(Spontaneous Poetics (Ballads) – Helen Adam – 1 (Lord Randal)

AG (to Helen Adam): Do you want to sit up here with me? (No?)..okay let me get another (chair)..that’s too big of a… does that look good?

HA: Yes, yes, that’s fine. Could we get some water.

AG: Oh yes. Could we get some water. No, you stay there. Somebody (one of the students) will get it.

HA: I mean, there’s no hurry, but..

AG: Yeah

HA: Well, ballads, of course, are story poems..    Can you hear me?

Student (pointing to microphone):  That’s not a P.A.

HA: Oh

Student: That’s just a mike.

HA: Oh, I thought..

Student:  (No) it’s just a mike for the recording..

AG: You’ve got to talk just to them. That’s just for recording.

HA: Oh I see. Well just before I begin, I spent a glorious afternoon at the very top of Estes Park on the tundra and it was pure ballad country. The great fierce mountains, and then the beautiful little things, like the tiny little Alpine flowers and the adorably tame birds. There’s a lot of birds in ballads, (usually talking birds), and there was this fantastic girl who was standing on the very edge of a great drop, holding her arms like this, with peanuts in them, and those enchanting birds would come flying and somersaulting in the air and snatching the peanuts, and suddenly staying on the back of her hands, and (there was) this wonderful cold wind blowing. It was just absolutely gorgeous. And then on the way back in the car, Michael Castro, who gave me the ride, sang some of his songs to me, lovely ballad songs, and (there was) a marvelous line in one, that seemed to come straight out of the old ballads, about how when you were very happy, you could look up at the great sun, and…what was the line exactly, Michael?

Michael Castro: And hear it hum..?

HA: “And hear it hum, feel it hum on high”

Michael Castro; Yes

HA: That’s it – “And feel the song he hums about”. I think that’s a marvelous line about the sun, and it’s straight out of the old ballads, because the elemental nature was always so near – and it still is in Scotland. I was back there six years ago, and I love America and the gorgeous places I’ve seen in America, but none of them have this strange feeling of the supernatural. I once slept out alone in the High Sierras and it was just beautiful and lovely, but when I slept out alone in the Cuillins of Skye it was absolutely unearthly. You felt at any moment.. It was blazing bright full moonlight, and there was terrific black mountains, and I had even gone up the wrong mountain (at least, I told my friends I’d be one mountain, I changed my mind, and went up another) so it was madness, because, if you broke a leg or anything, you’d be stuck. But the feeling of supernatural, unearthly, weird there was just overwhelming. But, anyway, this is a lovely old one (which you may know) called “Lord Randal”

AG: Yeah (Bob) Dylan copied this.

HA: Oh did he? Oh then I’d better not take it.

AG: No, no, he copied it. That’s even better

HA: I see.

AG: What is the.. “Hard Rain”. What are the first lines of “ (A)Hard Rain(‘s Gonna Fall)”?

Student: “Tell me what did you see, my blue-eyed son”

AG (singing): “Tell me what did you see, my blue-eyed son”

HA: Oh yes, of course!  Why, it’s a steal! I never realized that!

AG: “Tell me what did you see, my blue-eyed son/ Tell me what did you see, my darling young one..”

HA: Ah, yes, of course. It’s permissable if he did it.

A portion of the page of Bob Dylan’s handwritten lyrics for the song “A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall,” that reportedly sold at auction in August 2009 for $51,363.60

AG: So we can go back to “Lord Randal” obviously. Does anybody here know “Lord Randal”. How many here do?

HA: Oh, a lot of people must.

AG: How many have not heard of “Lord Randal”? [class presents a show of hands] – So, total education here. How many knew that Dylan took it (“Hard Rain”) from “Lord Randal”? Raise your hand if you really did, if you really really knew – Oh great.

HA: Oh great. Then someof you did..[Helen Adam then begins to sing accapella all ten verses of the traditional ballad, “Lord Randal”

“O where ha’ you been, Lord Randal, my son?/ And where  ha’ you been my handsome young man?…”

AG: One thing I wanted to say, so..just as he’s got “Where ha’ you been, Lord Randal, my son”, it’s “Cincinnatta”– “Whereha’ you been – it’s dialect.

HA: Yeah.

AG: Just as this Scottish classic. So there’s the American classic too – though people don’t realize that it’s classic – but in a hundred years, it’ll sound classic, (Jack) Kerouac, or anything in that style, making use of a particular vernacular, like from Ann Arbor, or St Louis, or New Jersey. Brooklyn-ese is classic, and Bruce Springsteen is probably making Jersey-esque classic at this point. So it’s not really any different, it’s just the classic local particular dialect of our own tongues. Here it looks terrific, because you’re used to it. In America, it doesn’t yet look terrific to professors because they’re not used to it, but there’s no reason why it can’t be terrific, why your own tongue can’t be terrific, if you stick out your own tongue…

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