Talk:Child Ballads

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A lot more of these deserve links and articles. -- Jmabel | Talk 07:38, 12 November 2005 (UTC)

You're probably right, though I'd do the articles, then the links (huge lists of redlinks are rarely a good thing), in most cases. I linked a few beyond what there were articles for, thinking or (or maybe someone else) would be writing articles for them before long. Haven't got around to a bunch of them yet. If there are a few glaring oversights, go ahead and link them. I don't think there are any unlinked that are of the caliber of Barbara Allen or anything; I think Geordie is probably the most significant ballad lacking an article as of now. Any you had in mind particularly? -R. fiend 11:57, 12 November 2005 (UTC)
Coming at this as a musician rather than a musicologist, it is possible that I don't always correctly know some of these ballads from the titles as given by Child, but several that I think would have article potential are "The Fause Knight Upon the Road" (possibly together with "Riddles Wisely Expounded", they are closely related), "Sheath and Knife", "King Henry" (I assume that is the one about "bring more meat to me..."?), "Allison Gross", "Willie MacIntosh" (I assume this is "The Burning of Auchindown", a magnificent short ballad, and tied into significant historic events), and "The Gypsy Laddie" (a.k.a. "The Raggle Taggle Gypsies", "Gypsy Davey", etc.: very interesting as an example of a romanticized view of gypsy life, sometimes crossed with the "Gypsy" of the title revealing his identity as a Lord). That was at a quick skim; I'm sure there are many others. About half of these I don't know, or at least not by these titles. -- Jmabel | Talk 23:07, 12 November 2005 (UTC)
I'm guessing you have at least one Steeleye Span album in your collection. But, yes, I think you made some pretty good choices there. One of my main criteria when I made links and articles was that I personally knew of more than one recording of the song in question, giving some verification that the song is somewhat widely known, and that I wasn't basing my decision on what one band happened to record (though in a case or two I may have violated this). "Riddles Wisely Expounded" was one I probably should have linked, though the others I personally knew of only one recording by (not that I can say I did a search, this is mostly just from the music I happen to own). "False Knight" I could only think of the Steeleye Span version, likewise "King Henry", and "Allison Gross" (those two particularly it seems to me Span made their own through their unconventional arrangements), "Sheath and Knife" I know the Ewan MacColl version. Until you mentioned it, I hadn't realized that "Willie MacIntosh" was "The Burning of Auchendoun"; you were quite right, and again I only know MacColl's. "Raggle Taggle Gypsy" is certainly derived from "The Gypsie Laddie", but I'm not 100% I'd call them the same song. Skimming through Child, I don't see any mention of "raggle taggle gypsy" in any of the versions. Much like "The Gypsy Rover" which has some similarities, it might be different enough to be considered separate (like "The Elfin Knight" and "Scarborough Fair"). Then again, they could probably be covered in the same article, even though those two examples aren't (maybe they should be? Admittedly I did briefly cover "Our Gudeman" in "Seven Drunken Nights"). Certainly with every teenybop flavor of the week single getting an article that just mentions its position on every conceivable chart, I would not oppose an article on any Child Ballad. Some are certainly more deserving than others though. If you're familiar with anything close to half of them, I'm very impressed; the vast majority of them I don't know at all. But to make a long rambling short: write some articles on any of these songs. I'll likely add to them, I've got quite a few good sources. -R. fiend 23:45, 12 November 2005 (UTC)
On another note, was that typo "Widely" there from the beginning? I can't believe I never caught that myself. (And I noticed I did it again above, and had to fix it). -R. fiend 23:47, 12 November 2005 (UTC)
Yes, I have pretty much every Steeleye Span album in my collection (and, yes, "Allison Gross" and "King Henry" I know only through their arrangements; ditto "Lamkin"), though I knew a lot of this music before they were around. I learned some of these (mostly in American variants) from my father, who grew up in Popular Front culture, so not the most "authentic" line of transmission (basically, via Alan Lomax and Pete Seeger), but not the least, either. I studied under Jean Redpath, so I have a very legitimate lineage for the Scottish ballads and street songs. In the 1970s I spent a lot of afternoons at Cecil Sharpe house looking for good ballads that were not already well known. I could go on, but I'm sure you get the general picture. -- Jmabel | Talk 18:42, 13 November 2005 (UTC)
Well, I went and did it. It was too annoying to add links every time I added an article, so it's now a mass of red-links. Then, I did it so I could refer to the plots from various articles where they were convenient instances, and therefore the articles are stubs. Goldfritha 16:23, 15 June 2006 (UTC)

In the Modern Folk Adaptations section, I found a couple of sentences had been entered regarding the recordings of very obscure artists. These were probably inserted here by the artists themselves, at any rate they were worthless historically so I deleted them. There are many recording artists who have recorded individual Child Ballads, and I see no point in attempting to list them exhaustively except to make a point about certain notable aspects of the history of the Ballads. Ramseyman (talk) 09:19, 4 April 2012 (UTC)

I agree, since virtually every traditional British or folk rock artists has recorded several ballads, there is no possibility or need to record them all. A few for illustration might be useful.--SabreBD (talk) 10:17, 4 April 2012 (UTC)

"Roud numbers"[edit]

There is a new major search engine for traditional songs here:

The compiler, Steve Roud, has assigned "Roud numbers" to thousands of songs (over 143,000 references from books and records). More and more scholars using Round numbers rather than Child numbers. There are cross references to child numbers, Sharp numbers, Hammond, Gardiner etc. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 17 May 2006.

Perhaps. But even on the "currentist" Internet, a google for "'Child numbers' + folk" gets ten times the hits of "'Roud numbers' + folk", and "'Child Ballads' + folk" adds another factor of 100. (roughly 30 vs. 300 vs. 30,000) - Jmabel | Talk 00:35, 1 June 2006 (UTC)

Counterparts in other languages[edit]

I'm going to add a section with references to similar collections in other languages. This will be somewhat 'stubby', and I do hope others will add more information. There are a couple of rationales for this:

(1) Both the 1900 century pioneers (e.g. Child and Grundtvig actually, mainly his son S. H. Grundtvig) and the modern researchers inspired and inspire each others, and quote each others' work.

(2) There are numerous instances when these ballad very tangible have crossed language barriers. For instance, Child 10, The twa sisters, corresponds to one of the most well-known Scandinavian medieval ballads. Some Danish variants were collected by Grundtvig, who gave them the number 95 in his collection Danmarks gamle Folkeviser (which he started publishing in 1853). Thus, and similarly, comparing English, Danish, Faroese, Norwegian and Swedish classifications, we find that essentially

Child 10 = DgF 95 = CCF 136 = NMB 18 = SMB 13

In fact, there is a classification of types of Scandinavian medieval ballads, in which the type "The two sisters" is TSB A38. You may view the summary description of this type here (the boldface quotation in English in the middle of the article); and compare with The_Twa_Sisters#Synopsis; and you'll immediately recognise the parallel. (Child indeed noticed this, as his comments to The Twa Sisters show.)

I have been told that there are parallels also in other European languages, but I don't know much about old ballads outside the Scandinavian or English languages. I do expect others to know, though. JoergenB 18:00, 30 September 2006 (UTC)

Humm. The problem with putting them under "Child ballads" is it makes it seem that the Child ballads are 1. the source and 2. the really important ones.
I tried to make it clear that Child was not first, but rather inspired by the earlier collections. A few sentences like this, more or less stating that his work was 'part of a pattern', is suitable here (I think)... together with a reference to the "Major ballad collections" you suggest.
I think what the ballads could really use:
  1. Articles, even stubs, for these collections
  2. A list of "Major ballad collections", as soon as we have two or three
  3. Amendments to any Child ballads with non-English ballads. Possibly opening with something like "XYZ is a widespread Northern European (or suitable region) ballad. Child collected several English variants and A. Non-English Collector collected three Ruritanian ones." If the chronology is known, we should do our best to put it in, but we are, after all, doing folk lore.
  4. Articles for other language notable ballads. Combat systemic bias!!!!
Or does the section you added properly belong under the ballads article? Humm. Goldfritha 21:22, 30 September 2006 (UTC)
  1. Agreed. I'll get around to it for the Swedish one(s); for the others, I'd prefer people from the respective language areas to do it in the first place. But, yes, stubs would be useful.
  2. Possibly as a stub already now?
  3. Hmm. I've seen good, printed and bound lists, used by professional ballad researchers. The lists paired e.g. Child numbers with TSB or SMB numbers. I asked about this, and the lists seem to be produced by ballad researchers for ballad researchers, and never intended for large circulation. However, this is exactly what we'd need; the experts already made this work, and I'd feel stupid trying to repeat it (probably with much worse results). Besides, Svenskt Visarkiv (where I saw it) is a state institution, and therefore the lists are available for inspection by the public - but they need not be public domain. This seems to motivate some negotiation.
  4. I agree completely. Unhappily, I know very little of ballad collections outside the Scandinavian languages and English, except that comparison with e.g. French ballads exist.
I don't know; but this seems to cover also ballads in more modern meaning. Possible Popular ballads; but today popular isn't associated with folk lore in the first place, is it? JoergenB 18:23, 3 October 2006 (UTC)

On 2: I think we need to have at least two entries to even qualify as a stub. On 4: Maybe if we have two, others will be inspired to add more 0:) Goldfritha 23:22, 3 October 2006 (UTC)

On 2: Well, I did write a very short stub for Sveriges Medeltida Ballader (SMB), and I'll make an Engish DgF stub rather soon. However, I'd prefer some others to make larger articles about DgF and CCF - and I do not exclude that there is some article about CCF on fo:WP, which I just couldn't find. I put a question about these things on the Danish wiki to the guy writing most of the Hammershaimb article, and hope to know more soon. I could write a little on the pioneer Swedish collection, too, since I do have an old Swedish text on my home page about it. So, assuming this done...? JoergenB 15:20, 4 October 2006 (UTC)
There's a folksong stub. Perhaps we need a folksong collection stub. But I will split out into a list. Goldfritha 00:01, 6 October 2006 (UTC)

Separated list[edit]

I've created a separate List of the Child Ballads as a separate item, and moved the list of the 305 items there. I tried out this kind of organisation for sv:Sveriges Medeltida Ballader, and I think it makes the articles easier to view. Now, there is no ínformation within the proper article text coming after the long list; i.e., if you use standard set-up only the category membership information is to be found there; while you with no problem may survey the entire main article (including Child Ballads in modern popular culture).--JoergenB 14:22, 15 January 2007 (UTC)

WikiProject class rating[edit]

This article was automatically assessed because at least one WikiProject had rated the article as start, and the rating on other projects was brought up to start class. BetacommandBot 10:46, 10 November 2007 (UTC)

Relevant Blog?[edit]

I recently came across a blog (Better Know a Child Balad) that is such a good resource it seems worth including as an external link. Although (as the person who reversed my edit points out) links to blogs are discouraged, this one is devoted only to the subject and particularly useful for collecting relevant online videos of each song type into one place. I won't try to redo the change, but will post here for reference. Bookishwench (talk) 08:29, 5 March 2013 (UTC)

Child Ballads - what about the traditional melodies?[edit]

I came to the article with no knowledge of the subject, and it was not at all clear to me, until I followed the Gutenberg Project link, whether Child even included transcripts of melodies. (He doesn't, only the words)

Ballads are usually but not always sung - some are just in verse form to be narrated; but apparently most of the ones Child collects from Broadsides were songs, as far as I can tell. It's in the nature of folk ballads that different melodies and variants of the text exist, but some reference in the introduction or early in the text to the fact that many or all were songs would make the article more intelligible to the layperson.

At the moment therefore, the lack of any mention of the music in the introduction results in a jump in the text: the section "Modern Adaptations" starts by saying, "Many Child Ballads have appeared in contemporary music recordings." which begets the question, "What about the melodies as they were known at the time Child compiled these texts?" They didn't have gramophone yet, so do we know whether what people today are singing corresponds at all to what Child would have heard? Are the "adaptations" the section refers to using old melodies or not?

I suspect answers to these questions are in the book "Bronson, Bertrand Harris. The Singing Tradition of Child's Popular Ballads" which is cited in the Literature section, but it would be nice if a brief mention in this Wikipedia article would save me the need to track it down! Northtowner (talk) 09:41, 7 April 2013 (UTC)

I had the same problem. The article should make it clear immediately whether by ballad we mean song or poem, and if we mean song whether a collection includes music. I would assume it to include music unless specifically informed otherwise. We find very late in the article that apparently one volume of one edition of Child's major work does include some music, but you have to dig to find that, and even then it's hardly clear. TheScotch (talk) 08:49, 1 March 2014 (UTC)

Publication and Structure[edit]

There seems to be some confusion (here and in particular in the article on Francis James Child) over the production and format of the actual printed work so I offer up the following new section for comment that attempts to clarify some of these points. Note, informal pseudo references only are included in the draft text below for replacement later.

The English and Scottish Popular Ballads were originally published as a series, comprising 5 very large volumes, starting in 1882. Each volume was published in two physical parts, with each part appearing some months or years apart. In each case, the page numbering of the second part of a volume simply continued from the first part. Thus it is true to say both that the ballads were published in 5 (logical) volumes and that they were published in 10 (physical) parts.

All 305 ballads are included within the first 9 parts, which were published prior to Child's death in 1896.[Ref Part IX]. The final tenth part was published in 1898 after Child's death, the final work being based upon Child's substantially complete manuscript was completed by George Lyman Kittredge [Ref Part X]. This work is unique in that it includes no additional ballads but comprises supplementary material including additions and corrections, indices, bibliography, and the airs (music) for over 40 of the ballads.{Ref Part X].

Although there are only 305 ballads in total across the five volumes, there are often many versions of each, for example nine versions of No. 4 "Lady Isabel and the Elf-Knight", eighteen of No. 58 "Sir Patrick Spens" and twenty eight of No. 173 "Mary Hamilton". [ref 1904 Preface p v]. There are also voluminous introductions to each set of ballad versions, often running to many pages, including references to the sources of the texts.

In 1904 an abbreviated single volume edition of the Child Ballads was published by Helen Child Sargent and George Lyman Kittredge. It included 300 or the original 305 ballads, but restricted the number of versions of each and the length of the introductions. The numbering of the ballads and the variants that do appear is identical to those of the original work.[ref 1904 Preface p v].

In 1965 the original works were republished in five physical volumes by Dover publications.

Inspeximus (talk) 14:47, 8 June 2013 (UTC)

Joan Baez[edit]

Other than "Mary Hamilton" Joan Baez did NOT record many child ballads and thus could not have been responsible for making them popular again, as erroneously stated here!! She did do covers of material on Harry Everett Smith's folkways anthology, but not of Child Ballads particularly.

The attempt to build her up by disparaging Appalachian singers is disgraceful and does a disservice both to Baez and to the traditional singers who kept these songs in circulation. Mballen (talk) 01:31, 18 December 2013 (UTC)

I see that Baez did in fact include 10 Child ballads sprinkled among her first 5 albums. I toned down the fulsome description of her style.
The rest of the article is also very unsatisfactory. For example, it should be noted that fully half of the ballads in Child's collection came verbatim from the The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1801-1802), the previous collection made by Sir Walter Scott (and his numerous assistants). Also the Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (the ballads assembled by Bishop Percy in 1765) were the basis for the great reform of poetry by Coleridge and Wordsworth, announced in Wordsworth's incredibly important essay "Preface to the Lyrical Ballads" (1801), in which he said that modern poets ought to use the actual language spoken and understood by ordinary people and not antiquated, learned "poetic diction" of earlier poets (such as Milton). The texts of the ballads thus had an established place in the canon of vernacular poetry long before Child's edition came out at the end of the nineteenth century. Despite the "English and Scots" in the title, the ballads were known by Child and other scholars to be pan-European, North African, and Near Eastern. In their song notes, both Bishop Percy and after him also Francis Child objected vehemently to the anti-semitism expressed in the ballad "Sir Hugh and the Jew's Daughter", illustrated here for some reason. Both Percy and Child (and also Sir Walter Scott for that matter) believed fervently in the Enlightenment ideal of religious toleration. That the ballads, which used to introduce almost every anthology of English poetry, thus stood for both democracy and toleration, was understood by all. Mballen (talk) 03:09, 18 December 2013 (UTC)

I removed a paragraph about Baez which has no relevancy to the article that I can see (and begins by going on about her grandfathers!). The section in which it appears is still fairly jumbled, however. Information should be moved about to make it reasonably chronological, and some mere listing (of everyone who ever recorded a Child ballad) needs to be eliminated. TheScotch (talk) 09:04, 1 March 2014 (UTC)

I suspect it was the folk music revival in general, rather than Joan Baez in particular, that was responsible for "repopularizing" the Child ballads. Burl Ives, for example, included two Child ballads on his 1949 album The Return of the Wayfaring Stranger: "Lord Randall" and "The Divil and the Farmer". That's eleven years before Baez's first album and about as many as she recorded per album on her early albums. TheScotch (talk) 09:56, 9 March 2014 (UTC)

I just added the Ives info, made the section chronological (or closer to chronological, at least), and toned down some of the remaining Baez hype (though still leaving intact, for now, some dubious Baez hype). TheScotch (talk) 10:22, 9 March 2014 (UTC)

School-essay-style viewpoint pushing[edit]

This passage of florid, opinionated nonsense really needs to come out, and isn't even rational ("bank"? who can you store money in it?): "The poetry, rhetoric, drama, mythos, mystery, metaphysics, therapy, judgment, talent, creativity, energy and sounds that are stored in the Child Ballads and emitted and elicited by them have made them function as an unofficial bible and bank of the English-speaking peoples." Temp4590 (talk) 00:20, 28 December 2013 (UTC)

While the terms in which the previous editor dismisses this passage are incorrect - in the English language a bank is a repository for anything - sperm, data, food, blood, memory - this sentence is not encyclopaedic and must be removed. You may report someone else's opinion but you must not express your own. Catwizzle (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 08:11, 3 February 2014 (UTC)

Not really. Tropes like sperm bank and food bank use bank figuratively. Etymologically bank derives from banca, meaning money changer's table. If you say just bank without a modifier, as the sentence in question does, you're talking about money (unless of course you mean hill). No, "the terms in which the previous editor [Temp4590] dismisses this passage" are, in fact, not at all "incorrect". TheScotch (talk) 09:29, 1 March 2014 (UTC)

as a "start" class article, it generally needs a whole lotta lovin all around. fee free to take your eraser and pen and bookshelf and start lovin. -- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 09:46, 1 March 2014 (UTC)

Subject of the ballads[edit]

Re: "Some of the topics and other features characteristic enough of Child Ballads to be considered Child Ballad motifs are these: romance, enchantment, devotion, determination, obsession, jealousy, forbidden love, insanity, hallucination, uncertainty of one's sanity, the ease with which the truth can be suppressed temporarily, supernatural experiences, supernatural deeds, half-human creatures, teenagers, family strife, the boldness of outlaws, abuse of authority, betting, lust, death, karma, punishment, sin, morality, vanity, folly, dignity, nobility, honor, loyalty, dishonor, riddles, historical events, omens, fate, trust, shock, deception, disguise, treachery, disappointment, revenge, violence, murder, cruelty, combat, courage, escape, exile, rescue, forgiveness, being tested, human weaknesses, and folk heroes."

"Some"? I gave up trying to plow through this monstrosity of a sentence long before I reached the middle point, but just glancing at it suggests to me that if it doesn't include every possible "topic" it's not for want of trying. Why not just say something like "the subjects of the ballads are many and varied"? TheScotch (talk) 09:12, 1 March 2014 (UTC)

Possible source quotations possibly to be mined.[edit]

Since my access to Grove is now more limited than it used to be, I'm putting below its entire (short) Child Ballad entry in the hope that some of it may be useful for this Wikipedia article:

A collection of 305 ballads from oral tradition included by FRANCIS JAMES CHILD in his The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (1882–98). Approximately 120 have been found in American oral tradition. While many of the ballads deal with British historical events, those that survive in America generally concern universal themes such as unrequited love (“Barbara Allen” [Child No. 84]), love triangles (“Lord Thomas and Fair Ellender” [73]), infidelity (“Gypsy Davy” (200)), and adultery (“Little Matty Groves” [81]). A few treat humorous subjects, such as “Our Goodman”/“Three Nights Drunk” (274), about a drunkard cuckolded on successive nights by his sharp-tongued wife, or “The Farmer’s Curst Wife” (278), about a farmer whose pact with the devil to take his wife away goes awry. The timelessness of such themes has kept these ballads alive, not only in oral tradition, but also in commercial genres such as country music (“Barbara Allen,” by the Everly Brothers and Dolly Parton), blues/rhythm & blues (“Wake Up Baby” [274] by Sonny Boy Williamson), classical music (Custer LaRue and the Baltimore Consort have recorded several), and pop music: “The Elfin Knight” (2) was the basis for Simon and Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair/Canticle.”

An interesting quote from an article I found on the web called "Early Child Ballads" written by one Dani Zweig:

While some broadsides, particularly later ones, came with music, the more common custom was to name a popular tune to which the song or ballad could be sung.

TheScotch (talk) 02:30, 3 March 2014 (UTC)

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