Tag Archives: Child Ballad

From Faversham to Tunis: the pirate’s tale

I don’t, on the whole, recommend that you go to folk song as evidence for what actually happened in one period of history or another. Facts get distorted as stories are improved by the telling (or singing). Nevertheless I’ve found … Continue reading

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Red wine, new moon, deep water

I was looking through my music collection making playlists for a party last weekend and found I have six different recordings of Sir Patrick Spens (Child Ballad no. 58; to be strictly accurate, I have eight but three of them are … Continue reading

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Death and the ravens

More knights this time. Not murderous for a change, only dead. One song in particular caught my attention: The Three Ravens (Child Ballad no. 26). It’s an achingly sad tale set after some battle or other. The ravens are looking for their … Continue reading

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Love – and death – on the highway

Highwaymen ride high in the popular imagination. A higher class of cutpurse and the archetype of the romantic rogue. As the type specimen I offer you Alfred Noyes’ The Highwayman (1906)*. There’s a fair few ballads about highwaymen (Salisbury Plain and Newry Town … Continue reading

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True true love. But no happy ending.

I was a bit scathing about true love in my last post. So to redress the balance I’m going to quote, in full, my all time favourite ballad. It’s The Unquiet Grave (Child Ballad no. 78; Oxford Book of Ballads … Continue reading

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True loves and happy endings

Well, parrots have had a mention but they’re not the only talking animals to be found in folksong. The Broomfield Hill or The Broomfield Wager (Child Ballad no. 43) has a positive menagerie of talking beasts, though all are rather less exotic … Continue reading

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The slippery nature of folksongs

Now folksongs, being an oral tradition, are fluid and slippery things, shifting form to match place and time. They contain mnemonic tricks and formulae, as in any oral tradition, and this can lead to one story getting horribly tangled into … Continue reading

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The folksong parrot

I’ve just discovered a terrific ballad on an album bought on spec ‘cos I liked the band’s name (‘Crooked Still’ since you ask). It’s called ‘Henry Lee’ and is a version (probably) of ‘The outlandish knight’ but with a murderous … Continue reading

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