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Penguin: George Collins

18 Feb 00 - 05:14 PM (#180911)
Subject: Penguin: George Collins (tune only) ^^
From: Alan of Australia

From the Penguin Book Of English Folk Songs, Ed Pellow's rendition of the tune of GEORGE COLLINS (Child #85) can be found here.

Note that the name "Elanor" in the DT is "Eleanor" in the book.

Previous song: Geordie.
Next Song: The Golden Vanity.

Alan ^^

18 Feb 00 - 05:17 PM (#180912)
Subject: RE: Penguin: George Collins
From: wysiwyg


10 Jul 00 - 11:52 PM (#255522)
Subject: RE: Penguin: George Collins
From: Malcolm Douglas

From the notes to the Penguin Book (1959):

"...The plot of  George Collins  has its secrets.  From an examination of a number of variants, the full story becomes clearer.  The girl by the stream is a water-fairy.  The young man has been in the habit of visiting her.  He is about to marry a mortal, and the fairy takes her revenge with a poisoned kiss.  The song telling that story is among the great ballads of Europe.  Its roots and branches are spread in Scandinavia¹, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and elsewhere.  An early literary form is the German poem of the Knight of Staufenberg (c. 1310).  France alone has about ninety versions, mostly in the form of the familiar  Le Roi Renaud,  though here much of the dream-quality of the tale is missing, since the girl by the stream is lost sight of, and instead the hero is mortally wounded in battle.  The first half of the George Collins story is told in the ballad called  Clerk Colvill  (Child 42), the second half in Lady Alice (Child 85).  Either these are two separate songs which have been combined to form George Collins or (which seems more likely) they are two fragments of the completer ballad.  George Collins has rarely been reported in England, though in the summer of 1906 Dr. G. B. Gardiner collected three separate versions in different Hampshire villages, two of them on the same day.  (FSJ vol.III, pp.299-301)"  -R.V.W./A.L.L.

This version was collected by Dr. Gardiner from Henry Stansbridge of Lyndhurst, Hampshire, in 1906, and was first published in the Folk Song Journal, vol.III, p.301.  Another version collected by Gardiner (tune from Henry Blake of Bartley, Hampshire, 1908, with text collated from 5 variants from the Southampton/Lyndhurst area) was published in The Wanton Seed (ed. Frank Purslow, EFDS 1968).

¹ Elveskud, according to Henri Davenson (Le Livre des Chansons, 1955).

Child #85

@death @love @revenge @myth

Versions on the DT in addition to those linked to above:

George Collins
George Collins (2)

In the Forum:

Re Gilardin  This is an Italian (Piemontese) ballad, an almost exact cognate of Renaud.

There is a version of  George Collins  at Lesley Nelson's  Child Ballads site,  together with Professor Child's versions A and B of  Lady Alice,  and another variant,  Earl Colvin.  This last was collected by John Jacob Niles, so there may be doubts as to its authenticity.

There are two entries at the Traditional Ballad Index:

Lady Alice

Clerk Colvill


11 Jul 00 - 03:16 AM (#255578)
Subject: RE: Penguin: George Collins
From: Sourdough

Thanks for posting the story, Malcolm D. I have known an American variant of the song that is so truncated that it makes even less sense. Reading Ed Pellow's variant that you linked to did help but your quoted explanation made it even clearer. I've always liked the song as I know it but have been curious what it was "really" about.


11 Jul 00 - 01:35 PM (#255795)
Subject: RE: Penguin: George Collins
From: GUEST,Mrr

Very very interesting. My Cynthia Gooding album has this still differently, although close to your #2 link above:

GEORGE COLLINS as sung by Cynthia Gooding (on Faithful Lovers and Other Phenomena), and recalled/heard by Mrr:

George Collins rode out one wintry night, he rode through sleet and snow.
George Collins rode out one wintry night, was taken sick and died.
His own true love Mary was in her room, dressed in silk so fine
When she found out that George was dead, she laid them all aside.
She followed him up, she followed him down, she followed him to his grave
And there upon the cold, cold stones, she wept, she mourned, she prayed:
"Take down that casket, unscrew that lid, turn back that shroud so fine
That I may kiss his cold, cold lips, for I'm sure he'll never kiss mine."
"Little Mary, don't weep, Little Mary, don't mourn, there's more young men than one."
"Oh, but Mother, dear Mother, he was all I had, and now I'm left alone.
Do you see that yonder turtle dove, fluttering from pine to pine?
She's mourning for her own lost love, so why not I for mine?"

I always found this lovely and what with the advent of grief counseling and everything, I like the idea of a song about go ahead and cry, it does suck, rather than about getting on with your life. You know me, I'm all for mourning the sorrow.

11 Jul 00 - 01:38 PM (#255799)
Subject: RE: Penguin: George Collins
From: GUEST,Mrr

Thread creep alert -- Anybody see the cartoon with the two cowpokes on a bluff, peering into the distance where you see a group of small, black, indistinguishable somethings. One is saying to the other: "I can't tell from way up here... could be buzzards... could be grief counselors!"
--end of thread creep.

13 Nov 00 - 08:14 PM (#340128)
Subject: Lyr Add: THE DYING HOBO (Kelly Harrell, 1926)
From: Stewie

Here's an American version derived from the Child #42 and #85 family. It is from a recording by Kelly Harrell of Virginia. Harrell was a fine singer and associate of other pioneering hillbilly recording artists such as Charlie Poole and Henry Whitter. Like other American versions, and evidently also some southern English versions, this is much lighter and shorter, consisting of lopped-off final elements of the major ballads to form an independent piece. Although it may appear tragi-comic or humorous, it was not a parody but rather a song of serious intent. A recording of this version and extensive notes on Clerk Colvill/Lady Alice may be found on volume 7 of MacColl and Seeger's 'The Long Harvest' Argo ZDA 72. The transcription below is from Harrell's original recording in the Victor studios in New York on 9 June 1926. It was issued as Vi 20527. It has been reissued on CD on Kelly Harrell 'Vol 1 (1925-1926)' Document DOCD-8026.


'Twas at a western water tank
One cold December day
And in an empty boxcar
A dying hobo lay

You see his girl in yonders hall
A-sewing her silk so fine
But when she heard poor George was dead
She laid her silks aside

She followed him up, she followed him down
She followed him to his grave
She fell upon her bending knees
She weeped, she mourned, she cried

'Oh daughter, o daughter what makes you weep so,
There's more young men than George'
'O mother, o mother, he's won of my heart
And now he's dead and gone'

Then take off his coffin lid
Lay back his linen so fine
And let me kiss his pale sweet lips
For I know he'll never kiss mine

You see that dove in yonders grove
It's flying from pine to pine
It's mourning for its own true love
Why can't I mourn for mine?


13 Nov 00 - 09:25 PM (#340164)
Subject: RE: Penguin: George Collins
From: Malcolm Douglas

That's interesting; most versions of The Dying Hobo (Laws H3; there's a version in the DT:  here  ) have a quite different story altogether.  The Traditional Ballad Index mentions Kelly Harrell's version, which appears to be a one-off; first verse of the Hobo and the rest from Lady Alice or George Collins.  If you happen to be in a position to post the tune, that would be great.

Incidentally, since I posted the links above I've become aware of an American version of George Collins at  The Max Hunter Folk Song Collection:

George Collins  As sung by Mrs. Gladys McChristain in Huntsville, Arkansas on October 1, 1958.  (With staff notation and soundfiles).


14 Nov 00 - 02:21 AM (#340292)
From: Stewie

Malcolm, unfortunately I am unable to post tunes.

The Harrell version is a 'one-off' in old-time music recordings only in using 'The Dying Hobo' title. Several recordings were made under the title of 'George Collins'. Here are a couple of examples. The first is from Roy Harvey from West Virginia, one-time guitarist with Charlie Poole and the second is from Howard and Dorsey Dixon who worked all their lives in textile mills in the Carolinas. These and Harrell's are not dissimilar from the one you linked in the Max Hunter collection.


George Collins drove home one cold winter night
George Collins drove home so fine
George Collins drove home one cold winter night
Was taken sick and died

His little sweet Nell in yonders hall
Sat sewing her silk so fine
But when she heard that George was dead
She laid her silk aside

Set down the coffin, take off the lid
Lay back the linen so fine
And let me kiss his cold pale cheek
For I know he'll never kiss mine

Oh daughter, oh daughter why do you weep
There's more young men than one
Oh mother, oh mother, George has my heart
His day on earth is done

Look up and down that lonesome road
Hang down your head and cry
The best of friends is bound to part
And why not you and I

Don't you see that lonesome dove
That's flying from pine to pine
He's mourning for his own true love
Just like I mourn for mine

Source: transcription from Roy Harvey & The North Carolina Ramblers 'George Collins' Br 250, recorded 16 February 1928 in Ashland, Kentucky. Reissued on CD on Roy Harvey 'Complete Recorded Works Vol 2 (1928-1929)' Document DOCD-8051 and also on Various Artists 'The Rose Grew Round the Briar: Early American Love Songs Vol 2' Yazoo 2031.


George Collins rode out on a winter night
He rode through the snow so wide
And when George Collins returned back home
He was taken sick and died

His little Mamie was in her room
Sewing on her wedding gown
But when she heard that George was dead
She threw all her sewing down

She sobbed and sighed, she mourned and cried
As she entered in the chambry of death
Oh George, oh George you're all my heart
Now I have nothing left

Open up his coffin, push back the lid
Undo those sheets so fine
And let me kiss his cold, cold lips
For I'm sure they'll never kiss mine

She lingered there near his body all night
Then she parted to the grave
And when those cold, cold clods was heard
Oh how little Mamie did rave

Oh Mamie, oh Mamie, don't weep, don't mourn
There's other young men as kind
Yes, mother, I know there's other young men
But no one can never be mine

Now don't you see that little dove
He's flying from pine to pine
He's mourning for his own true love
So please let me mourn for mine

The golden sun sinking in the west
Just at the close of day
And there in his last place of rest
They laid her George away

Source: transcribed from Dixon Brothers 'The Story of George Collins' Montgomery Ward MW M7580, recorded at Rock Hill, South Carolina on 25 September 1938. Reissued on CD on Dixon Brothers 'Complete Recorded Works Vol 4 (1938)' Document DOCD-8049.


29 Jun 01 - 09:26 AM (#494712)
Subject: RE: Penguin: George Collins
From: Malcolm Douglas

I am reminded of this thread by a recent enquiry about Le Roi Renaud, and can now add some further links.

English language verse "translations" of two Swedish sets contained in Afzelius' Svenska Folk-Visor (1814-16), Sir Olof in the Elve Dance (Herr Olof i Elfvornas Dans) and The Elf-Woman and Sir Olof (Elf-Qvinnan och Herr Olof) can be seen at  Celtic Folklore:

The Fairy Mythology: illustrative of the Romance and Superstition of Various Countries  Thomas Keightley, 1878.

Fortysix (!) variants of the Norwegian version are available at the  Norwegian Universities Documentation Project:

Olav Liljekrans


30 Jun 01 - 01:36 AM (#495265)
Subject: RE: Penguin: George Collins
From: Stewie

John Harrington Cox 'Folk-Songs of the South' Pelican Publishing Company 1998 [Reprint of original 1925 edition] at pages 110-114 gives 5 variants of Child #85, 'Lady Alice', collected by the author in West Virginia in 1916 and 1917 under various titles: 'George Collins', 'Young Collins', 'Johnny Collins' and 'John Collins'. Three of the texts represent one version and the other two another, but they all differ from the Child versions.

The Warners collected the ballad in North Carolina. The second volume of the recent Appleseed CD issues from the Warner collection, 'Nothing Seems Better to Me' Appleseed APR CD 1036, has a recording by Nathan and Rena Hicks of Beech Mountain (1940). The Warners also collected a version from Lee Monroe Presnell, the full lyrics and music for which may be found in Anne Warner 'Traditional American Folk Songs from Anne and Frank Warner Collection' p 239.


14 Dec 03 - 11:25 PM (#1072558)
Subject: RE: Penguin: George Collins
From: GUEST,Kent Davis

There's a version of "George Collins", based on the Warner's recording of Lee Monroe Presnell in 1951, on the COMET cd by Cordelia's Dad.

28 Dec 11 - 12:21 PM (#3281066)
Subject: RE: Penguin: George Collins
From: Richie


Collected by Maurice Matteson from Nathan Hicks of Sugar Grove, NC on July 31, 1933. Published in Beech Mountain Ballads in 1936 by G. Shirmer. Performed by Richard L. Matteson Jr. on Nathan Hicks' dulcimer made in early 1930s. Performers: Richard L. Matteson Jr. -dulcimer, with Kara Pleasants- vocal, and Zach Matteson- fiddle, in December 2011. Recorded by Bob Hitchcock.

George Colon (Click on link to listen: