New Songs and Old




You would fain see a return to the 'golden days of song' when it was
fashionable to sing of' Annie Laurie. So far as my poor memory serves
me, that young lady's face was 'the fairest That ever sun shone on'.
I put it to you, as a husband, as a father, as a bachelor—conceive the
positive inhumanity, in this weather, of suggesting the possibility of
sunshine upon any face that you took an interest in. The brow 'like the
snowdrift'
, the 'neck like the swan' and the devotion that depends on
these, where would they be after ten minutes exposure? Burnt up,
Sir, burnt up—freckled, tanned, blistered, destroyed. No, if we must
sing 'Annie Laurie' in the land of our exile, we will sing it thus:


1.

The cus-cus tattie's soothin',
With water sluicin' through,
'Twas there that Annie Laurie
Ga'ed me-—a waltz or two.

Annie Laurie never gives anything else these days ... How shall we sing
the old songs in a strange land ... ? ... Once more what would you?
Abolish the new and restore to their throne the songs of the past? 'Nature
brings not back the mastodon, nor we those days.' The ancient ditties
would fall flat in youngling ears. Something indeed might be done if we restored
them, so to speak; wrote them up to date, injecting into their pulseless veins the
mordant arsenic of local colour. 'Our grandmothers, you write, 'sang
of the "Miller's Lovely Daughter." Let us take 'Allen Water'
and see how the last verse would go under the above conditions:—


2.

By the swirling Sutlej water
When my three months' leave was o'er,
There I sought the Colonel's daughter
But she smiled no more.
For the Autumn fever caught her,
And the funeral left at three—
By the muddy Sutlej water,
None so dead as she.

Something like that, eh? You have one of the oldest tragedies in
the world, new dressed. Placetne Domini ? ... Let us try over another
of your favourites, 'Auld Robin Gray'. 'Indefiniteness' was
the vice you complained of was it not? Does this suit you?


3.

An' l had been at Simla a week an' something more,
When I saw that bad boy Jamie come a ridin' to my door—
I saw that bad boy Jamie—I could na' think it he.
Says he —'l've hooked a fortnight here to get a glimpse of thee.'
I gasped—'How dare you do it?' We had heaps of things to say.
He took a lot of kisses and he stayed through half the day,
But how could I be angry, for it's not my fault, you see,
If Auld Robin Gray would insist on weddin' me.

Get some lady friend to sing this, as an encore verse, and note
how the hopeless passionate wail of the last line suits the words....


[Here Pinney introduces an additional verse
in French, from the story of the traditional
ballad "The Bailiff's daughter of Islington",
which is not included by Rutherford. It is
distinctly short on the romance of the original]


4.

Je suis pauvre et sans ressource—
Prête: O prête moi ta bourse
Ou ta montre pour me montre confiance—
Femme ! Je ne vous connais
Et s'il faut me donner
Votre nom et des références

You would force upon a thin-blooded generation, the blatant
boisterousness of 'Drink to each lass'. We sing it otherwise:—


5.

Let the ice crash! Here's to each mash!
Sip to your tarts in a nimbu esquash ...


[The distraught multitude of toilers] are ... likely to take the inspiring chorus
with which you so effectively close your sermon, and sing it in this manner:—


6.

Should mere acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?
We'll give a dinner to the lot—they're done with when they've dined!
So ask the crew to dine my wife—yes, get the brutes to dine,
And . . . don't kallie the degchies for the sake of Auld Lang Syne.





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