I’m sure that I made in this spot, in the past, the revolting admission that I have an unnatural attraction ...an attraction that is to folk song---and I don’t just mean, say, John Denver, or the artist who, had he been born 300 years ago, would no doubt have been known as Roberto di Zimmermanni1 ---No! No!! I mean thorough-going, honest-to-god, old-wavery-voiced, guy-with-a-hand-cupped-behind-his-ear-in-the-mistaken-belief-that-it-will-make-him-sing-in-tune Traditional folk music.
And so it fell out upon one misty, moisty morning quite early that I were a-listening to---and before I go on I’ve just had this dreadful suspicion that too much exposure to the bloody stuff might have had a deleterious effect on my writing style: but naaah! Nothing like that could ever happen---Now where was I? Oh! Yes! I was a-listening to some traditional folk music while I took my shower the other morning (I did warn you that we were entering revolting admission territory) and I’m sure the additional information that I was the one who was singing it, as well as the poor sod who had to listen, can hardly be expected to make things any less revolting.
Anyway---The song that I was a-singing, and perforce therefore a-listening to, was usual sordid tale of young men, and possibly even younger women, and illicit liaisons, and bushes, even including what appears to have been to our rustic ancestors the most fascinating fact of ornithology, to whit, that no one has ever been able to find a cuckoo’s nest, in spite of (as the song suggests) considerable effort so to do. I hasten to add that this is of course the cuckoo’s nest of the parasitic European species Cuculus canorus---and before you ask, I have no idea and even less interest in discovering if any of the American species are similarly nest-challenged.
Anyway, our song starts
“Three young maids a-milking did go, and then, in the lead-up to the bits that I probably wouldn’t get away with telling you on-air, there is this delightful conceit:
“And three young maids a-milking they did go,”
“And the wind it did blow high, It blew their petticoats to and fro! Consider for a moment the utter luscious sensuality of that line, all romantically sexy and ...and swish-of-a-skirt-in-the-dewy, and of course subtly hinting that it is soon to be followed by all the bits that I probably wouldn’t get away with telling you on-air. And all this airy consideration set me to thinking how powerfully the winds do blow in traditional folk song.
“And the wind it did blow low.
“It blew their petticoats to and fro”
I mean take that completely un-lascivious or at least post-lascivious song ‘The Unquiet Grave’
“Cold blows the wind from my true love --You just know, from knowing the way the wind blows, that that’s going to be an unbelievably unhappy song---even before you realise that rain rhymes with slain.
“And a few small drops of rain”
Then there’s ‘The Wife of Usher’s Well’, which (always supposing it’s even possible) manages to be an even less lascivious and more unhappy song,
“I wish the wind may never cease, So I hope you can see from this small sample how much the wind is a mover and a shaker in these songs though, to revisit the subtlety of our first song, unfortunately the altitude range of the wind is not of itself enough to ensure the presence of satisfyingly sad kryptonidal3 folkloric sexuality4 nor, indeed, it’s even sadder absence.
“Nor fashes2 in the flood,
“Till my three sons come home to me
“In earthly flesh and blood!”
So as proof of that I’ll end by destroying the atmosphere completely while showing how low the idea itself can blow,
“Let the wind blow highand, with MY trousers firmly in place and with their legs blowing to and fro in the wind, it’s...
“Let the wind blow low
“Through the streets in ma kilt I’ll go
“All the lasses shout ‘Wha-ho!
“Donald Where's yer troosers?’”
Cheerio for now
1 Roberto di Zimmermanni: My late, great friend Gerry Denn was very keen on both Mozart and Bob Dylan; and stoutly maintained that the latter, had he lived in Mozart's day, would have changed his birth-name from Robert Zimmerman to this.
2 Fashes: afflictions; troubles, from OFr. fascher (Fr. fâcher) but (as my Scottish Grandmother used to say) “Dinna fash yersel’ aboot it!”
3 kryptonidal---appertaining to hidden nests; quite possibly a coinage and almost certainly a nonce-word if not an actual nonsense word.
4 This is probably the true explanation for the apparent shaking of the barley by the wind.
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