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3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?

DigiTrad:
SAYS THE BLACKBIRD TO THE CROW
THE THREE CROWS (BILLY MACGEE MACGORE)
THE THREE RAVENS
THE THREE RAVENS (5)
THE TWA CORBIES (7)
THOMAS O YONDERDALE
THREE CRAWS
TWA CORBIES
TWA CORBIES 2
TWA CRAWS SAT ON A STANE


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Twa Corbies (46)
Three Black Crows (21)
Twa Corbies - transl. into Engl, please (63)
Lyr Req: Three Ravens, newer version? (22)
Lyr Req: The Twa Corbies (13)
Mudcatter's CD's Part 2 (16)
Help! Twa Corbies (12)
Lyr Req: Old Black Crow (6)
Info needed for 'Two Ravens' (13)
origins of 'Two Ravens' (4)
Lyr Req: Scot Gaelic Song - The Two Crows? (7)
Lyr/Chords Req: The Twa Corbies (Old Blind Dogs) (5)
Lyr Req: Three Black Birds (8)


GUEST,Ian Pittaway 15 Apr 06 - 06:27 AM
Anglo 15 Apr 06 - 02:06 PM
GUEST,leeneia 15 Apr 06 - 06:38 PM
Malcolm Douglas 15 Apr 06 - 07:13 PM
GUEST,Tim 15 Apr 06 - 08:20 PM
Declan 15 Apr 06 - 08:20 PM
GUEST,Tim 15 Apr 06 - 08:47 PM
Malcolm Douglas 15 Apr 06 - 09:25 PM
GUEST,Ian Pittaway 16 Apr 06 - 01:33 PM
John Routledge 16 Apr 06 - 01:42 PM
GUEST,Lighter 17 Apr 06 - 09:56 AM
GUEST,leeneia 17 Apr 06 - 12:45 PM
Bob the Postman 17 Apr 06 - 01:05 PM
GUEST,tim 17 Apr 06 - 03:09 PM
Little Robyn 17 Apr 06 - 03:47 PM
Liath 17 Apr 06 - 04:02 PM
Tootler 17 Apr 06 - 04:58 PM
GUEST,Ian Pittaway 18 Apr 06 - 03:40 AM
GUEST,leeneia 18 Apr 06 - 09:28 AM
Uncle_DaveO 18 Apr 06 - 07:23 PM
Uncle_DaveO 18 Apr 06 - 07:26 PM
Bob the Postman 18 Apr 06 - 07:58 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 19 Apr 06 - 12:51 AM
GUEST,Ian Pittaway 19 Apr 06 - 01:03 PM
Effsee 19 Apr 06 - 02:19 PM
GUEST,Margaret 19 Apr 06 - 07:42 PM
GUEST,Ian Pittaway 20 Apr 06 - 01:27 PM
Effsee 20 Apr 06 - 02:09 PM
Tootler 20 Apr 06 - 03:09 PM
GUEST,Ian Pittaway 21 Apr 06 - 12:40 PM
Don Firth 21 Apr 06 - 01:19 PM
GUEST,Margaret 21 Apr 06 - 09:23 PM
GUEST,Lighter 28 Jul 11 - 04:25 PM
Jack Campin 28 Jul 11 - 05:56 PM
GUEST,Don Wise 29 Jul 11 - 06:31 AM
Tootler 29 Jul 11 - 05:16 PM
Tootler 29 Jul 11 - 05:29 PM
Tootler 29 Jul 11 - 05:33 PM
GUEST,Dana 02 Aug 19 - 02:19 PM
RTim 02 Aug 19 - 07:47 PM
Steve Gardham 03 Aug 19 - 04:15 PM
Lighter 03 Aug 19 - 08:01 PM
Charley Noble 19 Oct 19 - 09:56 AM
Steve Gardham 19 Oct 19 - 10:16 AM
Lighter 19 Oct 19 - 03:00 PM
Joe_F 19 Oct 19 - 08:38 PM
Helen 20 Oct 19 - 07:03 AM
Lighter 20 Oct 19 - 09:14 AM
Lighter 20 Oct 19 - 09:23 AM
Mrrzy 20 Oct 19 - 11:37 AM
RTim 20 Oct 19 - 11:53 AM
Steve Gardham 20 Oct 19 - 02:56 PM
Steve Gardham 20 Oct 19 - 03:03 PM
Helen 20 Oct 19 - 03:04 PM
Helen 20 Oct 19 - 03:07 PM
Lighter 20 Oct 19 - 06:32 PM
Steve Gardham 21 Oct 19 - 08:52 AM
EBarnacle 21 Oct 19 - 11:41 PM
Helen 22 Oct 19 - 12:18 AM
EBarnacle 22 Oct 19 - 08:03 AM
Lighter 22 Oct 19 - 10:27 AM
Steve Gardham 22 Oct 19 - 11:25 AM
Helen 22 Oct 19 - 03:06 PM
Steve Gardham 22 Oct 19 - 05:32 PM
Lighter 22 Oct 19 - 07:11 PM
Helen 22 Oct 19 - 07:55 PM
Charley Noble 23 Oct 19 - 12:13 PM
Helen 23 Oct 19 - 02:48 PM
Charley Noble 25 Oct 19 - 12:59 PM
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Subject: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: GUEST,Ian Pittaway
Date: 15 Apr 06 - 06:27 AM

In the early 17th century the song collector Thomas Ravenscroft published 'Three Ravens' - 'There were three ravens sat on a tree, downe a downe hay downe hay downe' etc. In it three ravens looking for breakfast spy a slain knight guarded by his hawks and hounds. So far so good. His leman (old English for lover) turns out to be a 'fallow doe' - pregnant deer - who carries him on her back, buries him then dies herself. Puzzling. I have long presumed this to therefore be a fragment of a much longer song, in which perhaps some malevalent force kills the knight and turns his true love into an animal, or perhaps a song in a play where the rest of the plot is explained, but I have no evidence whatever for this. The other night I sang it, said all this, and someone came up with a much simpler solution: perhaps 'fallow doe' is just an old English term for a pregnant woman and not yer actual animal at all. Does anyone know or have any clues?


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Anglo
Date: 15 Apr 06 - 02:06 PM

It's called metaphor.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 15 Apr 06 - 06:38 PM

Probably not. A fallow deer (scientific name Dama dama) is simply a kind of deer which occurs in Europe.

My dictionary tells me that "fallow" can be a red-yellow color, and that that is where the name of the deer comes from.

(Before now, I had only heard the word fallow used to describe fields which have no crop planted on them.)

Positing the "fallow doe" is slang for a pregnant woman takes the romance & mystery out of the song. The expression probably doesn't occur anywhere else in literature, otherwise someone would have written a dissertation on it.
-----------
I want to know about these two lines of the song:

She got him up and upon her back
and buried him in earthen lake.

Earthen lake?


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 15 Apr 06 - 07:13 PM

Metaphor again: glossed in some commentaries as "the grave" (cf late Latin "lacus", pit). "Earthen lake" also has a specific physical meaning: it is a body of water fed by rainwater rather than by springs or watercourses, having an earthen rather than clay bed. I think that the term is used mostly in America these days. Both senses may perhaps be implicit: the song has every appearance of a literary origin, and complex metaphor is not unlikely.

Bronson (Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads, 1959, I, 308) follows earlier scholars in suggesting that The Three Ravens is descended from the same ancestral song as The Corpus Christi Carol, the latter being a "pious adaptation" of it. David Fowler, by contrast (Literary History of the Popular Ballad, Durham NC: Duke University, 1968, 58-64) sees Three Ravens as "a secularised, chivalric Pieta" based on Corpus Christi.

There is no final word on that subject, so far as I know, and there probably never will be; for all the romantic ideas (full of Grail Knights and the like) that have been put about on the subject of both songs over the years. Fowler's explanation of Corpus Christi, taking into account the mediaeval "figurative imagination", is elegantly simple (though not easy to summarise adequately) and well worth looking at. How far it might also apply to Three Ravens is moot, of course.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: GUEST,Tim
Date: 15 Apr 06 - 08:20 PM

It is just a great song that is a wonderful experience to sing - be transported into another time and place. Let the words be what they are.
Tim R.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Declan
Date: 15 Apr 06 - 08:20 PM

Recorded quite recently by Malinky. Title track of their penultimate Album. I hear there's a new one out since but I haven't heard it yet.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: GUEST,Tim
Date: 15 Apr 06 - 08:47 PM

Also recorded by me on CD Home From Home - www.ianrobb.com or www.timradford.com

Tim R


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 15 Apr 06 - 09:25 PM

Malinky didn't record an arrangement of the Ravenscroft set, but a relatively modern collation made from a 19th century Scottish fragment and (probably) part of a Derbyshire text, together with some modernised and Scotticised verses from elsewhere. Very good, I expect, but not much help for Ian.

Tim's recording is an arrangement of Ravenscroft. The song has been interpreted by a great many people over the years, in all manner of styles. As a rule, it's a good idea to have some understanding of what you are singing; so I can't agree entirely with Tim's first post.

Meaning, though, is often subjective (and particularly in cases like this) so the important thing is to arrive at a personal understanding, and I expect that we would all agree on that as a general principle; though we might not agree on details of interpretation.

I certainly doubt that Ian is right about the song, but that doesn't matter if it makes it meaningful for him. Do check those references I gave, though, if you have access to a good library; you really will find them illuminating.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: GUEST,Ian Pittaway
Date: 16 Apr 06 - 01:33 PM

Thanks for all your posts, folks. Anglo, your posting isn't very helpful! The point of my posting is: a. it may *not* be metaphor, so if not, what is the story behind the song?; b. if it *is* metaphor, what's it a metaphor *for*? This isn't obvious in the song. Tim, I cannot, therefore, "Let the words be what they are" if I don't don't know what they are intended to mean! A song isn't meaningful if it doesn't have any meaning - if you follow my tautology! But I certainly agree that singing it transports me into another time and place. Malcolm, you're erudite and helpful as usual. I'm not sure I'm convinced by the Corpus Christi argument myself (why does the fallow doe die, after all?), but I will certainly seek out your references. Thank you all. Anyone else?


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: John Routledge
Date: 16 Apr 06 - 01:42 PM

I regard it as a story of a pregnant woman whose "family" killed the knight who made her pregnant. Not uncommon in earlier times.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 17 Apr 06 - 09:56 AM

The Oxford English Dictionary gives several medieval examples of "lake" meaning "pit" or specifically, in at least one case, "grave." That explains the "earthen lake."

Malcolm, we have "dry lakes," especially out west, the kind that sometimes fill (or used to fill) with rainwater, but I've never encountered the phrase "earthen lake" outside of Ravenscroft.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 17 Apr 06 - 12:45 PM

I agree, Ian. How can a person "let the words be what they are"? A deer cannot put a knight on her back and bury him.

When I think about it, it would be almost as unlikely for a pregnant woman to go onto a field, hoist up a dead knight, dig a big-enough grave and bury him, all by herself.

If he had been a wandering knight slain in single combat, then she wouldn't know where he was. If he had been slain in battle, the thought of a pregnant woman, presumably of the nobility, making her way through the bodies while avoiding the scavengers (animal and human) boggles the mind.

No, there is a hidden magic spell at the heart of this sing. That's why people are still singing it.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Bob the Postman
Date: 17 Apr 06 - 01:05 PM

Pouring out a libation of mingled blood and wine upon the imaginary skull of Robert Graves, one might receive the following oracle:

Ravenscroft is an example of iconotropy, i. e., the misinterpretation of religious imagery when the image has outlived the cult which inspired it. In this case, in a series of rituals enacted annually:
1) the hero impregnates the priestess of the reindeer cult
2) the hero is sacrificed to the reindeer spirit
3) wolves and ravens accept the offering on behalf of the reindeer spirit
4) the spirit of the hero is saved by the reindeer-priestess

Some Scandinavian reindeer cultist inscribed these scenes on pottery where centuries later they were seen by a British bard and made into a song. The reindeer become fallow deer, because the bard has never seen reindeer, but the antlers in the picture remind him of those of fallow deer, both having flat blades instead of the tines characteristic of most other species of deer. The sacred victim becomes an ambushed knight. The ravens and wolves gathering to devour the offering become hawks and hounds protecting the corpse; except where the ravens, recognisable as such because they are shown actively devouring the victim, are cast as opportunistic scavengers rather than as embodiments of the reindeer spirit. The victim's spirit is reincarnated in the priestess's unborn child, as is shown in an image of a pregnant woman in reindeer costume carrying the victim; but the bard sees this as a scene of a magically transformed bereaved woman ministering to her lover's remains. (If the priestess's baby is a girl, she becomes a reindeer priestess too; if a boy, he's a future victim.) As for the earthen lake, perhaps it's a peat bog, where neolithic northerners habitually deposited the remains of sacrificed humans.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: GUEST,tim
Date: 17 Apr 06 - 03:09 PM

In defence of my comment - "Let the words be what they are" -I am sorry I was so off hand. However, my meaning was that the song is still worthy of singing, even if you don't know that much about the origins.
I personnally believe the song is about love and faithfulness; it is very very sad, but in an odd way, still a celebration.
It must be said that most versions of the song collected in the more recent past (ie.. last 100 years) in both the UK and USA are nearly all devoid of the Fallow doe/love/selflessness aspects, and are more about the gory details eg. pecking out the eyes, etc..
I like the softer aspects.
Tim R.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Little Robyn
Date: 17 Apr 06 - 03:47 PM

Is it related to Twa Corbies?


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Liath
Date: 17 Apr 06 - 04:02 PM

As far as I know, the Twa Corbies is later, penned by Walter Scott?

I love the Three Ravens, it's something I've sung for many years. I love the tune, and I love the mysterious, sombre imagery.

Metaphor or not, it's true to say that, aside from the dead knight, no humans appear in the tale. We hear of his hawk and hounds staying faithfully beside him, defending the body, and then the doe that gives her own life in burying his body.

It makes me wonder whether the song relates to a forgotten popular tale of the day. There are certainly tales in existence in which humans are transformed into deer. The story of Sadb and Fionn comes to mind, an equally sad tale.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Tootler
Date: 17 Apr 06 - 04:58 PM

I have heard the Twa Corbies is older than the Three Ravens. However, my source for that, impeccable as it is, dates back to the '60s so it is likely more recent research has discovered otherwise.

Thomas Ravenscroft published Melismata in 1611 but the imagery in the Three Ravens suggests, to me, it is much older. The measuring of time by reference to the monastic offices would suggest a pre-reformation origin for a start.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: GUEST,Ian Pittaway
Date: 18 Apr 06 - 03:40 AM

Bob the Postman, a very intriguing post. Is this a theory of your own or did you read this somewhere? Robert Graves (don't know who he is)? Tim, absolutely no need to apologise, as I didn't take you to be offhand at all. These posts are for discussion, so surely we should be able to rebutt each others' theories. And it's *so* good that you're concerned to do so politely (since I've had much of the other kind here for no apparent reason I really appreciate your concern for others' feelings). "I personally believe the song is about love and faithfulness". Wow. I'd got so hooked on the assumed supernatural elements I'd pretty much missed that. Tim, I think you've got to the heart of the song. When I sing it tonight I'll use that, thanks! Tootler, "I have heard the Twa Corbies is older than the Three Ravens." Everything I've read (and I forget all my sources, sorry - it was a long time ago) states the other way round. One source (I forget where) went to town pointing out how Twa Corbies was a later corruption of Three Ravens because of the total abandonment of the body and lack of mystery in Twa Corbies.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 18 Apr 06 - 09:28 AM

I've always thought that the dead knight was the magician who caused a woman's soul to be trapped in a deer's body. When he died, she could exist no longer. Obviously, other interpretations are just as feasible.

I don't think the hawks and hounds represent humans, though. It was the privilege of the nobility to hunt with hawks (falconry) and with packs of hounds. These animals, being used to the knight as master, are staying by him, and the wild crows, being smaller animals, are kept away.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 18 Apr 06 - 07:23 PM

I don't see that this song is mysterious at all. It's a rather straightforward tale.

The knight is slain; that we know. But by whom? Or in what circumstances?

His leman comes to his body. Someone above suggested that her family had killed him for his attentions to her. I can buy that. It would explain how she came to know where he was; she may not even have been very far away when the deed was done.

As to "fallow doe", it is, was, and has from time immemorial been common metaphor to refer to a woman as some female animal whose image might fit into the feeling of the story, poem, etc. Just as twentieth century slang often referred to "a chick", "a kitten" and so forth, and to an older woman as "an old hen". "Fallow" or "FALLOW doe" seems to admit of a variety of readings, but I'm inclined to believe in this case "a fallow doe" is, as referred to above, a pregnant woman, especially when she's described in the song as being "as great with young as she might go".

As to her ability to get him away from the death site, the song doesn't say with what difficulty, nor indeed how far she transported him. And the grave wouldn't have to be very deep, so despite her advanced pregnancy it's entirely believable that she could scratch out a shallow grave. It's even possible--not contradicted by the song--that she got someone else to dig the grave. Or, if she knew that her brothers or father???? were going to kill him, she may have personally or by agent had the grave dug before the event. The song does say, after all, that she "bore him to the earthen slack", not that she dug it in person.

And if one thinks of her ability to do the heavy work, she may indeed have died afterwards or sorrow or of the effects of the work, she being in what used to be called "a delicate condition". The song as we get it doesn't say.

But to take "doe" or "fallow doe" literally as a deer, picking him up and carrying him on her back, seems ludicrous to me.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 18 Apr 06 - 07:26 PM

Of course one has to make allowance for the talking ravens/corbies/crows. The only truly magical or otherworldly thing about the song. But a good romantic concept.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Bob the Postman
Date: 18 Apr 06 - 07:58 PM

Robert Graves was a British poet, an expert on Classical and Welsh literature, whose hobby was detecting in ancient cultural artifacts the "fossilised" relics of even more ancient cultures. If evidence was lacking, he would occasionally use his poetic intuition to reconstruct it--bad scholarship, perhaps, but good poetic practice, at least according to Graves. (By the way, if you want to get up the nose of a Spiritual Feminist you can try to tell her that Robert Graves, a man, thought up all this goddess fal-de-rol back in the thirties.) I'm not sure if Graves invented the concept of iconotropy, but he certainly made great play with it. The above riff on Three Ravens was perpetrated solely by me, following Graves' example. It's 99.9% BS, of course, but it points in the direction of one possible back-story for the ballad.
Like Liath, I think there must be folk-tales on this theme of the deer-bride. I half remember reading a story about a hunter who encounters a person who is his prey in human form. And I think she is a deer, or were-deer. This is a tale of magic and enchantment, not a vehicle for run-of-the-mill figures of speech. But what is the song as we have it now really about? I agree with Tim, it's about love, faith, and bereavement. Speculating on the back-story is fun, but the song speaks for itself.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 19 Apr 06 - 12:51 AM

Obviously

When given leman, we make lemanade.

Art !!!


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: GUEST,Ian Pittaway
Date: 19 Apr 06 - 01:03 PM

Dave, you answered your own point before I had chance! "But to take "doe" or "fallow doe" literally as a deer, picking him up and carrying him on her back, seems ludicrous to me." Yes, it's as ludicrous as talking birds, horses in conversation or any domestic pet being impressed by a cage of gold. "Yeah, great! Thanks! A golden cage!" This post has been fascinating, despite - or perhaps because of - the lack of a definitive answer. I suppose I ought to have known better to expect a definitive answer where traditional song is concerned. Any more, anyone?


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Effsee
Date: 19 Apr 06 - 02:19 PM

I have a book called (with relentless logic) "A Book of Old Ballads" selected and introduced by Beverley Nichols, Hutchinson, London 1934. It contains 16 wonderful illustrations by H.M.Brock and one of these is for the 3 Ravens. It shows a flesh and blood human female kneeling by the fallen knight. One definition of leman that I've found is a "sweetheart". Mystery? What mystery?


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: GUEST,Margaret
Date: 19 Apr 06 - 07:42 PM

The people the song originated with thought it important to distinguish a fallow deer (not a red or a roe deer). Was there some significance in that? Roe deer were not regarded as aristocratic hunting. In any case, fallow can not mean pregnant.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: GUEST,Ian Pittaway
Date: 20 Apr 06 - 01:27 PM

Margaret, the fact that the song distinguishes a *fallow* deer makes me think it's yer actual deer, not a metaphor. "In any case, fallow can not mean pregnant." No, but the song *does* say the deer is "as great with child as she might go", i.e. heavily pregnant. So, Effsee, the mystery is: how can be leman/sweetheart of a slain night be a pregnant (presumably by him) deer?! That's what this thread is all about.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Effsee
Date: 20 Apr 06 - 02:09 PM

"how can be leman/sweetheart of a slain night be a pregnant (presumably by him) deer?!" There was probably a law against it even then.
Metaphor, no mystery.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Tootler
Date: 20 Apr 06 - 03:09 PM

fallow makes the line scan. Red or roe do not. Also the word "fallow" carries an implication of fertility in my view.

The fact that she was near term suggest she became pregnant some time ago (like about 9 months previously). As the knight was apparently only newly dead, there is no problem with the timing.

Another meaning I have seen for "Leman" is "mistress", just to throw another spanner in the works.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: GUEST,Ian Pittaway
Date: 21 Apr 06 - 12:40 PM

Effsee, back to a previous remark to another contributor, if fallow doe is a metaphor, the obvious question is: what's it a metaphor for? I know of no literature in which fallow doe is a metaphor (and neither does any other contributor to this thread or anyone I have spoken to), so could you tell me what the metaphor signifies and give me examples from other literature?


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Don Firth
Date: 21 Apr 06 - 01:19 PM

This was one of the first ballads I ever learned. I learned it from a Richard Dyer-Bennet record way back, and have been fussing with it ever since. I use a lute-style classic guitar accompaniment for it that seems to work quite well. Sounds very old.

I've followed this discussion with considerable interest. From the beginning, I've wondered what it was all about; I've heard and read all kinds of speculations, but I've yet to find a satisfactory answer. I do know that it kills the song if you try to be too literal about it (same with a lot of ballads). It's full of symbolism and metaphor, and as intensely curious as I am to know what it all means, I've come to accept it as is, mysteries and all. It's rather like an ancient tapestry, worn and faded so the details are no longer visible except in vague outlines.

I've decided to, as Iris Dement says, "let the mystery be."

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: GUEST,Margaret
Date: 21 Apr 06 - 09:23 PM

I was trying to avoid being long-winded when I wrote before. I was reacting to comments that "fallow doe" was metaphor for "pregnant woman" and I think that is impossible. However, we know the doe is pregnant because the ballad says so explicitly. I also thought looking into medieval hunting lore about fallow deer might be useful, but I just spent some time doing that and can't find anything pertinent.

I think the narrator's (a raven?) viewpoint is interesting. Things are described but not understood, like a small child might describe something like a wedding. I imagine the ballad as sung at the end of a tale about a knight and a deer-woman (human part of the time, a doe otherwise). He is killed for some reason and his body left for the ravens. The ballad sums up how he is buried and the woman dies (in childbirth?).


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 28 Jul 11 - 04:25 PM

There are a number of English families whose hereditary arms feature "three ravens."

It could be mere coincidence. Or it could mean that the ravens of the song preparing to feed on the slain knight symbolize some sort of 16th Century rivalry. At least they might have been so interpreted at the time.

Just thinking out loud. Too bad there aren't any versions for two hundred years after 1611.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 28 Jul 11 - 05:56 PM

Three craws sat upon a wa
sat upon a wa
sat upon a wa
Three craws sat upon a wa
On a cold and frosty mornin'.

The first craw fell an' broke his jaw
fell an broke his jaw
fell an broke his jaw
The first craw fell an broke his jaw
On a cold and frosty mornin.

The second craw couldna flee at a
couldna flee at a
couldna flee at a
The second craw couldna flee at a
On a cold and frosty mornin.

The third craw wis greetin for his ma
greetin for his ma
greetin for his ma
The third craw was greetin for his ma
On a cold and frosty mornin.

The fourth craw wisnie there at a
wisnie there at a
wisnie there at a
The fourth craw wisnie there at a
On a cold and frosty mornin.

A local housing estate commissioned bronze statues of three craws sitting on the wall in front, with that rhyme underneath. They were fixed to the wall by their thin bronze legs. Somebody sawed one off and made off with with it. So there are just twa corbies left.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: GUEST,Don Wise
Date: 29 Jul 11 - 06:31 AM

Somewhere,and a long time ago now, I seem to recall reading that this is a veiled political story (allegory?), possibly in connection with the civil war, whereby the 2/3/4 crows represent personages of the time.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Tootler
Date: 29 Jul 11 - 05:16 PM

Whenever I've heard this sung, the singer stops after "The fourth craw wisna there at a" and watches and smiles as the rest carry on until they gradually realise...


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Tootler
Date: 29 Jul 11 - 05:29 PM

I am in agreement with what Guest tim wrote back in 2006 that this song is about love and loyalty. The last verse is pretty explicit on this.

I also think it metaphorical. The ravens are observers and the hawks, hounds and deer represent the knight's companions in life.

The "Twa Corbies" (which Child treats as a variant of the Three Ravens) is clearly the antithesis of this and the dead knight is represented as deserted and forgotten by all those who knew him in life and left for the scavengers to pick over.

The two ballads make an interesting contrast.

I heard the Twa Corbies very well sung last night.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Tootler
Date: 29 Jul 11 - 05:33 PM

FWIW

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7IJCDQEvD4


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: GUEST,Dana
Date: 02 Aug 19 - 02:19 PM

There may be some residual mythical references in this song. According to Walker’s Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myth, Flidhais was a Celtic woodland goddess who took the form of a doe, nurtured heroes on quests, and brought them to fairyland when they died. Also it’s interesting to note that the Celtic goddess Brigid had a sacred grove where one could enter the Underworld (earthen lake?) at Derry Down. And the chorus of the song apparently refers to this site:   “With a down Derry Derry Derry down down”. Ravens are also associated with themes of death and resurrection and the underworld.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: RTim
Date: 02 Aug 19 - 07:47 PM

My version on my SoundCloud Site.....(and as appears on my Home From Home CD.)

https://soundcloud.com/tim-radford/the-three-ravens


Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 03 Aug 19 - 04:15 PM

The Derry Down combination in choruses goes back at least to Tudor times and is and has been extremely common for centuries. Dana, you seem to be suggesting that 'derry down' is Celtic. The doe is also used metaphorically in other 17thc songs. 'Check out 'The Keeper'. (also a derry down chorus) but in that it is used as a sexual metaphor, still for female humans. I must follow up this reference to 'Derry Down' as a place, albeit mythical. If Derry in Ireland does indeed have a 'Down' that predates Tudor Times that would be of great interest.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Lighter
Date: 03 Aug 19 - 08:01 PM

As for the reliability of Walker's book as a source, read some of the one- and two-star reviews at Amazon.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 19 Oct 19 - 09:56 AM

This was a favorite ballad of my uncle Richard Dyer-Bennet and was included in THE RICHARD DYER-BENNET SONGBOOK, p. 155, ©1971. The lyrics are a bit different that those ascribed to Dyer-Bennet in the Digital Archives and are posted below:

The Three Ravens

There were three ravens sat on a tree,
Down a down, hey down, hey down
They were a black as they might be,
With a down.
Then one of them said to his mate.
"Oh, where shall we our breakfast take?"
With a down, derry, derry, derry down, down.

Down in yonder green field,
Down a down, hey down, hey down
Their lies a knight slain ‘neath his shield,
With a down.
His hounds they lie down at his feet
So well they do their master keep.
With a down, derry, derry, derry down, down.

His hawks they fly so eagerly
Down a down, hey down, hey down
There is no fowl dare him come nigh,
With a down.
Then 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, hey down
And kissed his wounds that were so red,
With a down.
She picked him up upon her back
And carried him to an earthen lak.
With a down, derry, derry, derry down, down.

She buried him before the prime,
Down a down, hey down, hey down
Was dead herself ‘fore even-song time,
With a down.
God grant every gentleman
Such hawks, such hounds, and such a leman,
With a down, derry, derry, derry down, down.

My mother, Dahlov Ipcar, actually painted an illustration of this ballad in the 1940s which has gone missing over the years. I'm still trying to track it down to re-photograph it.

Cheerily,
Charlie Ipcar


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 19 Oct 19 - 10:16 AM

The hawk and the hounds are quite natural for this period and their behaviour is a little fanciful but not impossible. See also another fanciful ballad 'The Broomfield Hill' Child 43 and I'm sure others.

The ravens are there to add ghoulish realism in their actions, and horror.

We don't need to know the backstory. The piece makes its point without one. There is little point in conjecturing how and why he was slain.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Lighter
Date: 19 Oct 19 - 03:00 PM

> There is little point in conjecturing how and why he was slain.

There really isn't, but anyone who notices the "only ones" who know he lies there can deduce what seems to have happened.

Which is not to say that the author or original singer consciously intended it.

If he's been killed by some caitiff knight, the killer would be someone else who knows.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Joe_F
Date: 19 Oct 19 - 08:38 PM

I have read quite a few versions of this song, including those on this thread & related ones, and it appears that I read them all carelessly! The story as I remembered it was that, after the ravens have been deterred by the corpse's formidable defenders, they notice a far easier quarry -- the pregnant doe -- and agree to attack her instead. (A scapedoe!) That makes a plausible story, but I don't see any version that supports it. Many of them, indeed, seem to suggest that the fallow doe *is* the leman. Obviously I am missing something; maybe we all are.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Helen
Date: 20 Oct 19 - 07:03 AM

There seems to be a bit of confusion between the type of deer called fallow deer, which leeneia said is the deer with the scientific name Dama dama. It's just a name for that type of deer.

The word "fallow" in relation to a field is a different concept.

It's obvious that female fallow deer can be pregnant otherwise that type of deer would be extinct so there is not much point discussing how the fallow deer in the song can or cannot be pregnant based on the concept of "fallow" in relation to fallow fields. Apples & oranges.

I've loved this song since I first heard it in high school music class. I especially love the melody, and the whole story of the knight lying slain under his shield.

I always thought it was like a fairy tale or fantasy story and then after studying Middle English literature I started to think it was like a mediaeval courtly love song with a fantastical theme, which honours true love.

I guess I always thought that somehow the knight's true love, i.e. his leman, had been changed magically into a deer for some reason but she found him after he was killed and looked after him and then died herself because of the physical exertion in carrying him and burying him.

The melody contributes to the magical nature of the story, in my opinion. To me it is ethereal and haunting and it conjures times in the distant misty past.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Lighter
Date: 20 Oct 19 - 09:14 AM

I should have made it clear that the "version" I referred to (really a parallel song or even parody) was "The Twa Corbies," and not the early "Three Ravens." Sorry for any confusion.

In the "Ravens," of course, there's no suggestion at all that the knight has been killed by his lady.

Whether, as romantic ballad scholars suggested many decades ago, the doe is or the knight's pregnant wife under an enchantment may never be known. It's obviously conceivable.

The song was made, after all, over four hundred years ago, and it provides no explanation. Maybe the author just thought of it as a wonder story.

As for the "Corbies," Wikipedia tells us that the Russian poet Pushkin's 1828 adaptation "contains only the first half of the poem, ending with '"and the mistress awaits for her lover, not the killed one, but the alive one,' thus making a dark hint the central point of the story."


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Lighter
Date: 20 Oct 19 - 09:23 AM

It's just too early in the morning.

Of course the phrase "such leman" strongly suggests an identity between the lady and the doe.

Why, though, the high standard for a leman's character is only that she'll bury her dead knight is unclear.

But it may simply be that the (unenchanted) doe's altruism - like the loyalty of the hounds and hawk - is to be emulated.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Mrrzy
Date: 20 Oct 19 - 11:37 AM

Conceivable, ahahahaha!


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: RTim
Date: 20 Oct 19 - 11:53 AM

There is a new article about the Three Ravens on the Musical Traditions web page by Arthur Knevet....
see - http://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/three_ravens.htm

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 20 Oct 19 - 02:56 PM

Hi Tim
I know Arthur well and I'll tell him to his face, IMHO all fanciful conjecture with no solid proof behind any of it.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 20 Oct 19 - 03:03 PM

There is absolutely no reason to believe the song was written before Ravenscroft's time and see my post of 3rd August for the allegory.

The concensus among ballad scholars is that Scott wrote 'Twa Corbies'. Anything he altered is irrelevant to The Three Ravens.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Helen
Date: 20 Oct 19 - 03:04 PM

Thanks for that link, RTim. Very interesting article.

I like Thomas Ravenscroft's statement on the front page of the book:

"To all delightfull except to the spitefull, to none offensive except to the pensive."

This is a vocal version of The Three Ravens:

Lumina Vocal Ensemble

I forgot to mention that in music class we sang the tune with harmonies, so that is the way I remember the song.

(I'll refrain from discussing why high voiced male tenors singing these sorts of tunes as if they are being strangled is not the way I remember these songs, which would explain why I didn't make a link to some other versions available on YouTube. LOL)


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Helen
Date: 20 Oct 19 - 03:07 PM

Performed by the City Waites feat. Lucie Skeaping


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Lighter
Date: 20 Oct 19 - 06:32 PM

I dunno about Scott's authorship, of the "Corbies," Steve. According to Malcolm Douglas on

https://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=9564&messages=47#1238100

"Scott ...was sent it by Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, 'as written down, from tradition, by a lady' (Minstrelsy, edition of 1812: II, 214). Child (I, 253) quotes a letter from Sharpe to Scott (August 8, 1802): 'The song of 'The Twa Corbies' was given to me by Miss Erskine of Alva (now Mrs Kerr), who, I think, said that she had written it down from the recitation of an old woman at Alva."

Which is not to say that it was old at the time.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 21 Oct 19 - 08:52 AM

I concur to that, Jon, but what Scott published in MSB he eventually admitted to interfering with to some extent. This leaves us with the possibility that what he was sent might have been a version of Three Ravens which he drastically altered. Sharpe himself was known as something of a ballad 'broker'.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: EBarnacle
Date: 21 Oct 19 - 11:41 PM

I just happen to have picked up "New slain Knight" by Deborah Grabien. It is part of the haunted Ballad series and offers an interesting alternative interpretation to the ballad and its Welsh origins.
The library was excessing it and the title caught mine ee.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Helen
Date: 22 Oct 19 - 12:18 AM

Well, EBarnacle, are you going to maintain the mystery or give us an idea of the author's interpretation? LOL


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: EBarnacle
Date: 22 Oct 19 - 08:03 AM

My bad, it takes place in Cornwall. I started reading it last night and before I fell asleep I was 100 pages in.
The central characters are musicians and the story relates to a family tragedy occurring to the ancestors of one of the musicians. There are elements of rape, incest and infidelity and murder in the novel.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Lighter
Date: 22 Oct 19 - 10:27 AM

> There are elements of rape, incest and infidelity and murder in the novel.

Unlike "The Three Ravens." That's progress! ; )


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 22 Oct 19 - 11:25 AM

Welsh origins????? London's now in Wales?


>>There are elements of rape, incest and infidelity and murder in the novel<<

If these were actually in the ballad it would give it far greater qualification as a Child Ballad than it had.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Helen
Date: 22 Oct 19 - 03:06 PM

Thanks EBarnacle, I'll have to see if I can find a copy in the library or bookshop, although rape & incest are not my preferred topics to read about.

Just remember, Steve, the majority of readers of the novel would never have heard of The Three Ravens song, and probably don't care whether the story has any authenticity.

As a now-deceased musician friend of mine once told me when I was laughingly jazzing up a re-telling of an incident which sort-of happened to me, "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story".


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 22 Oct 19 - 05:32 PM

"Never let the truth get in the way of a good story". Amen to that!


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Lighter
Date: 22 Oct 19 - 07:11 PM

" . . . did not allow a want of facts to stand in the way of a good story." -- D. W. Green, "Moose - II: An Expedition into New Brunswick," _Forest and Stream_, 28 June 1902 , p. 509.

(With thanks to my friend Charles Doyle.)

Like so many others, the quote, in one version or another, is widely but incorrectly credited to Mark Twain.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Helen
Date: 22 Oct 19 - 07:55 PM

Well, Lighter, I'll just credit the version of the quote that I heard to the maker of my lever harp. Whichever way you say it, it's still funny. If the story is worthwhile, that is, and not just a big fat lie with evil intent.

Oh, shut up, Helen! Back to the topic.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 23 Oct 19 - 12:13 PM

Helen-

I like your interpretation, which is close to what my mother used to say about the song.

Someday we'll track down my mother's painting, which was originally purchased by our family doctor Virginia Hamilton of Bath, ME. This is one of the few paintings by her that we do not have a photo of, which makes the search more difficult.

Charlie Ipcar


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Helen
Date: 23 Oct 19 - 02:48 PM

Good luck finding the painting, Charley.

You might strike it lucky by doing an image search on Google.

I just tried it with this search term:

painting of "three ravens" song

Click the search button and then click the Images tab under the search box.

The double quotes around "three ravens" helps to narrow the search instead of lots of results relating to "three" or "ravens" individually.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 25 Oct 19 - 12:59 PM

Helen-

I wish it were that simple. Two other song illustration were auctioned on eBay in 2007 and we've been able to locate them and re-photograph them, "Barney Buntline/Sailors Consolation" and "Get Along Little Dogey."

Cheerily,
Charlie Ipcar


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Helen
Date: 25 Oct 19 - 03:37 PM

Oh well, Charley, it was worth a shot. You might strike it lucky.

I have been doing paintings in the last few years and I always take photos of them.


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 27 Oct 19 - 12:19 PM

We've done that over the years but I'm thinking this one slipped through the cracks. In general my mother's inventory of artwork over 90 years is 99% complete.

Charlie Ipcar


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Subject: RE: 3 Ravens (Ravenscroft) what's it about?
From: Helen
Date: 27 Oct 19 - 04:36 PM

Well, Charley, that's a good record of achievement.

Maybe you could take up painting yourself and recreate it from memory. That's a serious suggestion. I don't know what your artistic skills are but maybe you inherited some talent from your Mother.


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