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Origins: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow

DigiTrad:
DOWIE DENS OF YARROW
THE DOWIE DENS o' YARROW


Related threads:
Lyr Req: The Dreary Dream (John Jacob Niles) (8)
Lyr Req: The Heathery Hills of Yarrow (Child #214) (8)
Dowie Dens of Yarrow (35)
two verses in Dowie Dens O Yarrow (Janet Russell) (21)
Lyr Req: Green Banks of Yarrow (#214 - Davenport) (3)
Lyr Req: Dowie Dens of Yarrow parody (3)
Lyr Req: Dowie Dens o' Yarrow (Davey Stewart) (7)
Downie Dens of Yarrow (6)
The Braes of Yarrow (5)


In Mudcat MIDIs:
The Dewy Dens of Yarrow (A version of Child #214)


Puma N. 23 Mar 99 - 11:16 AM
23 Mar 99 - 01:08 PM
Puma N. 23 Mar 99 - 11:44 PM
Bruce O. 24 Mar 99 - 12:04 AM
Sandy Paton 24 Mar 99 - 01:38 AM
Sandy Paton 24 Mar 99 - 01:49 AM
Peg 20 Jan 00 - 05:04 PM
sophocleese 20 Jan 00 - 06:06 PM
Uncle_DaveO 20 Jan 00 - 06:09 PM
p.j. 20 Jan 00 - 07:45 PM
Margmac 20 Jan 00 - 09:11 PM
sophocleese 20 Jan 00 - 10:10 PM
Mary in Kentucky 20 Jan 00 - 10:57 PM
GUEST,ellen 20 Jan 00 - 11:14 PM
Malcolm Douglas 21 Jan 00 - 09:10 PM
Chet W. 22 Jan 00 - 01:34 AM
John Routledge 07 Jun 01 - 05:54 PM
InOBU 07 Jun 01 - 06:20 PM
GUEST,Ewan McVicar 08 Jun 01 - 06:48 PM
Snuffy 08 Jun 01 - 07:06 PM
Fiolar 09 Jun 01 - 07:28 AM
GUEST,shankmac 09 Jun 01 - 07:36 AM
Fiolar 09 Jun 01 - 08:05 AM
Malcolm Douglas 09 Jun 01 - 11:26 AM
CET 09 Jun 01 - 03:55 PM
GUEST,Ewan McVicar 09 Jun 01 - 04:46 PM
GUEST,Michele Welborn 09 Jun 01 - 06:33 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 09 Jun 01 - 08:44 PM
Peter T. 18 Mar 04 - 08:53 AM
Big Jim from Jackson 18 Mar 04 - 12:00 PM
GUEST,Van 18 Mar 04 - 03:04 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 18 Mar 04 - 04:36 PM
GUEST 19 Mar 04 - 05:22 AM
GUEST,Padmavyuha, visiting from Cambridge, UK 27 Jan 05 - 04:40 PM
Fidjit 28 Jan 05 - 04:04 AM
Uncle_DaveO 28 Jan 05 - 12:43 PM
GUEST 29 Jan 05 - 06:34 AM
GUEST,Ronan 05 Sep 08 - 05:08 AM
Jim Dixon 02 Dec 08 - 07:59 AM
GUEST,The hair question 06 Mar 09 - 04:11 AM
GUEST,Allan Connochie 12 Apr 09 - 03:48 PM
Richard Bridge 12 Apr 09 - 04:44 PM
Effsee 12 Apr 09 - 10:35 PM
GUEST,Marian M. 28 Jul 14 - 02:51 PM
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Subject: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: Puma N.
Date: 23 Mar 99 - 11:16 AM

Does anyone know the history or geography behind the song "The Dewy Dens of Yarrow"? I have it on a record of Max Hunter's of folksongs from the Ozarks, 1963, Folk-Legacy Records.


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Subject: RE: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From:
Date: 23 Mar 99 - 01:08 PM

Child #214. See Child and "Dowie Dens of Yarrow" in DT.


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE DEWY DENS OF YARROW (from Max Hunter)
From: Puma N.
Date: 23 Mar 99 - 11:44 PM

Thank you.

This is the version Max Hunter (jokingly referred to as Maxern Huntern by my family because of the 'n' added occasionally to words) sings. The story lines are somewhat different there is certainly a connection.

THE DEWY DENS OF YARROW

There were five sons and two were twins
There were five sons of Yarrow
They all did fightn for their own true loven
In the dewy dens of Yarrow

Oh mother dear I hadn a dream
A dream of grief and sorrow
I dreamed I was gathering heather blooms
In the dewy dens of Yarrow

Oh daughter dear I readn your dream
Your dream of grief and sorrow
Your love, your love is lying slain
In the dewy dens of Yarrow

She sought him up and she sought him down
She sought him all through Yarrow
And then she found him lying slain
In the dewy dens of Yarrow

She washed his face and she combed his hair
She combed it neat and narrow
And then she washed that bloody bloody wound
That he got in the Yarrow

Her hair it was three quarters long
The color it was yello
She wound it round his waist so small
And took him home from Yarrow

Oh Mother dear go maken my bedn
Go make it neat and narrow
My love my love he diedn for me
I'll die for him to-morrow

Oh daughter dear don't be so grieved
So grieved with grief and sorrow
I'll wedn you to a better one
Than you lost in the Yarrow

She dressed herself in clean white clothes
And away to the waters of Yarrow
And there she laid her own self down
And died on the banks of the Yarrow

The wine that runs through the water deepn
Comes from the sons of Yarrow
They all did fightn for their own true loven
In the dewy dens of Yarrow

^^


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Subject: RE: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: Bruce O.
Date: 24 Mar 99 - 12:04 AM

That's a very nice version. Any way you could get us the tune for it?


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Subject: RE: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 24 Mar 99 - 01:38 AM

Puma:

Max Hunter's version of 'The Dewy Dens of Yarrow" was learned from Herbert Philbrick, an old man who lived in Crocker, Missouri, in the summer of 1957. The text actually combines elements of two of the Child ballads: #214 ("The Braes o' Yarrow) and #215 ("Rare Willie Drowned in Yarrow"). Mary Celestia Parler, who wrote the notes that accompany Max's record, notes its textual similarity to the version Herbert Halpert collected from George Edwards in the Catskills, although the tune is quite different. I would urge you to read the extensive introductory note to #214 in Child's The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, which you can probably find in your library. If not, urge your librarian to order it through inter-library loan. Better still, look at the numerous versions with tunes that were gathered by Bertrand Bronson (42 versions of #214 and 9 of #215) and published in Volume 3 of The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads.

Child and Bronson demonstrate the historical and geographical range of the ballad(s) much more completely than we can offer here, but both seem to have originated in Scotland, with the earliest text of #215 showing up in Orpheus Caledonius (1733). Bronson also includes a fine version that Mary Parler overlooked (or had no access to) when she wrote the notes for my recording of Max Hunter, namely the fine version sung for Marjorie Porter in 1941 by Lily Delorme in Cadyville, New York. Helen Hartness Flanders included this one in her Vermont collections on the strength of its having been learned from Mrs. Delorme's father who had lived in Starksboro, Vermont. (br>
Max's version. by the way, is still available from Folk-Legacy on one of our "custom" cassettes, and comes with the accompanying booklet of notes and lyrics.

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Subject: RE: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 24 Mar 99 - 01:49 AM

Bruce:

Call me some afternoon and I'll either sing the bloody thing for you or play Max's cassette for you over the phone. I'm not computer- or music-literate enough to use the ABC thingies that you folks use. Maybe someday...

Sandy


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Subject: RE: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: Peg
Date: 20 Jan 00 - 05:04 PM

i am pretty sure i heard an awesome recording of this not long ago; i think it was on a CD of Welsh artists. Darned if I know the name. Anyone else know where a recording can be found???

peg


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Subject: RE: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: sophocleese
Date: 20 Jan 00 - 06:06 PM

Mad Pudding, a Canadian group recorded this on one of their albums. I haven't heard their rendition of it yet but I remember a friend raving about it last year. I learned a version years ago from the Book of Canadian Folk Songs collected by Edith Fowke.


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Subject: RE: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 20 Jan 00 - 06:09 PM

Peg said:

Ewan MacColl has a great 3-CD set on Smithsonian- Folkways, called English and Scottish Popular Ballads. Volume One is Folkways F-3509, and contains "The Dowie [sic] Dens of Yarrow." I don't know, but assume the other two CDs are consecutive numbers to that, and can't look at them at the moment to check.

Many years ago, in the early to middle 50s, Folkways had a set of LPs, with Ewan MacColl and (Andrew??) Lloyd singing 7 hours of unaccompanied Child Ballads, under the same title as this set. I borrowed it from a friend at the time, and salivated over it for a long, long time, but couldn't afford it. When I learned about two years ago that Smithsonian had absorbed Folkways and was going to issue CDs of the whole Folkways catalog I lept into the breach, only to find that for some reason they no longer have the whole 7-hour set, but had only McColl's portion. I ordered it immediately, and it's great.

Note that spelling: It's "Dowie" not "Dewy", and has nothing to do with moisture. It means "melancholy" or "sad".

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE DOWIE DENS O' YARROW
From: p.j.
Date: 20 Jan 00 - 07:45 PM

I can't believe this thread! I've been working on The Dowie Dens o' Yarrow for the past 3 days, ever since I fell in love with it on a Jean Redpath tape. Dave helped me puzzle through the accent to write down the words, since they weren't on the insert, but I had no idea it was a Child Ballad. ^^^
I was working on it this afternoon, I take a break and stop in to check the Mudcat, and here it is, being discussed!! I love this place. Okay, here's the Jean Redpath version I'm learning, followed by my questions...

There was a lady in the North
Ye could scarcely find her marrow
She was courted by 9 noble lords
And a plooman lad frae Yarrow

The 9 sat drinkin' at the wine
Sat drinkin' wine and yarrow
They made a vow among themselves
To fight for her on Yarrow

She's washed his face, she's combed his hair
As oft she'd done a-fore-o
She's made him like a noble lord
For to fight for her on Yarrow

As he gae doon the high, high hill
Doon to the home o' Yarrow
Twas there he spied 9 armed men
Come to fight wi' him on Yarrow

There's 3 he slew, and 3 withdrew
And 3 he's wounded sorely-o
Da brother John came in frae behind
And has wounded him most fowly-o

Oh Father dear, I dreamed a dream
I doubt it will bring sorrow
I dreamed I put the heather green
On the dowie dens o' Yarrow

So she get down the high, high hill
Doon to the homes o' Yarrow
And there she found her lover John
Lyin' pale and wan on Yarrow

Her hair it was three quarters long
The color it was yellow
She's wrapped it 'round his middle small
And she's bore him up frae Yarrow

Oh Father dear you've 7 sons
Ye never bought 'em marrow
For the fairest flower among them all
Was the lad I lood on Yarrow

I really love this song, and I'd like to understand the version I'm singing as much as I can. If somebody could help me out with these questions, I'd be grateful...

1. What does marrow mean in verses 1 and 9?
2. Does "plooman lad" in verse 1 mean a plow boy?
3. Is Yarrow a placename as well as an herb? (It seems you can drink it, fight on it, and it has a home...)
4. In the verse 5 "Da brother John" comes in from behind to wound our hero, but in verse 7 she calls him "her lover John" is John the murderer or the lover?
5. Dave says the Scottish useage "I doubt" can mean "I'm sure" as well. Can somebody help me understand that?
6. What is the reference to putting heather on the dens of Yarrow? Is that like putting flowers on a grave?
7. Why does she wrap her hair around his waist?
8. Does "lood" in verse 9 mean "loved"?

I want to hear this sung by a variety of people, so I'm anxious to get the tapes mentioned in this thread. Sandy, if I call you will you sing it for me too? :) If anyone gets the chance to hear the Jean Redpath one, it's quite lovely.

PJ


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE DEWY DELLS OF YARROW
From: Margmac
Date: 20 Jan 00 - 09:11 PM

A version collected by Helen Hartness Flanders appears on my CD Ballads Thrice Twisted, as follows

The Dewy Dells of Yarrow
Child 214 as sung by Belle Richards, of Colebrook NH 1941 for the Flanders collection

"O sister I can read your dream,
In mortal grief and sorrow
Your true love John he lies dead and gone
In the Dewy Dells of Yarrow

She wrung her hands and tore her hair
In mortal grief and sorrow
She tore a blue ribbon from off her hair
That she had received in Yarrow

Then up the hill and down the dale
And through the stream so narrow
It was there she found her true love John
Lying dead and gone in Yarrow

Her hair it was three quarters long
The color it was yellow
She tied it round his waist so small
And she bore him home from Yarrow

"Oh daughter dear" her father cried
"Why mourn in grief and sorrow?
I can wed you to a much nobler man
Than the one you loved in Yarrow"

"O father dear, you have seven sons
You can wed them all tomorrow
But the fairest flower that blooms in June
Is the one I loved in Yarrow"


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE DEWY DELLS OF YARROW
From: sophocleese
Date: 20 Jan 00 - 10:10 PM

This is the version in the Penguin Book of Canadian Folksongs selected and edited by Edith Fowke. Mostly similar, I like the repetition of the verse "She kissed his cheek..." before and after his death. The tune used is similar to the one in the DT called Yarrow2. I had always thought the use of the word marrow in the first verse simply meant that she was singular, in essentials, you could find no one else as good or beautiful or whatever. Now as to why she would wrap her hair around his waist, I don't know. Two images come to my mind but they may have no relevance. One is of somebody with long hair usually bound up or fastened in some way letting it down and weeping over a body. Another is of her cutting her hair off in mourning and burying it with him. Hair seems to be somewhat important as a sign of intimacy, combing it and wrapping with it. Neat questions PJ I hope someone can come up with some decent answers for you and me.

There lived a lady in the north. You could scarcely find her marrow.
She was courted by nine noble men on the dewy dells of Yarrow.

Her father had a bonny ploughboy and she did love him dearly.
She dressed him up like a noble lord for to fight for her on Yarrow.

She kissed his cheek. She kamed his hair as oft she'd done before-o.
She gilted him with right good sword for to fight for her on Yarrow.

As he climbed up yon high hill and they came down the other,
There he spied nine noblemen on the dewy dells of Yarrow.

"Did you come here for to drink red wine or did you come here to borrow?
Or did you come here with a single sword for to fight for her on Yarrow?"

"I came not here for to drink red wine and I came not here to borrow,
But I came here with a single sword for to fight for her on Yarrow."

"There are nine of you and one of me and that's but an even number;
But it's man to man I'll fight you all and die for her on Yarrow."

Three he drew and three he slew and two lie deadly wounded,
When a stubborn knight crept up behind and pierced him with his arrow.

"Go home, go home, my false young man, and tell your sister Sarah
Her true lover John lies dead and gone on the dewy dells of Yarrow."

As he gaed down yon high hill and she came down the other,
It's then he met his sister dear a-coming fast to Yarrow.

"O brother dear, I had a dream last night." "I can read it into sorrow.
Your true lover John lies dead and gone on the dewy dells of Yarrow."

This maiden's hair was three quarters long. The colour of it was yellow.
She tied it round his middle side and carried him home to Yarrow.

She kissed his cheeks. She kamed his hair as oft she'd done before-o.
Her true lover john lies dead and gone and she carried him home from Yarrow.

"O father dear, you have seven sons. You can wed them all tomorrow,
For the fairest flower amongst them all is the one that died on Yarrow.

"O mother dear, make me my bed and make it long and narrow,
For the one that died for me today, I shall die for him tomorrow."


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Subject: RE: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 20 Jan 00 - 10:57 PM

There is a nice link to Robert Burns Vocabulary that Margo contributed to another thread here. This link has been very helpful for me in understanding some of the words in Scottish tunes. I quickly saw that lo'ed means loved. Here's the link. click here

...and thanks again, Margo.

Also, Lesley Nelson has some great info on Child #214, Rare Willie (one of my favorites) at her site. There are also links to maps and the Yarrow River, etc.

Mary


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Subject: RE: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: GUEST,ellen
Date: 20 Jan 00 - 11:14 PM

You can often find old words in an unabridged dictionary, especially an older one. I have one from the 1930's which I bought for $1 at a library sale. (They should have kept it.)

"Marrow" means match or equal. It rhymes with arrow.

A plooman would indeed be a plowman. I was at a Scottish concert recently and heard this very pronunciation. Of course, this means that the lover was a peasant, which is why the nine men killed him.

I'm sure "looed" is "loved." "Looved" is a more common variation.

I think the reference to "her lover John" is a silly booboo. This kind of thing should be avoided. The songs are all clear that John was her brother. Keep in mind that from the days of King John (a horrible man) the name John has never been used for an English king. I think that the reference to her brother John, who stabs the poor guy in the back, is an echo of this.

"I doubt" can mean "I fear," rather than the modern "I don't believe." I don't think it ever means "I'm sure."

Yarrow is the place that the plowman is from. The dens are ravines, and they are sad and dull, or "dowie." Just the sort of unproductive land that a conquered people (now the peasants) are likely to be left with. I like to think that it is on the dark, north side of a rugged Scottish mountain.

When I sing this song, I like to stop after the father's speech about the lover's death. The other verses add hardly anything to the story. This is perfectly legal.


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Subject: RE: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 21 Jan 00 - 09:10 PM

Further to Ellen's comment:  "doubt" = "to apprehend or expect with a measure of certainty; to suspect; to have an unpleasant conviction."  It does not mean "doubt" in the modern sense, of course.

Malcolm


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Subject: RE: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: Chet W.
Date: 22 Jan 00 - 01:34 AM

There's a lovely album from the 70's called "Celtic Folkweave", don't know if it's been released on CD, with Michal O'Dhomnaill and others, that has this song with slightly different words and a fine set of guitar chords. Well worth seeking out.

Chet


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Subject: RE: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: John Routledge
Date: 07 Jun 01 - 05:54 PM

I am revising the way that I sing this song and found this thread very informative.

p.j. your words are exactly as my version except I sing brother as suggested by Ellen.

Thanks Ellen for fleshing out the ravines etc. I always thought that the place was pretty miserable. John


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Subject: RE: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: InOBU
Date: 07 Jun 01 - 06:20 PM

PEG!!! That was Ralph you heard recently singing it! Just got a call from the old halfwit. He is in tears that you forgot it was his version you heard. Welsh in deed! Scott and Native American!!! Peg, really old girl!
All the best
Larry


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Subject: RE: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: GUEST,Ewan McVicar
Date: 08 Jun 01 - 06:48 PM

In a month or three there will be three more releases on Rounder Records in the Portrait series of the Alan Lomax Collection. These will be of North-East Scotland singers Jimmy MacBeath, Davie Stewart and John Strachan, al recorded in the 1950s. Among several very fine versions of ballads, both Jimmy and Davie sing great versions of the Dowie Dens.


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Subject: RE: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: Snuffy
Date: 08 Jun 01 - 07:06 PM

I always thought "doubt" meant a cigarette butt in Scots! ***BG***


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Subject: RE: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: Fiolar
Date: 09 Jun 01 - 07:28 AM

According to James Orchard Halliwell's "Dictionary of Archaic Words" first published in 1850, the word "marrow" means (and I quote)(1) A companion, or friend; a mate or lover. See Ben Jonson, vii, 406. 'Pore husbondes that had no marrowes.' A marrow in Yorkshire is a fellow or companion. Any one who recalls that great televison series "When the Boat Comes In" (title sung sung by the late Alex Glasgow) will recall the use of the word "marra" to mean "mate or friend."


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Subject: RE: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: GUEST,shankmac
Date: 09 Jun 01 - 07:36 AM

There are various versions of this ballad and is one of the best known Scottish Border Ballads. I have not come across the exact version from p.j. but in answer to her questions:-
Marrow can mean- match, mate(husband or wife), an equal in rank or stature or battle.
Yarrow is a valley, a river and a small community in the Scottish Border Hills (Southern Scotland) which is still predominantly an area of hill sheep farming.
Doubt used in this setting means that "I am sorry but I think it will" bring you sorrow. It is showing regret but resignation to an event.
I can not make real sense of the last verse and Da in the fifth verse is not in the Scottish vocabulary.
Somre of the versions use noblemen instead of brothers, some say he was thrown into the yarrow river after he was killed and she used her long hair to pull him out, some say he killed 3 brothers, and wounded three others before he was killed by one who sneeked up behind him. the song continues that she blamed her father for not wanting her to marry the ploughmanand died of a broken heart. This is not the case as it has been shown that she got over the episode and married someone else. Your version seems to be an amalgumation of other versions.


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Subject: RE: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: Fiolar
Date: 09 Jun 01 - 08:05 AM

"Da" is more than likely "the." Many of the tunes from Shetland, for example, start off with "Da" eg "Da ship in full sail"; "Da smoky lum." I wonder if "middle small" might refer to fingers?. If the lady did not have a ring, she might have cut some of the her hair and made one that way. "You never bought them marrow" is probably telling the father that he had never got wives for the sons.


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Subject: RE: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 09 Jun 01 - 11:26 AM

The trouble with reviving an old thread is that people immediately start re-answering all the questions.  Before we get too tangled up in it again, I'd better say what I should have said last year, when p.j. made her enquiry: some of the problematic readings above are due to mis-hearings of what Jean Redpath actually sang.  There is a transcription of her text in the DT, which was already there at the time:

DOWIE DENS OF YARROW  It appears to be more accurate than the one in this thread, having presumably been taken from the sleevenotes of Song of the Seals.  Two tunes are given; assuming that the first is the one she used, the second is unattributed.

Reference to this shows that I dreamed I put the heather green should be I dreamed I pu'ed (i.e. "pulled") the heather green.  Ye never bought 'em marrow is given as Ye may wed them all tomorrow, and Da brother John as Till her brither John.  I don't have the recording, so can't say if these are right or not; they certainly agree with traditional versions of the song.

"Middle", as in middle small, always refers to the waist.

Also in the DT:

DEWY DENS OF YARROW  Text from Max Hunter, as given earlier in this thread.  No tune (but see below).
THE DOWIE DENS o' YARROW  Set originally from John Potts, Peebleshire, 1907 (via Bronson).  Two tunes given, apparantly no indication as to which is Potts'; unless they both are.

In the Forum:

The Braes of Yarrow  Text of Child's version D; text from Alison McMorland (her source is not named).

Downie Dens of Yarrow  Discussion about how long the heroine's hair might have been; some useful contributions and one or two rather silly ones.

There is an entry at the  Traditional Ballad Index:

Dowie Dens o Yarrow, The [Child 214]

At  The Max Hunter Folk Song Collection:

Dewey Dens of Yarrow  As sung by Mr. Max Hunter, Springfield, Missouri on June 21, 1958.  With tune.  This is the one given earlier in this thread, before the collection went online.

The Derry Dems of Arrow  As sung by Mrs. Lola Stanley in Fayettville, Arkansas on December 30, 1958.  With tune.

Child #215, Rare Willie Drowned in Yarrow, contains some of the same material, though the story is different.  There have been various attempts to trace the song to various historical incidents, but any such link is, unless things have changed recently, unproven.

Malcolm


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Subject: RE: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: CET
Date: 09 Jun 01 - 03:55 PM

Anybody looking for the definitive version of The Dowie Dens of Yarrow should get Fyre & Sword: Songs of the Border Reivers, available through the Mudcat Record Shop. Janet Russell has a powerful, clear voice that is absolutely spine chilling on this song. The rest of the album is great too - one of the best traditional albums I've ever bought.

Edmund


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Subject: RE: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: GUEST,Ewan McVicar
Date: 09 Jun 01 - 04:46 PM

Anyone who can identify any one reading as the 'definitive'one of such a ballad must have listened to over 100 recordings, and read a couple of dozen books on ballads, minimum, before being able to make any such assessment. Even then I misdoubt me that Janet does a better job than two or three other singers I could name. And I write as a major fan of Janet Russell, who did me a major favour by recording beautifully and popularising a song of mine.


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Subject: RE: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: GUEST,Michele Welborn
Date: 09 Jun 01 - 06:33 PM

I've put The Dowie Dens of Yarrow on my album "Tongue and Groove", and if p.j. is still looking for a version, she can contact me at mjwelborn@waitrose.com I'd really like to share my version!


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Subject: RE: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 09 Jun 01 - 08:44 PM

I have seen the word "definitive" used in several threads. Translates to: "This is the rendition I like." No more, no less.


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Subject: RE: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: Peter T.
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 08:53 AM

Dave Stewart does this on a Rounder album (of the Alan Lomax collection) -- a complete version on an album of him alone, and an edited version as part of the Ballads series mentioned above.

yours,

Peter T.


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Subject: RE: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: Big Jim from Jackson
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 12:00 PM

Vera Aspey (of the duo, Gary and Vera Aspey) has a very nicely sung version of this song. I don't remember if it is from her solo album or one of the duo's. The Aspeys seem greatly under appreciated as performers in the USA---I hope that they are held in high esteem in their own country. I play them often on my radio show. The album 'Yarrow appears on would be worth anyone's while in obtaining. Gary and Vera have a web site that can be turned up in a quick search.


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Subject: RE: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: GUEST,Van
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 03:04 PM

Yarrow a "Water" bigger than a burn - smaller than a river. Den - valley certainly not a ravine. A few miles outside Selkirk in the Scottish borders (nowhere near Missouri). Occassionally stayed with a cousin who lived there and fished in it. Is a ballad more or less of a ballad if it is a "Child ballad" rather than a Scott ballad or a Burns ballad etc. from their collections obviously - not what they wrote - what they collected.


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Subject: RE: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 04:36 PM

Carolyn Hester recorded " The Dowie Dens of Yarrow" on her famous Columbia album ( 1962? ); the one where Dylan played harmonica - but not on the "Yarrow" track. Hester's influence in Britain in the mid-sixties was quite substantial. In the folk club I regularly visited back then, at least half a dozen songs from the afore mentioned album by Carolyn where part of the club's basic repetoire - and bet that situation was repeated nationally.


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Subject: RE: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Mar 04 - 05:22 AM

Yarrow is situated on road A708 about 6 miles W of Selkirk, Scotland. The road follows the line of the river, the Yarrow Water. The dells are indeed both Dewie and Dowie. Yarrow Feus and Yarrowford lie on the same road and river. It is in a very wonderful part of Scotland hard by the Ettrick Forest,of Ettrick Shepherd fame, Why not visit now
and also for those that are up for it, visit nearby Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott, the 19th C poet and author. Yarrow itself is a tiny little place.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: GUEST,Padmavyuha, visiting from Cambridge, UK
Date: 27 Jan 05 - 04:40 PM

Hello there

The Bothy Band (Trionna herself) recorded a version of this song (live on After Hours). The one I'm really interested in, though, is the one on Celtic Folkweave, an LP I had back in the day but gave as a present to someone who didn't appreciate it... sigh... does anyone have it who'd be willing to tape it for me? If ye do, let me know on padmavyuha@yoxi.net and I'd be most grateful!

- Padmavyuha


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: Fidjit
Date: 28 Jan 05 - 04:04 AM

I have "Barry Skinner" -now what ever happened to him? - singing 'Yarrow', on his, BED, BATTLE and BOOZE LP.
Argo Stereo ZFB 34, Decca recording co.

-


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 28 Jan 05 - 12:43 PM

Reading through the thread, I don't think anyone has dealt with the meaning of what was printed above as "the homes of Yarrow", which makes no particular sense, if one means a familial dwelling.

McColl sings (phonetically) "hums of Yarrow". Looking in my unabridged, I find the following, which I believe is the same word:

holm n. Brit. Dial.
1. a low, flat tract of land beside a river or stream
2. a small island, esp. one in a river or lake

I take it that "hums" is "holms", in the first meaning given.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Jan 05 - 06:34 AM

I have a version of this song by Carolyn Hester ("Dinks Song" on this album is a classic) and on one by Shelagh Macdonald (what happened to her?). Glad to see that someone has pinpointed the location of "Yarrow".

I always thought it was "Dowie", not "Dewey". "Dowey" which is a surname I associate with Northern Ireland, is perhaps connected with "Dowie" and I think can also be spelled Dowie"; interested to know that it may mean "melancholy". Mind you names can be misleading!

I remember the series "When the Boat Comes In" and the expression used "Me marra (or marrow)" which I took to mean best mate, though it could I am sure be used to mean spouse, etc. This was however set not in Yorkshire but in North-east England, though perhaps the expression is used throughout the North of England including Yorkshire.

Ewan Maccoll presumably sung the song with A.L. ("Bert", perhaps from "Albert"), not Andrew, Lloyd on the Folkways album of unaccompanied Child Ballads.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: GUEST,Ronan
Date: 05 Sep 08 - 05:08 AM

Mick Hanley's album:   
As I Went Over Blackwater, on Green Linnet SIF 3007, LP (1981.)
back when he sang irish and british ballads before he started Rusty old halo, has an excellent version of this "Dewey dens of Yarrow" song. Well worth a listen.


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE DOWIE DENS OF YARROW (from W Scott)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 07:59 AM

From Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, Vol. III., by Walter Scott (Edinburgh: Printed by J. Ballantyne for Longman and Rees, and sold by Manners and Miller, 1803):

THIS ballad, which is a very great favourite among the
inhabitants of Ettrick Forest, is universally believed to
be founded in fact, and is therefore placed among the
historical pieces. The editor found it easy to collect a
variety of copies; but very difficult, indeed, to select
from them such a collated edition, as may, in any degree,
suit the taste of "these more light and giddy-paced
times."

Tradition places the event, recorded in the song, very
early; and it is probable that the ballad was composed
soon afterwards, although the language has been gradually
modernized, in the course of its transmission to
us, through the inaccurate channel of oral tradition.
The bard does not relate particulars, but barely the striking
outlines of a fact, apparently so well known, when
he wrote, as to render minute detail as unnecessary, as it
is always tedious and unpoetical.

The hero of the ballad was a knight, of great bravery,
called Scott, who is said to have resided at Kirkhope, or
Oakwood castle, and is, in tradition, termed the baron
of Oakwood. The estate of Kirkhope belonged anciently
to the Scotts of Harden: Oakwood is still their property,
and has been so from time immemorial. The hero of the
ballad was therefore, probably, of this family, and may,
perhaps, be identified with John Scott, sixth son of the
laird of Harden, murdered in Ettrick Forest by his kinsmen,
the Scotts of Gilmanscleuch (see notes to Jamie Telfer,
vol. 1. p. 110), This appears the more probable, as
the common people always affirm, that this young man
was treacherously slain, and that, in evidence thereof,
his body remained uncorrupted for many years; so that
even the roses on his shoes seemed as fresh, as when he
was first laid in the family vault at Hassendean.

Tradition affirms, that the hero of the song (be he who
he may) was murdered by the brother, either of his wife,
or betrothed bride. The alledged cause of malice was,
the lady's father having proposed to endow her with half
of his property, upon her marriage with a warrior of
such renown. The name of the murderer is said to have
been Annan, and the place of combat is still called Annan's
Treat. It is a low moor, on the banks of the Yarrow,
lying to the west of Yarrow kirk. Two tall unhewn
masses of stone are erected, about eighty yards distant
from each other; and the least child, that can herd a
cow, will tell the passenger, that there lie "the two lords,
who were slain in single combat."

It will be, with many readers, the greatest recommendation
of these verses, that they are supposed to have suggested
to Mr Hamilton, of Bangour, the modern ballad,
beginning,
    "Busk ye, busk ye, my bonny bonny bride."
A fragment, apparently regarding the story of the following
ballad, but in a different measure, occurs in Mr
Herd's MSS., and runs thus:
    "When I look east my heart is sair,
    But when I look west its mair and mair;
    For then I see the braes o' Yarrow,
    And there, for aye, I lost my marrow."


THE DOWIE DENS OF YARROW.

LATE at e'en, drinking the wine,
And ere they paid the lawing,
They set a combat them between,
To fight it in the dawing.

"O stay at hame, my noble lord!
O stay at hame, my marrow!
My cruel brother will you betray,
On the dowie houms of Yarrow."

"O fare ye weel, my ladye gaye!
O fare ye weel, my Sarah!
For I maun gae, though I ne'er return,
Frae the dowie banks o' Yarrow.

She kissed his cheek, she kaimed his hair,
As oft she had done before O;
She belted him with his noble brand,
And he's awa' to Yarrow.

As he gaed up the Tennies bank,
I wot he gaed wi' sorrow,
Till, down in a den, he spied nine arm'd men,
On the dowie houms of Yarrow.

"O come ye here to part your land,
The bonnie forest thorough?
Or come ye here to wield your brand,
On the dowie houms of Yarrow?

"I come not here to part my land,
And neither to beg nor borrow;
I come to wield my noble brand,
On the bonny banks of Yarrow.

"If I see all, ye're nine to ane;
And that's an unequal marrow;
Yet will I fight, while lasts my brand,
On the bonny banks of Yarrow."

Four has he hurt, and five has slain,
On the bloody braes of Yarrow,
Till that stubborn knight came him behind,
And ran his bodie thorough.

"Gae hame, gae hame, good-brother* John,
And tell your sister Sarah,
To come and lift her leafu' lord!
He's sleepin sound on Yarrow."

"Yestreen I dream'd a dolefu' dream;
I fear there will be sorrow!
I dream'd, I pu'd the heather green,
Wi' my true love, on Yarrow.

"O gentle wind, that bloweth south,
From where my love repaireth,
Convey a kiss from his dear mouth,
And tell me how he fareth!

"But in the glen, strive armed men;
They've wrought me dole and sorrow;
They've slain?the comeliest knight they've slain?
He bleeding lies on Yarrow."

As she sped down yon high, high hill,
She gaed wi' dole and sorrow,
And in the den spyed ten slain men,
On the dowie banks of Yarrow.

She kiss'd his cheek, she kaim'd his hair,
She search'd his wounds all thorough;
She kiss'd them, till her lips grew red,
On the dowie houms of Yarrow.

"Now, haud your tongue, my daughter dear!
For a' this breeds but sorrow;
I'll wed ye to a better lord,
Than him ye lost on Yarrow."

"O haud your tongue, my father dear!
Ye mind me but of sorrow;
A fairer rose did never bloom
Than now lies cropp'd on Yarrow."


*Good-brother?Beau-frere, Brother-in-law.


NOTE ON THE DOWIE DENS OF YARROW.

There are many additional verses of the song; but it is much for
the credit of the bard to conclude as in the text. The double
rhyme to Yarrow, the recurrence of which he had imposed on himself,
fettered his genius terribly, notwithstanding his good fortune
in having a heroine, so conveniently named Sarah. But, for the information
of the reader of sensibility, who may interest himself in
the lady's fate, I insert the last stanza, as it occurs in most copies:
    That lady, being big with child.
    And full of consternation,
    She swooned in her father's arms,
    Amidst that stubborn nation.
Nation, I presume, is here used in the limited sense of her father's
attendants; for it would appear that brother John, and his
retinue, had all perished in the battle, or died of their wounds.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: GUEST,The hair question
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 04:11 AM

My aunt has hair three quarters long. That means that it is long enough to come to the knees or maybe just past, 3/4 of her height. She wears it in a braid most of the time. Her braid is a thick as my wrist on the source end tapering down to a bout an inch in diameter at the end.

Most of you fortunately have never had to move a large dead body. I raise sheep and have had to wrestle some dead ones occasionally that weighed 3/4 of my own weight. "Scarcely find her marrow" is to how light boned the girl is. I had a roommate in college that this always makes me think of. She was my height (5'4") but while the diameter of my wrist is 8.5" hers was about 6 inches. She had a very elfin appearance and only weighed 90 pounds.

I believe that the reference to wrapping the hair around his middle refers to the method that she employed to carry the body away. She has used her braided hair as a rope to stablise the load of his body so she can walk away with it. She may not have even cut the hair to do this but left it attached. Look up a system of packing called tump lines that was used by early American Indians and Eskimos (and probably lots of other early people).


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: GUEST,Allan Connochie
Date: 12 Apr 09 - 03:48 PM

Dowie here has nothing to do with the surname. Dowie is simply a Scots word meaning dismal or dull. A den (or dean) is a narrow wooded valley. Hence if the phrase is read literally it means "dismal valleys of Yarrow" Dismal in this context meaning sad.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 12 Apr 09 - 04:44 PM

Re-reading this, how I miss Malcolm Dougas!


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: Effsee
Date: 12 Apr 09 - 10:35 PM

Oh yes Richard...especially Guest "The hair question"... "lightly boned"...quite literally LOL! Sheesh!


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Dewy Dens of Yarrow
From: GUEST,Marian M.
Date: 28 Jul 14 - 02:51 PM

Hi there! In case anyone is still looking for the Celtic Folkweave version of this song (called "The Heathery Hills of Yarrow"), I just posted the lyrics over on this thread. Mick Hanly and Mícheál Ó Domhnaill definitely make the story easier to follow than the version later recorded by the Bothy Band on After Hours!


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