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Discussion: Bonnie Lass of Anglesey

CapriUni 31 Jan 02 - 10:50 AM
GUEST,Russ 31 Jan 02 - 12:12 PM
van lingle 31 Jan 02 - 12:31 PM
CapriUni 31 Jan 02 - 03:22 PM
lamarca 31 Jan 02 - 03:36 PM
CapriUni 31 Jan 02 - 05:28 PM
Malcolm Douglas 31 Jan 02 - 08:50 PM
CapriUni 31 Jan 02 - 09:15 PM
Malcolm Douglas 31 Jan 02 - 09:37 PM
Garry Gillard 01 Feb 02 - 01:32 AM
van lingle 01 Feb 02 - 08:13 AM
van lingle 01 Feb 02 - 08:14 AM
CapriUni 01 Feb 02 - 09:09 PM
Malcolm Douglas 01 Feb 02 - 09:26 PM
CapriUni 02 Feb 02 - 11:26 AM
GUEST 09 Jun 11 - 07:00 PM
GUEST 09 Jun 11 - 07:03 PM
GUEST,SteveG 10 Jun 11 - 04:16 PM
CapriUni 11 Jun 11 - 07:53 PM
McGrath of Harlow 12 Jun 11 - 02:16 PM
Steve Gardham 12 Jun 11 - 03:36 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 04 Oct 11 - 07:37 AM
The Sandman 04 Oct 11 - 12:30 PM
GUEST,SteveG 04 Oct 11 - 01:20 PM
Richard Bridge 04 Oct 11 - 01:47 PM
Lighter 04 Oct 11 - 01:51 PM
Brian Peters 04 Oct 11 - 02:26 PM
The Sandman 04 Oct 11 - 04:12 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 23 Nov 11 - 08:59 PM
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Subject: Discussion: (Child # 220) Bonnie Lass of Anglesey
From: CapriUni
Date: 31 Jan 02 - 10:50 AM

This song is in the DT: here.

The learned this song back when I was in college [the first time *G*] -- If I remember correctly, Mother had made an off-air recording of the radio show "Thistle and Shamrock", since my reception in the dorm was pretty poor. Unfortunately (but not surprisingly) the tape has gone missing.

I don't remember who the singer was, but I think it was a live performance. The version I heard sung without the first two verses in the DT:

There he sits and there he stands
Alone and o what a frightened king is he
Fifteen lords have all come down
To dance and gain the victory

Our king he keeps a good treasure
And he keeps it locked with a silver key
And fifteen lords have all come down
To dance his gold and his lands away

And starts in directly with:

There he stands at the castle high
And so loud, so loud, I heard him cry
Go saddle your horse and bring to me
The bonnie lass of Anglesey

So I always thought the king was trying to win the Bonnie Lass's lands and treasure, rather than asking her to protect his own.

In any case, Child grouped this ballad with the historicals, rather than say: the supernaturals (which it might also fit with, since her ability to keep dancing seems to be magical -- imnsho)

So -- is this ballad an historical allegory of some kind? Does this dancing battle represent some flesh and blood battle between a king and fifteen rival warlords? And if so, when did this battle take place? Or is it a political satire commenting on political rivalries (king and knights) and the common people's (the Bonnie Lass) response to it?

Or did Child stick it in with the other historicals because it has a king in it, and might have taken place?

Whatever. Still one of my favorites.


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Subject: RE: Discussion: Bonnie Lass of Anglesey
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 31 Jan 02 - 12:12 PM

Martin Carthy, "Crown of Horn," Topic 12TS300

Child (Volume IV, p. 214) admits that he does not know what to make of the ballad. He compares it with a Danish ballad "Little Kirstin's Dance," but does not include the Danish ballad. He quotes Buchan, "It is altogether a political piece," but does not elucidate.

It has long been a favorite of mine, but I always assumed that if Francis James didn't know what the ballad was about, no one would.


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Subject: RE: Discussion: Bonnie Lass of Anglesey
From: van lingle
Date: 31 Jan 02 - 12:31 PM

hi CapriUni, from the verses above it looks like the same version that Martin Carthy did on the LP crown of horn. it's the only rendition of it that i've ever heard and i liked it and carthy's guitar so well i worked up my own in CGDGBE. i haven't given much thought to the historical or political signifigance of the song i just know it's a lot of fun to play and sing with it's cajun lilt and because of the mental images it evokes in me of all those poofed-up noblemen capering about. i'll post carhy's liner notes when i can type w/2hands again.hopefully next week. dave


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Subject: RE: Discussion: Bonnie Lass of Anglesey
From: CapriUni
Date: 31 Jan 02 - 03:22 PM

"i'll post carhy's liner notes when i can type w/2hands again.hopefully next week."

Holy-ga-moley! Áine's back, Kendell's voice, Wysiwyg's doctor divorce -- your hand! What's going on, here? Are all the Mudcatters falling apart at the seams? ;-)

Anyway, I have not heard Carthy's version, but it does seem like a good song for a Cajun beat.

A while ago, when Amy, a musician and children's book illustrator, was asking for suggestions of a song that would be good for a bood (here), I suggested this song. But she was thinking of a story for younger kids.

But that still got me thinking of how this song would be illustrated. And the next step after that was thinking about the clothes the characters would wear, which led to wondering about the historical period in which the story takes place.

But just because Buchan, and therefore Child, say this is a political song, doesn't mean that it is. It could simply be a fairytale like story set in a geographical place. Personally, my favorite line is: "She danced as light as a leaf on the broken sea." It invokes an image of her practically flitting around, toes barely touching the ground, while each of the lords are clomping around in their boots, with their swords clanking at their waists (Except the last one). And then, to contrast that with the final image of her striding back to the mountains with all their wealth...

No little airy-fairy she, after all! ;-)


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Subject: RE: Discussion: Bonnie Lass of Anglesey
From: lamarca
Date: 31 Jan 02 - 03:36 PM

This is another partial Child ballad that Martin Carthy "fleshed out" by filling in a few extra verses on his own. As he has done with other ballads (Willie's Lady, for instance), he strengthened the female protagonist. Carthy's notes say:

"The idea of a champion to do one's fighting is older than David and Goliath by far, only not many of them seem to be women. Peter Buchan said about the Bonny Lass Of Anglesey: "It is altogether a political piece and I do no wish to interfere much with it." While echoing the "much" in that statement, I have stretched the idea slightly, added a few verses, and she appears as a formidable sister-in-arms of Fair Maid On The Shore, and all those others who are the despair of chauvinist males the world over. "Come Dancing" was never like this. The melody is an Irish-American fiddle tune, one of several sharing the title of Bonaparte's Retreat, and I learned it from Tom Gilfellon."

The basic plot is that the King is challenged to a contest for his crown and lands. I don't know if there's any historical background for such contests, but this one, rather than being fought by force of arms, is to be settled by dancing. The King needs a Champion to defend his throne in the contest, and wishes the Bonny Lass of Anglesey to perform this service. Some hypothesize that she is of Faerie, as Anglesey was an isle of mystery and religious significance.

The King tries to win her loyalty by promising her lands and mills and to marry her off to one of his lords as a reward. She laughs off the offer of a husband, but takes up the dancing challenge, defeating all the male opponents who face her, much to their chagrin. She then enchants the King and the whole court and makes off with their gold and their swords and returns to her home.

As I recall, the version in Child doesn't include the Lass's revenge on the King, or emphasize her feminist victory over the male opponents - that's all been added by Carthy. Carthy's version has also been recorded by Cindy Mangsen. I like singing it, too!


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Subject: RE: Discussion: Bonnie Lass of Anglesey
From: CapriUni
Date: 31 Jan 02 - 05:28 PM

Thanks for the fleshed out info, Lamarca!

So, when did Carthy do this fleshing out? And which of the verses are his? From the notes, I'd guess the one where she laughs off the promise of a husband, and the one about how the 15 lords "came swaggering down" at the end... Are my guesses correct?


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Subject: ADD: Bonny Lass of Anglesey (Child 220)
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 31 Jan 02 - 08:50 PM

The DT file is Martin Carthy's rewrite, though it is not credited to him; more than half of it is his own work.  The tune given in the DT is the one Carthy attached to the text; it is not known what tune it was traditionally sung to.

F.J. Child's English and Scottish Popular Ballads has two texts:

THE BONNY LASS OF ANGLESEY

(Herd's MSS, I, 148; Herd's Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs, 1776, II, 231)

Our king he has a secret to tell,
And aye well keepit it must be:
The English lords are coming down
To dance and win the victory.

Our king has cr'd a noble cry,
And aye well keepit it must be:
"Gar saddle ye, and bring to me
The bonny lass of Anglesey."

Up she starts, as white as the milk,
Between him and his company:
"What is the thing I hae to ask,
If I sould win the victory?"

"Fifteen ploughs but and a mill
I gie thee till the day thou die,
And the fairest knight in a' my court
To chuse thy husband for to be."

She's taen the fifteen lord[s] by the hand,
Saying, "Will ye come dance with me?"
But on the morn at ten o'clock
They gave it oer most shamefully.

Up then rais the fifteenth lord-
I wat an angry man was he-
Laid by frae him his belt and sword,
And to the floor gaed manfully.

He said, "My feet shall be my dead
Before she win the victory;"
But before 't was ten o'clock at night
He gave it oer as shamefully.

THE BONNY LASS O ENGLESSIE'S DANCE

(Buchan's Ballads of the North of Scotland, II, 63; 1828)

Word has gone thro a' this land,
And O well noticed it maun be!
The English lords are coming down
To dance and gain the victorie.

The king has made a noble cry,
And well attended it maun be:
"Come saddle ye, and bring to me
The bonny lass o Englessie."

She started up, a' dress'd in white,
Between him and his companie;
Said, "What will ye gie, my royal liege,
If I will dance this dance for thee?"

"Five good ploughs but and a mill
I 'll give you till the day ye die;
The bravest knight in all my court,
I'll give, your husband for to be."

She's taen the first lord by the hand,
Says, "Ye'll rise up and dance wi me;"
But she made a' these lords fifeteen
To gie it up right shamefullie.

Then out it speaks a younger lord,
Says, "Fye for shame! how can this be?"
He loosd his brand frae aff his side,
Likewise his buckler frae his knee.

He sware his feet should be his dead
Before he lost the victorie;
He danc'd full fast, but tired at last,
And gae it up as shamefullie.

Child's notes are as follows:

"This little ballad might perhaps rightfully have come in earlier, if I had known what to make of it.  There is a resemblance, remarkable as far as it goes, to Little Kirstin's Dance, Grundtvig, V, 118, No 263.  Here the dance is for a match; the lass asks what she will have if she wins, and is promised fifteen (five) ploughs and a mill, and her choice of the king's knights for a husband.  In the Danish ballad (A) a king's son, to induce Little Kirstin to dance before him, promises a succession of gifts, none of which avail until he plights his honor and troth.  The remainder of the story is like the conclusion of Gil Brenton, No 5: see especially I, 66.  (Danish A is translated by Prior, III, 89, No 112.)

Kirstin tires out fifteen knights in Danish A 12, B 10, D 14 (in C 7 eleven); and a Kirstin tires out fifteen partners again in Grundtvig, No 126, F 32, No 245, A 16.  In Norwegian versions of No 263, given by Grundtvig in an appendix, numbers are not specified; Kirstin in Norwegian A 6, D 18, tires out all the king's knights.

Buchan quite frightens one by what he says of his version, II, 314: It is altogether a political piece, and I do not wish to interfere much with it."

Child 220: Roud 3931

The point of Child's remark about Buchan is not, as Russ and Capri Uni seem to think, that he accepted Buchan's assessment of the song.  Buchan was not exactly unknown to interfere with texts that passed through his hands; the fact that, on this occasion, he expressed an unwillingness to do so suggests that, for once, he was prepared to admit, tacitly at least, that he had no idea what to make of it.  Child's comment shows a dry sense of humour with which he is (quite unfairly) not always credited.

If you remove Martin Carthy's input, the song loses all reference to any contest for "crown and lands"; the king could just as easily have made a trivial bet with better dancers than he and his own court, and simply required a champion to save face.  No example of this song seems to have been found in tradition in more than 170 years, so the information given by Child may well be all that there is to be had.


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Subject: RE: Discussion: Bonnie Lass of Anglesey
From: CapriUni
Date: 31 Jan 02 - 09:15 PM

Malcolm --

Thanks for the information!

The 'modern' Bonnie Lassie is certainly more 'feminist'... but at least in the original, she is still stronger than the fifteen lords (and I wouldn't expect a song written 200 years ago to scoff marriage. It's not like women of the time had a lot of carreer options). And neither is she cowed by the presence of all this nobility, still demanding some payment for her services, rather than dancing simply because the king orders her to.

So this young woman does get married in the original. Somehow, I think it will be a more equal partnership than it may appear on the surface.


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Subject: RE: Discussion: Bonnie Lass of Anglesey
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 31 Jan 02 - 09:37 PM

Absolutely; in one version she has the pick of the bunch, in the other she at least has the offer of the bravest (who would need to be, I suspect, in order to keep up!)  Mind you, the ploughs and the mill would have been a lot more useful and profitable, even with only a lifetime interest.  Strictly speaking, we don't know that she did get married, just that she didn't dismiss it as in Carthy's reinterpretation; it's certainly a pity that the song didn't (so far as can be told) last longer in tradition.


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Subject: RE: Discussion: Bonnie Lass of Anglesey
From: Garry Gillard
Date: 01 Feb 02 - 01:32 AM

Here is my Martin Carthy page for this song.

Garry


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Subject: RE: Discussion: Bonnie Lass of Anglesey
From: van lingle
Date: 01 Feb 02 - 08:13 AM

thanks garry. i had forgotten about the contemplator.


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Subject: RE: Discussion: Bonnie Lass of Anglesey
From: van lingle
Date: 01 Feb 02 - 08:14 AM

thanks garry. i had forgotten about the contemplator.


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Subject: RE: Discussion: Bonnie Lass of Anglesey
From: CapriUni
Date: 01 Feb 02 - 09:09 PM

Yes! Thank you, Garry! The web site looks great...


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Subject: RE: Discussion: Bonnie Lass of Anglesey
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 01 Feb 02 - 09:26 PM

Yes, but please don't describe my contributions as "erudite", Garry; all I've done is quote other people!


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Subject: RE: Discussion: Bonnie Lass of Anglesey
From: CapriUni
Date: 02 Feb 02 - 11:26 AM

Yes but, Malcolm, you have the sense and the sensitivity to recognize when others are being erudite... And you know what they say about it taking one to know one ;-)

Besides, "erudite" simply means "learned", and you've learned about Child's ballads by actually reading what he wrote...

But okay, your point is taken. So here are a few questions that require more than simply quoting others to find the answer:

Carthy matched a seperate tune to the lyrics recorded by Buchan and Child.

Have any of you ever done that when you find "disembodied" lyrics that you'd love to sing? And if so, how do you decide if a melody fits? Do you try out more than one? Do you try to find melodies that are contemporary with the lyrics, more or less, or are you perfectly comfortable slipping a 16th Century lyric into a 19th Century tune? Etc., etc.,


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Subject: RE: Discussion: Bonnie Lass of Anglesey
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Jun 11 - 07:00 PM

all folk songs are metaphors for sex. this is a thinly vield bawdy song for a whore having sex 'dancing' with with fifteen lords. the king being worried at the beginning and the treasure at the end is just filler or later additions.


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Subject: RE: Discussion: Bonnie Lass of Anglesey
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Jun 11 - 07:03 PM

some versions have a knight dropping his 'sword' to the floor and falling down in exhaustion


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Subject: RE: Discussion: Bonnie Lass of Anglesey
From: GUEST,SteveG
Date: 10 Jun 11 - 04:16 PM

'All folk songs are metaphors for sex'? Hmmm!

As there is every possibility PeterB wrote this from scratch with a little imput from the Danish ballad, it very likely does have sexual metaphors or sexual content as he was rather partial to his spicy bits and sometimes pushed this angle to extremes.

'Some versions'? I presume you are referring to modern adaptations like Martin's.


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Subject: RE: Discussion: Bonnie Lass of Anglesey
From: CapriUni
Date: 11 Jun 11 - 07:53 PM

SteveG -- could it be that Guest of 09 June 11 has recently been reading Freud (and even he said that sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar)?

I have no argument with the statement: "Many (or even most) folk songs are metaphors for sex." But when speaking of human endeavors (of which both sex and singing are prime examples), I try to avoid absolutes like "all" and "none."

And, SteveG -- Do you have more information on this Danish ballad?


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Subject: RE: Discussion: Bonnie Lass of Anglesey
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 12 Jun 11 - 02:16 PM

"All folk songs are metaphors for sex"

About as sensible as "All sex is sublimated folk music".


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Subject: RE: Discussion: Bonnie Lass of Anglesey
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 12 Jun 11 - 03:36 PM

Little Kirstin's Dance is in several collections in translation. I can post some references if needed and a version.

I take back what I said about Peter earlier. I should have looked more closely. Herd is usually thought to be quite trustworthy so I think the likelihood is that Peter took the Herd version and adapted it.

Considering only about two thirds of folk songs are about relationships I don't see how metaphors for sex can be involved in the other third. Historical events, industrial struggles, political songs.

I'm compiling an anthology of ballads and songs that include sexual metaphors and while they are numerous they don't constitute any more than about a hundredth of the whole corpus if that. I think the comment was simply being mischievous, and I certainly wasn't taking it seriously.


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Subject: RE: Discussion: Bonnie Lass of Anglesey
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 04 Oct 11 - 07:37 AM

This ballad, from the stanzas I've read on this thread, reminds of Tolkien's "The Tale of Beren and Luthien" with its (possibly) magical dancing element.


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Subject: RE: Discussion: Bonnie Lass of Anglesey
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Oct 11 - 12:30 PM

all folk songs metaphors for sex?so the candlight fisherman is a metaphor for sex is it, windy old weather is a metaphor for sex,jeepers creepers


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Subject: RE: Discussion: Bonnie Lass of Anglesey
From: GUEST,SteveG
Date: 04 Oct 11 - 01:20 PM

Ah but, Dick, all that shoving the candle in and out!


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Subject: RE: Discussion: Bonnie Lass of Anglesey
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 04 Oct 11 - 01:47 PM

I am disappointed to learn that the Carthy tune is Irish American. I had imagined it to be Scottish.


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Subject: RE: Discussion: Bonnie Lass of Anglesey
From: Lighter
Date: 04 Oct 11 - 01:51 PM

There's a school of thought that holds that all art is a metaphor for sex.

And, believe me, that's all you care to know about it.


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Subject: RE: Discussion: Bonnie Lass of Anglesey
From: Brian Peters
Date: 04 Oct 11 - 02:26 PM

"The melody is an Irish-American fiddle tune, one of several sharing the title of Bonaparte's Retreat"

Didn't Martin use 'Bonaparte's Retreat' for 'King Henry' (not to mention Fairport, for the breaks in 'Walk Awhile'). If his 'Bonny Lass' uses a 'Bonaparte's Retreat' tune, it's not a version I've come across (and I've heard a few).

All of which is good excuse to post a link to The Watson Family's version.


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Subject: RE: Discussion: Bonnie Lass of Anglesey
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Oct 11 - 04:12 PM

Bonapartes retreat is a tune that has been used for theBonnyBunchOFRoses

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQE3AS3Vzb0


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Subject: RE: Discussion: Bonnie Lass of Anglesey
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 23 Nov 11 - 08:59 PM

*me*


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