The Anglo-Scottish Ballad and its Imaginary Contexts

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The Anglo-Scottish Ballad and its Imaginary Contexts DAVID ATKINSON THE ANGLO-SCOTTISH BALLAD The Anglo-Scottish Ballad and its Imaginary Contexts David Atkinson…
The Anglo-Scottish Ballad and its Imaginary Contexts DAVID ATKINSON THE ANGLO-SCOTTISH BALLAD The Anglo-Scottish Ballad and its Imaginary Contexts David Atkinson © 2014 David Atkinson This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license (CC BY 4.0). This license allows you to share, copy, distribute and transmit the work; to adapt the work and to make commercial use of the work providing attribution is made to the author (but not in any way that suggests that she endorses you or your use of the work). Attribution should include the following information: Atkinson, David, The Anglo-Scottish Ballad and its Imaginary Contexts. Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers, 2014, Further details about CC BY licenses are available at http://creativecommons. org/licenses/by/4.0/ Digital material and resources associated with this volume are available at ISBN Paperback: 978-1-78374-027-7 ISBN Hardback: 978-1-78374-028-4 ISBN Digital (PDF): 978-1-78374–029–1 ISBN Digital ebook (epub): 978-1-78374-030-7 ISBN Digital ebook (mobi): 978-1-78374-031-4 DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0041 Cover image: Henry Robert Morland (1716–1797), The Ballad Singer (circa 1764). Robert Morland - The Ballad Singer - Google Art Project.jpg Every effort has been made to identify and contact copyright holders; any omissions or errors will be corrected if notification is made to the publisher. Please see the list of illustrations for copyright relating to individual images. All paper used by Open Book Publishers is SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative), and PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes) Certified. Printed in the United Kingdom and United States by Lightning Source for Open Book Publishers For Catherine, Francis, and Jennifer Contents References and Abbreviations List of Illustrations Preface 1. Where Is the Ballad? 2. On the Nature of Evidence 3. Textual Authority and the Sources of Variance 4. The Material Ballad 5. Sound and Writing 6. Agency, Intention, and the Problem of Version (with a brief history of ballad editing) 7. Palimpsest or texte génétique 8. Afterword: ‘All her friends cried out for shame’ Select Bibliography Index References and Abbreviations The following abbreviations are used throughout for standard editions and reference works: CSD: Concise Scots Dictionary, ed. Mairi Robinson (Edinburgh: Polygon at Edinburgh, 1999). DSL: Dictionary of the Scots Language / Dictionar o the Scots Leid, available at [DSL-DOST: Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue entries; DSL-SND: Scottish National Dictionary entries]. EDD: The English Dialect Dictionary, ed. Joseph Wright, 6 vols (London: Henry Frowde, 1898–1905). ESPB: Francis James Child, ed., The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, 5 vols (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1882–98). ESTC: English Short Title Catalogue, available at OED: Oxford English Dictionary, available at Child numbers: refer to items in ESPB. Roud numbers: refer to items in the Roud Folk Song Index and Broadside Index, available at roud-indexes Bodleian Library broadside ballads are available at http://ballads. All web addresses cited, and Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) in the Select Bibliography, were accessed prior to publication on 12/13 February 2014 and were valid at that date. List of Illustrations 1.1 Enos White and his wife, outside Crown Cottage, 2 Axford, Hampshire. Provenance unknown. 5.1 Carpenter Collection, Photo 101, James Madison 102 Carpenter sitting in his Austin Roadster. Courtesy of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC, USA. 5.2 Carpenter Collection, MS p. 08356. Courtesy of the 106 American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC, USA. 5.3 Joseph Taylor, ‘Lord Bateman’, transcribed by Percy 114–115 Grainger, Journal of the Folk-Song Society, 3.3 (no. 12) (1908), 192–93. Courtesy of the English Folk Dance and Song Society. 6.1 Carpenter Collection, MS p. 04267. Courtesy of the 143 American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC, USA. 7.1 Carpenter Collection, MS pp. 04384–04387. Courtesy 156–157 of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC, USA. 8.1 Carpenter Collection, MS pp. 04403–04404. Courtesy 176 of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC, USA. Preface The ‘imaginary’ in the title of this volume is quite deliberate. The ballad and its imagined contexts, with its echoes of Benedict Anderson’s imagined communities, Georgina Boyes’s imagined village, and Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger’s invented traditions, might have evoked an oral, ballad-singing community of a kind that owes as much to the broad thrust of Romanticism as it does to a historical back-projection from (limited) evidence drawn from the folk song revivals of the twentieth century. The imaginary contexts of the title, in contrast, refer to the abstract ideas that are the necessary counterpart of any attempt to describe the ballad – be it at the level of genre or of the individual literary/musical item in its social and historical context – in terms either of ontology or of textual constitution. Conceptually, there is a danger that ‘the ballad as abstract idea’ might appear perilously close to the sort of conflationary, ‘idealist’ notion of ballad editing that characterized publications of a much earlier period. Editions such as Thomas Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, Walter Scott’s Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, and William Motherwell’s Minstrelsy: Ancient and Modern drew on and compounded different texts in order to achieve a comprehensive and complete, ‘ideal’ version of each individual ballad. They have been much reviled for doing so, although as an exercise in ‘best-text editing’, duly described and documented, this could still be a defensible approach. However, it is certainly true that it falls foul of the ethnographic turn that ballad studies have taken since that time. Both Scott and Motherwell came to reject their own editorial practices and instead to laud the discrete integrity, and poetic and musical value, of each separate ballad instance, or ‘version’. Subsequently, mediated by the practice of the Danish editor Svend Grundtvig, this insight provided the theoretical basis for Francis James Child’s standard edition of The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. The ‘type/version paradigm’ embodied therein xiv The Anglo-Scottish Ballad represents the distinctive contribution of ballad studies to editing theory. In short, the ballad ‘type’ is identified as the abstract sum of all actual and possible manifestations, or ‘versions’, of what is recognizably the ‘same’ thing. The definition is notably circular – but it does mostly work in practice because there turns out to be a high level of seemingly inherent stability in ballad narratives and melodies, which makes it possible, most of the time, to recognize quite intuitively which items belong together. Since it is frequently possible to ascribe individual versions to individual sources, this type/version paradigm lends itself very neatly to the ethnographic orientation. In what has been rather grandly termed ‘the post-Child era of scientific folklore’, a premium attaches to the precise recording, attribution, and presentation of the collected item. And yet there is already a paradox here, because the type/version paradigm has also, almost uninvited, introduced an abstract dimension into the discussion. For the ‘version’ cannot exist without inherent reference to the ‘type’ – and so while on the one hand the item’s uniqueness is being identified, on the other it is simultaneously being absorbed. Just as the ‘version’ is a constituent part of the ‘type’, so the ‘version’ itself derives from the ‘type’. This ‘imaginary context’ then goes to the heart of ballad representation, for the type/version paradigm has to incorporate all possible manifestations and not just a chosen few. ‘Ballad representation’ impinges on many of the critical dimensions that have dominated (some might say, bedevilled) ballad research: ballad origins; oral and printed transmission; sound and writing; agency and editing; textual and melodic indeterminacy and instability; and the premises and purposes that lie behind collecting, editing, publishing, and research. Some of these issues are addressed in the chapters that follow. While the focus here is mostly on ballad texts (words), and a good deal of the argument draws on theories of textual editing, it is to be hoped that several of the main ideas that can be extracted from the discussion will turn out to have a bearing on ballad melodies. Nevertheless, it is unwise to press too far the idea that the ballad comprises an indivisible textual and melodic whole. Not least because the two things are inherently separable: the same words can go to different tunes, and vice versa; and the words can exist without the melody (in broadside print, for example), just as the melody can exist without the words. While there is the possibility for melody to impact upon versification, and the two things can certainly interact associatively – collectors like Cecil Sharp have commented on the difficulty Preface xv singers sometimes experience in recalling words in the absence of a tune (and there is some evidence from neuroscience for the synergy of the two things in human memory) – there is still an absence of a critical vocabulary that would convincingly facilitate the discussion of an integrated whole. Ballad words belong ultimately to the domain of language, and ballad melodies to the domain of music, yet it remains unclear to what extent those two domains really can be thought of as precisely equivalent – as both belonging, as it were, to a single grand domain of Saussurean langue. Versions of some of these chapters have been aired as published articles or as presentations, but all have been rewritten for this volume in order to integrate them into the book, to bring them up to date, and, as far as possible, to avoid unnecessary repetition. Versions of chapters one, five, six, and seven, respectively, appeared in the journals Lied und populäre Kultur/ Song and Popular Culture, Twentieth-Century Music, Variants, and Folklore, and I am very grateful to their editors and copyright holders for permission to reuse the material (full bibliographic details are cited at the beginning of the respective chapters). A version of chapter four was to have been published in Estudos de Literatura Oral but has not appeared at the time of writing. I am especially grateful for the insights and enthusiasms of members of the European Society for Textual Scholarship, the Folklore Society, the Kommission für Volksdichtung, the Traditional Song Forum, and the Editorial Board of Folk Music Journal, who have all indirectly contributed to this volume. Likewise the readers for Open Book Publishers, who made some valuable suggestions which I have incorporated. This is the place, too, to thank Alessandra Tosi and Bianca Gualandi at Open Book Publishers for their professionalism and enthusiasm. Special thanks go to the J. M. Carpenter project team – Julia Bishop, Elaine Bradtke, Eddie Cass, Tom McKean, and Bob Walser; Malcolm Taylor and everyone at the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library; my co-editor on Street Ballads in Nineteenth- Century Britain, Ireland, and North America, Steve Roud; and Brian Peters, for the late nights and ballad discussions. It is a privilege and pleasure to work in a field where people still uphold the human values of friendship and cooperation. All of them have done their best to keep me from straying too far from the scholarly straight and narrow. All errors that remain are, of course, my own stupid fault. East Finchley, February 2014 1. Where Is the Ballad? Empirically, the English-language ballad comprises a genre of narrative verse and melody, of largely (or effectively) anonymous origin, examples of which have been in existence in one form or another since at least the fifteenth century. The combination of perceived anonymity with multiplicity, with the concomitant possibility (frequently enhanced by considerable depth in time) of variation during the course of transmission, has then allowed conflicting principles of organization to attach to discussion of the ballad. Some of those that come to mind are: (i) the individual rendition, and the various ways in which it might be reproduced; (ii) the psychology and personality of the contributor from whom the ballad was collected; (iii) any ideological agenda brought to the exchange by the collector; (iv) the synchronic context, with reference to political, social, cultural, literary, and musical history; (v) the diachronic complex of different ‘versions’ that constitute the ‘same’ thing, and the dual but separable nature of the ballad as literature and as music; (vi) the quality of being ‘traditional’, as opposed to ‘literary’ or even ‘fabricated’. Whilst the seeming contradictions that arise from this situation often reflect first and foremost the particular orientations of the researcher – towards ethnography, historicism, or comparative textual and musicological analysis, for example – they can also encourage the conviction that the ontology of ballads is somehow distinct from that of more canonical works of literature and music. ‘Ontology’, as the term and the idea are being used here, refers to the whole range of conditions that are considered (or have been considered) as either necessary or sufficient to identify the ballad – either the individual item or the genre at large – as 2 The Anglo-Scottish Ballad a distinct literary and musical phenomenon, and to the consequences that might appear to flow from those conditions.1 In July 1955, Bob Copper, working for the BBC Folk Music and Dialect Recording Scheme, recorded the ballad ‘George Collins’ from the singing of Enos White, of Axford, Hampshire, a seventy-year-old carter, who could recall Ralph Vaughan Williams collecting songs in the area some fifty years before.2 Fig. 1.1 Enos White and his wife, outside Crown Cottage, Axford, Hampshire. Provenance unknown. An earlier version of this chapter was published as ‘Where is the ballad, and why do we want so many of them? An Essay in Ontology’, Lied und populäre Kultur/Song and Popular Culture, 54 (2009), 11–32, and the material is reused with permission. 1 It is perhaps as well to state that ontology is not at all a mere synonym for a genre definition, and while scholarly tradition means that ESPB has provided the point of departure for the study of the English-language ballads, the discussion here and in the chapters that follow is not concerned with drawing the boundaries of a canon of narrative song. 2 BBC RPL 21857 [archival CD copy in London, Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, BBC CDA 12]. Where Is the Ballad? 3 Later, Bob Copper published the words and music notation, together with a short appreciation of Enos White, in the Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, and again in his book Songs and Southern Breezes.3 Enos White’s ‘George Collins’ was included, in abbreviated form, on one of the Child ballad volumes of the Folk Songs of Britain series of LPs issued in the 1960s by Caedmon in the USA and Topic in Britain, and much later, still abbreviated, on the Child ballad CDs issued by Rounder based on those LPs.4 The ballad was presented in its entirety on the Topic LP Songs and Southern Breezes, and later in Topic’s CD anthology The Voice of the People.5 The now-defunct Folktrax label (audio cassettes and then CDs issued by Peter Kennedy) also listed Enos White’s ‘George Collins’.6 Bob Copper himself sang ‘George Collins’ as he had learned it from Enos White and recorded it on CD, and the ballad is still sung in the Copper family.7 Where, then, is Enos White’s ‘George Collins’? The Hampshire carter is no longer living, and his social environment and way of life are likewise long gone. Bob Copper, to whom he passed on the song and who was himself instrumental in passing it on again, died in 2004. Yet the music and words are still in print and the recording exists in various forms and formats. It is still possible for people to say that they know and admire the ballad sung by Enos White. And there is a further reason for choosing this particular example – though any favourite ballad might have done – for we can pose another question: where is ‘George Collins’? Is it, for instance, in the influential Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, which includes a tune and words, attributed to Henry Stansbridge, of Lyndhurst, Hampshire, in 1906, but in fact conflated from at least three different copies collected in Hampshire in 1906?8 In fact, some half-dozen copies of ‘George Collins’ 3 Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, 9.2 (1961), 72–73; Bob Copper, Songs and Southern Breezes: Country Folk and Country Ways (London: Heinemann, 1973), pp. 108–13, 246–47. 4 The Child Ballads 1, The Folk Songs of Britain, vol. 4, 12-inch LP (Caedmon TC1145, 1961; Topic 12T160, 1969); Classic Ballads of Britain and Ireland, vol. 1, CD (Rounder 11661-1775- 2, 2000). 5 Songs and Southern Breezes: Country Singers from Hampshire and Sussex, recorded by Bob Copper, 12-inch LP (Topic 12T317, 1977); O’er his Grave the Grass Grew Green: Tragic Ballads, The Voice of the People, vol. 3, CD (Topic TSCD653, 1998). 6 The Folktrax archive lists Enos White’s ‘George Collins’ on two CDs: Three Maidens a-Milking: Songs from Hampshire (FTX-426); The Baffled Knight: Classic Ballads 2 (FTX-502), available at 7 When the May Is All in Bloom: Traditional Singing from the South East of England, CD (Veteran VT131CD, 1995). My thanks to Jon Dudley for this last piece of information. 8 R. Vaughan Williams and A. L. Lloyd, eds, The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1959), pp. 44–45, 114–15; R. Vaughan Williams and A. L. 4 The Anglo-Scottish Ballad collected by George B. Gardiner in Hampshire in the first decade of the twentieth century are similar to that sung half a century later by Enos White (the words follow a similar pattern and most, though perhaps not all, of the tunes are related in some degree).9 Together, these Hampshire copies are sufficiently distinctive to be considered as comprising a localized form of the ballad, or oikotype. Or is ‘George Collins’ rather to be located in the ‘definitive’ ballad source, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads – though there is nothing there under the title ‘George Collins’ and something only vaguely similar under that of ‘Lady Alice’ (Child 85)? A further body of ballad scholarship, drawing initially on the Hampshire ballads like that which Enos White once sang, would conflate Child’s ‘Lady Alice’ with the Scottish ‘Clerk Colvill’ (Child 42).10 Where do folk revival performances, often drawing on sources like the Enos White recording and/or the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, belong? And what about a burlesque parody, ‘Giles Collins and Lady Alis’, printed in The Universal Songster in the early nineteenth century?11 Ballad scholarship has been dominated by the quest for an organizing principle that would lie behind such evident disparity – an urge to identify a single ‘location’ for the ballad. Child, for instance, found it in a ‘condition of society in which a truly national or popular poetry appears [. . .] a condition in which people are not divided by political organization and book-culture into markedly distinct classes, in which consequently there is such community of ideas and feelings that the whole people form an
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