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Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife

DigiTrad:
SHEATH AND KNIFE
SHEATH AND KNIFE 2
SHEATH AND KNIFE 3


Related threads:
'Sheath and Knife' refrain (8)
Help - Sheath & Knife thread? (2) (closed)


GUEST,Sadie Damascus 06 Jun 02 - 04:58 PM
Malcolm Douglas 06 Jun 02 - 08:32 PM
Jeri 06 Jun 02 - 09:05 PM
Susan of DT 06 Jun 02 - 10:18 PM
Garry Gillard 07 Jun 02 - 12:38 AM
greg stephens 07 Jun 02 - 03:56 AM
Malcolm Douglas 07 Jun 02 - 09:20 AM
GUEST,sadie damascus 07 Jun 02 - 09:20 AM
the lemonade lady 07 Jun 02 - 09:57 AM
GUEST,Margaret 07 Jun 02 - 08:18 PM
McGrath of Harlow 07 Jun 02 - 09:08 PM
Ferrara 11 Jun 02 - 10:49 PM
Iago 11 Jun 02 - 11:37 PM
Susan of DT 12 Jun 02 - 05:56 AM
GUEST,California Joe 12 Jun 02 - 03:52 PM
Ferrara 12 Jun 02 - 09:57 PM
Jon Bartlett 13 Jun 02 - 05:04 AM
Noreen 13 Jun 02 - 06:21 AM
KingBrilliant 13 Jun 02 - 06:39 AM
Malcolm Douglas 13 Jun 02 - 07:23 AM
Mrrzy 13 Jun 02 - 01:15 PM
Ferrara 13 Jun 02 - 04:03 PM
Jon Bartlett 13 Jun 02 - 05:59 PM
Malcolm Douglas 13 Jun 02 - 09:40 PM
GUEST,Hester NicEilidh HesterNic@hotmail.com 10 Nov 02 - 11:52 PM
Joe_F 11 Nov 02 - 07:39 PM
Hester 11 Nov 02 - 08:04 PM
Hester 12 Nov 02 - 10:48 AM
Malcolm Douglas 12 Nov 02 - 12:49 PM
Hester 12 Nov 02 - 01:38 PM
Malcolm Douglas 12 Nov 02 - 02:13 PM
Hester 12 Nov 02 - 03:50 PM
Malcolm Douglas 12 Nov 02 - 04:23 PM
Hester 12 Nov 02 - 04:54 PM
McGrath of Harlow 12 Nov 02 - 05:35 PM
Hester 12 Nov 02 - 05:43 PM
Hester 12 Nov 02 - 06:24 PM
McGrath of Harlow 12 Nov 02 - 06:29 PM
Susanne (skw) 14 Nov 02 - 05:05 PM
Malcolm Douglas 14 Nov 02 - 08:09 PM
McGrath of Harlow 14 Nov 02 - 08:22 PM
Malcolm Douglas 14 Nov 02 - 09:24 PM
McGrath of Harlow 14 Nov 02 - 09:50 PM
Hester 14 Nov 02 - 09:55 PM
Malcolm Douglas 14 Nov 02 - 10:27 PM
Hester 14 Nov 02 - 11:27 PM
McGrath of Harlow 15 Nov 02 - 02:19 PM
Bearheart 15 Nov 02 - 02:56 PM
GUEST,Margaret 26 Jul 04 - 04:28 PM
Malcolm Douglas 26 Jul 04 - 06:21 PM
Mary Humphreys 26 Jul 04 - 06:52 PM
Nerd 27 Jul 04 - 12:12 AM
Abby Sale 15 Feb 06 - 12:03 PM
GUEST,DB 15 Feb 06 - 12:37 PM
Bill D 15 Feb 06 - 04:21 PM
GUEST,J C 15 Feb 06 - 05:33 PM
GUEST,DB 15 Feb 06 - 06:03 PM
*Laura* 15 Feb 06 - 06:24 PM
Abby Sale 15 Feb 06 - 06:52 PM
Scotus 15 Feb 06 - 10:38 PM
Malcolm Douglas 16 Feb 06 - 01:02 AM
Anglo 16 Feb 06 - 02:59 AM
Mary Humphreys 16 Feb 06 - 07:07 AM
Matthew Edwards 16 Feb 06 - 09:56 AM
Matthew Edwards 16 Feb 06 - 12:15 PM
Bill D 16 Feb 06 - 04:20 PM
GUEST,Lighter 16 Feb 06 - 09:36 PM
Big Al Whittle 17 Feb 06 - 03:31 AM
GUEST,DB 17 Feb 06 - 06:22 AM
Big Al Whittle 17 Feb 06 - 06:58 AM
Mary Humphreys 17 Feb 06 - 09:49 AM
Abby Sale 17 Feb 06 - 06:40 PM
Roberto 18 Feb 06 - 12:00 PM
Big Al Whittle 18 Feb 06 - 03:06 PM
GUEST,Neil Spurgeon 24 Nov 06 - 03:35 PM
Abby Sale 24 Nov 06 - 05:28 PM
Barb'ry 24 Nov 06 - 06:05 PM
Abby Sale 25 Nov 06 - 12:26 PM
Barb'ry 25 Nov 06 - 07:51 PM
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Jim Carroll 01 Feb 16 - 06:03 AM
Gutcher 01 Feb 16 - 01:13 PM
Jim Carroll 01 Feb 16 - 01:32 PM
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Subject: Sheath and Knife
From: GUEST,Sadie Damascus
Date: 06 Jun 02 - 04:58 PM

I am intrigued and puzzled by a repeated line in Ewan MacColl's stirring version of the incest ballad "Sheath and Knife."

The line is: "The sun gaes tae your tower there with..."

(There was a sister and her brother The sun gaes tae your tower there with Wha maist and tightly loved each other God give we had never been sib...)

Is this merely a homonym, wherein some researcher heard "the son goes to your (her) tower there (to lie) with" (his sister), and made it out as some directional information like "there was a lady in the North"? Or am I missing some other meaning?


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 06 Jun 02 - 08:32 PM

Unfortunately the DT transcription of this text (SHEATH AND KNIFE 2) names no traditional source (quite possibly Ewan's fault; perhaps it was another one of those otherwise extremely rare songs that so many of his relations seemed somehow to have versions of), and lines like And tak twa horses stood and evil lead me to suspect that it was made by ear by someone who couldn't quite make out what MacColl was on about, but wanted to try anyway. The refrain seems on the face of it to be close to gibberish, and unlike any other known traditional variant; perhaps someone else will be able to place it.


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Jeri
Date: 06 Jun 02 - 09:05 PM

The tower line sounds like
"The sun (son?) gaes tae yon tower the wid"
I don't know what that means either...


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Susan of DT
Date: 06 Jun 02 - 10:18 PM

On MacColl's record Solo Flight, he says "A more complete form of the story did not appear until 1960 when Helen Mennie Shire published a 26 stanza version from the Dalhousie Manuscript. This collation is based almost completely on the shire text." I listened to this recently - I was compiling a tape of versions of the incest ballads: Sheath and Knife, Lizzy Wan, King's Daughter Lady Jean, Bonny Hind for Ferrara - and found MacColl's version rather perplexing. It did sound like what was in the DT. I am glad to see that I was not the one who entered (misentered?) this one.


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Garry Gillard
Date: 07 Jun 02 - 12:38 AM

I have put all the Child variants for Sheath and Knife here. No "tower".

Garry Gillard


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: greg stephens
Date: 07 Jun 02 - 03:56 AM

Probably something to do with a pagan fertility ritual......


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 07 Jun 02 - 09:20 AM

Thankyou for the information, Susan. My apologies to Ewan for doubting him! I don't suppose he mentioned where the Dalhousie example was published? At the moment I can only find references to two potentially eligible books by Helen[a] Mennie Shire, of 1957 and 1969, which I'll try to get a look at at some point; if it was in a journal it will not be so easy.

There appear to be three quite different "Dalhousie Manuscripts"; two, formerly among the papers of the Dalhousie family at the Scottish Record Office and now at Texas Tech University, are transcriptions of poems by Donne and his contemporaries; the other, a collection of letters and songs in holograph sent by Burns to George Thomson and formerly at Brechin Castle, is now in the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, and is presumably the one meant here.


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: GUEST,sadie damascus
Date: 07 Jun 02 - 09:20 AM

Thanks, folks. Maybe Susan or one of you can help me with another mystery. One of the incest ballads I have heard somewhere has a fast, mean beat, and ends with the line "If your father doesn't kill you, then I will". Do you know which one it is?


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: the lemonade lady
Date: 07 Jun 02 - 09:57 AM

That's got to be the biggest 'Blue Clicky' I've ever seen! Some of us can't do it at all, but you did the whole thing! Is this a record??


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: GUEST,Margaret
Date: 07 Jun 02 - 08:18 PM

It was partly quoted in "The Ballad Tree" by Evelyn Wells (I think). I don't have access to it now but I've been curious since I read that what the whole text was. She seemed to think it was quite old - 1500's or so.


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 07 Jun 02 - 09:08 PM

That's a modest blue clcky...


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Ferrara
Date: 11 Jun 02 - 10:49 PM

Susan of DT played the record for me on Thursday (we stayed at her place en route to Mystic.) I like trying to decipher this kind of thing. Here are some of the things I think I heard :-)

I thought the refrains were:

"The sun gaes tae and ower the wood," with ower pronounced OW-er rather than O-er;

and "God, gif we had never been sinned."

I believe the last bit is a colloquialism with the same general meaning as, "if only we had never gone and sinned."

Maybe it is related to American country/mountain expressions such as, say, "Jimmy's been tossed my doll in the creek," "Jimmy's done tossed my doll in the creek," "Jimmy's gone and tossed etc.", where "gone and ---," "been ---," or "done ---" all carry a connotation that someone did something they shouldn't have.

I remember people, including some of my family (not the Italian side!) using all those phrasings.

Also I think I figured out some mondegreens in the DT version, for example:

"Wha maist and tightly loved each other" seems to me to be, "Wha maist entirely loved each other"

"Oh the folk they talk through ither/ The lassie's wi' bairn tae her brother" should be, "Oh the folk they talk the whether/ The lassie's wi' bairn tae her brother." We would say, "they talk ABOUT whether...etc"

"And tak two horses stood and evil" should read, "And tak two horses stout and able." {stout is pronounced stoot, anyhoo....} Thanks to the original poster of this song in the DT! I would never have tried to figure it all out on my own. Editing is always easier than doing the job in the first place.

Cheers, Rita


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Iago
Date: 11 Jun 02 - 11:37 PM

"The sun gaes tae and ower the wood," with ower pronounced OW-er rather than O-er;

and "God, gif we had never been sinned."

My memory has McColl singing "Woe! That we'd ever been sib! (said memory is now 25 years old, mind you). At least it made sense. :)

Iago/Martin


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Susan of DT
Date: 12 Jun 02 - 05:56 AM

Sadie - The 4 brother/sister incest Child ballads are
#16 Sheath & Knife - knowing incest - he kills her at her request
#50 Bonny Hind - accidental incest - she kills self
#51 Lucy Wan - knowing incest - he kills her
#52 King's Daughter Lady Jean - accidental incest - outcome varies with version. I have been singing Sarah Cleveland's version where they all survive.


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: GUEST,California Joe
Date: 12 Jun 02 - 03:52 PM

Heard EM sing this and explain it first, and he emphasized the line, "God, that we had ne'er been sib," probably on the idea that Americans wouldn't understand "sib" for "sibling."

CJ


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Ferrara
Date: 12 Jun 02 - 09:57 PM

Well, I like "sib," it works much better than "sinned." But Susan and I just couldn't believe that "sib" was what we were hearing. Sounded MUCh more like "sinned."

OK, sib it is.

What about gif rather than give???? Does anyone have a recording of EM singing it they can listen to? I thought I heard "gif" meaning "if". However since they sound so much alike I wouldn't have posted it as gif except for one thing.

In the DT, in the notes following the song there is a translation of "gif" as "if." But, the word "gif" doesn't appear in the lyrics transcribed there at all. So I assumed that the word really is in the song, but hadn't been transcribed correctly.

Well it's not the end of the world to get this "right," whatever "right" may be in folk music, but am enjoying playing with it. It's a fine song -- now that I can understand it.

Rita


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Jon Bartlett
Date: 13 Jun 02 - 05:04 AM

Ewan's transcription (notes to Blood and Roses, Vol 5) is as follows:

"The sun gaes tae oot owre the wood" (with "gaes tae" glossed as "goes to") and "God, gif we had never been sib" (with "gif" glossed as "if" and "sib" as "siblings"). I'll type in the whole transcription if folk would like it. The note for the song is exactly as Susan gives it from "Solo Flight" except that there is an additional first sentence, running: "Of the four texts given by Child, only the one taken from Motherwell's manuscript can be said to be more than a fragment of this magnificent ballad."

Ewan's glosses can be a bit odd. Verse 2 starts "Sister, we'll gang tae the broom", with "tae the broom" glossed as "make love". Go figure!

I must say that the "sun" chorus suggests the closing verse of "Edward", which for me is half of a ballad, "Lizie Wan" being the other half. Again, incest, but with no cause alleged in "Edward".


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Noreen
Date: 13 Jun 02 - 06:21 AM

...with "tae the broom" glossed as "make love"

There's a phrase, not used so much now: "living over the broom" or "over the brush" with someone, meaning living as man and wife without being married. Same origin?


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: KingBrilliant
Date: 13 Jun 02 - 06:39 AM

"Going to the broom" as "making love" makes sense. As in going to lie down in the broom together - sounds a perfectly reasonable euphemism. Much akin to "going for a roll in the hay"!
As for the "living over the broom" - maybe that's a reference to the informal marriage ceremony of "jumping over the broom" (which I always thought of as a broomstick - but not sure) - ie being in effect married, but not according to the legal local definition. Maybe.
KRis


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 13 Jun 02 - 07:23 AM

Jon: if you can supply MacColl's own transcription, that would be very helpful. I have no quarrel with "the folk process" in its genuine manifestations, but an inaccurate transcription of a commercial recording is another matter entirely, and needs to be accurate if it is to be of any use as a reference.

Going to the broom could very well be euphemistic in this context, though I doubt any connection with "jumping the broom". It's perhaps worth mentioning that the often-debated phrase lay the bent to the bonny broom, though often interpreted as some sort of herb-magic, is at least, if not more, likely to be a sexual metaphor; though I don't think that it's necessary to look for a metaphoric intent in this particular case.


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Mrrzy
Date: 13 Jun 02 - 01:15 PM

Thread creep: did you know "vagina" meant "sheath" (probably named by the same male anatomist who labeled the mammilary bodies because they looked like boobs...)?


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Ferrara
Date: 13 Jun 02 - 04:03 PM

In another version, the choruses are "the broom blooms bonny, the broom blooms fair," and "And they daurna gae doon tae the broom ony mair." I always took that to mean that they got up to their incest in the broom, or that going down to the broom was a conventional euphemism for illicit lovemaking.


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Subject: Lyr Add: SHEATH AND KNIFE (from Ewan MacColl)
From: Jon Bartlett
Date: 13 Jun 02 - 05:59 PM

Yes, I agree with the metaphoric "gae to the broom"; I suppose I just reacted to the presence of an explained metaphor in the middle of the usual MacColl Scot-English word glosses.

The words as given in the booklet are as follows: (would some Joe clone kindly set in lines?):

1. There was a sister and her brither
    The sun gaes tae oot owre the wood
Wha maist entirely loved each other
    God, gif we had never been sib.

Similarly:
2. Sister, we'll gang tae the broom
O sister, I would lay thee doon.

3. Brither, alas, would ye dae sae?
I sooner would my deith gang tae.

4. A' the folk they talk through ither
That the lass is wi' bairn to her brither.

5. O, brither ye hae done me ill
And we will baith burn on yon hill.

6. Ye'll gang tae my faither's stable
And tak' twa horses stout and able.

7. She's up on the white horse, he's on the black
Wi' his yew-tree bow slung fast tae his back.

8. They hadnae rode a mile but ane
E'er her pains they did come on.

9. I would gie a' my faither's land
For a good midwife at my command.

10. Ye'll gang to yon hill sae high
And tak' your bow and arrows wi' ye.

11. When ye hear my loud, loud cry
Bend your bow and let me die.

12. When he heard her loud, loud cry
He bent his bow and let her die.

13. When he cam' tae her beside
The babe was born, the lady deid.

14. Then he has ta'en his young, young son
And borne him tae a milk-woman.

15. He's gien himsel' a wound fu' sair
Well [typo for we'll? JB] never gang to the broom nae mair.

16. O mither, I hae tint my knife
I lo'ed it better than my life.

17. But I hae tint a better thing
the bonnie sheath my knife was in.

18. Is there no' a cutler intae Fife
That could mak' to thee a better knife?

19. There's no' a cutler in a' the land
Could mak' sic a knife tae my command.


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 13 Jun 02 - 09:40 PM

Thankyou, Jon.


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Subject: Sheath and Knife, Robin Hood and Percival's Sister
From: GUEST,Hester NicEilidh HesterNic@hotmail.com
Date: 10 Nov 02 - 11:52 PM

The imagery of a shooting an arrow to choose a gravesite also occurs in Child 120B, Robin Hood's Death, which also begins with a reference to the plant "broom". The Sheath & Knife ballad (Child #16) appears to be earlier, and the 120A version does not involve the motif of a gravesite chosen by arrow flight. Thus, 120B was probably influenced by #16. However, the question remains, why would an incest ballad, even one with reference to a deer park, yew-bow and arrows be associated with the death of Robin Hood?

Well, 120B also involves close kin (Robin and the prioress are said to be cousins, but called siblings in a 19th century version), sexual impropriety (the prioress is said to murder Robin to keep her affair with a knight named Roger from being revealed), and blood-letting that results in death (the prioress opens Robin's veins to 'heal' him, but betrays him by taking too much blood).

Picking up on the brother/sister blood-letting motif, I am reminded of the Arthurian story of Percival's sister (Malory, Book 17, chapter XI), who was bled to death during the search for the Holy Grail. She also decreed that her gravesite be chosen in a random manner, with her body put aboard a drifting ship and its landing place to be her burial site. (Notice the apparently irrelevant reference to ships in 16A and 16F.) As well, Percival's sister foretells that "ye shall find me under a tower arrived".

These two ballads and the Arthurian romance thus seem to all tap into a deep mythic structure involving sibling incest, bloodletting, and the ritual/random choice of gravesite.

Perhaps the disputed "tower" line in the Ewan MacColl version of "Sheath and Knife" is an echo from the story of Percival's sister.

Cheers, Hester


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Joe_F
Date: 11 Nov 02 - 07:39 PM

"Sibling" in the sense "brother or sister" is a recent technical term. "Sib" meant more generally "related", "kin".


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Hester
Date: 11 Nov 02 - 08:04 PM

Hi, Joe:

Actually, "sibling" was my word to describe the relationship. In the 19th century version, the Abbess is said to be Robin's "sister dear". She is referred to in that manner three times in the ballad, as if to emphasize the relationship:

OF ROBIN HOOD'S DEATH AND BURIAL by Sebastian Evans


Cheers, Hester


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Subject: Sheath and Knife influence on Robin Hood's Death
From: Hester
Date: 12 Nov 02 - 10:48 AM

Thought I should elaborate on the relationship between "Sheath and Knife" and "Robin Hood's Death":

Compare Robin`s instructions to Little John in version B of the death ballad (Child 120):

>>>And a broad arrow, I`ll let flee;
And where this arrow is taken up,
There shall my grave digged be.
`Lay me a green sod under my head,
And another at my feet;<<<

... with the sister`s instructions to her brother in the A version of "Sheath and Knife" (Child 16):

>>>`Now when that ye hear me gie a loud cry,
Shoot frae thy bow an arrow and there let me lye.
`And when that ye see I am lying dead,
Then ye`ll put me in a grave, wi a turf at my head.<<<

The main difference here seems to be that in "Sheath & Knife", shooting the arrow not only determines where the gravesite shall be, it is also the means of death. At least, the apparent meaning is that the brother is to shoot his sister when she calls out and bury her where she falls. Another possible interpretation of the ambiguous text, however, is that the sister is in labour [she is said earlier in the A version of the ballad to be "wi child"] and knows she is dying, and that she is requesting the brother to shoot an arrow at the moment she gives birth (i.e. her "loud cry") simply to choose where her gravesite shall be, not to hit & kill her.

Also note, that in the 19th century version of Robin's Death, Robin gives his burial instructions not to Little John, but to the Abbess, who described repeatedly as his sister (although she is his cousin and his murderer in the original ballad):

Of Robin Hood's Death and Burial - Sebastian Evans (1865)

Cheers, Hester


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 12 Nov 02 - 12:49 PM

Child (English and Scottish Popular Ballads I, 185) uses the Robin Hood verse to elucidate the arrow-shooting episode in Sheath and Knife (though he later modified that interpretation: see III, 103), but does not imply any actual connection between the ballads. Do you have any evidence of a direct connection (beyond speculation based on the coincident motifs), or any to support the suggestion that Sheath and Knife is necessarily the older?

Your points are certainly interesting, but I'd like to see some external corroboration.


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Hester
Date: 12 Nov 02 - 01:38 PM

Hi, Malcolm:

I don't have a copy of Child on hand, and didn't realize that he had made a comparative analysis of the two ballads. I was working from on-line excerpts of just the ballad texts themselves. I shall be very interested to read both Child's original interpretation and his revision.

As for the "Sheath" ballad being older, I based that assumption simply on the numbering, which I had understood, from a comment by two Robin Hood scholars, reflected Child's attempt to put all the ballads into chronological order. ie. :

"This ballad is not recorded until the Percy folio, a badly damaged copy, in the mid-seventeenth century; the first full text is from the late eighteenth-century garland The English Archer of 1786, though, as Child notes, it itself "is in the fine old strain" (III, 103). Child prints the ballad early in his collection, as no. 120. This early placement can be justified: the author of the Gest knew the tradition of Robin's death. It is presumably one of the "tragedies" which Bower mentions in the 1440s; Grafton in 1569 refers in some detail to the story, and the Sloane Life concludes with it." (Knight and Ohlgren, 1997; http://www.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/teams/dearhint.htm)

I thus assumed that Child's numbering system represented a rough chronology.

Certainly the last arrow motif is not original to the tale of Robin's death, occuring in neither the Percy folio (Child's A version) or the Gest (Child 117). The motif must therefore have come from a source extraneous to the RH tradition, and the similarity between Robin's burial instructions and those of the sister in "Sheath" are striking, as is the apparently irrelevant reference to "broom" (which occurs in no other Robin Hood ballad as far as I am aware). There's nothing to say, however, that those elements didn't find their way into both ballads (#16 & #120) from a third, unknown source.

Cheers, Hester


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 12 Nov 02 - 02:13 PM

The motif seems not to have been uncommon in folklore, so I wouldn't read too much into its occurrence in two otherwise-unrelated ballads. The arrow-shooting in Leesome Brand (Child 15) may be more fruitful for you if you are looking for correspondences, but you might want to do some extensive background reading first. Broom turns up so often that it's unsafe to base conclusions upon it; though it often occurs in a sexual context and -sometimes- with a metaphoric function, it's also often just broom!

Child's numbering system is largely thematic, with ballads grouped -to an extent- in related categories; there also seems to be some attempt at a chronological arrangement within those criteria, but you can't rely on it in itself to provide answers. Another problem is that Child died before he was able to write his planned Introduction to the collection, which, among other things, would have explained how his system actually worked.

You have to look at the source information for each text and Child's background notes, too (and as much additional information from other studies as you can) before starting to draw conclusions. Online texts without the notes are, I feel, of little real use to anyone who's serious about the subject.


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Hester
Date: 12 Nov 02 - 03:50 PM

Hi, Malcolm:

Thanks for those elucidations.

>>>Another problem is that Child died before he was able to write his planned Introduction to the collection, which, among other things, would have explained how his system actually worked.<<<

O, poor Child! And the poor scholars trying to follow him.

I think I shall have to put _The English and Scottish Popular Ballads_ on my Xmas wish list. It would be handy to have my own copy. Is there a good version with all the volumes bound in a single book that you could recommend?

The Leesom Brand is quite an interesting text, but I don't quite see why you think it is "MORE fruitful for you if you are looking for correspondences". Obviously it is a very close cousin to Sheath & Knife (especially 15B), but I don't see how it sheds any additional light on the question of how the extraneous "gravesite divined by arrow" motif might have found its way into the Robin Hood legend in the late 18th century.

>>>Online texts without the notes are, I feel, of little real use to anyone who's serious about the subject.<<<

Ah, seriousness -- I left that behind in grad school. When it comes to folk ballads, I'm a just hobbyist, and my particular interest is the Robin Hood legend, rather than the ballads as a whole. Moreover,
as a structuralist rather than a historian, I believe we can learn a great deal from a close reading and comparative analysis of the texts themselves, even when there are no notes available or "external corroboration" as you term it.

>>>Broom turns up so often that it's unsafe to base conclusions upon it<<<

Broom may be a common element of folksongs, but as I've mentioned, it occurs in the Robin Hood canon ONLY in Child 120B as far as I am aware. Indeed, it occurs in the opening stanza, which is markedly different from the usual paean to spring that opens most other RH ballads, even those which are violent rather than comic in nature. And the frequent repetition of the reference to broom in the refrain of "Sheath and Knife" makes it a key textual element of that particular ballad as well.   

Cheers, Hester


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 12 Nov 02 - 04:23 PM

Ah, I see; if your interest is in the Robin Hood ballads, then Leesome Brand won't be much use to you. I mentioned it in relation to Sheath and Knife only. For what it's worth, I live not far from the places where many of the Hood stories are set; and there is certainly plenty of broom in the Kirklees area even today! I don't discount your theory, but I do think that textual analysis alone is generally not enough to demonstrate direct connections.

Child has long been out of print, but just this year that has all changed. Loomis House has reprinted the first volume, with the rest to follow, and Heritage Muse is bringing the whole thing out on CDROM.


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Hester
Date: 12 Nov 02 - 04:54 PM

>>>Child has long been out of print, but just this year that has all changed. Loomis House has reprinted the first volume, with the rest to follow, and Heritage Muse is bringing the whole thing out on CDROM.<<<

Thanks, Malcolm:

I shall keep my eye out for those publications! The CD-ROM sounds convenient, but I do find a hard-copy book much more satisfying. How frustrating that all the Loomis volumes are not being released simultaneously.

In the meantime, I shall have to make do with access to the copies in my local library system. Unfortunately, they don't always note the volume number properly in their catalogue, so you never know which volume will actually turn up on the hold shelf when you make a request. Oh, sigh!

Anyhow, if, in your folklore studies, you come across any more instances of a gravesite being selected by a divinatory method or an appeal to chance (paricularly the flight of an arrow or the drifting of a ship), please let me know.

Cheers, Hester


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 12 Nov 02 - 05:35 PM

But still no explanation of the refrain.

As it stands MacColl's transcription sounds as if it's to do with pinning the events to a particular time of day, the time when the sun rose clear above the trees of the wood, mid-morning perhaps, but that doesn't seem too relevant.


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Hester
Date: 12 Nov 02 - 05:43 PM

>>>I live not far from the places where many of the Hood stories are set; and there is certainly plenty of broom in the Kirklees area even today!<<<

Hi, Malcolm:

What a merry place to live! Here across the pond, with my aversion to flying, I feel a bit disconnected from the folk stories and customs I enjoy analyzing. Ah well, I'm sure I'll get there one day.

Since you are familar with broom in its native habitat, I wonder if you aware of any seasonal connotations with the plant?

As I mentioned, most RH ballads begin with a paean to spring. (Although there is one late example with a Yuletide setting). Spring, however, would obviously not set the appropriate tone of pathetic fallacy for the death ballad and so this standard paean is omitted. Indeed, early pseudo-historical references to Robin's death generally give a November or early December date for his death. I wondered if broom was ever associated with this time of year?

Although, a thought does come to mind. During the fall, broom would be in seed, would it not? And I've read several references to the problem of broom as an invasive weed where it has been introduced in North America, particularly because when touched, the seed pods will project the seed a long distance (much like an arrow from a bow). Indeed the shooting of the Robin's last arrow could be taken as a metaphor for ejaculation (shooting of semen, literally "seed"). Thus his burial would be more of a "planting", with regenerative implications. As you noted, broom often has sexual connotations in folklore (perhaps because of the "promiscuous" spreading of the plant's seed). And the Sheath and Knife ballad, and more particularly its close cousin Leesome Brand, both have strong a regenerative theme, and a close linking of birth and death. [Whew! Gives you an idea of the labyrinthine paths down which my mind wanders.]

Indeed, I've given a great deal of speculative structuralist thought to the regenerative motif in the Robin Hood death ballad, particularly in comparison to the crucifixion story:

The Dying Hero

Cheers, Hester


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Hester
Date: 12 Nov 02 - 06:24 PM

>>>As it stands MacColl's transcription sounds as if it's to do with pinning the events to a particular time of day, the time when the sun rose clear above the trees of the wood, mid-morning perhaps, but that doesn't seem too relevant.<<<

Hi, McGrath:

Actually, that's quite helpful.

Okay, lets reject the "tower" transcription as a mishearing, and accept the line as:

"The sun gaes tae oot owre the wood"

But, is this not more likely a reference to the sun setting (going out over [i.e. 'behind'] the trees) rather than the sun rising (which would more likely be phrased as 'coming up over the trees') And of course, the diurnal cycle of the sun is metaphorically linked to its yearly cycle, with sunset being analogous to fall (and the death of the vegetative world).

Cheers, Hester


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 12 Nov 02 - 06:29 PM

Plausible enough - so the refrain would mean "The sun goes down" or -"The night is falling", an appropriate one, given the dark and bloody story.

Makes poetic sense. Some Scots linguist please confirm that it makes linguistic snense.


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Susanne (skw)
Date: 14 Nov 02 - 05:05 PM

As I have no better explanation to offer I could live with that one. Any mention of a 'tower' is certainly out - I've compared the transcription Jon Bartlett thankfully provided to what Ewan sings on 'Black and White - the Definitive Collection'. Also, I can't hear any mention of 'sib', only 'sin'. As he sings the last line a lot quieter than the rest it could well be 'sinned', although neither makes grammatical sense.

The narrative lines seem to be fairly straightforward. I'd suggest two changes in verse 8, though: Ewan sings 'yin', not 'ane' at the end of the first line, and 'Ere' (before), not 'E'er' (ever) at the start of the second.

Gordeanna McCulloch sings a version with the 'And we'll never go down to the broom any more' refrain, but I haven't worked it out fully.


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 14 Nov 02 - 08:09 PM

Gordeanna sings a standard version. MacColl, typically, just had to have something different, and from as obscure a source as possible. There is no point at all in speculating on the possible meaning of the text he used -if we can't agree that the transcription John quoted is definitive- unless someone is able to produce the Dalhousie MS text that MacColl claimed to have used as the major source of his collation.


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 14 Nov 02 - 08:22 PM

There is no point at all in speculating on the possible meaning of the text he used

Whether MacColl used a genuine MS text as it stood, or rewrote it or even made the line up, it seems fair to assume that he had some meaning in mind when he chose to sing the words.

And anyone singing the song surely needs to have some meaning in mind as well. And I'd say that is where the point lies in trying to clarify what they are and what they might mean.


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 14 Nov 02 - 09:24 PM

As I thought I had stated pretty clearly, there is still an ongoing dispute in this discussion as to whether or not the text quoted is what MacColl actually sang; and we have, equally, no idea as yet as to whether or not his recording reflected a genuine traditional version of the song, or just a made-up personal interpretation of what he thought it ought to have been. By all means quote me, but please don't edit what I have said in order to dismiss, spuriously, the point I made; which is what you have just tried to do. We need to know exactly what he sang (and what his source sang; his interpretation of the "meaning" is irrelevant if it is only his own) before we can presume, on our part, to interpret. So far, we still do not have the required information.


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 14 Nov 02 - 09:50 PM

Sorry if I've quoted you in a way that distorts what you were saying, that wasn't the idea. My editing just consisted in taking the first section of the sentence, with the full text being there in your post immediately above what I wrote.

I had no intention of dismissing what I understood to be your point. Finding out what MacColl actually sang is important, and so is finding out what the text he drew it from actually said, if there is such a text.

However, if that were to be impossible, and if all we had was what MacColl has given us (either the recording or the transcription as well), I can't see how would mean that this version of the song should not be sung, or that it is not important for any singer to have in mind a meaning that makes sense. And I don't in anyway imply that you believe that.

Songs often have a tendency to change their meaning, as singers muddle the words and misunderstand the meaning because of that, and also because of changes in the way language is used.


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Hester
Date: 14 Nov 02 - 09:55 PM

It seems unlikely that Ewan McColl made up his own lyrics in an archaic Scots dialect. Thus, it seems logical he was working from an existing text or source.

Cheers, Hester


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 14 Nov 02 - 10:27 PM

MacColl regularly made up his own lyrics in "Scots"; he made up his Scottish accent, if it comes to that. The text that John quoted earlier is not particularly archaic in form. The question is to what extent it is authentic; we have already been told that MacColl's text was a collation made from an example in the Dalhousie MS and other, unspecified, sources.

Have neither of you read what has been said so far?


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Hester
Date: 14 Nov 02 - 11:27 PM

>>>MacColl regularly made up his own lyrics in "Scots"; he made up his Scottish accent, if it comes to that.<<<

Malcolm:

I admit I had not heard of Ewan MacColl before reading this forum. However, nothing previously said in this thread suggested to me that he was a known charlatan. In fact, the reverse seemed true as many of the contributors seemed to look on him as a valid and valuable source for the study of folk songs.

>>>we have already been told that MacColl's text was a collation made from an example in the Dalhousie MS and other, unspecified, sources.<<<

Yes, I'm aware of that. I thought the existence of these sources was the point you were disputing, Malcolm.

>>>Have neither of you read what has been said so far?<<<

Have you never been taught how to interact civilly with others in a discussion, Malcolm? I find the tone in several of your posts on this board, to me, and to others such as Q, to be offensive. If you cannot be civil, then do not address me in future. I'm interested in learning more about folk music from the many knowledgable people here, but I have no wish to debate with a pedantic, self-aggrandizing cyber-bully.

Hester


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 15 Nov 02 - 02:19 PM

The extent to which MacColl rewrote the songs he sang is clearly intereresting, just as it is in the case of Robert Burns. Finding out that kind of thing is valuable.

However a song doesn't live or die solely on the basis of when it was written and by whom.


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Bearheart
Date: 15 Nov 02 - 02:56 PM

Very interested in all this. Have always found this ballad and variants thereof fascinating. Sing Gordeanna's version myself. (and a lovely one it is too.)

Saw Peggy Seeger in concert a few weeks ago in Columbia SC while visiting there-- she's apparently living near Ashville NC? Maintains a website-- Why not ask her? I think if you did a search for her on the web the site would come up easily enough... She probably heard him sing it lots of times.

Bekki


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: GUEST,Margaret
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 04:28 PM

The first verse is quoted in "Living With Ballads" by Willa Muir, published in 1965. She says it was "recently" discovered among papers in Panmure House, Angus, and written down in the middle of the 17th century. Anyway, the verse goes:

Ther was a sister and a brother
the sun gois to under the wood
who most intirelie loved other
god give we had nevir beine sib

and a couple more verses, to say that the news

... wil go from on to uthir
until it comes to Jhon my brother

and Jhon my brothir is most il
he will us both burne on a hil

There is no other reference to where it might be found. I suspect it was published as a journal article rather than a book, or maybe an article in a local paper or magazine.


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 06:21 PM

Thank you for that: the mention of Panmure was the missing clue. It looks as if the text was published in Helena Mennie Shire's small book Poems from Panmure House (Sebastian Carter: Cambridge, 1960). Copies are pretty scarce, though: the nearest to me is probably the one at Manchester University. I'll have to see if I can get a look at it.

Since the thread is back again, I'll just add that Hester and I subsequently made up our disagreement!


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Mary Humphreys
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 06:52 PM

I have checked the Cambridge UL catalogue.There is an unborrowable copy at Cambridge University Library. It lists the following info:
        
Contains the text of 2 short poems, "O Lord I am Thy creature recreatid," and "Evin as the heart hurt in the chasse," and a ballad, "The sheath and the knife or Leesome brand," together with a Danish version of the ballad, "Redselille og Medelvold (Roselille and Ole)"
The 2 poems and the ballad are transcribed from the Common-place book of music and poetry, a ms. compiled by Robert Edward from about 1630 onwards; owned by the Earl of Dalhousie, the ms. is now in the National Library of Scotland. The Danish version of the ballad is taken from Grundtvig's Danmarks gamle folkeviser, v. 5 (1877), no. 271, text T.

So that explains the Dalhousie link that MacColl cited.
I will make an effort to get a look at it in the next few days and copy the ballad text as found there.
Mary Humphreys


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Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
From: Nerd
Date: 27 Jul 04 - 12:12 AM

When you are "close" to a topic, what would otherwise be "common sense" can be downright absurd to you! I myself laughed aloud when I came to Hester's perfectly locial statement that "It seems unlikely that Ewan McColl made up his own lyrics in an archaic Scots dialect. Thus, it seems logical he was working from an existing text or source."

Of course, I could not expect Hester to know that Ewan MacColl made up his own name in an archaic Scots Dialect (he was born Jimmy Miller).

Glad you and Hester made up, Malcolm.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: Abby Sale
Date: 15 Feb 06 - 12:03 PM

Yet the first DT version (filename[ SHEATHKF) seems a most commonly recorded one now. I've just happily received:
Schneyer, Helen Bonchek. Ballads, Broadsides and Hymns, Folk Legacy FSI-050, CD (orig. 1974), cut# 11

I've thought about the MacColl one for years but Schneyer's wunderfully restrained yet dramatic cut says I gotta finally learn the thing.

Except for one or two words and punctuation it's identical to the DT version & basically the same as Tony Rose, Maddy Prior et alia http://www.gaudela.net/prior/flesh_and_blood.html#sheath

Schneyer says she stole it with violence & menaces from John Roberts.
Somebody (say, in Maine) please ask John where he got it.

Since this thread left off, the fine Loomis had started but gives nothing new at the song.

Bronson isn't mentioned above but adds that the song is rare & never collected outside Scotland and that only in the 1st half of the 19th cent. The only tune (a "plaintive" one) is the one "salvaged by Burns" and printed in Johnson's. A later version of this tune was collected with different words.

My feelings about MacColl was that he was remarkably true to his text sources on record. Even when I was sure he'd screwed up because his text was so very unlikely - he was still true to the source as it turned out. Just using a version I hadn't read before.

As to Scottishisms, I can easily understand if he screwed up from time to time. A trad version may vary internally in word usage - say "if" in one line and "gin" in another - "go" in one line & "gae" in another. Scots generally have several dialects to choose from when singing. Further, in Ballad Scots the regional accent & consistancy of pronunciation generally disappear. I certainly can't always remember which regional variation a particular commmon word is in in a particular song version. I'm more likely to make my Scots consistant than source singers often are. MacColl had a better memory than I do but still...

And who's to say the source or source's notifyer got it "right" in the first place?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: GUEST,DB
Date: 15 Feb 06 - 12:37 PM

"Ewan's glosses can be a bit odd. Verse 2 starts "Sister, we'll gang tae the broom", with "tae the broom" glossed as "make love". Go figure!"

My interpretation (OK - guess!) at what the broom motif means is as follows: In many parts of the UK (especially on neutral or acid soils) the yellow flowered shrub 'Broom' (Cytisus scoparius) is characteristic of commons and waste places. In the days when people lived in cramped and crowded conditions the only places, in which young couples could pursue 'amorous dalliances', in relative privacy, would be those places where the broom grows (and provides good cover). The only people you would be likely to meet in such places (apart from other courting couples!) would be shepherds - and as Bob Copper says (I'm quoting from memory), "shepherd 'e don't say nothing, only swear at 'e."


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: Bill D
Date: 15 Feb 06 - 04:21 PM

interesting note, Abby....Jean Redpath recorded "Sheath & Knife", and on the album notes she says something like: (paraphrased)"After hearing Helen Schneyer sing it, it took me several years to wrap my head around it and do it myself"....

I have heard Helen do it in person several times, and it was quite an experience.....when the singer takes you into a song like Helen could do, you may sing the song, or you may not...but you are changed.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: GUEST,J C
Date: 15 Feb 06 - 05:33 PM

I am fascinated to see that the necrophobia surrounding the name of Ewan MacColl is still going strong some fifteen years after his death and the same tired old misinformation is still doing the rounds.
I knew and worked with him for about twenty years and found (and still find) many of his ideas and opinions informative and insprationa and his singing enjoyable and deeply satisfying.
It is worth remembering that, while other 'stars' of the folk-song revival were getting on with their own careers MacColl ran a (voluntary) workshop, The Critics Group for ten years on a weekly basis.
He was incredibly generous with his time, his self-penned songs, his field recordings and his advice, to the extent of having a permanent recording set-up in a spare room in his home for anybody who wished to make copies of his large collection of tapes of traditional singers. I never once, throughout the time I knew him, saw him refuse to pass on a copy of a song to anybody who asked.
His pioneering work on the Radio Ballads still stands as a landmark in recording (they were his conception, despite rumours to the contrary, I heard Charles Parker say so on many occasions, both on the media and in person). Despite the importance of the last one, the Travelling people, which introduced many of us to Travellers and their plight, one individual attempted to sabotage it - he failed, but did manage to get Sheila Stewart dropped at the last minute - a partial success from his point of view I suppose!!!
The 'Song Carriers' series are still unsurpassed thirty years after they were first broadcast.
The text of 'Sheath and Knife', one of the 137 Child Ballads MacColl put back into circulation, was supplied to him by a friend, Prof. Robert Thomson, now at the English Department at Gainesville, Florida. He did make some changes to the text, as do most singers to traditional songs they decide to put in their repertoire.
MacColl's autobiography, Journeyman, was not particularly representitive of him or his ideas; perhaps the forthcoming biography will sweep aside some of the garbage that is obviously still circulating.
MacColl was by no means perfect; he was often difficult to work with, but he was at least willing to work with others and expend a great deal of time and effort on their behalf.
I have not yet seen the current series; I fully expect that there will be the old usual snide pops at him. I understand Shirley Collins has had her go. I await to hear what she had to say with interest, but if it comes to a choice between the passion and understanding MacColl brought to traditional song and her milk-and-water renditions, as far as I'm concerned there's no contest.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: GUEST,DB
Date: 15 Feb 06 - 06:03 PM

'Guest, JC' - you're right! MacColl was a genius and a truly great artist. The trouble with all the petty, and often unjust, sniping is that it tends to detract attention away from his remarkable achievements. I have always believed that his greatest achievement was in bringing the ballads back into circulation - nobody could sing a ballad like Ewan.
This is probably a very crude interpretation but I think that Ewan's ambition was to present the music of ordinary people, down the centuries, in the best possible light and perform it in the best possible way. Meanwhile some of his contemporaries seemed to want to turn Folk Music into yet another branch of contemporary rock music and themselves into rock stars. When Ewan refused to endorse or praise this project a lot of the 'would-be-rock-stars', and their supporters, took umbrage and have been whingeing ever since.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: *Laura*
Date: 15 Feb 06 - 06:24 PM

The version I know and sing is very different... I'm not sure where it's from - anyone who cares to know it's probably in the sleeve notes of Bare Bones (Tony Rose) but I haven't got a copy to hand right now. I'll put it down in case anyone is interested -

It's whispered in the kitchen, it's whispered in the hall
oh The broom blooms bonny, the broom blooms fair
that The king's daughter goes with child to her brother
And they'll never go down to the broom anymore.

He's ta'en his sister down to his father's deer park
oh the broom etc
With his yew-tree bow and arrow slung fast across his back
and they'll never go down etc

And when that you hear me give a loud cry
Shoot from your bow an arrow, and there let me lie

And when that you see that I am lying dead
Put me in a grave with the turf all at my head

And when he has heard her give a loud cry
A silver arrow from his bow he suddenly let fly

And he has dug a grave both long, wide and deep
He has buried his sister with their babe all at her feet

And then he has gone back to his father's own hall
There was music and dancing, there were minstrels and all

Oh, Willie oh Willie, "What gives thee in such pain?"
"I've lost a sheath and knife, I will never find again"

"there are ships of your father's a-sailing on the sea
that'll bring as good a sheath and knife unto thee"

"there are ships of my father's a-sailing on the sea
but such a sheath and knife they can never bring to me"

same story though.

xLx


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: Abby Sale
Date: 15 Feb 06 - 06:52 PM

Bill D.- yes.   Schneyer's record notes add that Redpath went off to cry.   Schneyer herself repetedly broke down.

She also gives a massive kudo to John Roberts who gave her the song he was going to do, himself.

GUEST,DB, et al: I'm not sure if you're agreeing with MacColl or not but your interpretation of "gang tae the broom" seems likely to me. Thus it would be glossed correctly by MacColl. Just figurative. We've learned a comparable phrase of 'go to the glen' for Welsh material in Jane, Jane/Hob Y Derri Dando. And lots of songs about heather.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: Scotus
Date: 15 Feb 06 - 10:38 PM

Spot on, Abby -

There are, indeed, many different Scots languages in Scotland! Our own Robert Burns managed to incorporate bits of many of them in his songs (lookin tae maximise his mercat, nae doot); and there are lots of examples of 'traditional' source singers (Stewarts etc.) swinging between various different Scots variants of the same words (and even English) in the same song! So - lots of reasons and motives.

Jack


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 16 Feb 06 - 01:02 AM

Mary Humphreys consulted a copy of Poems from Panmure House, and kindly sent me a transcription. At the time, I had thought that she was intending to post it here herself; since she didn't, I'll add it myself once I find it again.

The words that Laura posted are pretty much those of the arrangement recorded by Jean Redpath, for which see the DT file (link above). A collation made from the few available texts, I think, rather than a traditional set in its own right; and generally the one that people know who have learned it off a record at one remove or more.

That's context, of course, and not a value judgement.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: Anglo
Date: 16 Feb 06 - 02:59 AM

Since there still seems to be some doubt, as to the version I gave to Helen, I got it straight from Tony Rose, whom I admired immensely and miss sorely. I was at the Mystic Seaport Sea Music Festival when I heard of his passing, and had to be the one to relay the news to Louis Killen and Martin Carthy.

Tony recorded it on 'Under the Greenwood Tree' but his notes give no indication of his source. I have always assumed he adapted it out of Bronson & Child.

I miss Helen too, and now they're both gone I'm thinking of doing the song again myself. I haven't sung it in over 30 years.

I had always assumed (apparently I assume a lot) that Jean Redpath got it from Helen, but I don't know that for a fact. Lots of Scots singers, though, have recorded similar versions, including Christine Kidd and Gordeanna McCullough as I recall.

JR


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE SHEATH & THE KNIFE OR LEESOME BRAND
From: Mary Humphreys
Date: 16 Feb 06 - 07:07 AM

I apologise for the delay, but Malcolm jogged my memory that I should have posted this lyric, found in the Panmure House document mentioned a year ago in my last post on this topic.

THE SHEATH & THE KNIFE OR LEESOME BRAND

1 Ther was a sister and brother
the sun gois to under the wood
who most intirelie lovid othir
god give we had nevir beine sib.

2 sayes " sister I wald lay the by
the sun gois to under the wood
and thou wald not my deuds cry"
god give we had newer beine sib.

3 " Alas brother wald ye doe so
the sun gois to under the wood
I rathir nou death undergoe
alas give we had newir bein sib.

4 the morrne is my fathirs feast
the sun etc
Weil in my clothis I most be least
god give we had newir bein sib.

5. When they conwining al at ons
to royal feasting in the hal
it me behovith them amongs
ge dekit in a goun of pa

6 and when I lout me to my to
the sun etc
my lesse wil brak and go in tuo
god give etc

7 and when] I lout me to my kni
the sun etc
my lesse] will brak [and go in thrie
god give etc

8 and it wil go from on to uthir
the sun etc
Until it come to Jhon my brother
lord give we had nevir bein sib

9 and Jhon my brothir is most il
the sun etc
he wil hus both burne on a hil.
lord god we had nevir bein sib

10 I sal go to my fathirs stable
the sun etc
and tak a stid both wight and able
lord giv..

11 and we sal ryd til tym we spend
the sun..
until we see our trystis end"
lord give…

12 She had not riden a myle but ane
the sun…
when she gan quakin gran and gran
lord give..

13 "Is ther water into your shoes
or comes the wind into your glowes

14 Or think ye me to simple a knight
to ryd or go with you alnyght?"

15 "and when ye heire me loud loud cry
ye bend your bow and ran tharby

16 and when ye se me ly ful stil
so souing your horne come me til.

17 I wald give al my fathirs land
for on woman at my command".

18 when that he cam soon hir besead
[the bab was borne the lady dead.]
- - - - - - -
19 Ther he has tain his yong yong sonne
and borne to a milk womane.

20 he drew his suord him wonding sore
from this tyme to wrid newir more.

21 "mother" quoth he "can so mak my bed
can se mak it long nd nothing bread.

22 mother alas I tint my knife
I lovid better then my lyffe.

23 mother I have als tint my shead
I lovid better than them bead

24 ther is no cutlar in this land
can mak a kniffe so at my comand"

25 he turnid his face to the wa
gave up the goast and gaid his way.

26 the on was layid in Mairie Kirk
othir in Marie Queire
out throch the on ther greu a birke
and out throch hir a breir.
ye may knou surlie by thir signes
They wer tuo lowirs neire.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: Matthew Edwards
Date: 16 Feb 06 - 09:56 AM

As a footnote to the text provided by Mary Humphries:-

The National Library of Scotland is celebrating in 2006 the 50th anniversary of the opening of the George IV Bridge Building by the Queen on 4th July 1956, and to mark the occasion their website each week this year is featuring an item to represent the highlight of collections acquired in each of the past 50 years.

For 1957 the highlighted acquisition is the Panmure Music Books amongst which is the Commonplace Book of Robert Edward, which was the ultimate source of Ewan MacColl's text for Sheath and Knife.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: Matthew Edwards
Date: 16 Feb 06 - 12:15 PM

Sorry, Mary for incorrectly spelling your name, but thanks for taking the trouble to search out the book and transcribing it here. Although the Commonplace Book of Robert Edward was mainly of musical pieces I assume that the version of Sheath and Knife given only as a text and without any tune.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: Bill D
Date: 16 Feb 06 - 04:20 PM

Anglo...
"I had always assumed (apparently I assume a lot) that Jean Redpath got it from Helen"

Jean seems to be saying that she was sort of 'made aware' of the depth of the song by Helen, and thus could not avoid the basic feeling and presentation that Helen brought to it, but her pacing and personal interpretation are her own..(and there just aren't many variations in texts). I once complemented Helen on her pacing and 'restraint' in tempo, and she remarked that she was pleased I thought so, as she simply couldn't hurry that story. Jean does similar things, but she doesn't hold/stretch words quite as Helen did.

I'm sure Helen wouldn't mind you doing it again..*smile*...she'd be pleased to have it 'out there' by more people who appreciate it.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 16 Feb 06 - 09:36 PM

Thanks, Mary. Important documentation, which some of us always appreciate.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 17 Feb 06 - 03:31 AM

Interesting thread. From so many aspects.

I only met Ewan and Peggy a few times, and I agree they were helpful and kindly. I only knew them from publishing one of my songs in The New City Songster, and chatting a few times on the phone and after gigs.

I don't know but I should have thought Ewan would view the ballads as first and foremost, performance material. As in Shakespeare - it's not really important to fully comprehend every word.

The mistake most people make with this stuff, is not in committment to the material, but in committment to the performance.

Personally speaking it's not for me.

Once you have been privileged to see someone like Ewan tackle this with the gravity a Shakespearian actor would give to the part of Lear, you should have some inkling of what the part demands - and whether you have it in you.

It is in the performance that the substance of the piece lies.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: GUEST,DB
Date: 17 Feb 06 - 06:22 AM

Dear Weelittledrummer - I think that you get closest to the essence of what Ewan MacColl was all about - a wise and thoughtful contribution to this thread, if I may say so.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 17 Feb 06 - 06:58 AM

why thank you.

frankly the big ballads intimidate me. and they should intimidate more people.

you could hang an army on the recorded evidence.

mind you I wouldn't want my recordings to be used in evidence against me!


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: Mary Humphreys
Date: 17 Feb 06 - 09:49 AM

Hi Matthew,
Don't worry about the name. I am used to people spelling it the wrong way for me.
I transcribed the text from a book that Malcolm Douglas mentioned in a previous post: Helena Mennie Shire's small book Poems from Panmure House (Sebastian Carter: Cambridge, 1960). It is a book which compares the ballad posted above ( alternatively called Leesome Brand - because there are elements of that ballad in it too) and a Danish ballad Redselille og Medelvold (Roselille and Ole).
There was no musicological discussion, so no tunes were published in the book. If you have seen the original book from the Scottish archives you are very fortunate. I would love to see the tune for the Sheath and Knife ballad in the manuscript.If you ever are close enough to examine the book and write down the tune, please let me know!
Mary


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: Abby Sale
Date: 17 Feb 06 - 06:40 PM

Mary,

I also thank you for posting the words. It's obviously worth having a look to be sure but as Matthew says, it's a long shot. Robert Edward writes in the mid 1600's but Bronson gives that the only tune is the one "salvaged by Burns" and printed in Johnson's. A later version of this tune was collected with different words.

Johnson's Musical Museum is sort of available here & there - try your inter-library loan dept. It's in Bronson The Traditional Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads vol 1, p253. The second tune is there as well. Bronson is possibly harder to get hold of than Johnson's. I could try too scan the page & squirt it to you. Might work.


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Subject: Lyr Add: SHEATH AND KNIFE
From: Roberto
Date: 18 Feb 06 - 12:00 PM

Five recordings (Gordeanna McCulloch; Joe Rae; Tony Rose (2); Mary Humphreys). R

Sheath and Knife
Gordeanna McCulloch, Sheath and Knife, Fellside FECD117 (original lp release, Topic 12TS370, 1978)

It is talked, it is talked the warld aa o'er
The broom blooms bonnie and sae it is fair
That the king's yae dochter gaes wi child tae her brither
And we'll never gyang doon tae the broom ony mair

He's taen his sister doon tae their faither's deer park
The broom blooms bonnie and sae it is fair
Wi his yew-tree bow and arrows fast slung at his back
And we'll never gyang doon tae the broom ony mair

Noo when that ye hear me gie a loud cry
The broom blooms bonnie and sae it is fair
Shoot an arrow frae your bow and there let me lye
And we'll never gyang doon tae the broom ony mair

Noo when that he heard her gie a loud cry
The broom blooms bonnie and sae it is fair
An arrow frae his bow he suddenly let fly
Noo they'll never gyang doon tae the broom ony mair

He has howkit a grave that wis lang and wis deep
The broom blooms bonnie and sae it is fair
He has laid his sister in, wi her bairn at her feet
And they'll never gyang doon tae the broom ony mair

Aye and when that he cam tae his faither's coort haa
The broom blooms bonnie and sae it is fair
There wis music and dancin an minsterls mangst them aa
But they'll never gyang doon tae the broom ony mair

O Willie dear, O Willie, whit maks ye in pain
The broom blooms bonnie and sae it is fair
I hae lost a sheath and knife and will never see again
And we'll never gyang doon tae the broom ony mair

There are ships o yer faither's a-sailin on the sea
The broom blooms bonnie and sae it is fair
That will bring as guid a sheath and a knife untae ye
Noo we'll never gyang doon tae the broom ony mair

There are ships o my faither's a-sailin on the sea
The broom blooms bonnie and sae it is fair
But sic a sheath and knife they can never bring tae me
Noo we'll never gyang doon tae the broom ony mair



Sheath and Knife
Joe Rae, The Broom Bloms Bonny, Ballads, Songs and Stories from Ayrshire, Musical Traditions Records, MT CD 313, 2001

O it's whispered in the kitchen and it's whispered in the hall
O the broom blooms bonny, the broom blooms fair
That the king's dochter gaes wi a bairnie tae her brother
An they daurna gae doon tae the broom onymair

He has taen his sister doon tae his faither's deer-park
O the broom blooms bonny, the broom blooms fair
Wi a yew-tree bow and arrows all strapped tae his back
An they daurna gae doon tae the broom onymair

Weel, it's when that you hear me gie a lood, lood cry
O the broom blooms bonny, the broom blooms fair
Shoot an arrow from your bow, it's there let me lie
An they daurna gae doon tae the broom onymair

Weel, it's when that he's heard her gie that lood, lood cry
O the broom blooms bonny, the broom blooms fair
A silver arrow from his bow he's suddenly let fly
An they daurna gae doon tae the broom onymair

Then he has dug a grave, that was long, wide and deep
O the broom blooms bonny, the broom blooms fair
And he's buried his ain sister, wi her bairnie at her breist
An they daurna gae doon tae the broom onymair

Then he has gone back to his father's court-hall
O the broom blooms bonny, the broom blooms fair
There was music, there was minstrels, ay dancing on the green
An they daurna gae doon tae the broom onymair

O Willie, my son Willie, what gies tae ye sic pain?
O the broom blooms bonny, the broom blooms fair
I hae lost a sheath and knife, I can never find again
An they daurna gae doon tae the broom onymair

There are ships of your father's, all sailing on the sea
O the broom blooms bonny, the broom blooms fair
But sic a sheath and knife, they can never bring tae me
An they daurna gae doon tae the broom onymair



Sheath and Knife
Tony Rose, Under the Greenwood Tree, Leader LERCD 2024, first released 1971 (Trailer LER 2024).

Oh, it's whispered in the kitchen and it's whispered in the hall
Oh the broom blooms bonny and the broom blooms fair
That the King's daughter goes with a child to her brother
And they'll never go down to the broom any more

He has taken his sister down to her father's deer park
Oh the broom blooms bonny and the broom blooms fair
Oh, with a yew tree bow and arrows slung fast across his back
And they'll never go down to the broom any more

Oh it's when that you hear me give a loud cry
Oh the broom blooms bonny and the broom blooms fair
Shoot from your bow an arrow and there let me lie
And we'll never go down to the broom any more

And when that you see that I am lying dead
Oh the broom blooms bonny and the broom blooms fair
Then you'll dig for me a grave with a turf at my head
And we'll never go down to the broom any more

Oh, it's when that he's heard her give a loud cry
Oh the broom blooms bonny and the broom blooms fair
Ah, then a silver arrow from his bow he suddenly let fly
And they'll never go down to the broom any more

Then he has dug a grave both long wide and deep
Oh the broom blooms bonny and the broom blooms fair
And he's buried his own sister with their child at her feet
And they'll never go down to the broom any more

Then he has gone back to his father's own hall
Oh the broom blooms bonny and the broom blooms fair
There was music, there was minstrels and dancing and all
But they'll never go down to the broom any more

O Willie, O Willie, what gives you such pain?
Oh the broom blooms bonny and the broom blooms fair
I have lost a sheath and knife that I'll never see again
And we'll never go down to the broom any more

There are ships of your father's all sailing on the sea
Oh the broom blooms bonny and the broom blooms fair
That'll bring as good a sheath and a knife unto thee
But they'll never go down to the broom any more

There are ships of me father's all sailing on the sea
Oh the broom blooms bonny and the broom blooms fair
But such a sheath and knife they can never bring to me
And we'll never go down to the broom any more



Sheath and Knife
Tony Rose, Bare Bones, Boneshaker Records 1999 BSCD2001.

Oh, it's whispered in the kitchen and it's whispered in the hall
Oh the broom blooms bonny and the broom blooms fair
That the King's daughter goes with child to her brother
And they'll never go down to the broom any more

He has taken his sister down to his father's deer park
Oh the broom blooms bonny and the broom blooms fair
With a yew tree bow and arrows slung fast across his back
And they'll never go down to the broom any more

Oh it's when that you hear me give that loud cry
Oh the broom blooms bonny and the broom blooms fair
Shoot from your bow an arrow and there let me lie
And we'll never go down to the broom any more

And when that you see that I am lying dead
Oh the broom blooms bonny and the broom blooms fair
Then you'll dig for me a grave, put a turf at my head
And we'll never go down to the broom any more

Oh, it's when that he's heard her give that loud cry
Oh the broom blooms bonny and the broom blooms fair
Then a silver arrow from his bow he suddenly let fly
And they'll never go down to the broom any more

And he has dug a grave both long wide and deep
Oh the broom blooms bonny and the broom blooms fair
And he's buried his own sister with her child at her feet
And they'll never go down to the broom any more

Then he has gone back to his father's own hall
Oh the broom blooms bonny and the broom blooms fair
There was music, there was minstrels all among the ladies all
But they'll never go down to the broom any more

O Willie, O Willie, what gives you such pain?
Oh the broom blooms bonny and the broom blooms fair
Well, I've lost a sheath and knife that I'll never see again
And we'll never go down to the broom any more

There are ships of your father's all sailing the sea
Oh the broom blooms bonny and the broom blooms fair
That'll bring as good a sheath and knife unto thee
But they'll never go down to the broom any more

There are ships of me father's all sailing the sea
Oh the broom blooms bonny and the broom blooms fair
But such a sheath and knife they can never bring to me
And we'll never go down to the broom any more



Sheath and Knife
Mary Humphreys, on Mary Humphreys & Anahata, Sharp Practice, rarities and renovations from the English Tradition, Wild Goose Records WGS312CD, 2003.

It is whispered in parlour, it's whispered in hall
The broom blooms bonny, the broom blooms fair
Lady Margaret's with child among our ladies all
And she'll never go down to the broom any more

One lady whispered unto another
The broom blooms bonny, the broom blooms fair
Lady Margaret's with child to Sir William her brother
And they'll never go down to the broom any more

He's taken his sister down to his father's deer park
The broom blooms bonny, the broom blooms fair
With his yew tree bow and arrows fast slung at his back
And they'll never go down to the broom any more

Oh when that you hear me give a loud loud cry
The broom blooms bonny, the broom blooms fair
Shoot your arrow from your bow, there let me lie
And we'll never go down to the broom any more

And when that you see me lying cold and dead
The broom blooms bonny, the broom blooms fair
Lay me in a grave with a turf at my head
And I'll never go down to the broom any more

Oh, when that she gave a loud loud cry
The broom blooms bonny, the broom blooms fair
His arrow from his bow he suddenly let fly
And she'll never go down to the broom any more

He's dug a grave long wide and deep
The broom blooms bonny, the broom blooms fair
He's laid his sister in it with their baby at her feet
And they'll never go down to the broom any more

As he was a-going to his father's hall
The broom blooms bonny, the broom blooms fair
There was music and minstrels and dancing among them all
And they'll never go down to the broom any more

O Willie, O Willie what makes you in pain?
The broom blooms bonny, the broom blooms fair
I have lost a sheath and knife I will never see again
And I'll never go down to the broom any more

Oh, there's ships of your father's sailing on the sea
The broom blooms bonny, the broom blooms fair
That will bring another sheath and knife unto thee
But he'll never go down to the broom any more

Though there's ships of my father's sailing on the sea
The broom blooms bonny, the broom blooms fair
Oh, such a sheath and knife they can never bring to me
And we'll never go down to the broom any more

And it's not for the knife my tears down do run
The broom blooms bonny, the broom blooms fair
It's all for the sheath that I kept it in
And we'll never go down to the broom any more


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 18 Feb 06 - 03:06 PM

thanks Roberto that was great


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: GUEST,Neil Spurgeon
Date: 24 Nov 06 - 03:35 PM

Is it only me that reads verses 15, 16 and 19 as a marker for the singer having emasculated himself ? (ie done a self-Bobbit !)


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: Abby Sale
Date: 24 Nov 06 - 05:28 PM

Yes.

In other versions the more obvious sexuality of a knife going into a sheath is more clear.

But maybe you're thinking of a different version than I am?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: Barb'ry
Date: 24 Nov 06 - 06:05 PM

I love the transcription of Sheath and Knife in the DT (number 2) where the part where he cuts off his penis is translated as 'he gave himself a wonderful si'er.. rather than 'a wound full sore'! I must try to contact someone to get it changed but keep forgetting. It's my favourite mondegreen on the site though, so maybe it should be left.
BTW, that's the version that Ewan MacColl sang. I think it's the best one but that's just me.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: Abby Sale
Date: 25 Nov 06 - 12:26 PM

See above. MacColl, I believe draws his from the same source. These lines are not in Child.

From: Mary Humphreys - PM
Date: 16 Feb 06 - 07:07 AM

20 he drew his suord him wonding sore
from this tyme to wrid newir more.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: Barb'ry
Date: 25 Nov 06 - 07:51 PM

Hi Abby
I have just listened to the MacColl recording - definitely 'a wound full sore'.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: GUEST
Date: 01 Feb 16 - 04:44 AM

The meaning of "through ither" isn't as you speculated, but is close kin (reference intended!) to dialectal English "through-other," which is attested and defined here: https://www.bing.com/search?q=%22through+ither%22&form=APIPA1


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 01 Feb 16 - 06:03 AM

"definitely 'a wound full sore'."
If it hasn't been mentioned. this is aa reference to the brother castrating himself.
The beauty of this ballad is its symbolism.

Mother I have tint (spoilt) my knife,
I loved it better than my life,
But I have tint a better thing,
The bonnie sheath my knife was in.

Powerful sexual symbolism or what!!
I Anglicised this many years ago - unfortunately sacrificing some of the lovely Scots words in the process.
I've just returned to it after many years and now find myself choking up on that beautiful verse - in this case, absence definitely has made the heart grow fonder.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: Gutcher
Date: 01 Feb 16 - 01:13 PM

J.C.
Have never come across the word "tint" as meaning spoilt, it is still very much in use here having the meaning "to lose something."

The village of Kilbarchan, where the version of the ballad given at no. 2 by Roberto, above, was collected in the early part of the 19th.C., was much noted for its radical weaver poets, many of whom had to make a hurried exit to the Americas to avoid government retribution, I sometimes wonder, if one of them, having heard an older version of the ballad, produced that one.
Tae gyang tae the broom was, I thought, an 18th.C euphanism for houghmagandie, I therefore, one winter when we were snowed in, spent a full week going through the tombes searching for an 18th.C. event in the history of our royalty that could have inspired one of these poets to compose an updated version, in the ancient style, published for obvious reasons as anon.
Sure enough it transpired that a niece and nephew of the Butcher Cumberland had an incestuous relationship resulting in the birth of a son who was given the name of Fitzallan and who was provided for at the taxpayers expense with lands and wealth.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 01 Feb 16 - 01:32 PM

"Have never come across the word "tint" as meaning spoilt,"
Accept your def. absolutely Gutcher - I quickly checked the Chambers Scots Dictionary which associates it with "spoilt children" - it also gives, 'lose' or ' a taste or foretaste'
Doesn't make mucvh difference to my singing it as I Anglicised it to 'broke' - not as satisfying as 'tint' but I find myself, as a Sassencach, reluctant to use unfamiliar Scots words.
I understand that a very dear friend, Ex Cambridge scholar, Bob Thomson, now domiciled in Florida, came across the manuscript and gave it to Ewan - who was extremely excited to get it.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: Joe_F
Date: 01 Feb 16 - 03:05 PM

"Tint" is the past tense of "to tine". According to the OED, its surviving meaning (northern & Scottish) is "to lose", but it also used to mean "to ruin".


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Feb 16 - 06:49 PM

"tint" - taint. Not even dialect.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 03 Feb 16 - 08:56 PM

"Tint" comes in one if the versions of "My Ain Countrie" also. Scots dialect?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
From: Gutcher
Date: 03 Feb 16 - 09:47 PM

I hae tint my silken snood
    That tied my hair sae yellow
    I've gien my hert tae the lad I loo'd
    He was a gallant fellow

200 years or so ago married ladies in Scotland wore a cap called a curtch, maidens wore a ribbon called a snood [they all aspired to wear a silken one] If a lass lost the right to wear a snood and did not gain the right to wear a curtch they were seen to carry their character on their head.


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