheers-

david


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Subject: RE: Info requested re; 'The Deserter'
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 10 Feb 03 - 06:25 PM

Correction to DT text: In the last verse of "The Deserter," Fairport Convention text, the line should read "Then up rode Prince Albert in his carriage and six," not sticks. That version was printed as "The New Deserter," by Ryle & Co., Seven Dials, London. Also see copy in the Bodleian, Harding B 16(168a), The New Deserter, printed by Pratt, Birmingham, essentially the same.


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Subject: RE: Info requested re; 'The Deserter'
From: Joe Offer
Date: 10 Feb 03 - 08:29 PM

The Digital Tradition text is here, and that is indeed one heck of a Mondegreen. Any other corrections? Where is the DT text from?
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Info requested re; 'The Deserter'
From: michaelr
Date: 10 Feb 03 - 08:50 PM

Third verse should read "Court martial, court martial they held upon me".

Fairport did not record the first verse, so the DT version may be from The Young Tradition.

Cheers,
Michael


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Subject: Lyr Add: LE DESERTEUR (Boris Vian)
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 10 Feb 03 - 08:59 PM

There's another song called "The Derserter" - or rather "Le Deserteur". Peter Paul and Mary used to sing it, and a lot of other people too. It was banned by the French government during their Indochina War.

It's by Boris Vian and it's a very good song too.
This link gets you to a page with an excellent translation, and background infiormation.

So here it is in French (lifted from that page):

Monsieur le Président,
je vous fais une lettre,
que vous lirez peut-être,
si vous avez le temps.

Je viens de recevoir
mes papiers militaires
pour partir à la guerre
avant mercredi soir.

Monsieur le Président
je ne veux pas le faire,
je ne suis pas sur terre
pour tuer de pauvres gens.

C'est pas pour vous fâcher,
il faut que je vous dise,
ma décision est prise,
je m'en vais déserter.

Depuis que je suis né,
j'ai vu mourir mon père,
j'ai vu partir mes frères,
et pleurer mes enfants.

Ma mère a tant souffert,
qu'elle est dedans sa tombe,
et se moque des bombes,
et se moque des vers.

Quand j'étais prisonnier
on m'a volé ma femme,
on m'a volé mon âme,
et tout mon cher passé.

Demain de bon matin,
je fermerai ma porte
au nez des années mortes
j'irai sur les chemins.

Je mendierai ma vie,
sur les routes de France,
de Bretagne en Provence,
et je crierai aux gens:

refusez d'obéir,
refusez de la faire,
n'allez pas à la guerre,
refusez de partir.

S'il faut donner son sang,
allez donner le vôtre,
vous êtes bon apôtre,
monsieur le Président.

Si vous me poursuivez
prévenez vos gendarmes
que je n'aurai pas d'armes
et qu'ils pourront tirer.


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Subject: RE: Info requested re; 'The Deserter'
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 10 Feb 03 - 09:07 PM

I think somebody has mixed the two together. Probably the traditional sources of both sets can be traced given a bit of time. Fairport got most of their "traditional" material from printed sources, and the Young Tradition usually said where they had learned their songs.


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Subject: RE: Info requested re; 'The Deserter'
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 10 Feb 03 - 09:10 PM

See Malcolm's post of 20 May 00. The song text in question should be titled "The New Deserter," quite different from "The Deserter." I would guess that the lyrics are taken from the Bodleian texts of "The New Deserter," with slight changes. Dropping the "New" is understandable, since it is meaningless to a modern audience.


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Subject: RE: Info requested re; 'The Deserter'
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 10 Feb 03 - 09:11 PM

There is also a traditional French song in which deserters are reprieved from death at the last minute, but I forget the title just now. The modern song is interesting (Boris Vian is a fine writer), but might sit more comfortably in a different discussion.


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Subject: RE: Info requested re; 'The Deserter'
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 10 Feb 03 - 09:13 PM

I'm fairly sure that the set Fairport recorded an arrangement of came from the Journal of the Folk Song Society; but certainly the text was close to broadside editions, and had almost certainly been learned from one originally.


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Subject: RE: Info requested re; 'The Deserter'
From: toadfrog
Date: 10 Feb 03 - 09:26 PM

McColl sang the last verse:
Brave Wolfe, he come a ridin' and as he passed by,
Said, "Bring to me that young soldier whose fate is so nigh,
Strike off them heavy irons and let him go free,
He'll make a clever soldier in far Americy."

More inspiring than the Prince Albert version; does anyone know if it has any historical basis? Or do you think McColl made it up? The idea of a press gang recruiting soldiers in Prince Albert's time seems a bit anachronistic, but then, what do I know?


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Subject: RE: Info requested re; 'The Deserter'
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 10 Feb 03 - 09:40 PM

Did MacColl say where he got it? (Oh, the number of times I've asked people that...!)


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Subject: RE: Info requested re; 'The Deserter'
From: toadfrog
Date: 10 Feb 03 - 09:49 PM

Yep. You are right, I should have looked. He says: "The text is from a Such broadside, with the last verse altered by the singer and is sung to a tune noted down by the Rev. J.K. Maconachie in Aberdeenshire." So I could have had my answer without asking. Interesting to converse, though.


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Subject: RE: Info requested re; 'The Deserter'
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 10 Feb 03 - 10:34 PM

That tune appeared in The Journal of the Folk Song Society, vol.V issue 19, 1915: p.153. The Rev. J.K. Maconachie sent it in, having noted it to an incomplete text of the first verse from memory, "as sung in his youth in Aberdeenshire".

Roy Palmer (The Rambling Soldier, 1977; p.116) quotes a broadside text in which the Duke of York is the deliverer, and comments: "Other versions have General Wolfe and King George (or Prince Albert) as dispensers of clemency".

Unfortunately, he doesn't enlarge on the Wolfe reference.


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Subject: RE: Info requested re: 'The Deserter'
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 11 Feb 03 - 06:07 PM

The version printed in Karl Dallas's collection The Cruel Wars( has both General Wolfe and Prince Albert in it:

Brave Wolfe he came a-riding and as he passed by
Bring to me that young man whose punishment's nigh
Strike off those heavy chains and let him go free
He'll make a brave soldier in far Americee...

...Now it's down comes Prince Albert in his carriage and six
Come, bring out that young man whose coffin is fixed
Release him from his irons and let him go free
For he'll make a good soldier for his Queen and country.


Karl comments in this respect "The fourth (Wolfe) and final (Albert) verses printed here are actual alternative endings, and though all seven verses can be sung as we have them, it probably mnakes better dramatic snese to have the hero rescued only once." Plus of course the dates of the people involved are a bit dodgy, with Wolfe being killed in 1759, and Prince Albert only being born in 1819.

(As for Boris Vian's somg - well, I opened the thread half expecting to find it, and it's a chance to stick it in the archives in case anyone is lookig for it.)


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Subject: RE: Info requested re: 'The Deserter'
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 11 Feb 03 - 07:32 PM

Did Dallas name sources? (I really must pick up a copy of that book).

Boris Vian's song was the subject of an earlier discussion,  Lyr Req: The Letter - Missing verse. Wolfgang has now added the text you posted here to it.


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Subject: RE: Info requested re: 'The Deserter'
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 11 Feb 03 - 07:48 PM

What Karl Dallas says (after referring to the broadside as having been printed by Such and sold from Seven Dials), "It was collected by Gardiner in Hampshire." Whether that is the precise version printed is not clear, but there's no implication that it isn't. It's essentially the same as the one in the DT, but with that Wolfe verse inserted at fourth place, after the first time he gets arrested.

It's a handy book, and makes a point of saying where the songs come from, accurately so far as I could tell.

Actually with Wolfe and Prince Albert both in it gives the feeling of some kind of indomitable permanent deserter going through the centuries, tying in with that line "When next I deserted..." - maybe there should be a Montgomery verse as well..


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Subject: RE: Info requested re: 'The Deserter'
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 11 Feb 03 - 09:50 PM

The only published set collected by Gardiner has the "Prince Albert" verse you quote, so no joy there; thanks, though. All the broadside examples I've been able to see so far are split between Prince Albert and the Duke of York. Still looking for General Wolfe, then. Perhaps Gardiner got another, unpublished set that included him.

Returning to Toadfrog's comments earlier; there wasn't a "Press Gang" for the army. Technically, everyone was a volunteer until conscription was introduced in the 20th century. However, it was a common practice of recruiting parties to sign up drunks (often made drunk deliberately, it seems) who later regretted bitterly their rashness; as here.


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Subject: RE: Info requested re: 'The Deserter'
From: GUEST,Allen
Date: 05 Jun 05 - 02:46 PM

Like to add a few points on recruiting. Recruiters employed pretty dodgy methods to get people to 'volunteer' including getting them drunk, slipping in the King's Shilling, enlisting the help of prostitutes and just good old lying.
"The Recruiting Officer" is an excellent play and Farquhar knew just what he was talking about
More relevantly to the song, prisoners were often given a choice of serving out their sentence or enlisting for a soldier. This is what Albert does here. He was very big on people doing their duty, so his presence makes perfect sense.


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Subject: RE: Info requested re: 'The Deserter'
From: Leadfingers
Date: 05 Jun 05 - 07:50 PM

Mc Grath - Leon Rosselson recorded a version on 'Songs for Sceptical Circles of Le Deserteur' crediting B Vian as composer - but a few variations in the lyric - - Messieur Q'on Nomme Grande rather than Messieur le Presidente !! - Cracking song all the same !!


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Subject: RE: Info requested re: 'The Deserter'
From: Le Scaramouche
Date: 01 Jul 05 - 02:25 PM

I read Martin Carthy's sleeve notes to this song, where he thought the last verse was incredibly idiotic. Not sure which verse he meant, no the Albert one surely?


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Subject: RE: Info requested re: 'The Deserter'
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 01 Jul 05 - 04:12 PM

Martin Carthy was referring to the version in the "Penguin Anthology of War Poetry," accordind to the notes on his "Signs of Life" album. I don't have that volume; not sure which verse he was referring to. Instead he used a last verse by Wiggy Smith.

See Album details, Waterson Carthy


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Subject: RE: Info requested re: 'The Deserter'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 19 Aug 09 - 11:20 AM

I'm trying to recall all the words of The Rambling Royal, one of the Deserter family of songs which I learned 40 years ago from John Faulkner's singing on Argo's John & Sandra {which has disappeared down the BlackHole that eats records — I'll bet there's one in your house too}. It is cross-refd with The Deserter on DT, & a VWL ref given; but I don't seem able to raise the full lyric. It begins "I am a Rambling Royal, from Liverpool I come, And by a sad misfortune I enlisted in the Marines..."   Can anyone help, please?


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Subject: RE: Info requested re: 'The Deserter'
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Aug 09 - 12:23 PM

Not at home, so from memory (so E&OE)
Jim Carroll

I am a rambling Royal, from Liverpool I come,
And to my sad misfortune I enlisted in the marines.
Being drunk when I enlisted and not knowing what I'd done,
Until my sober senses returned to me again.

Well I had a girl in Birkenhead and a true friend as it seems,
It broke her heart and made her smart to see me in the marines.
She said, "young man, if you desert, be sure and let me know
And I'll hide you in my own bedroom if you should chance to go."

It was at the Chatham depot the officer give command
That me and two of my comrades that night on guard should stand.
The night being dark and cold and wet with me did not agree,
So I knocked out the gardhouse corporal and gained my liberty.

All through the night I wandered until I lost my way,
I went into a farmer's barn and stretched out on the hay.
But when I awoke it was no joke, for there, all roung my bed,
The corporal and the sergeant and three bloody squaddies stood.

Well we had a terrible fight of it and I damn near beat them all;
I caused my cowardly comrades in agony to bawl,
But they locked me in the gardhouse my sorrows to deplore
With a guard on every window and another at every door.

Early in the morning I paced the guardhouse round,
I jumped out of a window and knocked three of them to the ground.
The corporal and his buddies they was quickly after me,
But I made my way to Birkenhead and so gained my liberty.

I am a rambling royal, James Cronin is my name,
I can fight as many officers as you'd see in the marines,
I can beat as many Orangemen (sometimes officers, depending on the company) as ever banged a drum,
And I'll make them run before me like a bullet from a gun.


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Subject: RE: Info requested re: 'The Deserter'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 19 Aug 09 - 12:50 PM

Many thanks, Jim. Oh how it all comes flooding back...
                      Michael


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Subject: RE: Info requested re: 'The Deserter'
From: Rumncoke
Date: 19 Aug 09 - 01:14 PM

The sentence of the first court martial was - surely? - 'thirty and three' becasue he survived - and three hundred lashes was/is not survivable.

Anne Croucher


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Subject: RE: Info requested re: 'The Deserter'
From: Howard Jones
Date: 19 Aug 09 - 03:54 PM

Not necessarily. A naval deserter in Nelson's time was given 300 lashes for deserting, so it is a realistic sentence. The naval cat was heavier and was laid on harder than the army version. On the other hand, men died from "only" 50 lashes.

Also, I believe the punishment might be administered over a period of time, to allow the victim time to recover. Flogging was not intended to be a means of execution, although in some cases that might be the effect.

By Prince Albert's time, the maximum sentence for one offence was 50 lashes.


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Subject: RE: Info requested re: 'The Deserter'
From: Peace
Date: 19 Aug 09 - 11:50 PM

I don't know if it was asked above, but does the song have any relationship with "Bold Belfast Shoemaker"?


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Subject: RE: Info requested re: 'The Deserter'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 10 Feb 11 - 10:06 PM

The idea of a press gang recruiting soldiers in Prince Albert's time seems a bit anachronistic, but then, what do I know? == Toadfrog 10 Feb 03
......
In fact forcible impressment by gang was only a naval tradition. The army depended on the recruiting party, led by the notorious recruiting sergeant ("The recruiting party came beating their drum"), who relied on persuasion [as, unsuccessfully, in Arthur McBride], or, often, getting the young man drunk [see The Rambling Royal above, 19 aug 09 1223 pm].

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Info requested re: 'The Deserter'
From: RTim
Date: 26 Dec 17 - 10:22 PM

This is a newly realised version of the song I have created - adding the Naval element. - Tim Radford

The Naval Deserter

The “Naval” Deserter

As I was a walking up a fair Portsmouth Street,
A Press gang party I chanced for to meet,
They enlisted me, ill treated me till I did not know
And to the King’s Navy they forced me to go.

The first time I deserted I thought myself free,
Until my cruel shipmates informed against me,
I was quickly followed after and brought back with speed
I was handcuffed and guarded heavy irons on me.

Court Martial, court martial was held against me,
And the sentence they past on me, three hundred and three.
May the Lord have mercy on them for their sad cruelty,
But now the King’s duty lies heavy on me.

Now the second time I deserted I thought myself free,
Until my cruel sweetheart informed upon me,
I was quickly followed after and brought back with speed,
I was handcuffed and guarded heavy irons on me.

Court Martial, court martial was then quickly got,
And the sentence they past on me that I should be shot,
May the Lord have mercy on them for their sad cruelty,
But now the King’s duty lies heavy on me.

Then up rode Lord Nelson in his carriage and six,
Saying where is this young man whose coffin is fixed.
Set him free from his irons and let him go free,
For he’ll make a fine sailor for his King and country.


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Subject: RE: Info requested re: 'The Deserter'
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 28 Dec 17 - 06:16 AM

I have some recollection of AL Lloyd saying that the original liberator character was Prince Rupert and that it dated from the civil war.

Prince Albert apparently wasn't all that popular a character, and its doubtful whether he would have been awarded the doing of a good deed like that by the popular acclaim.

However I have no scholarship to back up any of that.


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