Mudcat Café message #3897111 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #162666   Message #3897111
Posted By: Howard Jones
03-Jan-18 - 08:44 AM
Thread Name: New Book: Folk Song in England
Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
'Banks of the Sweet Primroses' is an example of a song which circulated on broadsides and stayed in the tradition largely unaltered. Jim suggests that its quality shows that it must have originated from the 'folk' and that the broadsides were simply publishing an existing song taken from a 'real' folk singer, rather than an original composition. It is an attractive idea, and he may well be right, but it is probably unprovable. However since obviously composed songs were taken up in large numbers by 'the folk' it suggests that this distinction was of little or no consequence to the singers themselves.

The weakness in Jim's argument is that it is circular - if a song is badly written this shows it must be by a hack, if it's good it must have come from 'the folk'.

To take another example which was discussed earlier, 'The Shepherd Adonis' in its original form bears all the hallmarks of a composed work - classical allusions, arcadian rural stereotypes, and over-flowery language all suggest its composer was no shepherd. Its transformation into 'Shepherd of the Downs' to me demonstrates the working-class creativity which Jim is so keen to defend. However, unless I am misunderstanding him, according to his interpretation its origin would appear to disqualify it as a proper folk song.

What this does seem to demonstrate is that 'the folk' favoured a particular style of song. Songs like 'Banks of the Sweet Primroses' which fitted this style could be adopted more or less unaltered. Others would be adapted and altered until they fitted into it - whether this show the 'folk process' or 'working class creativity' is a matter of terminology only.