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She changed the words to Raglan Road

DigiTrad:
RAGLAN ROAD


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Taconicus 26 May 11 - 12:30 PM
GUEST,Henryp 15 Sep 07 - 12:12 PM
Steve Shaw 10 Sep 07 - 04:24 PM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 10 Sep 07 - 01:04 PM
An Buachaill Caol Dubh 10 Sep 07 - 12:51 PM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 10 Sep 07 - 12:43 PM
mg 10 Sep 07 - 12:15 PM
Charley Noble 10 Sep 07 - 09:15 AM
Steve Shaw 10 Sep 07 - 06:49 AM
death by whisky 10 Sep 07 - 05:58 AM
PMB 10 Sep 07 - 05:06 AM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 10 Sep 07 - 04:42 AM
Big Al Whittle 10 Sep 07 - 02:13 AM
GUEST,Guest 10 Sep 07 - 12:51 AM
Steve Shaw 09 Sep 07 - 08:44 PM
GUEST,mgq 09 Sep 07 - 08:36 PM
Charley Noble 09 Sep 07 - 08:26 PM
Steve Shaw 09 Sep 07 - 08:25 PM
GUEST,mg 09 Sep 07 - 02:49 PM
Big Al Whittle 09 Sep 07 - 02:03 PM
McGrath of Harlow 09 Sep 07 - 01:17 PM
McGrath of Harlow 09 Sep 07 - 12:45 PM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 09 Sep 07 - 08:39 AM
Declan 09 Sep 07 - 08:31 AM
GUEST,TB 09 Sep 07 - 08:22 AM
Big Al Whittle 09 Sep 07 - 08:13 AM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 09 Sep 07 - 07:14 AM
Big Al Whittle 09 Sep 07 - 06:39 AM
Leadfingers 09 Sep 07 - 06:36 AM
Leadfingers 09 Sep 07 - 06:35 AM
Big Al Whittle 09 Sep 07 - 06:33 AM
Big Al Whittle 09 Sep 07 - 06:31 AM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 09 Sep 07 - 04:11 AM
GUEST,Jerry O'Reilly 09 Sep 07 - 02:38 AM
Steve Shaw 08 Sep 07 - 09:14 PM
McGrath of Harlow 08 Sep 07 - 05:23 PM
Declan 08 Sep 07 - 08:19 AM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 08 Sep 07 - 05:13 AM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 08 Sep 07 - 05:05 AM
Cluin 07 Sep 07 - 08:30 PM
GUEST,mg 07 Sep 07 - 01:34 PM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 07 Sep 07 - 01:08 PM
GUEST,mg 07 Sep 07 - 10:55 AM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 07 Sep 07 - 07:05 AM
PMB 07 Sep 07 - 04:33 AM
Santa 06 Sep 07 - 04:25 PM
GUEST,Tom 06 Sep 07 - 07:28 AM
vectis 06 Sep 07 - 07:25 AM
Steve Shaw 06 Sep 07 - 06:11 AM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 06 Sep 07 - 05:04 AM
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Subject: RE: origins - Raglan Road
From: Taconicus
Date: 26 May 11 - 12:30 PM

From the lyrics to this song I immediately thought that the author must have been not only a poet/songwriter but also (like Robert Burns) a Freemason as well, because of the allusions to it (secret signs, true gods of sound and stone, etc.) It sounds as though the author fell in love and shared with her the secrets of the craft (poetical, at least), and suffered by it when she (in his view) subsequently used them to her own advantage before leaving him.

Researching further, I see no evidence of any Masonic membership by the author, Patrick Kavanagh, but there's a very good interview by Colbert Kearney all about the song's origins, here, published in 2010.


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: GUEST,Henryp
Date: 15 Sep 07 - 12:12 PM

Benedict Kiely relates how the song was sung for the first time when he was working for the weekly newspaper The Standard. One day he was talking to a friend in the office at the corner of Pearse Street and Tara Street in the heart of Dublin.

In stepped Patrick Kavanagh with a few sheets of paper in his hand and slapped them down on the table. Could we sing that to the tune of The Dawning of the Day he asked - the John McCormack recording of the English translation of Fainne Geal an Lae was very popular at the time.

The three began to sing, and were joined by the editor Peter O'Curry, a good friend of Kavanagh. Significantly, the lady in the song was known to Benedict Kiely and his friend - she had been with them at University College, Dublin.

See Irish Ballads published in Ireland by Gill and Macmillan Ltd, after a special edition of the Bord Failte's magazine Ireland of the Welcomes - The Place in the Song: A musical Grand Tour of Ireland.


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 04:24 PM

I agree about the strict time versions.   Some of the MIDI versions of the tune on the net are awful! Tom - I think you should tell us whether you like Luke's version! ;-)


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 01:04 PM

Thanks ABCD - a very good point. As we said above, it works a lot better sung the way you describe. I must track down PK's version - though I'd understood he 'learned' that after Kelly? Does he sing it like Kelly or like his poem? I'll bet it's a long way from Loreena's version anyways! It's the accompanied strict time versions, with words bodged to fit, that I'm least comfortable with, myself.


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: An Buachaill Caol Dubh
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 12:51 PM

Further to some points made above:   first, I've seen a short clip on Television of PK singing (in a Traditional manner) his own "DofD" to the Fainne Gael an Lae air, which together with the repetition of that phrase does tend to confirm that these were "words for music perhaps". Secondly, Tom Bliss's contribution above is most useful with regard to the internal rhyming; it's worth bearing in mind that assonance and assonantal patterning is very much a feature of Irish (i.e. Irish language) song. However, I can't agree that the melody is ponderous, tho' some might perform it or regard it in that way. Another feature of traditional singing - at least, when it's unaccompanied (as it ought to be - but that's another matter...) - is the freedom which singers will allow themselves with tempo and time and rhythm, the speed of the music being guided by the sentiment being presented. Take it a little further, even; need each verse even have exactly the same melody, note for note? I'll not go into detail, but on two occasions I think it acceptable to introduce a very slight variation to the musical line; again, a feature of traditional music (especially instrumental, of course) Finally, the difficulties of the beginning of the third verse are primarily, in my view, to do with the length of the phrasing which ought ideally to be given without breaking for breath; if one takes the liberties I've suggested with regard to tempo &c., then the sense can be made come through with the melody not unduly compromised. All depends on skilful breathing, breath-control and indeed lung-capacity; 'tis a pity John McCormack was of the earlier generation, because it would take someone like him - or Jussi Bjorling - to deal confidently with this aspect.


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 12:43 PM

I'm going to regret this! mg, I DO know how it's usually sung - goodness gracious me! My capitals merely point out where Kavanagh set his rhymes (they were not all accents in his version), which do not fit the current tune, or any regular tune, because his lines and rhymes are irregular. He was careful with his words, and if he'd set himself the task or writing to a tune he'd have made them fit, that's for sure. Thus I deduce he had no tune in mind, and was writing free poetry, with a loose but important internal/external rhyming system. Changing that system was essential to make the poem into a song in the first place. But it wasn't changed within Kavanagh's terms, so it's a compromise, and at times not a good one. You object to change - but it will happen, sometimes naturally, sometimes delibrately (Kelly's changes were obviously deliberate). I don't like Lorreena's version myself much, but her changes (apard from the sx change) are a natural consequence of the flaws in that original compromise - as other people's are.

Have we met, then?


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: mg
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 12:15 PM

I have never heard of people singing with some of those accents but I can't be bothered to show you how they generally are done. mg


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: Charley Noble
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 09:15 AM

I copied and pasted the poem from "Oldpoetry.com" where there was no source referenced. The website had this for biographical information about the poet:

Kavanagh was born on the 21st of October 1904, in the village of Inniskeen, Co. Monaghan, Ireland. His father was a shoemaker and had a small farm of land. At the age of thirteen Kavanagh became an apprentice shoemaker. He gave it up 15 months later, admitting that he didn't make one wearable pair of boots. For the next 20 years, Kavanagh would work on the family farm before moving to Dublin in 1939.

Kavanagh's writing resulted in the publication of some poems in a local newspaper in the early 1930's. In 1939, his brother Peter, who was a Dublin based teacher, urged him to move to the city to establish himself as a writer. The Dublin Literary Society saw Kavanagh as a country farmer and referred to him as "That Monaghan Boy".

Kavanagh spent the lean years of the war in Dublin, where his epic poem The Great Hunger was published in 1942, presenting the Irish farmer's grinding poverty and sexual inhibition. This found him in trouble with his publishers. In 1947, his first major collection A Soul for Sale , was published. These poems were the product of his Monaghan youth. After the war he published the novel Tarry Flynn (1948) which is a about a small time farmer who dreams of a different life as a writer and a poet. In the early 1950's, Kavanagh and his brother Peter, published a weekly newspaper called Kavanagh's Weekly , it failed because the editorial viewpoint was too narrow. In 1954, Kavanagh became embroiled in an infamous court case. He accused The Leader newspaper of slander. The newspaper decided to contest the case and hired John A. Costello, as their defense council. Kavanagh decided to prosecute the case himself and Costello destroyed him. The court case dragged on for over a year and Kavanagh's health began to fail. In 1955, he was diagnosed as having lung cancer and had a lung removed, Kavanagh survived and the event was a major turning point in his life and career. In 1958, he published Come Dancing with Kitty Stobling . In 1959, he was appointed to the faculty of English in UCD. His lectures were popular, but often irrelevant to the course. In the early 1960's, he visited Britain and USA. In 1965, he married Katherine Malony. He died in 1967 from an attack of bronchitis. Kavanagh's reputation as a poet is based on the lyrical quality of his work, his mastery of language and form and his ability to transform the ordinary into something of significance

Patrick Kavanagh died in Dublin on 30th November 1967, bringing to a close the life of one of Ireland's most controversial and colorful literary figures.

Bibliography and picture source: IrelandOnline.com

I found it interesting reading.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 06:49 AM

I've always thought that in this poem the poet wanted us to see him as pathetic and arrogant. Like the friend who's telling you about his woeful tale of love lost in spite of all he did for her, when you find yourself having to nod in sympathy whilst all the time knowing full well that he brought his misfortune on himself. Kavanagh is standing outside himself here and observing his own romantic ineptitude (he laments it in the poem too when he says he loved too much). He does what many a spurned lover does when he insults her right at the end of the poem (and augmenting himself at the same time!) I'm sure he wants us to see that as diminishing him. I think some of Tom's rhyming scheme is stretching things a bit. Danger/walked? Street/we? (coincidence, surely!) Wooed/should? I can't make those two rhyme! Me/hurriedLY? Hmm. I think Kavanagh just rhymed where it happened to fit but just didn't bother to hunt for alternatives where it didn't, and I think the poem's all the better for that bit of freedom.


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: death by whisky
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 05:58 AM

What a great thread, I m supposed to be doing someing else.Ive never done this song,as I havent the voice for the slower ballad I have changed the tempo/rythm/style of songs to suit the voice and have always had great fun doing that.it feels great when the adjusted version goes down well with an audience


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: PMB
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 05:06 AM

Isn't it odd, I can't believe that Kavanagh ever tried to sing this, does anyone know if he did sing or play anything? He chose the words, he chose the tune, and the two barely fit. November wee? It's the cold weather. Angel wooze sounds like the result of too much fairy dust.


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 04:42 AM

Sorry if I've bored you Steve. I love dissecting songs and forget that others may be squeamish :-) My apologies. May I humbly suggest you just skip right over my ramblings (easy to spot, they're the long ones!)?

And sorry for not posting the whole poem earlier Charley. I was assuming that everyone here knew it from the threads above (where others have made similar points to mine in the past). An error on my part.

But now we have it to hand, may I just point out the internal rhyming scheme - which I think undermines the suggestion that PK had DotD (or indeed any other tune) in mind when he wrote it?

Some lines don't comform at all, and I'm sure if he was humming DotD along, or anything like, he'd have written the beginning of verse three very differently. But if you don't try to put it in the metre of the song, the internal rhymes work perfectly, and the lack of them in some lines is not an issue at all. Nor are the stresses of the verse.

(I do find myself wondering if he changed the street to RR from ''Something' Way' perhaps, as he's worked so hard at most of the other internal rhymes, and not many writers would break their own system in the very first line, as it sets people off down the wrong road)!

Thereafter we have this pattern most of the time, (but not always on the beats where the phrases break in DotD):
AAB
CCB
DDE
FFE

On Raglan ROAD on an autumn DAY I met her first and knew (no internal rhyme)
That her dark HAIR would weave a SNARE that I might one day rue;
I saw the DANGER, yet I WALKED Along the enchanted way, (not a proper rhyme, might he have considered 'strayed' at some point? anyway it works fine on the page)
And I said, let GRIEF be a fallen LEAF at the dawning of the day.

On Grafton STREET in November WE Tripped lightly along the ledge (I like it sung like this, but it's not commonly done)
Of the deep raVINE where can be SEEN the worth of passion's pledge,
The Queen of HEARTS still making TARTS and I not making hay - (see what I mean about the humour? You almost need to wink at this point)
O I loved too MUCH and by such and SUCH is happiness thrown away.

I gave her gifts of the MIND I gave her the secret SIGN that's known (try singing this to DotD as it's written, fitting the rhymes into the tune where the other lines have them, then stretching 'that's known' over 8 beats - eeek!)
To the artists WHO have known the TRUE gods of sound and stone (again, try singing it like this aaaaagh!)
And word and TINT. I did not STINT for I gave her poems to say.
With her own name THERE and her own dark HAIR like clouds over fields of May

On a quiet STREET where old ghosts MEET I see her walking now
Away from ME so hurriedLY my reason must allow
That I had WOOED not as I SHOULD a creature made of clay - (it's a shame so many change it to 'loved' when 'wooed' rhymes)
When the angel WOOS the clay he'd LOSE his wings at the dawn of day.

Given the syllable count between all these rhymes (and the normal ones at the end of the lines), could PK really have had any tune in mind? Or was he writing free poetry? I think he was - because it's beautiful and unfettered on the page.

I also agree entirely about a sense of absurdity, of self-depricating irony and wry humour, which doesn't come over in the DotD song because the tune imposes a tragic mood on the words. The tune, while beautiful, is ponderous, and I don't think the poem is.

Anyway I've taken up enough of your time. Thanks for having me!

Tom


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 02:13 AM

When you look at it in its entirety - it is of course quite lovely. And which songwriter would not like to have written something which has inspired great performances by so many wonderful singers?

And yet...it is about this woman; not really worthy of the poems wot I wrote, the love wot I pledged.......

We've all been there.......... but the feeling is usually one of being absurd, rather than tragic.


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: GUEST,Guest
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 12:51 AM

You can be certain that Behan did not like Kavanagh. Allegedly he referred to him as the Monaghan w****r and the f****r from Mucker.


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 09 Sep 07 - 08:44 PM

I said before that tracking down the true original seems to be well-nigh impossible. Charley's version is at least sensible though I share the cavil of the post above (and would also, respectfully, question some of the punctuation). The old boy must be up there laughing.


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: GUEST,mgq
Date: 09 Sep 07 - 08:36 PM

Is that how he wrote it? I thought and have always heard it was I saw her first and knew. mg


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: Charley Noble
Date: 09 Sep 07 - 08:26 PM

Maybe I missed it but I don't think anyone has bothered to post the entire poem in question:

On Raglan Road

On Raglan Road on an autumn day I met her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare that I might one day rue;
I saw the danger, yet I walked along the enchanted way,
And I said, let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day.

On Grafton Street in November we tripped lightly along the ledge
Of the deep ravine where can be seen the worth of passion's pledge,
The Queen of Hearts still making tarts and I not making hay -
O I loved too much and by such and such is happiness thrown away.

I gave her gifts of the mind I gave her the secret sign that's known
To the artists who have known the true gods of sound and stone
And word and tint. I did not stint for I gave her poems to say.
With her own name there and her own dark hair like clouds over fields of May

On a quiet street where old ghosts meet I see her walking now
Away from me so hurriedly my reason must allow
That I had wooed not as I should a creature made of clay -
When the angel woos the clay he'd lose his wings at the dawn of day.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 09 Sep 07 - 08:25 PM

For goodness' sake, all this dissecting! The poem is inspired and has enigmas and deliberate ambiguities, as do all good poems. Flippin' 'eck, we're supposed to be able to appreciate good art on multiple levels, aren't we?   The tune is lovely and atmospheric though it may not exactly fit the words if you want to get all technical. You song-techs are forgetting that we listeners are absorbing an overall picture, not sitting there analysing whether the song and tune, bar for bar, are some sort of perfect match. Luke's version is a solid gold classic, technically-flawed though it may be. In fact, the flaws probably contribute to its greatness. The poem expresses the many flaws of humanity-in-love, and the poet himself lays bare and laments his own imperfections. And Luke conveys this wonderfully. Humanity, right?


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 09 Sep 07 - 02:49 PM

A song does not have to tell a story and certainly does not have to be rewritten to tell a story. There are all sorts of songs that we don't know what the story is..it is part of a story, in media res, or it is a fragment of a song that used to tell a story, or we can't interpret what the story is because of historical distance. Still doesn't mean we should change the words.

I have no trouble at all singing I gave her gifts of the mind I gave her the secret sign...and I hate it when notes don't line up with words so either I have a glitch in my obsession or there is no problem.

You do not have to telepath anything to anybody. If it is a decent song and you are a decent singer, no problem. mg


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 09 Sep 07 - 02:03 PM

You'd have to ask Brendan Behan and he's dead, so I dunno - still that's very much what it conveyed to him. Or perhaps, he didn't like Kavanagh anyway - and was looking an excuse for an argy bargy.


"I'd say he's fully aware that the "gifts of the mind" weren't quite what was required. ..."
I always felt the complete opposite - that the writer thought the girl should have dropping her drawers in gratitude and in stunned appreciation at the sheer profundity of his 'gifts of the mind'.

However that's the nature of poetry, McGrath. As William Empson said, the lines go backwards and forwards and ambiguity lies at the very heart of the artform.


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 09 Sep 07 - 01:17 PM

"seriously though he gave her 'gifts of the mind' and he's wondering why she pissed off........!"

I'd say he's fully aware that the "gifts of the mind" weren't quite what was required. No reason to think he's "wondering" at the parting, rather than merely regretting it.


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 09 Sep 07 - 12:45 PM

What's wrong with calling someone "a daisant feller", assuming he was one?   And what does a phrase like "the small town rural value judgements" mean, for God's sake? Some suggestion that people in cities don't make value judgements every bit as much? And just as likely to be wrong in them. (Or right for that matter.)

We owe it to ourselves to agree with or disagree with "value judgements" because of what they contain, not because of where the holders come from. Otherwise it's not that different from doing it on the basis of skin colour or sex.


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 09 Sep 07 - 08:39 AM

Indeed

t


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: Declan
Date: 09 Sep 07 - 08:31 AM

Tom,

I think most singers keep the mind to one syllable, which leaves them stammering on the I. This is certainly how Luke sang it.


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: GUEST,TB
Date: 09 Sep 07 - 08:22 AM

I suspect you're right!


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 09 Sep 07 - 08:13 AM

Oh I don't know Tom! Have you ever come across that account of a contretemps between Brendan Behan and Kavanagh. Apparently Kavanagh called someone 'a daisant feller', as in the song Hello Patsy Fagan?

Anyway to big city boy Behan this exemplified all the small town rural value judgements inherent in the Celtic Woolshop. And the two of them differed without agreement being reached, as they say.

Maybe he was this kind of guy - he really thought his 'gifts of the mind' were a superior option to spending a tenner on a Boots voucher. Personally, I've always suspected so.


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 09 Sep 07 - 07:14 AM

There is a big different between natural developments and deliberate rewites, of course. But the latter does happen - possibly more than people realise. I think you'll find people like Pete Coe, Brian Peters, Martin Carthy - all the great interpreters routinely rework traditional songs quite radically at times to make them hold water - because the natural erosion process tends to produce leaks, and eventually they need repairing. I certainly do.

This is because many trad songs are story songs. And in story-telling, which is of course an art form in its own right, there some basic rules about never loosing the audience, keeping every footfall bang on track however tortuous the route, from Once Upon a Time to Happily Ever After.

Most folk songs tend to have at least one foot in the story camp, and RR is no exception - except that it also has a foot in the blank verse/ dare I say it sniggersnogger camp ! Well, it's a relationship song after all! (Ducks behind sofa).

Personally, I like to sing with conviction, and with clear images in my mind which I hope to beam at the audience by telepathy, to try to help them enter the world I'm describing. This is hard with RR, because I really don't know what the heck PK is on about half the time - though in the other half I'm in total empathy.

WLD, I agree about "'I gave her gifts of the mind." It, along with the "Angel woos" line can make the singer seem like a pretty unpleasant fellow. But my point is that it is the TUNE which does this, not the words. The tune makes this line seem like a key issue in the song - which it wasn't on the page. In a spoken poem, (Kavanagh's natural territory even if he did, as some have suggested, have a tune in mind on this occasion), lines like that are not presented portentiously, and therefore do not become pretentious. The listener is in a different space, a different mind-set, so takes in the words at a different level. It's all about weight.

Specifically, tha word 'mind' is a huge problem. Why? Because the tune requires that it be held for three beats, with, moreover, a rise of one tone on the last - and with a key change beneath it. Yet it's a single sylllable word, which can work well over two beats, but sounds horrible stretched over three with a lift at the end. (There are ways of getting round this, of course, but a songwriter would never have gone there in the first place).

The tune here puts unfair emphasis on what was a supposed to be subtle and understated idea, (like the Such and Such line) so comes over all wrong.

Tom


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 09 Sep 07 - 06:39 AM

sorry!


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: Leadfingers
Date: 09 Sep 07 - 06:36 AM

Bugger ! WLD Snuck in on mre ! LOL


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: Leadfingers
Date: 09 Sep 07 - 06:35 AM

I find that over time , and regularr singing , the words tend to Morph into the way I would phrase something , rather than 'As Written' - This I think is The Folk process , and is vastly different to taking a song , and virtually re writing it !

Oh yes! And 100


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 09 Sep 07 - 06:33 AM

seriously though he gave her 'gifts of the mind' and he's wondering why she pissed off........!


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 09 Sep 07 - 06:31 AM

'I gave her gifts of the mind,'

I always hate that line. I'm sure the woman would have preferred a large gin and tonic, and a gift voucher for Next.


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 09 Sep 07 - 04:11 AM

I can't find it now, but I'd understood that there are many more references to Dublin places buried in the poem than just Raglan Road and Grafton Street. I'm sure someone said elsewhere that the The Queen of Hearts was a pub as well as a reference to both the nursery rhyme and the lady in question. I think also The Ledge was a ginnel as well as a metaphor for a dangerous path and The Ravine was a place within a park - and I believe there is a reference to a bakery somewhere - sorry not to be more specific.

I think we all understand the overall message in the poem, Steve. But Kavanagh has obviously chosen his words very carefully indeed, and there are lots of places where it's not immediately obvious what he meant. That's as it should be in a poem - the listener/reader makes up his own mind. Songs tend to be slightly more direct than poems, as a rule, but the listener still has to make up his own mind. In both cases that choice is personal and private.

But if you are a singer who is planning to re-write someone else's words, you are taking on a big responsibility - specially if your version may be widely heard. So you need to engage much more deeply which what the original writer was trying to achieve - just as you would if you were planning to take a chisel to a statue. If you don't, you could wind up making a pigs ear out of a silk purse.

That's my problem with Raglan Road. There are lines which I think sound wonderful to that tune, but others where the tune makes the words hard to understand, or even quite ugly - when they were beautiful on the page.

So that's why so many people opt to make changes - and I agree that changes are necessary if the song is really to speak properly. The trouble is that some people's changes diminish the original work, instead of supporting it, which is shame. For example, I'd prefer there to be a better way of resolving the words/hint conundrum that doesn't banish the four arts - because i think they are a core idea in the poem - IF I understand what Kavanagh was 'driving at.' But i can't resolve it, which is one of the reasons I've stopped singing the song.

I've heard many other versions where people have tried to knock off the corners because words and tunes don't sit well, but I seldom find them an improvement. And Loreena's decision to change the sexes undermines much of the power of Kavanagh's original imagery, which again I think is a pity.

Maybe it's just because I'm a writer myself that I want to respect other writers' work. I have no problem changing trad songs, because the writers are long gone. I have no problem altering the work of living writers, because I can ask them first if it's ok and then get their approval for the changes. But Kavanagh is different. I know who he was, I hope I can understand him a little from the original poem and his other works, but I'm not comfortable with Raglan Road. I want to make changes, but his presence is still too strong, too alive. But also I can't talk to him and delve further in search of a really good solution.

You see?

Tom


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: GUEST,Jerry O'Reilly
Date: 09 Sep 07 - 02:38 AM

If I remember correctly Des Geraghty has done a translation into Irish. I'll give him a ring and try to persuade him to post it here.


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 09:14 PM

Tom Bliss a écrit: "Personally, I feel the poem passes through a number of emotions, though it's hard to judge having heard the song many times before I read the words as they were laid out on the page (and that makes a big difference as any poet will tell you). The tune now informs my reading of the poem, so it's hard to grasp that Kavanagh was really driving at.
I suspect the local Dublin references are almost in-jokes, or geographical puns perhaps, so maybe there's some dry humour in poem, which is lost in the sad but quite opulent setting, leaving these references sounding merely perplexing."

The poem's intentions are very clear.   I simply cannot understand why you find it "hard to grasp what Kavanagh was really driving at."   He wasn't "driving at" anything. He was writing a poem. The message of the poem is overwhelmingly simple and clear. I find nothing perplexing about the Dublin references and I don't understand your notion that Mr Kavanagh was perplexing us with near in-jokes. The poem's "message" is simple and clear, even to a non-aficionado like me. We need less of this wishy-washy bullshit when we are presented with poetry and more of the simple directness of the Luke Kellys of this world conveying the message to us. That way, poetry becomes that bit more accessible to us all.


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 05:23 PM

Has anyone translated Kavanagh's poem into the Irish?


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: Declan
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 08:19 AM

Tom,

THat song is a translation of the Gaelic "Fáinne Geal an Lae", which means, as you might expect the dawning of the day - literally the Bright ring of Day. There is at least one other Dawning of the Day song to the same air which I have heard sung, but I don't know where the lyrics might be (The DT maight be a good starting point).

On a more general point I find it hard to believe that PK wrote Raglan road, which actually contains the phrase "The Dawning of the Day" without this air in mind. It has been said elsewhere that Kavanagh gave Luke Kelly the lyrics and Luke matched them to the tune, but as I say this doesn't make a lot of sense to me.


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 05:13 AM

Ah...

One morning early I walked forth
By the margin of Lough Leane
The sunshine dressed the trees in green
And summer bloomed again
I left the town and wandered on
Through fields all green and gay
And whom should I meet but a colleen sweet
At the dawning of the day.

No cap or cloak this maiden wore
Her neck and feet were bare
Down to the grass in ringlets fell
Her glossy golden hair
A milking pail was in her hand
She was lovely, young and gay
She wore the palm from Venus bright
By the dawning of the day.

On a mossy bank I sat me down
With the maiden by my side
With gentle words I courted her
And asked her to be my bride
She said, "Young man don't bring me blame"
And swiftly turned away
And the morning light was shining bright
At the dawning of the day.

Well, maybe there are other versions too - certainly these are not as deep or as engaging as Kavanaghs poem! I wonder if it was the mention of hair that gave Kelly the idea for the link!


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 05:05 AM

"I guess that is what bugs me..the deliberate reworking"

mg, I believe you'll find that through the ages most traditional songs have been regularly and radically reworked, and deliberately too, for many reasons - which is why we have so many very different versions of what was maybe one root song.

Not by every singer who took them up, of course, though there is always accidental change over time, (just compare one singer's own versions of the same song 5 years apart) plus the changes that take place during transmission - even if the new singer is trying to be faithful to the learned version. But it's highly likely that at least some singers have always been happy to make fairly drastic reworkings of a song it they felt it had become necessary, specially if they were taking it into a new environment, away from the community where they learned it. Just as happens today.

What's unusual about RR is that the person who made the song, Luke Kelly, did not write either the words or the tune. The person who wrote the words is not responsible for the song either - only for a poem, which is a very different animal. And the person who wrote the tune certainly did not envisage those words with it. There is a large canon of works in this category of course - probably more than we know, as this practice is a very easy way to make a new work without doing any work (!), but RR is perhaps the best known of them, and as such it's very interesting to people like me.

I suspect one key factor in its success is that there are no problems or tangles at all in the first verse, which works magnificently.

Maybe we are happy to tolerate the eccentricities that come later because we have bought into the song during that excellent first verse (plus of course we're rewarded with lots of other magnificent lines, which do work perfectly with the lovely tune, as we go along).

If so, that's a useful pointer to what makes songs work; what makes people like them. Does it tell us that, like when buying a house, you make up your mind about a song very quickly - in the first verse? If so we can contrast that with the knowledge that we can grow to love a piece of music we intitially hated, just through repeated listenings - so how does that fit with the above?!

For someone like me who is really interested in the psychology of song, of music and singing generally (why and how it works, why do we rhyme, why metre, why melody etc, RR is almost a test case. Because it's not technically a song at all - and yet it obviously is, and a hugely successful one at that!

Tom


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: Cluin
Date: 07 Sep 07 - 08:30 PM

"the tune is Paddy McGinty's Goat"

Not a fucking chance, Buck.


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 07 Sep 07 - 01:34 PM

I guess that is what bugs me..the deliberate reworking..it does not have to hang together either. The natural erosion is fine...and I have read something that indicates he always meant it to be a poem to that tune. I don't know. And I don't have trouble singing such by such and I am one who likes accents to go in the right place so I fail to see what the problem is, other than that extra for..mg


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 07 Sep 07 - 01:08 PM

No, of course not, but usually when songs don't make sense it's either because of a deliberate decision by the songwriter/s, within the context of a cohesive package of lyrics and tune, or because of a natural process or erosion over time through the tradition - in which case it's usual for interpreters to rework the song, so that it does actually hang together.

RR is, for me, a fascinating subject for study because of its very recent and unusual genesis as a song. We are seeing the start of the evolution process. A lot of singers seem to feel the need to do something about those uncomfortable areas, and going back to the poem doesn't seem to help a lot, as we've discussed. Loreena's version is one attempt at getting it into shape, but like you I'm really not sure it's an improvement.

That's why, for now, I personally still prefer the words as a poem, and the melody as a (maybe different) song (does anyone know the 'original' words - if they ever existed, by the way?)

Tom


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 07 Sep 07 - 10:55 AM

songs don't have to make sense. mg


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 07 Sep 07 - 07:05 AM

That's wonderful!! But I think it fits even better to London's Calling myself!

A musician? LOL! I think Napper would disagree (only kidding, Tom)! I write and sing unaccompanied as well as with a variety of instruments, and yes I guess it's true that RR would be much easier to do nude. In fact I've just tried it and it is. It certainly solves a lot of the timing problems, but it doesn't fix everything. 'Such and such' still seems too prominent, and I'm still not sure that such a beautiful sad tune can ever really convey the "wryly self-mocking" tone (as McGrath so astutely put it).

Peersonally, I feel the poem passes through a number of emotions, though it's hard to judge having heard the song many times before I read the words as they were laid out on the page (and that makes a big difference as any poet will tell you). The tune now informs my reading of the poem, so it's hard to grasp that Kavanagh was really driving at.

I suspect the local Dublin references are almost in-jokes, or geographical puns perhaps, so maybe there's some dry humour in poem, which is lost in the sad but quite opulent setting, leaving these references sounding merely perplexing.

I don't have any problem with people changing words or tunes (as long as it's with permission if the writer's still alive). I do it all the time myself, in fact I think RR needs more drastic revision than you commonly hear to have real integrity as a song.

I guess I say all this because I work hard to expunge any confusion from my own songs - while leaving room for the listener's imagination to flower. I require every syllable to count in the effect (even if I'm being deliberatly obscure and poetic), and, because I feel I'm talking to the audience when I sing, I also don't want to seem to be talking nonsense (well, not in a serious song anyway) to people who've kindly come out to see me.

When I sing Raglan Road there are some lines that just don't make sense to me - so how can I convey the sense of them to an audience?

If a lyric is completely free, abstract, in blank verse - as some are, that would be fine. But RR is quite specific and literal some of the time, but very non-specific and elliptical at others. It's in this disconnect that my problems lie. I just don't think many songwriters would deliberatly set out to give the listener this many hurdles to jump over. Whereas a poet would, and should.

But as say, none of this really matters if it moves you personally (as it obviously does to most), and I understand Kavanagh was delighted with the setting, so this is really just academic blather from an inveterate devils advocate like me!

Tom

PS, I'm fascinated by the craft of songwriting, and it's my job too. If anyone happens to be interested, this is a download of the booklet that was serialised in Living Tradition magazine last year. (It's free)


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: PMB
Date: 07 Sep 07 - 04:33 AM

Here's another Kavanagh poem, though I'll defy you to sing it (the tune is Pddy McGinty's Goat):

        
Having To Live in the Country
        
Back once again in wild, wet Monaghan
Exiled from thought and feeling,
A mean brutality reigns:
It is really a horrible position to be in
And I equate myself with Dante
And all who have lived outside civilization.
It isn't a question of place but of people;
Wordsworth and Coleridge lived apart from the common man,
Their friends called on them regularly.
Swift is in a somewhat different category
He was a genuine exile and his heavy heart
Weighed him down in Dublin.
Yet even he had compensations for in the Deanery
He received many interesting friends
And it was the eighteenth century.

I suppose that having to live
Among men whose rages
Are for small wet hills full of stones
When one man buys a patch and pays a high price for it
That is not the end of his paying.
"Go home and have another bastard" shout the children,
Cousin of the underbidder, to the young wife of the purchaser.
The first child was born after six months of marriage,
Desperate people, desperate animals.
What must happen the poor priest
Somewhat educated who has to believe that these people have souls
As bright as a poet's - though I don't, mind, speak for myself.


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: Santa
Date: 06 Sep 07 - 04:25 PM

I'd like to add what a treat this thread, and the associated ones, have been to read. I have, thanks to the tip about RTE, finally managed to hear both the Loreeta and Luke versions. For some unimaginable reason, I seem to have previously missed the song completely. I've also managed to get my wife and the computer together long enough to swap opinions.

We agree that the Luke Kelly version is far too slow. I would also add that the performance borders on self-parody: I don't know what the Irish equivalent of "finger in the ear" is, but "finger in the Guinness" doesn't seem to fit. I guess that counts as individual taste. The Loreeta McKenna version was a bit over-emotive, but better paced. Having read the words separately, I think something rather cooler and reflective would suit the poem (and the beautiful tune) better. My wife's comments on the poem was "narcissitic bugger": I shall leave to those who knew the poet better to decide on the historic accuracy of that! I found the Van Morrison version on You Tube but the version was too staccato to listen to. I shall have to look out for the Martin Simpson one.

She also said "Tom Bliss is a musician, then?" in response to your comments on fitting the words to the tune. As a decent unaccompanied club singer (I think she's better but I'm biased) she is used to changing tunes to fit words, and certainly doesn't feel that either should be regarded as inviolable. Not being a musician, singer or poet, I feel that considering the tune to be unalterable is the same attitude as regarding the poem sacrosant: if we stuck to both we wouldn't have the song at all.

I only hope that this doesn't raise blood pressures too high.


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: GUEST,Tom
Date: 06 Sep 07 - 07:28 AM

Having an informed debate about these things is huge fun. No raised blood pressure lol!!!


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: vectis
Date: 06 Sep 07 - 07:25 AM

Bob Copper always said
"take the song and make it your own"
Sounds like this lass has done just that. This doesn't mean that you have to like it or start singing her version.
Folk and good songs can stand some minor alterations or complete parodies and still be good songs in their own right.
There is no right or wrong in this her version is just different. Accept it and don't let it upset you, you can't make her change what she's doing, so don't raise your blood pressure over it just agree to differ with her.


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 06 Sep 07 - 06:11 AM

Another example of a poem that sounds slightly odd as a song (I've mentioned it before) is "The Song of Wandering Aengus" by Yeats, sung by Christy Moore. Christy, as with Luke, makes such a fine job of it that any little cavils I may have are soon dispelled. I love 'em both, flaws included!


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Subject: RE: She changed the words to Raglan Road
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 06 Sep 07 - 05:04 AM

Sorry I meant to say "Speech produces a melody of its own, and a poem (or well written script) implies its own tune - ask any good actor..."

But that tune is 'free' and doesn't have to repeat the way song melodies need to do.


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