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Matthew Edwards Lyr Req: Meaning of Lucana in Isle of st Helena? (10) RE: Lyr Req: Meaning of Lucana in Isle of st Helena? 02 Sep 16


I have very much enjoyed hearing Stuart Carolan sing this song, and I was delighted to hear him perform it at Whitby last week. I hadn't given much thought to the meaning of the term 'Lucana' in the song, but just assumed it to refer to an obscure Napoleonic battle or campaign. It seems Geoff's question was raised in an earlier thread about this song Origins: Isle of St Helena, but it wasn't answered then.

The song was widely printed in Britain and America, but the printed broadside texts vary considerably. The earliest printing seems to be in a chapbook printed by J.Fraser of Stirling in 1817, but the text isn't available for online viewing. There are however some 15 broadside texts which can be seen at the Bodleian Ballads Online site. The Poet's Box, Glasgow, attributes the song to "the pen of James Watts, Esq. of Paisley" to the air of 'The Braes of Balquither' and this includes the following eight line stanza:-

"The rude rushing waves
A' its shores round are washing,
And the billows heave
A' the wild rocks a-dashing.
He may look upon the moon,
And think of Louisa,
With his heart full of woe,
On the Isle of St. Helena."

Louisa refers to Bonaparte's wife, Marie-Louise of Austria.

A broadside printed by J. Harkness of Preston also has an eight line stanza, but gives 'Louisanna' instead of Louisa, presumably for a more effective rhyme with 'St. Helena'. Other printings by Harkness use the more commonly known four line stanza - with the two lines above becoming two half lines.
In other texts printed by J.Marshall of Newcastle, H. Such of London and M.W.Carrall of York the name appears as Lusianna, Luciana, and Luciania, while Catnach of London prints it as Lucanna.

The text printed in London by J.Pitts corresponds fairly closely to the versions given by Huntington in 'Songs the Whalemen Sang' from 1827 and 1829, in omitting Louisa/Louisanna/Lucanna completely.
'He may look at the moon by the great mount Diana,
While forlorn he does mourn on the Isle of St. Helena'

It is difficult to ascribe a definitive chronological process of alteration from 'Louisa' to 'Louisianna' and thence to 'Luciana', 'Luciania' and 'Lucanna' and finally 'Lucana' since the dates of the various printings are so uncertain, and there are many other changes in verse order, additional verses, wording and stanza form going on at the same time.

Matthew


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