As I investigate the Child Ballads further I've created some designs for T-shirts (and soon to be printed) posters. If you are just starting to read my blog posts the past few have been on the subjects of history, Child Ballads, and interactions between cultures and etymology. Francis J. Child collected and traced the history of 305 Scottish and English ballads in their American variants that were prominent in the late 19th century, many of which can still be heard today through airwaves and just about anywhere you hear music. These ballads infiltrate rock n' roll, soul, spiritual, country. . . well almost anytime a story is told in song. The ballads cover superstitions, love, tragedy, non-tragic love, Robin Hood, Outlaws, Historic, Humorous and Semi-Burlesque themes. Brought to the forefront of my interest by the influence of friends and the inclusion in Art Exhibitions (including the first New York City show I'll be part of is Feb 10th and 11th - EXCITMENT) I've started to approach things through a print along with the painting side.
One of the latest print designs I've been working on is for Child Ballad #111, entitled "Crow and Pie." It is one of the older ballads having been traced back to the early 1500's by Mr. Child. This may be considered a tragic love theme. I don't think it would be fair to pigeon hole it as such as it becomes complicated in a contemporary interpretation. The ballad starts out as a "Gentleman" rides through the forest and spots a maiden singing, he approaches her and tries to seduce her by offering his love, and is denied with the phrase, "The crow shall bite you" (updated spellings there). The crow associated with death and suffering must mean in modern terms, "wander off and die please." He further offers her a golden ring, then a velvet purse and each time is refused and she tells him, "The crow shall bite you". After the third refusal he rapes her. She asks for marriage or some sort of personal token (as would prove he was of social standing versus some common person and would provide for the child if there was one) and with each she is met with a refusal and the sexuallized phrase, "For now the pie has pecked you," (again updated spelling). Pie is an older term for the English magpie, a Corvid cousin to the crow. Perhaps similar to "la petit morte" for him? Not quite the death associated with the crow but the pie is still a bringer of sorrow. The ballad serves as a cautionary tale to 16th century young women, to be wary and avoid rape. What I like about this ballad is the ending lines, the woman denied reparations for the man's act decides she will go on with her life, that she will not despair but recover. Some versions include the line "Neither dead no slow. . . " meaning she is alive and still has some wits about her, what a great line. What a song! I think this is where the ballads excel. Many of the ballads are filled with death and tragedy, but to have one that says, "No matter what has happened, I will survive." I think that this is a message that everyone can related to and should aspire to not give up. Geez, all this into a T-shirt. Yep. The things that go into design and paintings. So the next time you pick out that shirt to wear, whats on it?