Mudcat Café message #3945089 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #162666   Message #3945089
Posted By: Jim Carroll
20-Aug-18 - 04:00 AM
Thread Name: New Book: Folk Song in England
Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
"Now, please give us some examples of songs where you see internal evidence of familiarity with the lives of the subjects of the songs, familiarity that an urban person writing for the broadside press would be unlikely to possess."
I'll try though I have done this before and you have totally ignored the main bit of my question
Where to begin?

How many of them worked the land to become familiar with the working terms that appear in the songs, the problems of seasonal changes, the pressure of having to pay rent....?
The same with going to sea or to war
How many of them experienced the family life where it is necesary to preserve your good-looking daughter for suitable marriage in order to try and take a tiny step up the social ladder - how many of them experienced the family conflicts that causes?

One of the popular bodies of folk song are the Broken Token songs - I sing a few myself
It always bugged me - how do you break a gold ring or a coin in hald - I've tried it myself - you can't - yet this piece of apparently nonsensical information appears in dozens of songs
When we wre preparing the notes for our Traveller CDs Pat stumbled across 'the gimmel ring tradition'
It was common country practice of a man wishing to get his leg over to prove his fidelity by giving the girl part of a specially manufactured ring on the promise to marry her - it acted as a sealed agreement
The practice existed in Elizabethan times among the wealthy where a ring wa made to be divided in three parts - part for the man, part for the woman and a third part for a witness
It died out sometime in the 18th century among the wealthy, but was continued in the countryside, where you could purchase a cheply made, riveted together double ring which could be scratched in such a way as to identify the two pices as coming from the same source
Even Hardy refers to this obliquely in Far From the Madding Crowd
There's a full description of this in Chambers Book of Days, yet this has never been tied up with the songs - not even by song scholars - it was taken as read by the singers

AS early of the ballad, Tifties Annie, you got oblique references to the effects of a changing society where the power was beginning to pass from the land gentry into the hands of the rising tradesmen - with a few suggestions of the current witchcraft trials thrown in for good measure - a truely remarkable piece of social history
Mnay of the ballads use country commonplaces, vernacular and Popular folklore and superstitions as if it was an everyday part of the maker's life - which it possibly was

All these things were dealt with sympathetically from the point of view of the hard-working and often oppressed ordinary people - lawbreakers included -
Why - were the hacks all early social reformers?
Our songs are full of this sort of thing - the camp followers who traisaipsed after the armies during the war - women on board ships - vivid and realistic descriptions of the feelings of farm workers tricked into the army or the navy, the personal effects of the enclosures of country people who relied on common land to feed themselves - even sharp descriptions of transportation, or whaling, or other occupations or occurences that forced them from home

I've argued things like this in detail in the past and been met with nonsensical excuses - the hacks studied the subjects before they wrote them up - they went to sea or worked the land... a whole string of excuses to bend the facts to fit the theory

How did broadside hacks working under pressure become so familiar with vernacular and lore and practices that they could convince the singers from the backgrounds of the songs that ther were "real" or "true" - it takes a skilled novelist to even approach that level of reality and very few of them manage that - John Steinbeck just about managed it inthe US - Robert Tressell did in England - the former spent time with his subjects, the latter was a house painter.

You have not attempted to explain the obvious skill that went into the songs
If the hacks were that good we'd know who they were because the would have had the pride to put their name to their compositions - as it is we know hardly any by name, nor how they went about their work

There is no major plank of ny argument - none of it makes sense, especially how those scholars, from Child onward, many of whom were working at the time the braodside presses were operating managed to be totally ignorant that while they were doing their researching the authors of the songs they were working on were on their doorstep
It is utter and complete nonsense to suggest that a couple of twenty-first century desk-bound researchers researching more than a century later know more than all these people

Once again I have allowed myself to be grilled and once again my main questions have been passed over and ignored
Your turn now