She Moves Through the Fair: Sam Henry’s Songs of the People

August 9, 2011 at 9:08 am (Books, Folk, She Moves Through the Fair) (, )

Sam Henry‘s Songs of the People is one of a number of source books for folk music of the British Isles. Others include Herbert Hughes’ Irish Country Songs (Hughes collected the tune used in the modern version of “She Moves Through the Fair”) and, of course, Francis James Child’s The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, which is often described as the definitive source for songs from Great Britain (many traditional songs have a “Child Ballad” number associated with them; “She Moves Through the Fair”, being Irish, is not included).

Henry and his fellow collectors would go out into “the field” (possibly literally a field on occasion, but just as likely to be someone’s kitchen, or a public house, say) and listen to traditional singers. They would write down the tune, the lyrics, and anything else that they saw fit to record for later publication in book form. Later collectors, such as Alan Lomax (who recorded Margaret Barry), carried audio recording equipment, and much of their original field recordings still exist – some are even available on retail CD.

I don’t own a copy of Songs of the People, but I’m going to try and request it from my local library.

A preview of Sam Henry’s Songs of the People is available on Google Books.

Previews are not available for all songs relevant to “She Moves Through the Fair, but the listing for “Our Wedding Day” [H534] is available; this is actually a version of Colum’s song, and not the traditional song referred to in my post.

The following is extracted from the preview of p454.

Our Wedding Day [H534: 24 February 1934]

o: “She Moved through the Fair”; k: “Lovely Molly.”

Source not given.

s: This simple little song is the expression of one happy thought. It should be sung slowly and with wistful happiness.

1: Text reworked by Padraic Colum from an “old ballad” to a Donegal air collected by Herbert Hughes (1, 1909). James Healy says, “This is one of the few cases where the now [new?], more scholarly edition could be considered better than the old” (1977: 79). But Healy himself prints a version somewhat transformed by the “folk process,” with a different 2d stanza and the 3d in transition (“my dear love came in”) between Colum’s original, ghostless stanza (“she came softly in”) and Margaret Barry’s haunting one (“my dead love came in”).

Henry’s is the only version among those cited that mentions “kine” (cattle) for Colum’s “kind” (standing or property inherent by birth).

“Out of the Window” [H141] is missing from the preview, but the latter part of the entry can be seen can be seen on p396. This comprises of the tune and lyrics to “Our Wedding Day” (my “alternative” version of “She Moves Through the Fair”, also listed as [H141]). However, Wikipedia tells me that “Out of the Window” was collected by Henry from one Eddie Butcher of Magilligan, Northern Ireland, around 1930.

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