Author Topic: Add: High Germany


Posted - 15 Aug 04 - 03:34 pm

O Polly, love, O Polly, the rout has now begun
And we must be a-marching at the beating of the drum,
Go dress yourself all in your best and come along with me
I'll take you to the cruel wars in High Germany.

O Harry, love, O Harry, you hearken what I say,
My feet are all too tender, I cannot march away,
Besides, my dearest Harry, though man and wife we be,
How am I fit for cruel wars in High Germany?

O cursed are the cruel wars that ever they should rise,
And out of merry England press many a lad likewise,
They pressed my Harry from me, as all my brothers three,
And sent them to the cruel wars in High Germany.


Posted - 15 Aug 04 - 03:35 pm

This appears in Singing Together, Autumn 1966 edition.

Malcolm Douglas
Posted - 16 Aug 04 - 12:07 am

A bit of a conundrum one way and another. The tune came from Mrs Elizabeth Lock, Muchelney Ham, Somerset. Cecil Sharp got it from her on 8 April 1904. It seems that Mrs Lock had only the one verse:

O Polly, love, O Polly, the row has now begun
And we must march away by the beating of the drum
Go dress yourself all in your best and come along with me
I'll take you to the war that's in Higher Germany.

Sharp published her tune, with a different set of words, in Folk-Songs from Somerset I, 1904, 42-3. In his notes (p 68) he adds:

"Mr Tom Sprachlan of Hambridge gave us a variant of Mrs Lock's song, and as his words were more complete than hers, Mr Marson [Sharp's co-editor] has made use of them in arranging the text".

Spracklan's (apparently the correct spelling) text also appeared with Mrs Lock's tune in Sharp's One Hundred English Folk Songs (1916). With Spracklan's own tune it was published in The Journal of the Irish Folk Song Society (I, 10) as Sharp thought it had Irish characteristics. Text and tune are reproduced in Still Growing, EFDSS, 2003, 84. I quote the words here:

O Polly, dear Polly, the rout has now begun,
And I must away by the beating of the drum;
So you dress yourself all in your best, and come along with me,
And I'll take you to the cruel wars of High Germany.

O Harry, dear Harry, you mind what I do say,
My feet are so tender, I cannot march away;
And besides, my dear Harry, I am in love with thee,
I'm not fitted for the cruel wars of High Germany.

O I'll buy you a horse, my love, and on it you shall ride,
And all my delight shall be a-riding by your side;
So we'll call at every ale-house and drink when we are dry,
As quickly on the road, my boys, we'll marry by and by.

O cursed was the cruel wars that ever they should rise,
And out of Merry England pressed many a lad likewise;
They pressed young Harry from me, likewise my brothers three,
And sent them to the cruel wars of High Germany.

Thus also it appeared in The Journal of the Folk-Song Society, II (6) 1905, 25-26, though with Mrs Lock's tune, followed by Mr Spracklan's, "to the words of the first version". Sharp's MSS, however, confirm that Mrs Lock actually had only the one verse as stated above.

The text is very slightly modified in the other publications mentioned earlier; only Mr Spracklan's first verse appears in Karpeles, Cecil Sharp's Collection of English Folk Songs, I, 511-12.

Now, to Singing Together.

The 1967 compilation, Sing Together! (OUP), contains the song, with Mrs Lock's tune and Spracklan's text as given in Folk-Songs from Somerset, though with the third verse omitted. This, however, is not the form of text quoted here from the 1966 pamphlet: that is a shortened form of the text that appeared in Sharp and Baring-Gould's English Folk-Songs for Schools (London: Curwen, 1905, 44-45). The tune is still Mrs Lock's, but Mr Spracklan's text has been partly re-written yet again! In addition to the verses quoted here, there are two more between the second and third:

A horse I'll buy you, dapple grey, and on it you shall ride,
And all my heart's delight will be a-trotting at your side;
We'll ride o'er moor and mountain high, and breathe the air so free,
And jauntily we'll ride along in High Germany.

O no, my love, it may not be, I cannot with you ride,
For I have here my children dear, at home I must abide,
But all my thoughts and many prayers shall be the while with thee
As thou dost fight Old England's wars in High Germany.

The re-write is pretty bogus, but obviously seemed like a good idea a century ago. It is not clear who is responsible for it; Marson and Baring-Gould are both likely culprits.

There, now: all that arises from one song taken from a 40-year old BBC Radio pamphlet. Although I do find it interesting unravelling all this stuff, I wish that people had been more frank about their editorial interventions so that we didn't have to spend so much time sorting out the messes they left behind them. The trouble is that people are still doing it. If some of the folk over at the Mudcat who I've slapped on the wrist in the past for spreading misinformation (sometimes deliberately, sometimes through laziness) tried to sort out something like this, perhaps they'd see what I mean; or perhaps not.

masato sakurai

Posted - 16 Aug 04 - 02:39 am

Broadside editions of high germany [title] are at Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads.

Jim Irvine

Posted - 19 Aug 04 - 11:57 pm

I find all this information (not just this song!) incredibly interesting. This has been a fascinating site for lyrics and their history since it started and I thank Jon for starting it.

I have just one worry. Although all this information is indeed laudable and useful are we not in danger of stultifying the tradition?

Malcolm, you are basing your comments on what Cecil Sharp collected from Mrs Lock as altered by Spracklan as altered again in English Folk Songs. Who knows what alterations had already been made before it got to Mrs Lock? Perhaps (unlikely) Marson and Baring-Gould had other sources available but not cited.

Is it not a 'living' Tradition? I have been singing this song for nearly 40 years - I can't now remember where I got it from - but my version does differ from the above, albeit only slightly. (Actually I think it was probably Martin Carthy)

Whilst it is valid, interesting and indeed almost certainly necessary to keep and record all these lyric histories it seems to me to be unhelpful to use phrases like "The re-write is pretty bogus" and terms like "culprits". These imply some adulteration of the Tradition whereas I see it as a perfectly valid course of action.

I would enjoy hearing your comments on this


Jon Freeman

Posted - 20 Aug 04 - 12:27 am

Jim, I think we may end up moving this to a topic of its own but for now, I will give my opinion here.

I don't think we are in danger of "stultifying the tradition". As far as I see it, we are trying to make accurate representations of examples of the songs so that anyone who wishes to follow up has a reliable base to work from or include.

Where I would worry is if we gave the impression that what we had was the only correct version of the song (I do say that with the rider that if we have taken a song as per book, that is correct as per book, etc.) or that other versions should not be equally correct, or that adaptions or different (even new) interpretations should not be allowed.

It's certainly my belief that folk music is here for everyone to use how they feel fit. I'm not going to like every twist and turn but may like some, some approaches will stand the test of time and others won't.

Malcolm Douglas
Posted - 20 Aug 04 - 01:42 am

The tradition is not "stultified" by telling the truth about it: quite the opposite. The only way to understand how things change is to establish reliable points along the continuum of change. It is important to make a clear distinction between changes introduced in the context of tradition (I think you may need to re-read my earlier post if you think that Spracklan "altered" anything of Mrs Lock's!) and changes deliberately introduced by collectors, editors or publishers of folk song.

In this case, we have two sets of this song noted from oral currency. I quoted both above. Next, we have several published -and variant- collations of tune and text from those two sources; in some instances the collation is acknowledged, in others, not. This is deliberate editorial intervention from outside the tradition, not the much-misunderstood "folk process".

Further, we have two verses expressly re-written for publication in a "children's" edition. These re-writes are, as I said, "bogus" in that they do not represent truthfully the songs as found in tradition. To pretend otherwise is, at best, to misrepresent both the material and the tradition; at worst, deliberately to tell lies about it.

There is no reason why people should not change songs. It happens inadvertently and it happens intentionally. It really isn't on, however, for an editor deliberately to alter a song and then publish it as if it were unchanged.

I used the term "culprits", incidentally, because both Marson and Baring-Gould frequently re-wrote traditional songs; often, but not always, saying what they had done. Baring-Gould was quite good at it, though he was criticised by contemporaries for excessive editorial intervention. Marson was not good at it; his alterations tend to be twee and vapid, and (because so often assumed to be authentic) have done harm to the reputation of English folk song. Re-prints like the BBC "Singing Together" pamphlets do not note that the songs have been altered by earlier publishers, so naturally people assume that they are being shown the real thing, instead of what is essentially a fake: processed cheese, keg beer, over-boiled cabbage.

The best way to "stultify" tradition is to tell lies about it. The truth can only enhance our understanding: after all, the only way to know where we are going is to understand where we have been.

Jon Freeman

Posted - 21 Apr 08 - 10:21 am

A question came to me through the contact us form an I haven't found a clear answer.

Where is High Germany?


Posted - 21 Apr 08 - 01:25 pm

No idea!

However, looking at the ballad dates listed in the Bodliean, the first is in the period 1813-1838; the earlier part of that time was when the Napoleonic Wars were taking place, including in Germany. For example: The 1813-14 Seige of Hamburg. Hamburg is, of course, reasonably far to the north. So while that is no more than speculative possibility, it is probably where I would begin my search. If I bothered. Because place names in folk songs are frequently very fickle things ...


Posted - 21 Apr 08 - 06:14 pm

High Germany is the South of the country below the Alps - Bavaria etc. The campaigns referred to are more likely to be Marlborough's of the early 1700s, rather than Napoleonic.

The present German language is a standardised version of High German, whereas northern areas still speak various Low German dialects.

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