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Lyr Req: Three Black Birds


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belter 05 Oct 98 - 07:36 PM
Bruce O. 05 Oct 98 - 08:01 PM
Joe Offer 05 Oct 98 - 08:45 PM
rich r 06 Oct 98 - 12:32 AM
Barbara 06 Oct 98 - 12:49 AM
Pete M 06 Oct 98 - 04:29 PM
belter 06 Oct 98 - 05:41 PM
Bruce O. 06 Oct 98 - 05:44 PM
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Subject: Black Bird Lyrics
From: belter
Date: 05 Oct 98 - 07:36 PM

I heard this song on a tape I bought recently, the liner notes say its child 16, but the variants of 16 on the DT show little incommon beyond pregnancy and pepole dieing. can anyone fill in the parts bracketed with question marks? These are parts I had trouble understanding. Also, does anyone know the mellodie?

Three Black Birds (child 16)

There were three black birds sat in a tree
Down a down hey down a down
And they were black as err might be
With a down
And one of them said to his mate
Were shall we our breakfast take
With a down, derry derry derry down

There was a knight in yonder field
Lay freshly slain beneath his shield
His hounds lie down there at his feet
So well there master come they keep (company keep?)

His hawks they fly so eagerly
They let no other fowl come him nie
Yonder comes a ?fallow doe?
As heavy with child as she may go

She's picked up his bloody head
She's kissed his wounds that were so red
She's lifted him upon her back
And carried him to a ?northern lake?

She's buried him before a ?shrine?
?Lay dead herself before some time?
?Why such a great gentle man
Such hounds, such hawks and such a lay man?

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Subject: RE: Black Bird Lyrics
From: Bruce O.
Date: 05 Oct 98 - 08:01 PM

"The Three Ravens", Child #26. There a facsimile of the copy in Melismata, on the SCA Minstrel website.

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Subject: RE: Black Bird Lyrics
From: Joe Offer
Date: 05 Oct 98 - 08:45 PM

At the risk of ridicule and disdain, I will dare to post the lyrics as they appear at the Peter, Paul and Mary Web site. Although many of us may not admit it, these are the lyrics we grew up with. Belter, if you search the database for #26, you'll find a number of versions.
-Joe Offer-


(Yarrow/Stookey/Okun/Travers) Pepamar Music ASCAP

There were three ravens sat on a tree
Down-a-down, Hey! Down-a-down,
And they were black as they might be, with a down
The one of them said to his mate:
"What shall we for our breakfast take?"
With a down, derry derry derry down, down

Down in yonder green field,
Down-a-down, Hey! Down-a-down,
There lies a knight slain under his shield, with a down
Down there comes a fallow doe,
As great with young as she might go
With a down, derry derry derry, down, down

She lifted up his bloody head,
Down-a-down, Hey! Down-a-down,
And kissed his wounds that were so red, with a down
She got him up across her back
And carried him to the earthen lack*
With a down derry derry derry down, down

She buried him before his prime
Down-a-down, Hey! Down-a-down,
She was dead herself, ere evening time, with a down
God send every gentlemen
Fine hawks, fine hounds and such a loved one
With a down derry derry derry down, Hmmm

(*lack means lake. It is an ancient pronunciation.)

Well, maybe the PP&M Website got politically correct. I'd swear the second-last line was "such a lovely woman." There are a few other words that aren't what I recall from the recording, but they're close.

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Subject: RE: Black Bird Lyrics
From: rich r
Date: 06 Oct 98 - 12:32 AM

Actually, Joe, I grew up on the "Billy Magee Magaw" version sung to the tune "When Johnny Comes Marching Home". It is much more in your face and pretty much lack any of the beauty of othyer versions/

rich r

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Subject: RE: Black Bird Lyrics
From: Barbara
Date: 06 Oct 98 - 12:49 AM

I always thought the last line was "and such leman" or "leyman" which, as I recall without the help of my Oxford Unabridged (what me, walk back to the house and lookitup?) meant either female deer or one's lady love.

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Subject: Lyr Add: TWA CORBIES
From: Pete M
Date: 06 Oct 98 - 04:29 PM

Yes, Barbara, that's what I always understood.

Rich, if you want a more astringent and realistic version, "Twa Corbies" is in the database here.

Incidentally, the words in the database seem to be a bit "Anglicised", and in the process have, to my mind, lost some of it's immediacy and impact. For a good discussion on the poetic structure of the poem and the choice of words see "The apple and the spectroscope" by T. R. Henn, Methuen 1951.

TWA CORBIES 2 from the DT (amendments in red = word changes to the version given in Henn, blue = corrections to make more sense (In my opinion))

As I was walking all alane
I heard twa corbies makin' mane
And tane ontae the tither did say
Whar sall we gang and dine the day

In behint yon auld fail dyke
I wot there lies a new slain knight
And naebody kens that he lies there
But his hawk and hound and his lady fair

His hound is tae the hunting gane
His hawk to fetch the wild fowl hame
His lady's ta'en anither mate
So we may mak' our dinner sweet

"Ye'll sit on his white hause bane
And I'll pike out his bonny blue e'en
Wi' ae lock o' his gowden hair
We'll theek our nest when it grows bare.

Mony a one for him maks mane
But nane sall ken whar he is gane
O'er his white banes when they tane are bare
The wind sall blaw for evermair

The notes in the DT imply that the Three ravens is the original which was (possibly) re-worked by Scott in his "Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border", III, 239, ed. 1803.

Henn argues for the opposite transition based on the use of language in the versions. He notes that the "Minstrelsy", although he does not mention it by name, is the first written record of Twa Corbies, but does not mention any earlier record of Three Ravens. I wonder if Bruce can shed any further light?

Pete M

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Subject: RE: Black Bird Lyrics
From: belter
Date: 06 Oct 98 - 05:41 PM

Thanks for the help. to bad I had the wrong child number, but the discusion has been interesting anyway.

Does anyone have an abc of the melodie? That would be the slower tune associated with it that I'm looking for.

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Subject: RE: Black Bird Lyrics
From: Bruce O.
Date: 06 Oct 98 - 05:44 PM

By far the earliest text is that in Melismata, 1611.

It's at:
Near the bottom of the page is Music of Thomas Ravenscroft. Click on that, then click on Melismata.
Down at 20 are two gifs. Click on them for song and tune.

I don't know if this is in the Lant MS, c 1580, where many pieces given by Ravenscroft are to be found.

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