Mudcat Café message #3242110 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #87026   Message #3242110
Posted By: Stower
20-Oct-11 - 04:55 PM
Thread Name: Barbara Allen earliest version?
Subject: RE: Barbara Allen earliest version?
Thanks for your thoughts.

Lighter, I wasn't suggesting the balladist was thinking of an actual single event, but of a recognisable scenario, such as the death of someone from the plague and all the fear and anxiety that goes with it. In that way, the ballad writer would be no different to pop song writers today writing generally of falling in love or breaking up, or writers of films or plays putting made-up characters in dramatic and familiar or real situations. It seems almost too much of a coincidence to me that the 3 symptoms suffered by the would-be lover are those of plague when the date of the ballad is borne in mind.

"Also, if there was no prior relationship between the presumed lovers, why would she go to him at all - especially if she thought he might have the plague?" Precisely. "And why would she want to be buried by him?" Remorse that she denied him his wish for her to be with him (though at the time she'd have feared contamination, if my hunch is correct). Regrets and self-reprisals about the recently deceased in a situation of personal conflict are a common reaction.

I do think Bronson's characterisation of "This little song of a spineless lover who gives up the ghost without a struggle, and of his spirited beloved who repents too late..." is a bit harsh. Why is he spineless? In the earliest version he's just a man making a dying request. Well, in some later versions he collects his tears in a bowl, and what sort of man does that?! And BA is "his spirited beloved"? I can't see what's spirited about either her fear (from one angle) or her heartlessness (from another). Have I missed something?