Friday, 12 March 2010

Carrie Grey

The Clipper Ship 'Flying Cloud' off the Needles, Isle of Wight - James E Buttersworth, 1859-60, via Wikimedia Commons - public domainFirst, for everybody's reassurance: I haven't, despite appearances, abandoned Three Katherines in favour of lolloping down the street singing polly-wolly-doodle all the day. But I'm writing a rather good meal at present, and it's against my religion to hurry that up like a tardy McMuckleburger. The Morgander folksongs continue, quite independently, in full spate.

This one struck at lunchtime, and is so sad that anybody who saw me over the next couple of hours probably thought my guinea-pig had died. (It's true I'd just had to send twenty locusts to the Great Bonus Scheme In The Sky, but the thing that chiefly saddened me about that was the despicable lack of any chocolate dip for a sequel.)

The thing you have to remember about these songs is that I can hear them, not as I can sing them, but as the best musicians I know can play them. I think Martin Carthy was doing the honours here. It's a lot more affecting that way. Anyway, this is a song of the western sea-coast, far away from the setting of Three Katherines, and probably hailing from the cosmopolitan port and capital of Charlbury. They don't talk or think much like Dales-folk there, except inasfar as folks will always be folks.

If anybody can suggest why this seems extremely yet unfathomably familiar to me, I shall be most grateful. Folk songs are supposed to borrow like magpies, but I ought to know where in reality I'm borrowing from - and in this one, I'm not sure what inspired either the lyrics or the tune. The words, at least, I can offer.

Carrie Grey

Have you seen Carrie Grey where the ships sail away?
Have you seen her, my neighbours all?
Have you seen where she stands with her heart in her hands?
Have you seen, by the harbour wall?

Carrie Grey, Carrie Grey, I have long been away,
Nor recall still the light on your brow.
Let the breeze bear my song, and confess all my wrong -
Carrie Grey, come to comfort now!

Did you know Carrie Fair with the gold streaming hair?
Did you know her, my neighbours all?
Did you walk where we kissed with our hearts full of bliss?
Did you turn from the tall ships’ call?

Carrie Grey, Carrie Grey, I have long lost my way,
Nor shall bring you back gold on the tide.
Nor in bright elvish dream nor in Southron harem,
Carrie Grey, had I stayed from your side.

Will you tell Carrie Grey where I wander today?
Will you tell her, my neighbours all?
Will you tell to my lass of the bourne I can’t pass?
Will you lead her away from the wall?

Carrie Grey, Carrie Grey, I am cold in the clay.
This one prayer in the dark, dear, allow -
Though your tears fall like rain, let your spring come again.
Carrie Grey, turn to new love now!

There is a later tradition obscurely referring this song to Queen Caroline the Green Rose, Cabbage-Caro of Charlbury. This identification is absolute cobblers, existing only because she shares one of the commonest names in the city with the heroine, and because she can't ever bear to hear it.

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