Basic Poetics – Ballads – (Brown Robyn’s Confession)

AG: There are some other ballads I’d like to cover (because we didn’t have a really good one with incest in it, or a stanza with incest), so there is “Brown Robyn” – (the) famous series, (the) “Brown Robyn” series – I’m working from the Penguin Book of Ballads by Geoffrey Grigson – and, maybe, if anybody has any other ballad books, there’s variants of it. It’s called (here) “Brown Robyn’s Confession” – “It fell upon a Wadensday/Brown Robyn’s men went to sea;/But they saw neither moon nor sun/Nor starlight with their e’e./”We’ll cast kevels us amang;/ See where the man may be” -/The kevel fell on Brown Robyn,/The master-man was hee” – (who cast lots) – “It is nae wonder”, said Brown Robyn,/Altho I dinna thrive;/For wi’ my mother I had twa bairns/And wi’ my sister five”- (with my mother I had two kids and with my sister five!) – So they throw him into the ocean – but he floats! – And he was in there three hours and Mary came, the “Blessed Lady” came to him, with Christ, and so she asked him.. “Will ye gang to your men again,/Or will ye gang wi’ me?/Will ye gang to the high heavens,/Wi’ my dear son and me?” – “I winna gang to my men again,/For they would be feared at mee;/But I woud gang to the high heavens,/With thy dear son and thee”.” – So he goes to heaven – with incest! – that’s pretty good! – The psychology of the ballads is not simple-minded at all. They’re real smart. Whatever folk wisdom is there. Whatever common human insight is there. But, imagine, like, it’s really outrageous, (the) idea that, “..nae wonder, said Brown Robyn,/Altho’ I dinna thrive;/For wi’ my mother I had twa bairns/And wi’ my sister five”

Student: What year was that written in?

AG: I don’t know. It’s an early ballad, I take it (because it’s early in the book). I think most of the ballads are.. the ballad years are apparently… most of the ballad years are a little bit pre-Shakesperean, (they’d be) about a hundred years before Shakespeare and up to Shakespeare’s time, I think

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately twenty-six-and-three-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately twenty-nine-and-a-half minutes in]

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