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Origins/Authenticity:Lonely Willow Tree (Child #4)

DigiTrad:
FALSE SIR JOHN
FALSE SIR JOHN 2
LADY ISABEL AND THE ELF-KNIGHT
LADY ISOBEL AND THE ELF KNIGHT
OUTLANDISH KNIGHT
THE KING O' SPAIN'S DAUGHTER
THE LONELY WILLOW TREE


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meaning: 'beechen gold' (from False Lover John) (4)
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Chords: Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight (5)


Joe Offer 10 Nov 05 - 08:24 PM
Malcolm Douglas 10 Nov 05 - 09:29 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 10 Nov 05 - 09:54 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 10 Nov 05 - 10:39 PM
Amos 10 Nov 05 - 10:59 PM
Malcolm Douglas 10 Nov 05 - 11:06 PM
Malcolm Douglas 10 Nov 05 - 11:09 PM
Amos 10 Nov 05 - 11:53 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 11 Nov 05 - 12:45 AM
Joe Offer 11 Nov 05 - 02:24 AM
Joe Offer 11 Nov 05 - 08:08 PM
Joe Offer 11 Nov 05 - 08:40 PM
Roberto 12 Nov 05 - 02:03 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 12 Nov 05 - 02:33 PM
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Subject: ADD: The Willow Tree (Child #4)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 10 Nov 05 - 08:24 PM

The Lonely Willow Tree in the Digital Tradition appears to be a version of Child Ballad #4, "Lady Isabel and the Elf-Knight," but I can't find much credible information about this particular version. I found a very similar version at contemplator.com, taken from the Colonial and Revolution Songbook, by Southern California singers Keith & Rusty McNeil. The Contemplator refers to John Renfro Davis - that's a guy who sequences MIDIs.
Here's that version:

The Willow Tree

There was a youth, a cruel youth,
Who lived beside the sea,
Six little maidens he drowned there
By the lonely willow tree.

As he walked o'er with Sally Brown,
As he walked o'er with she,
And evil thought came to him there,
By the lonely willow tree.

O turn you back to the water's side,
And face the willow tree,
Six little maidens I've drowned here,
And you the seventh shall be.

Take off, take off, your golden crown,
Take off your gown, cried he.
For though I am going to murder you
I would not spoil your finery.

Oh, turn around, you false young man,
Oh turn around, cried she,
For 'tis not meet that such a youth
A naked woman should you see.

He turned around, that false young man,
And faced the the willow tree,
And seizing him boldly in both her arms,
She threw him into the sea.

Lie there, lie there, you false young man,
Lie there, lie there, cried she,
Six little maidens you've drowned here,
Now keep them company!

He sank beneath the icy waves,
He sank down into the sea,
And no living thing wept a tear for him,
Save the lonely willow tree.



It's a very nice song, but it sounds modern to me. Any idea where this and the DT version come from?
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Origins/Authenticity:Lonely Willow Tree (Child #4)
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 10 Nov 05 - 09:29 PM

Dick Greenhaus posted the DT text and would be the person to ask. He credited no source at the time, though. It seems that MacColl & Seeger recorded a set with the same first verse (Long Harvest, volume 6, 1967), and the text appears on a number of websites. None of them, sadly, bothers to say where they found it. Perhaps MacColl did his source the courtesy of a credit.

Lesley Nelson's set came from The Colonial and Revolution Songbook (Keith & Rusty McNeil); unfortunately, that book is probably worthless as a source. In the "Colonial America 17th Century" section, along with The Willow Tree, they include The Great Silkie Of Shule Skerry (sic), which has never been found in tradition outside the West of Scotland; and even there, not prior to the late 19th century.

The compilers, if the contents list ( http://www.mcneilmusic.com/revsngbk.html ) is anything to go by, seem to have been almost stunningly ignorant. Sadly, once a lie appears in print, people quickly start to believe that it must be true. People like the McNeils ought to be thoroughly ashamed of the disgraceful misinformation they have spread about.


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Subject: RE: Origins/Authenticity:Lonely Willow Tree (Child #4)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 10 Nov 05 - 09:54 PM

The Contemplator often has good midis, but none accompanies this text. The one in Mudcat is sort of generic.
'Sally Brown' would have been the seventh victim of this serial killer. This is reminiscent of the version "The King's Seven Daughters," collected in Mississippi and included in B. H. Bronson, Yhe Singing Tradition of Child's Popular Ballads, no. 124, p. 21-22, with music.
"The Outlandish Knight," no. 130, with music, in Bronson, p. 23, the story is similar; this one is from "Vermot Folk Songs and Ballads," edited by Flanders and Brown.
In these Bronson versions, the rogue already had talked the maid into giving him her father's gold, her mother's keys,, and her fathers best horses. These preliminaries are absent from the version in the DT and in the Contemplator.

Not only do the versions in the DT and the Contemplator sound modern, but they seem to have been simplified for easy singing and recording.


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Subject: LYR. ADD: THE KING'S SEVEN DAUGHTERS
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 10 Nov 05 - 10:39 PM

Lyr. Add: THE KING'S SEVEN DAUGHTERS

"Go bring me some of your father's gold,
Likewise your mother's keys,
And bring your father's best horses,
Where they stand by thirty and three, three, three,
Where they stand by thirty and three"

She got some of her father's gold,
Likewise her mother's keys,
And two of her father's best horses,
Where they stood by thirty and three, three, three,
Where they stood by thirty and three.

She mounted upon the milk-white steed,
And led the dapple gray,
She rode and she rode the livelong night,
Till she come to the salt water sea, sea, sea,
Till she come to the salt water sea.

"Light down, light down, my pretty fair maid,
Light down in the cause of me,
For six of the king's daughters I've drownded here,
And you the seventh shall be, be, be,
And you the seventh shall be."

"Pull off that costly robe," he said,
"And fold it on my knee,
It cost too much of your father's gold,
To rot in the salt water sea, sea, sea,
To rot in the salt water sea."

"O turn your body around about,
And view the leaves of the tree,
You're too much of a gentleman,
An undressed lady to see, see, see,
An undressed lady to see."

He turned his body around about,
And viewed the leaves of the tree,
She caught him round his slender waist,
And tripped him into the sea, sea, sea,
And tripped him into the sea.

"O help me out, my pretty fair maid,
O help me out," said he,
"I'll take you to some far off land,
And married we will be, be, be,
And married we will be."

"Lie there, lie there, you false-hearted man,
Lie there in the cause of me,
For six of the king's daughters you've drownded here,
And you the seventh shall be, be, be,
And you the seventh shall be."

She mounted upon the milk-white steed,
And led the dapple grey,
She rode till she came to her father's cot,
Two hours before it was day, day, day,
Two hours before it was day.

"Where have you been," my pretty Polly said,
"O where have you been," said she,
"I've cried, I've cried the livelong night,
To be alone with thee, thee, thee,
To be alone with thee."

"Hush up, hush up, my parrot dear,
Don't tell no tales on me,
A golden cage that you shall have,
With doors of ivory, ry, ry,
With doors of ivory."

pp. 21-22, B. H. Bronson, "The Singing Tradition of Child's Popular Ballads."
With music. 124, "The King's Seven Daughters." Halpert, LC/AAFS, rec. 2954 B1. Sung by Mrs. Theodosia Bonnett Long, Saltillo, Mississippi, 1939.
"This variant has been transcribed from the phonograph record. An earlier performance appears in Arthur P. Hudson, "Folk Tunes from Mississippi," 1937, No. 10, where it has a 3/4 meter but no other melodic differences. The words are mainly the same."

A much better story, and song, than "The (Lonely) Willow Tree."


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Subject: RE: Origins/Authenticity:Lonely Willow Tree (Child #4)
From: Amos
Date: 10 Nov 05 - 10:59 PM

The words given were recorded by Dyer-Bennet in the late 50's. I learned it then and have sung it from time to time ever since. I always thought it was a traditional English Ballad.

A


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Subject: RE: Origins/Authenticity:Lonely Willow Tree (Child #4)
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 10 Nov 05 - 11:06 PM

Agreed.

Most of the "cruel youth" texts found on the web appear to derive from Jerry Silberman's The Liberated Woman's Songbook (1971), but that liberation doesn't seem to have extended to the elementary courtesy of crediting sources if those sites which quote lyrics are anything to go by.


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Subject: RE: Origins/Authenticity:Lonely Willow Tree (Child #4)
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 10 Nov 05 - 11:09 PM

I was replying to Q's post. Did Dyer-Bennett credit any source? I doubt if this is an English variant, but somebody, surely, must have had the decency to say where they got the song?


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Subject: RE: Origins/Authenticity:Lonely Willow Tree (Child #4)
From: Amos
Date: 10 Nov 05 - 11:53 PM

Malcolm:

I am sorry to say that I do not have the LP now and cannot advise as to source accreditation; I vaguely recall that he did, but I am stretching across some forty years here! :D

A


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Subject: RE: Origins/Authenticity:Lonely Willow Tree (Child #4)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 11 Nov 05 - 12:45 AM

The title, "The Willow Tree," causes confusion with the sad ballad of parting and a reunion that came too late which is found in Sam Henry.

Probably covered in another thread, but among the variants in Child, "The English and Scottish Popular Ballads," variant G from the UK, wherein the rogue had drowned a knight's six daughters, covers about the same story as "The King's Seven Daughters." The ballad came to North America without much change.
Most American collections have one to several variants. J. H. Cox, Folk-Songs of the South," has nine variants collected in West Virginia.


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Subject: RE: Origins/Authenticity:Lonely Willow Tree (Child
From: Joe Offer
Date: 11 Nov 05 - 02:24 AM

The Dyer-Bennet recording of "The Willow Tree" is on Dyer-Bennet 12, available from Folkways as a custom CD. Darn. I have almost a complete set up to six, and had no idea there were so many more.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Origins/Authenticity:Lonely Willow Tree (Child
From: Joe Offer
Date: 11 Nov 05 - 08:08 PM

I heard from Dick Greenhaus. He says the DT version is from a Burl Ives record, recorded about 1945.
I haven't been able to find it from Burl Ives, but Dick's message was enough to lead me to this:
  1. Leisy, James F. (ed.) / Songs for Pickin' and Singin', Gold Medal Books, sof (1962), p 38
  2. Lynn, Frank (ed.) / Songs for Swinging Housemothers, Fearon, Sof (1963/1961), p172
  3. Best, Dick & Beth (eds.) / New Song Fest Deluxe, Charles Hansen, Sof (1971/1948), p 8
  4. Dyer-Bennet, Richard. Twentieth Century Minstrel; Folk Songs & Ballads, Decca DL-9102, LP (196?), cut# 3
  5. Gribi, Gerri. Womansong Collection, Gribi, CD (1996), cut# 8 (Cruel Youth)
  6. Smith, Winifred. Ethnic Folk Songs from the South, Tennessee Squire Assoc 630D-2211, LP (196?), cut# 11

-Joe-


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Subject: ADD Version: The Willow Tree
From: Joe Offer
Date: 11 Nov 05 - 08:40 PM

OK, so here's the version from Songs for Pickin' and Singin', by James Leisy (1962) [I think this book played in the movie, A Mighty Wind]:

The Willow Tree

There was a youth, a cruel youth,
He lived beside the sea,
Six lovely maidens he drowned there
By the lonely willow tree.

As he went out with Sally Brown,
And they walked by the sea,
An evil thought it came to him,
By that lonely willow tree.

"Now turn your back to the waterside,
Your face to the willow tree,
Six pretty maidens I've drowned them here,
And you the seventh shall be.

"But first take off your golden gown,
Take off your gown," said he;
"For though I am going to murder you,
I would not spoil your finery."

"Then turn around, you false young man,
Then turn around," said she;
"For it is not proper that such a youth
A naked woman should see."

Then 'round he turned, that false young man,
Around about turned he,
And seizing him boldly in both her arms,
She cast him into the sea.

"Lie there, lie there, you false young man,
Lie there, lie there," said she;
"For six pretty maidens you've drowned them here,
Go, keep them company!"

He sank beneath the icy waves,
He sank down into the sea,
No living thing wept a tear for him,
Save that lonely willow tree.



The tune is very similar to what's already in the Digital Tradition:

Click to play



Leisy doesn't give any source information. I also checked Songs for Swinging Housemothers and Song Fest (1958 - not in the 1948 edition). It's more-or-less the same song, give or take a word - and again, no source information. But ya know, there's real satisfaction in being able to find this turkey in three different songbooks. Kinda like the tailor who killed "seven in one blow."
But it still would be nice to have source information for this song. Maybe it was Burl Ives - or some Greenwich Village beatnik chick that Greenhaus knew in the 1950's.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Origins/Authenticity:Lonely Willow Tree (Child #4)
From: Roberto
Date: 12 Nov 05 - 02:03 PM

The notes on the Long Harvest's booklet say the song was "learned as a comic song at college by the singer (Peggy Seeger) in 1952."


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Subject: RE: Origins/Authenticity:Lonely Willow Tree (Child #4)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 12 Nov 05 - 02:33 PM

Not in the Burl Ives Songbook, 1953, but this book covers only a part of his repertoire.


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