Mudcat Café message #4032593 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #157878   Message #4032593
Posted By: Brian Peters
06-Feb-20 - 01:54 PM
Thread Name: Dave Harker, Fakesong
Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
I agree with Steve G that this thread is shooting off at all kinds of tangents, and that we could probably do with discussing some of the issues separately, but I've no intention of starting a thread about Cecil Sharp any time soon, and there was something concerning Sharp that I wanted to go back to.

Steve suggested earlier that Sharp, although sound in many respects, was guilty of a "misrepresentation of how the material was created and evolved", contrasting CS's approach with that of Baring-Gould in 'Songs of the West', and Kidson in 'Traditional Tunes', and stating that TT "shows a good knowledge of the relationship between print and oral tradition and indeed popular song." Steve also thinks that Sharp must have known about the large collections of street literature in the Bodleian and elsewhere.

I've had a look at the song notes to Sharp's '100 English Folk Songs' (published 1916) and, like B-G and FK before him, he adopts the practice of listing as many examples of the same song type as he can, drawing on Percy, Ramsay, the other Scots collectors, Child, and the Folk Song Journal. He also specifically mentions examples from print for nearly a third of the songs, referring to Roxburghe, broadsides from Such, Catnach etc, and garlands. So it seems to me that Sharp did know quite a bit about street literature, and wasn't afraid to highlight examples when he knew about them. In fact, he makes much play in 'Some Conclusions' of his observation that Henry Larcombe had sung him 'Robin Hood and the Tanner' with a text "almost word for word the same as the corresponding stanzas of a much longer black-letter broadside, preserved in the Bodleian Library."

Sharp devotes three paragraphs of his chapter on ‘Folk-Poetry’ in ‘Some Conclusions’ to the relationship of broadsides to folk songs, explaining the long history of the trade, the role of ballad-sellers in disseminating the songs, and the existence of known ballad authors such as Martin Parker. Of course he also believed that broadsides were derived ultimately from oral tradition, and had become corrupted in the editing process (although he conceded that some broadsides contained uncorrupted text), and many of us will disagree with him there. His views on the origin of the folk song were hazy - he preferred to present both sides of the 'authored vs communal' debate, and resorted ultimately to the get-out clause that the important thing wasn't the origin but the process.

He also wrote: “We must remember also that the folk-singer would often learn modern and very indifferent sets of words from the broadside, and sing them to old tunes, after the manner of the execution songs...”

Again it seems to me that Sharp was quite prepared to discuss the relationship of print to folk song, and his belief that broadsides represented corrupt copies of songs developed by oral tradition is no different from that of Baring-Gould, who thought initially that the texts had originated on broadsides (and were therefore of little significance) but then came round to the alternative view, even before he met Sharp. Kidson, as far as I can see in TT, offers no theory about the origin of 'folk' songs - but do correct me if I'm wrong, Steve.

I don’t see a significant difference between Sharp’s published views on the role of print and those of Baring-Gould and Kidson.