continuing with Allen’s 1980 “Basic Poetics” class and the old English (Scottish) balladsAG: The next one, “Edward..” is a very.. is a similar thing (to “Lord Randall“). Does anybody know Scots (sic) a little, well you do, do you want to read that, Pat (sic)?
Student (“Pat”): I didn’t really understood it..
AG: Well you do..something – “Edward, why is your brand”, (why is your sword), “why is your brand so dripped with blood, [“Why dois your brand saw drap wi’ bluid”], “Edward, Edward”? – (That has a very haunting refrain too) – da-da da da, da da-da da, da-da da-da da-da da da, da da-da da, da-da, da-da, da da-da da-da da” – “And why so sad..”, “And why sae sad, gang yee O?…” You want to try that, Pat?
[Student (“Pat”) begins a reading of this anonymous poem, reads the first two stanzas]
AG: Could I question? How come you’re putting the second “mother” as a run-on to the next line [“Mither/mither, O I haed killed my reid-roan steed..”] – Is there…do you know a tune that does it that way?
Student (“Pat”): I’ve heard it that sung that way, I guess…
AG: Do you know the tune?
Student (“Pat”): No, I don’t think I can carry a tune!
AG: Okay. I don’t think I’ve heard it sung recently, or not in twenty years or so, but..
Student (“Pat”): John Jacob Niles has it..
Student (“Pat”): He’s a little grotesque.
AG: Is he the one who makes it a run-on line ?
Student (“Pat”): Yes
AG: I don’t think I like that. Because there’s something about. “Your haukis bluid was nevir so reid, Edward, Edward”, something.. “Your haukis bluid was nevir so reid”. It needs a comma, or it needs the breath, but.. I don’t know. Anyway, go on, do it any way you do it. I was just wondering.. Go on.
Student (“Pat”); I’ll do it that way.
AG: Yeah, let’s do it the other way.
Student (“Pat”) (continues): “Your steid was auld, and ye hae gat mair, Edward, Edward”….”The curse of hell frae me sall ye beir/Sic counseils ye gave to me O”.
AG: Yeah, apparently, she told him to kill the father! – or, at least that was his briefing, but, “The warldis room” [“The world’s room”] is a fantastic line. What will you leave to your children and wife? [“what wul ye live to your bairns and your wife?”] – The whole world’s room! – That’s a strange line. Yeah?
Student: That rhythm seems to bear resemblence to “Madamoiselle from Armentieres”, remember “Parley-voo”?
AG: Yes, yes – Sure… [Allen begins singing, comparing the rhythms] – “I’m Madamoiselle from Armentieres, parley-voo, parley-voo” – “And what wul ye live to your bairns and your wife, Edward, Edward” – “I’m Madamoiselle from Armentieres, parley-voo, da da dadda da da da da, da da, da, da dadda dadda – da da da da dadda, inky dinky parley-voo” – I don’t think I’ve ever analyzed what that rhythm is, but..
So, “The warldis room, late them beg thrae life” – that’s a fantastic line. It goes right down your backbone – “The warldis room, late them beg thrae life” because it’s like the..all the tragedy and orphanage rolled into one line. The kids are going to have to go out and beg in “the world’s room” (also, it’s a very strange idea, the whole world is a room – because they say, they’re translating this as “through the world”..no, what is it?..”the wide world”, yes, But “the world’s room” is great.
Then, the last line, “Such counsels that ye gave me O”, is a very famous, much-quoted line , incidentally – “Such counsels that ye gave me O”…for.. I think it was a.. where was that? was it a play or a novel that I saw recently? – “Such counsels..” – “Sic counseils ye gave to me-O”.. What was it? Who? – I don’t know who used it. It’s recent.
[Editorial note, – Allen is most likely thinking of the poem by Robinson Jeffers, and the title given to his 1937 collection – Such Counsels You Gave to Me & Other Poems]
[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately twenty-six-and-three-quarter minutes in, and continuing until approximately thirty-two-and-a-half minutes in]