Wednesday, June 29, 2016

More Ballads (Thomas the Rhymer & Tam Lin)

["Under the Eildon tree Thomas met the Lady" - "illustration by Katherine Cameron from Thomas the Rhymer (retold by Mary MacGregor, 1908)]

AG:  "Thomas the Rhymer" is a very famous one. The first line is… (It) sort of echoes - "True Thomas lay o'er yon grassy bank" - you know that phrase? -  "True Thomas.."? - That's come through some kind of cultural unconscious, from this ballad, "Thomas the Rhymer". "O.." - and, in that, there's several great lines. He's going.. He's going to Elfland. He's being conjured, and tells what.., or seduced into Elfland - "“O see not ye yon narrow road,/So thick beset wi' thorns and briers?/That is the path of righteousness,/Tho after it but few enquires./“And see not ye that braid braid road,/That lies across yon lillie leven/That is the path of wickedness,/Tho some call it the road to heaven./“And see not ye that bonnie road,/Which winds about the fernie brae?/That is the road to fair Elfland/ Whe'r you and I this night maun gae" - "But Thomas, ye maun hold your tongue,/ Whatever you may hear or see,/For gin ae word you should chance to speak/ You will neer get back to your ain country" - "He has gotten a coat of the even cloth,/And a pair of shoes of velvet green,/And till seven years were gane and past/True Thomas on earth was never seen."
So he went to Elfland for seven years. But, to get to Elfland, you had to wade for forty days and forty nights, with red blood up to the knee! - That's a great sort of.. little great movie, that little piece of it. -  "For forty days and forty nights/ He waded through blood above the knee/And he was neither sun nor moon,/But heard the roaring of the sea."

"Tam Lin" - I won't go through, but you might check that out, if you ever get the chance to read more ballads - "The Ballad of Tam Lin" was Helen Adam's favorite (I refer to her because she's maybe the greatest living ballad-maker among the poet-poets - aside from singers).

                                                                      [Helen Adam (1909-1993)] 

to be continued

[Audio for the above can be heard here beginning at approximately forty-two-and-a-half-minutes in and concluding at approximately forty-four-and-a-half minutes in]

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Basic Poetics - Ballads - (Alison Gross)

[Vittore Carpaccio (1455-1526) - San Giorgio e il drago (St.George and the Dragon) c.1502-08, at the Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni, Venice]

[Giovanni Bellini (1430-1516) - St. George and the Dragon,  the left panel of the Pesaro altarpiece (40 x 36cm) c.1471-74, at Musei Civici, Pesaro]

AG:  And then - Magic.. –  (page) fifty-one - If any of you know paintings by Carpaccio?  or other similar fellows – Bellini? – of the Saint.. killing the dragon.. what was it, St George killing the dragon?,  and the dragons are usually very strange little intimately-conceived monsters out of somebody’s psychedelic moment of fourteenth-century or thirteenth-century. There’s a sort of equivalent set of dragons here, and also some speech (this is very old but it sounds like present-day Geordie language (Northumbrian, the kind of talk you get out of Tom Pickard, who I mentioned before, who writes now in straight English as spoken in Newcastle) (It's) called "Allison Gross" – page fifty-one here – and it’s the guy talking about Alison Gros  

“O Allison Gross that lives in yon tow'r./ The ugliest witch i' the north country/ Has trysted me ae day up till her bowr,/And monny fair speech she made to me./ She stroaked my head, and she kembed my hair/An she sat me down saftly on her knee/Says. Gin ye will be my lemmon, so true/Sae monny braw things as I would you gi." - ("lemmon" - a  lover) - "She showd me a mantle o' red scarlet,/Wi gouden flowrs an fringes fine;/Says, Gin ye will be my lemmon so true/This goodly gift it sal be thine./Awa awa, ye ugly witch/Haud far awa and lat me be/I never will be your lemmon sae true,/An I wish I were out o your company".   
That “away away you ugly witch" ..awa' awa'.. "hold far away and let me be” – that’s straight talk as you can hear it now, amazingly, in Newcastle – "Awa awa, ye ugly witch/Haud far awa and lat me be"  
Well, so she bribed him with more  “saftest silk” and “good red gold" cups and jewels "fair to see" – and he repeats, "Awa awa, ye ugly witch/Haud far awa and lat me be/For I wouldna ance kiss your ugly mouth/For a' the gifts that you could gi'  (I would not once kiss your ugly mouth for all the gifts  you could gi').  
- Well,  so what happened then?
(She’s a witch, remember)  
“She's  turn'd her right and roun about/An thrice she blaw on a grass-green horn/An she sware by the meen and the stars abeen,/That she'd gar me rue the day I was born./ Then out has she taen a silver wand,/An she's turnd her three times roun an roun/She's muttered sich words till my strength it faild,/An I fell down senceless upon the groun/She's turn'd me into an ugly worm/And gard me toddle about the tree".." - ("worm", in that case would be a serpent or a dragon, an ugly dragon, that’s the Carpaccio dragon – "And gard me toddle about the tree" – made me – that’s kind of nice - "toddle" about the tree – She's turn'd me into an ugly worm/And gard me toddle about the tree./An ay, on ilka (every) Saturdays night,/My  sister Maisry came to me,/Wi  silver bason an silver kemb/To kemb my heady upon her knee/But or I had kissed her ugly mouth/I'd rather a toddled about the tree" -  But or I had kissed her ugly mouth/I'd rather a toddled about the tree" (He's real resolute about it!) 
Well, let’s see now, then, finally, the Queen of Heaven comes - " it fell out on last  Hallow-even/ When the seely court -  (the fairy court was riding by) ‘When the seely court was riding by,/The queen lighted down on a gowany bank/Nae far frae the tree where I wont to lye/She took me up in her milk-white han,/An she's stroaked me three times 'er her knee/She chang'd me again to my ain proper shape,/An I nae mair maun toddle about the tree"... I don’t know how to do it. -  "An I nae mair maun toddle about the tree".
The worm – an ugly worm, "toddling about the tree" is nice – It’s a very weird image. It’s.. also the relation, the sort of straightforward relation is interesting, Like, his take on - some women he likes and some women he don’t like, and that’s that. Simple as that. And that’s  sort of..  Actually, Tom Pickard, who writes in this sound, somehow has those same emotions – still
 – Yeah?

Student:  Steeleye Span sings that song
AG: Really?  Steeleye Span – that’s a band? they do this one? has anybody got a copy?
Student: They also do "Fause Knight on the Road"
AG: Really? -  I’ve never heard them done
Student; They change words a little bit to make it more.. melodic (with certain lines..)
AG:  Do they use their own tunes or do they have old tunes, do you think?
Student: I think they change the tunes for their own use
AG: Are people..have most people here heard those?
Student (2): No I haven’t
AG: Great..they’d be great to hear . Can we get them? Can you check out and see if we can get them?
Student: Oh yeah, I've got them here.
AG: You have them?
Student: Oh yeah
AG  Okay, make a tape. You don’t have the Joan Baez Lady (sic) Hamilton, or anything like that, do you?
Student: No
Student (2): I  might have it
AG: Who?
Student (2): I might have it, I’m not sure...
AG: Well check it out maybe we can put it on the tape and hear it some time
Student (2) I don't have the tape, I might have the record 
Randy (Roark): I can tape it.
AG: Randy does, If you can find out where he is…

Shall we go on with some more of these (ballads)? Is this of interest? Just cover a little bigger spectrum than what they have in the book?

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately thirty-six-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately forty-two-and-a-half minutes in]

      [Allison Gross - Illustration by Vernon Hill - from Richard Chope's Ballads Weird and Wonderful (1912)]

Monday, June 27, 2016

Basic Poetics - Ballads - (Harpkin & Fin & The Fause Knight Upon The Road)

["The False Knight on the Road - illustration by Charles Vess]

AG: And then there is an early version of  rapping, and capping, and styling out, and the dirty dozens, between “Harpkin” and “Fin” and the Harpkin ballad – ( A “brae”, (by the way),  is a hill , “strae”, a straw, “thrave” is twenty-four sheaves)

“Harpkin gaed up to the hill./ (He) blew his horn loud and shrill/ And by came Fin./”What for stand you there?”, quo Fin./”Spying the weather”, quo Harpkin./ “What for had you your staff on your shoulder?”, quo Fin/ To haud the cauld frae me”, quo Harpkin./ “Little cauld will that haud frae you”, quo Fin:/ “As little will it win through me”, quo Harpkin/”I came by your door”, quo Fin:/”I lay it your road”, quo Harpkin/”Your dog batkit at me”, quo Fin:/”It’s his use and custom”, quo Harpkin/ I flang a stane at him”, quo Fin;/I’d rather it had been a bane”, quo Harpkin/”Your wife’s a lichter”, quo Fin – ( “Your wife’s lighter, I guess – “your wife’s lighter? - l-i-c-h-t-e-r) – “She’ll clim the brae the brichter”, quo Harpkin/”Of a braw lad bairn”, quo Fin/”There’ll be the mair men for the kings wars”, quo Harpkin” – (Oh, I see, well “lichter”, I don’t know what that means, I guess “heavy”- or “many?, because the wife’s later /”Of a braw lad bairn (of a baby boy)) - /”There’ll be the mair men for the kings wars”, quo Harpkin”/”There’s a strae a your beard”, quo Fin/”I’d rather it be a thrave”, quo Harpkin” – (i.e. twenty-four sheaths) -”The ox is eating at it”, quo Fin/”If the ox were i’ the water’, quo Harpkin/”And the water were frozen”, quo Fin:/”And the smith and his fore-hammer at it”, quo Harpkin - “fore-hammer, sledgehammer) – “And the smith were dead”, quo Fin;/”And another in his stead”, quo Harpkin.”/”Giff, gaff, quo Fin:/ “your mou’s fou o draff”, quo Harpkin" - ”It’s really funny, It’s a little like the Contest of Bards in the Kalevala, but funny names, “Harpkin” and “Fin”
And then there’s a parallel to that, another rapping contest , “The Fause Knight Upon the Road

Peter Orlovsky:  “Harpkin”’s like the harp instrument, I guess?

AG: Well, Harpkin is just the name of a guy. Like.. Harpkin  - Mr Harpkin and Mr Fin – It’s a weird poem, actually, because the things they exchange are both friendly and zany, completely nutty - “The dog’s barking at me” – “It’s his use and custom”! - I mean, it’s sort of ordinary, and..  “There’s a straw in your beard”. And.. what are they.. what are they laying on each other? - They’re laying something on each other – Fun? – (Next), “The Fause Knight Upon The Road” – This is page 44 of the Penguin Book of Ballads edited by GeoffreyGrigson, (as Harpkin was page 42)

“O whare are ye gaun?”/ Quo the fause knicht upon the road (so, False Knight) – “O whare are ye gaun/ Quo the fause knicht on the road/, “I’m gaun to the scule”./Quo the wee boy, and still he stude/"What is that upon your back?"/Quo the fause knicht upon the road/"Atweel it is my bukes",/Quo the wee boy, and still he stude/"What's that ye've got in your arm?"/Quo the fause knicht upon the road/"Atweel it is my peit." - (a piece of peat, for the school fire - peat - P-E-A-T) - ""Wha's aucht they sheep?"/Quo the fause knicht upon the road/"They are mine and my mither's."/Quo the wee boy, and still he stude/"How monie o them are mine?"/ Quo the fause knicht upon the road/ "A' they that hae blue tails."/Quo the wee boy, and still he stude/"I wiss ye were on yon tree"/ Quo the fause knicht upon the road/"And a gude ladder under me."/ Quo the wee boy, and still he stude/"And the ladder for to break"/Quo the fause knicht upon the road/ "And you for to fa down."/Quo the wee boy, and still he stude/"I wiss ye were in yon sie"/  Quo the fause knicht upon the road/And a gude bottom under me."/Quo the wee boy, and still he stude/ "And the bottom for to break"/Quo the fause knicht upon the road/"And ye to be drowned"/Quo the wee boy, and still he stude" - 
That’s where it breaks off in this version..  Just this.. A rapping contest

Student: What’s the title of that again?

AG: The Fause Knight Upon The Road  - It’s great, it’s cute.. it’s like a cute little kid, you know, giving it right back to him

Student: What's a False Knight?

AG: Well Knight is supposed to be honorable and here’s this big…big bully (but he’s just talking). But the kid is.. And the Knight, you know, is supposed to be honorable, you know, he’s not supposed to be accosting young kids on the road and telling them.. to hang themselves and be drowned, and steal their sheep. 

Student; Who edited that?

AG: Geoffrey Grigson

Student: Grigson?


[Audio for the above can be heard  here, beginning at approximately thirty-and-a-half  minutes in and continuing until approximately thirty-six-and-a-quarter minutes in] 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Gay Pride Weekend

Gay Pride Weekend

"Enough, I've stayed up all might with these boys/And all my life enjoyed their handsome joys/I came with many companions to this Dawn/Now I am tired and must set my pen down/Reader, Hearer, this time Understand/How kind it is for man to love a man/Old love and Present, future love the same/Hear and Read what love is without shame./I want people to understand. They can! They can! They can!/So open your ears and hear the voice of the classical band."

"Old Love Story"  (from the collection White Shroud (1986)) in its entirety 

Some think the love of boys is wicked and forlorn
Character corrupting, worthy mankind's scorn
Or eyes that weep and breasts that ache for lovely youth
Have no mouth to speak for mankind's general truth
Nor hands to work manhood's fullest delight 
Nor hearts to make old women smile day and night
Nor arms to warm young girls to dream of love
Nor thighs to satisfy thighs,nor breath men can approve..
Yet think back to the time our epic world was new
When Gilgamesh followed the shade of his friend Enkidu
Into Limbo's dust to talk love man to man
So younger David enamoured of young Jonathan
Wrote songs that women and men still chant for calm
Century after century under evergreen or palm
A love writ so sacred on our bible leaf
That heartfire warms cold millenial grief.
Same time Akilleos won the war at Troy
Grieving Patrokolos' body, his dead warrior boy
(One nation won the world by reading Greek for this
And fell when Wilde was gaoled for his Bellboy's kiss)
Marvellous Zeus himself took lightning eagle shape
Down-cheeked Ganymede enjoyed God's thinck-winged rape
And lived a youth forever, forever as can be,
Serving his nectar to the bearded deity
The whole world knew the story, the whole world laughed in awe
That such love could be the Thunder of Immortal Law.
When Socrates climbed his ladder of love's degrees
He put his foot in silence on rough Alcibiades.
Wise men still read Plato, whoever they are,
Plato whose love-lad Aster was his morning star
Plato whose love-lad was in death his star of Night
Which Shelley once witnessed as eternal light
Catullus and tough Horace were slaves to glad young men
Loved them, cursed them, always fell in love again
Caesar conquered the world, top Emperor Power,
Lay soft on the breast of his soldier of the hour 
Even Jesus Christ loved his young John most 
Later he showed him the whole Heavenly Host 
Old Rome approved a beautiful bodied youth
Antinous Hadrian worshipped with Imperial Truth
Told in the calm gaze of his hundred stone
Statues standing fig-leafed in the Vatican
Michelangelo lifted his youth hand to smooth
The belly of his Bacchus, a sixteen-year youth 
Whose prick stands up, he's drunk, his eyes gaze side-
Ways to his right hand held up shoulder high
Waving a cup of grape, smart kid, his nose is sharp.
His lips are new, slightly opened, as if parted to take a sip of purple nakedness.
Taste Michelangelo's mortal-bearded kiss,
Or, of a hair-hooved horny Satyr happens to pass
Fall to the ground on his strong little marble ass.
Michelangelo loved him! What young stud
Stood without trousers or shirt, maybe even did
What the creator wanted him to in bed
Lay still with the sculptor's hand cupped on his head
Feeling up his muscles, feeling down his bones
Palm down his back and thighs, touching his soft stones..

What kind of men were the Slaves he tied to his bed?
And who stood still for David naked foot to head?
But men love the muscles of David's abdomen
And come with their women to see him again and again.
Enough, I've stayed up all might with these boys
And all my life enjoyed their handsome joys
I came with many companions to this Dawn
Now I am tired and must set my pen down
Reader, Hearer, this time Understand
How kind it is for an to love a man
Old love and Present, future love the same
Hear and Read what love is without shame.
I want people to understand. They can! They can! They can!
So open your ears and hear the voice of the classical band."