To Thread - Forum Home

The Mudcat Café TM
https://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=169426
25 messages

ballad - she pushes him into the river

23 Feb 21 - 09:57 PM (#4094543)
Subject: ballad - she pushes him into the river
From: leeneia

A friend of mine has the following request for a radio show.
=========
The song I'm looking for is a turnabout song. It's a version of Pretty Polly/Knoxville Girl (although I think the title's different) where the guy announces he's going to murder the girl; she asks him to turn around so as to not to see her get undressed; and then she pushes him into the river.
================
My friend has a recording of this somewhere in her vast collection, so that means it's fairly recent. I have sent an e-mail asking if the singer was American or British. I'll post that info here.

Meanwhile, any ideas?


23 Feb 21 - 10:16 PM (#4094547)
Subject: RE: ballad - she pushes him into the river
From: RTim

The Outlandish Knight....Child Ballad 4

Example verses....

He's got the sickle to crop off the thistle
That grows beneath the brim,
She's caught him round by his middle so small,
Tumbled him into the stream.

Sometimes he sank, sometimes he swam,
Down to the bank came he.
“Oh help me, oh help me, my pretty fair maid,
Or drowned I shall be”


23 Feb 21 - 10:33 PM (#4094550)
Subject: RE: ballad - she pushes him into the river
From: Felipa

other titles for the same story include False Lover John and The False Knight upon the Road
One relevant Mudcat thread is https://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=79005#1431853


23 Feb 21 - 11:30 PM (#4094554)
Subject: RE: ballad - she pushes him into the river
From: The Sandman

the false knight upon the road is about a child encountering the devil and having to ask questions


24 Feb 21 - 02:51 AM (#4094564)
Subject: RE: ballad - she pushes him into the river
From: Allan Conn

Sounds a similar story to the "Tigery Orum" "Marrowbones" songs. Here are The Corries singing "Toon O' Kelso" which I take it is based on these? Good views of my home town Kelso in this one as they are sitting on the Town House in Kelso Square. This morning would be a good day to push your wife into The Tweed after last night's rains ;-)      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQ6kjxjkRIo


24 Feb 21 - 08:38 AM (#4094582)
Subject: RE: ballad - she pushes him into the river
From: GUEST,#

leeneia, please see The Outlandish Knight which seems to fit the parameters in your post.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_Isabel_and_the_Elf_Knight

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_Isabel_and_the_Elf_Knight


24 Feb 21 - 08:48 AM (#4094584)
Subject: RE: ballad - she pushes him into the river
From: GUEST,#

Sorry, Tim, I missed your post.


24 Feb 21 - 09:49 AM (#4094594)
Subject: RE: ballad - she pushes him into the river
From: Jeri

There's an American variant. The woman pushes him in, and he tells her to go fetch a pole to pull him out. She gets the pole, and pushes him back in again.

I used to know most of the song. I think I transcribed it some years ago from a recording by Tom Hall (curmudgeon) for a website. Bat Goddess may know what I'm talking about.


24 Feb 21 - 11:07 AM (#4094601)
Subject: RE: ballad - she pushes him into the river
From: Felipa

Sandman - if you look at the thread I gave a link to, the False Knight discussed there is one who promises to marry a woman, who then goes off with him, only to find that his intention is to rob her and kill her.
selected segment(from memory; I sing this one):

I'll take off my silken gown if you turn your back on me
For I do think it a very great wrong a naked woman to view

He turned around, his back to her, and faced yon willow tree
with all of the strength that this poor maiden had
She pushed him into the sea

And as he rose, and as he sank
and as he rose, cried he
give me your hand my pretty pretty Polly
My bride forever you'll bee

Lie there lie there, you false young man
Lie there instead of me
It's six pretty maids you have drownd-ed here
go keep them all good company

-----
it does strain my credulity that the dastardly character would have been genteel when asked to respect the woman's modesty!


24 Feb 21 - 11:13 AM (#4094602)
Subject: RE: ballad - she pushes him into the river
From: Felipa

Allan Conn, I would say the Marrowbones song is very different even though it involves a woman attempting to push a man into the sea. That woman wants rid of her husband and somehow feeding him marrowbones makes him blind. But he outwits her attempt to drown him.
Eggs and eggs and marrowbones may make your old man blind
But if you want to drown him, you must creep up close behind.

There are several different songs about intentional drownings, for instance Child 10 in which one woman (often a sister) drowns another because of jealousy.


24 Feb 21 - 02:12 PM (#4094627)
Subject: RE: ballad - she pushes him into the river
From: Steve Gardham

Absolutely very different songs. Marrowbones is a comic song, whereas 'The Outlandish Knight'/'May Colvin' is a widespread old Child Ballad with equivalents all over Europe.

Dick's objection to the title 'The False Knight upon the Road' is also valid as this is a fairly scarce Child Ballad No3 which contains no drownings or mentions of stretches of water. There are lots of ballads that have versions with the title The False Knight' but only the one with the specific title 'The False Knight upon the Road.'


24 Feb 21 - 02:32 PM (#4094633)
Subject: RE: ballad - she pushes him into the river
From: leeneia

Thanks, everyone. I've given my friend a link to the Wikipedia page about the Outlandish Knight/Lady Isabel, and I hope that the info there will lead to the elusive recording she is thinking of.

Over and out.


24 Feb 21 - 03:48 PM (#4094656)
Subject: RE: ballad - she pushes him into the river
From: Felipa

Steve Gardham, my point was that the False Knight Upon the Road is what Pete Seeger called his version of the Outlandish Knight, and presumably source did as well; and that there are several names for versions of the Outlandish Knight. It is certainly true that using the same title as that of a very different ballad - Child #3 - causes confusion. It's hardly the only time though that different songs are found to share the same or similar titles.

It woould be an idea to rewrite Pretty Polly, in which the wronged woman is killed, to give her a victorious ending. Omie Wise also has a similar motif to Pretty Polly.


24 Feb 21 - 04:25 PM (#4094663)
Subject: RE: ballad - she pushes him into the river
From: Felipa

Leenia, did you find out the nationality of the singer of the particular recording in question?
There are so many versions of this song, and so many titles, and so many Mudcat threads (in clickable blue at the top of this discussion thread).
Here's another http://bluegrassmessengers.com/lady-ishbel-and-her-parrot--melton-nc-1934.aspx:

LADY ISHBEL AND HER PARROT - Melton (NC) 1934

From Niles, The Ballad Book as "Lady Ishbel and her Parrot." This was also published in 1938 (Bronson 96) under the title, "Lady Ishbel and the Elfin-Knight." Since there is no Lady Isabel (just Ishbel) in the lyrics, the title (and most likely the text) must have been supplied by Niles. No other US collector has found that title or any name relating to Isabel and it appears only in Child A. Why Niles changed the title from Isabel to Ishbel is unknown- haha. Must be the folk pronunciation!! [women are sometimes called Ishbel in Scotland - and looking for the title Lady Ishbel, I found a real-life Ishbel, Lady Aberdeen and a Lady Isbel Avenue in Belfast, Northern Ireland - my note, Felipa]

The opening stanza is standard, but soon Nilisms creep in, showing that this is likely a ballad recreation (see Wilgus, who has documented that Niles re-worked traditional material). The melody was also used by Niles from another of his ballads, Lulle-Lullay (Ten Christmas Carols- 1935).

R. Matteson 2011, 2014

LADY ISHBEL AND HER PARROT - Hattie Melton (Asheville, NC) 1934; Collected John Jacob Niles.

He followed her up and he followed her down,
He followed her as she lay.
And she not having the strength to withstand,
Or the breath to say him nay.

"Go fetch me a sack of the old lord's gold,
And most of your mama's fee,
And a pited hoss and an iron-gray,
From your stable of thirty-and-three."

If Ishbel did ride at the villian's side,
With the gold and her mama's fee,
She was ridin' far off to the broad seaside,
Where married she would be.

"Get down, get down, my right pretty miss,
Your hour has come, I see,
For here I've drownded nine young ladies gay,
And you the tenth one will be.

"Pull off, pull off that shiny silk gown,
And them right pretty rings you own,
For women's clothes cost too much gold
To rest in the salt sea foam."

"It's turn, oh turn, oh turn your head,
And look at yon green-growin' tree,
For if I doff my shiny silk gown,
A naked lady You'll see."

He turned his face around about,
To look at that green-growin' tree,
And she grabbed him round the middle so small,
And she flicked him into the sea.

"Lay there, false villian, lay cold and dead,
Lay there in room of me,
For it's nine gay ladies you've drownded here,
But the tenth one drownded ye."

Her pited hoss tuck her right quickly home,
She led the iron-gray,
And when she entered her father's hall,
The sky was breakin' day.

"Speak none of my pranks, my right pretty Poll,
Else I'll make you out a liar.
But if you be wise, your cage shall be made
Of pretty golden wire."
-------------------------------------
I'm interested to see on another page about the ballad that Halewijn is a version of this song. I have an lp of Flemish songs which includes the song Halewijn (I haven't listened to any of my lps for ages though). There are versions in which Ishbel or Polly or whoever takes out a knife instead of pushing her would-be murderer into the sea.


24 Feb 21 - 04:38 PM (#4094668)
Subject: RE: ballad - she pushes him into the river
From: Steve Gardham

Perhaps Pete didn't compile the album himself. But whoever did, it's a mistake that shouldn't be perpetrated to cause further confusion. It's already confused by the addition of material from another ballad to several versions including Pete's. There are as you say lots of titles for Child 4 but no traditional version uses the Child 3 title.
The concensus of opinion on the other thread was that Pete took his version from a Nova Scotia version collected by Flanders and that version only has the generic Child title.

BTW there at least 10 different ballads with the title 'Pretty Polly';-)


24 Feb 21 - 06:02 PM (#4094686)
Subject: RE: ballad - she pushes him into the river
From: The Sandman

Thankyou Steve.
I did look at the thread The being sought song is absolutely nothing to do with The False Knight Upon the Road.Ihave great admiration F


24 Feb 21 - 06:33 PM (#4094697)
Subject: RE: ballad - she pushes him into the river
From: leeneia

Felipa, my friend thought it over and decided that they have both British and American versions of the song in their collection, so the question is moot. But the information about the Outlandish Knight and Lady Isabel is enough to solve her problem.

By the way, it occurs to me that The False Knight upon the Road is a useless title, because knights spent almost all of their time wandering, and having one on a road is no big deal.


24 Feb 21 - 06:44 PM (#4094699)
Subject: RE: ballad - she pushes him into the river
From: Jack Campin

Marrowbones is probably just as old and widespread as The Outlandish Knight. I posted here about finding the story in the Panchatantra. The fact that it's comic doesn't mean it's recent.


24 Feb 21 - 08:57 PM (#4094716)
Subject: RE: ballad - she pushes him into the river
From: RTim

Of course the alternative to Marrowbones is the song - Johnny Sands and Betty Haig.....nearly the same plot!!

Tim Radford


25 Feb 21 - 02:40 AM (#4094747)
Subject: RE: ballad - she pushes him into the river
From: The Sandman

The False Knight upon the Road is in fact an apt title, that is if you underastand what the song is about, anyway like it or not ,that is the title and it is important to try and avoid confusion between songs


25 Feb 21 - 10:03 AM (#4094789)
Subject: RE: ballad - she pushes him into the river
From: Steve Gardham

JS&BH a Music Hall rewrite by John Sinclair in the 1840s. I have the original sheet music. It's a brief song obviously based on 'Marrowbones', but without the Marrowbones and the blindness. Tied hands is the joke rather than blindness.

Motherwell's (hence Child's) title for 3 was 'The Fause Knight on the Road' and these 2 fragmentary versions were all that were known to Child though he referred to continental versions. Other versions have come to light since and usually use 'The False Knight on the Road' title though it's possible these later versions derive from Child.


25 Feb 21 - 10:47 AM (#4094801)
Subject: RE: ballad - she pushes him into the river
From: GUEST,#

Possibly/probably pertinent to this discussion:

https://www.jstor.org/stable/540366?seq=1


25 Feb 21 - 03:03 PM (#4094838)
Subject: RE: ballad - she pushes him into the river
From: Steve Gardham

Interesting. I'm not a member of Jstor so I can't access the rest of the article in JAFL. I don't agree with Coffin. Child 1 and Child 2 certainly have early versions that perhaps were not available to Coffin. Yes, 3 doesn't appear until the 19th century and could easily be one of the many Child ballads concocted by the editors at that time.


25 Feb 21 - 05:12 PM (#4094859)
Subject: RE: ballad - she pushes him into the river
From: Felipa

Steve, at JSTOR click on research options for independent researchers; you should be able to register to read 100 articles/month online. You can't print or download with that option, but you should be able to read the entire article. I can access JSTOR at a local library - only on the library computers, no remote access - but presently our libraries are only operating a reserve and collect service for book loans and it looks like our lockdown will continue till Easter holidays.


25 Feb 21 - 05:22 PM (#4094864)
Subject: RE: ballad - she pushes him into the river
From: Steve Gardham

I'm in the same boat but thanks for the tip. I'll give it a try.