Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Spontaneous Poetics (Ballads - 20) (As You Came From..)



AG: "As You Came From the Holy Land of Walsingham" is (also) interesting. Robert Lowell got into this, actually, quite a bit. [Allen reads the first two stanzas of "As You Came From the Holy Land of Walsingham" (a poem attributed to Sir Walter Ralegh) - "As you came from the holy land/ Of Walsingham,/Met you not with my true love,/By the way as you came?/ "How should I know your true love/That have met many a one/As I came from the holy land/ That have come, that have gone?"] - Now there's a funny rhythm, different from anything (that) we've heard so far, actually. That, almost-sad "How should I know your true love/That have met many a one/As I came from the holy land/ That have come, that have gone?" - that sudden cut, right in the middle, in a perfect balance. Apparently, all through the poem you get that little echo (which is not like anything in Wyatt, or not like anything I've seen in earlier ballads, and is obviously great for singing, because, if you had to say "As I came from the holy land/ That have come, that have gone?", you really have to take a breath and lay down both parts, both divisions of the tune. [Allen continues, reading the remaining nine stanzas of the poem - "She is neither white nor brown/But as the heavens fair/There is none hath her form so divine,/ On the earth, in the air/ "Such a one did I meet, good sir,/With angel-like face,/Who like a nymph, like a queen did appear/In her gait, in her grace."/She hath left me here alone,/All alone unknown,/Who sometime loved me as her life,/And called me her own./ "What is the cause she hath left thee alone,/And a new way doth take,/ That sometime did thee love as herself,/And her joy did thee make?"/ I have loved her all my youth,/But now am old as you see,/Love liketh not the falling fruit,/ Nor the withered tree./ For love is a careless child,/And forgets promise past,/He is blind, he is deaf, when he list,/And in faith never fast./ His desire is fickle found/And a trustless joy,/ He is won with a world of despair/And is lost with a toy./ Such is the love of womenkind/Or the word, love, abused/Under which many childish desires/And conceits are excused./ But love, it is a durable fire/In the mind ever burning,/Never sick, never dead, never cold,/From itself never turning." - It's funny how when you get "On the earth, in the air" - "In her gate, in her grace" - "That have come, that have gone" - and then, "He is blind, he is deaf, when he lists" - "Never sick, never dead, never cold" - In the short lines you get that division into two - like the extra-special good parts rhythmically of the poem are those divisions into two of  "That have come, that have gone", and in the longer line, the four-beat line - "Love liketh not the fallen fruit" - "He is blind, he is deaf, when he list" - "He is blind, he is deaf..." - how would you do that? - "He is blind, he is deaf.." - how would that be? I didn't even analyze it.  "Love liketh not the fallen fruit" is one stanza, then the equivalent - "He is blind, he is deaf, when he list" - it sounds like it's just three - "Never sick, never dead, never cold" - "But love, it is a durable fire" - So you could actually.. theoretically, it's four (we're still back on the original ballad meter that I started messing about with the other day, of four-beat and three-beat and four-beat and three-beat line) - "But love, it is a durable fire/In the mind ever burning,/Never sick, never dead, never cold,/From itself never turning." - I don't know how to analyze it. I mean, it's so subtle. Probably there are great books of analysis of this particular ballad. Has anybody studied this one? Do we have scholars here who have actually studied the prosody of this "Walsingham" ballad? [to student] - Do you know anything about that, Paul? Well, unfortunately, I'm ignorant. Do you know anything about that?

Student: Is that Scottish? (a) Scottish ballad?

AG: Yeah. No, no, I don't think so, because it sounds English, because there's.. Norfolk, actually. Norfolk, where?..Norfolk, England.. and thr language is not Scottish. The language, as you hear, it sort of straight.

Student: Because it's reminiscent of the Elizabethans, how their thoughts twist, and how they're playing on their conceit.

AG: Yeah, I was just thinking of.. right at the moment, I was right into wondering.. because what I had suggested as ballad meter was duh-dah, duh-dah, duh-dah, duh-dah-duh-dah, duh-dah, duh-dah - then I just was noticing here, does that actually follow that?. Because this is so beautiful, musically - this is probably more beautiful musically than anything so far, but it's totally eccentric in that sense. [Allen re-reads the opening two stanzas of the poem, emphasizing the melody] - "That have come, that have gone" - he reverses it - "That have come, that have gone" - how would you count it? Obviously it was written for music, or in some kind of stanza that I haven't analyzed properly.

Student: Allen?

AG: Yeah.

Student: That four-four-three thing is present in Indian music, so maybe it was a minor key that was..  (and).. a melody that was.. (in this way) more prevalent..(I'm looking at) the same line.. and..

AG: "As you came from the holy land" - (so) how would that be analyzed in Indian?

Student: Well in Indian music, there's...

AG: Yeah, I never thought of this. This is.. Go on.. "As you came from the holy land" - that would be the line. So how would that go?

Student: It would go by beat.

AG: Yeah - and how would that be?

Student: I've seen it (so) analyzed...

AG: As?

Student: ...breaking down four beats, it's a seven-beat measure.

AG: Dum-duh-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah.

Student: Four-three

AG: Duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh - "As you came from the ho-ly land". Yeah. If you were doing it with finger-cymbals it would fall in a funny way like that. You could do a four and a three... Yeah, that was (is) an interesting way of thinking about it. Lately I've been doing a lot of music so I'm interested in what I can pick up just by looking at the text - what it feels like and how I can balance it out, and what it weighs like in the hand or in the mouth. Probably it would be useful to check it out in some classic study of meters, but it's just as well to try and figure it out yourself too.

Student: Duh-dah, duh-dah, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, dah? No? And wouldn't it be like that - Four-three, four-three?

AG: What are we talking about(here)? - "As You Came From the Holy Land.." - "As You Came From The Holy Land" - Unfortunately, not everybody has the text here. THe "four-three"'s we are talking about in the first line are  - "As you came from the holy land/ of Walsingham" (that's the four and the three, alternate lines) - Same as the classic ballad meter, same thing as Coleridge's "Ancient Mariner". So that's just old-fashioned classic ballad. What I was pointing out in this is that this has broken the pattern of a four-beat and a three-beat because you have "Who like a nymph, like a queen did appear/In her gait, in her grace". So the hanging part, the "three-part" is sometimes just two, or odd. I was just pointing out that this one has an eccentric (prosody) that likely could be analyzed but I'm not capable of doing it. And I'm inviting people to dig anyway the variability - and how powerful that is.

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