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GUEST,Derek Schofield New Book: Folk Song in England (2094* d) RE: New Book: Folk Song in England 15 Dec 17

I've been reading Folk Song in England. Here are some quotes – please read them carefully!

To take one example from hundreds, The dark-eyed sailor has repeatedly turned up in tradition in more or less identical shape.

Pretty surely it had a single author. If one day we find the author’s name – and it is not impossible, for all the collected versions derive ultimately from a Catnach broadside of the late 1830s – does The dark-eyed sailor at that moment cease to be a folk song?
Without question, however, the greatest influence of print on folk song comes from the broadsides.

Some specialists would try to keep the broadside ballads and songs entirely separate from the rest of folk song, and to consider them as a category apart. In fact the two kinds are as mixed as Psyche’s seeds, and probably the majority of our ‘folk songs proper’ appeared on stall leaflets at one time or another, in this version or that. The broadside-ballad maker as a rule was no artist, no poet, but a craftsman of sorts, a humble journalist in verse who, for a shilling, would turn out a ballad on a subject as readily as his cobbler cousin would sole a pair of shoes. He might provide a song based on news of actual events, small or large, local or international. Or he might invent a romantic story of love, crime, battle or trickery, and make the ballad out of that, like a present-day author of pulp magazine fiction. Or he might take a song already current in the countryside and refurbish it a little for publication.

Writers in the past have stressed so heavily that whatever folk song is or is not, it is essentially an oral affair whose intrinsic character derives from the peculiarities of mouth-to-ear-to-mouth transmission. Well that is only true in part. We see that in thousands, indeed millions, of instances the words of folk songs reached their singers by way of print.

Ah ... which copy of Folk Song in England have I been reading? All the quotes above are from Bert Lloyd's book, chapter 1.


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