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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Blogging and Ballads

Well, that was a good break. While I didn't exactly work on the particular writing I had in mind, I did finish a song, do some work on what I hope will one day be a respectable ballad, and, much to my surprise, pull out something I started eight years ago with all kinds of ideas spinning around. We'll see if anything materializes from that. Last night was one of those nights where, if I were still in college and didn't have to get up for work in the wee hours, I would have stayed up past the wee hours writing. I hate having to pass up those moments. Why are the hours of 10:30 to 3:30 so conducive to elusive spurts of creativity?

Ballads. The thing about ballads is that they are so rich in history. Most of them have been passed around for centuries across oceans and traditions, and have lots of different versions in multiple languages and styles. Also, the stories are so good. For instance, one that I've been memorizing (not the one I've been writing) is the Ballad of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard. It goes under many names, so you might know it as something like Mattie Groves or Munsgrove. The story goes like this: Lots of pretty women are coming down the church steps, and one in particular looks down to Mattie Groves, who is pleased by the attention. One thing leads to another, and she takes him off to her bower. But, the thing is, she's married. One of the servants of her lord's court sees what is about to happen as she takes off, so he runs home to let his master know. Lord Barnard quickly gathers together a troupe of men, rides in haste and quiet to the bower, and comes upon the couple. In anger, he tells Mattie Groves to get up and put some clothes on, as he refuses to kill a naked man. He gives him a sword, they duel, and Lord Barnard quickly kills him. Then he turns to his lady: "How d'ye like his cheeks? he said, And how d'ye like his chin? And how d'ye like his fair body, now there's no life left within?" "It's well I like his cheeks, she said, And well I like his chin, and more I like his dead body than all of your kith and kin." Not surprisingly, Lord Barnard is less than thrilled with her answer, and, in more anger, kills her with the same sword he had killed her lover. In the more intense versions, he doesn't just kill her: "He cut her pappes from off her brest; Great pitye it was to see the drops of this fair ladyes bloode run trickling downe her knee." source. Not surprisingly, this is not a verse I'm including in the version I'm trying to learn. And yes, in historical ballad tradition, I am picking and choosing the bits and pieces of various versions I've found to make my own compilation. Of course, my favorite version is one that one of my college classmates used to sing at Friday Nights. However, this recording of it is also pretty good, not only because of the music itself, but the singer's explanation of it, and the exchange between the musicians, is lots of fun. He does make kind of funny faces while he's singing, so if you want to just listen and not actually watch him, that works. Enjoy.

Anyway, it's good to be back to blogging. One of the writers on altcatholicah approached me a few weeks ago asking if I could do some guest posting, and it made me realize I really need to keep this up. Is the blogging community the 21st century equivalent of the Inklings? Oh dear. I hope not.

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