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Assigned & suggested reading for the Independent Study course in ballads, Spring 2006, can be found on the Ballads Course page.
Ballads / Scottish Literature, History & Language: a very short selection
† = contains texts of a significant number of song texts, more than those normally provided in context of analysis‡ = contains tunes
Andersen, Flemming G. “Technique, Text, and Context: Formulaic Narrative Mode and the Question of Genre,” in Harris.
Andersen, Flemming G., Otto Holapfel, & Thomas Pettit. The Ballad as Narrative: Studies in the Ballad Traditions of England, Scotland, Germany and Denmark. Odense: Odense University Press,1982.
This book’s introduction, “The Ballad as Narrative,“ by Pettitt, posits a particular narrative structure as a defining characteristic of ballads and sketches their emergence from minstrel song in the 15th & 16th centuries. The argument is more than descriptive or documentary: just as there is no ur-version of a ballad, only actual versions, Pettitt argues that there is no such thing as a ballad genre, only “a balladic mode of narration, to which traditional narrative songs approximate in proportion to the extent that their transmission is memorial, their performance oral, social and recreational.” His reasoning is based on a distinction between written genres, which conform to authority and to rules of example, and oral ones, which do not. This is, perhaps, an excessively authoritarian idea of the written and an excessively romantic idea of the oral, but it does, as he says, account for the notorious difficulty of pinning down just what a ballad is. The five chapters devoted to English and Scottish ballads are by Anderson and Pettitt. Each focuses on a single ballad and on a single historical moment (15th-20th c). Anderson's chapters are annotated here; Pettit's are annotated separately under his name.
- - - - . “From Tradition to Print: Ballads on Broadsides (“A Tragical Story of Lord Thomas and Fair Ellinor”). This essay begins with the origin of the word “ballad,” sketching some commonly held ideas, then introducing the thesis that by the 17th c the term “ballad” was associated with songs, whatever their nature, printed and sold on broadsides. Interactions of oral tradition with commercial print culture are complex and baffling, with songs passing both ways across this symbolic divide. Of Child’s 305 ballads, Anderson says, “78 appeared as broadsides, and in 55 instances the broadside texts are the earliest recorded versions…” The meat of the essay is a comparison of narrative style in two broadside versions of the title ballad, for one of which he claims an origin in oral culture, while the other he assigns to a genre “long-winded and talkative,” with a distinctly non-balladic narrativetechnique.
_ _ _ _ . “Oral Tradition in England in the Eighteenth Century: ‘Lord Lovel.’.” Because In comparison with Scotland, little is known of early English ballad tradition. This chapter begins by rehearsing the numbers: “Of Child’s 305 ballads 158 are printed in Scottish versions only, whereas only 61 ballads lack Scottish versions, and 39 of these are the so-called Outlaw Ballads, whose ballad status is questioned by Child himself.” The greatest period of song collecting in England occurred just after Child published, so the heavily Scottish character of his collection is partly a matter of chance. But it is also true that 18th c. ballad collectors found less material in England. After the publication of Thomas Percy’s (rather adulterated) Reliques, he received more than 30 additional ballads from correspondents, only 7 of which were from England. However, several of these are excellent texts that appear to come from a genuinely oral tradition. Andersen here discusses one of them, “Lord Lovel,” a ballad which has been often maligned for a lack of story and an excess of sentimentality. Andersen argues that despite these flaws the ballad is “genuine,” not a hack-job of pasted together commonplaces, as has been suggested. (Others have argued for its rescue on the basis of Jeannie Robertson’s grand recording, which lends it a dignity hard to discover in text alone.)
_ _ _ _ . “The Living Oral Tradition: Jeannie Robertson’s ‘Little Mattie Groves.’” The Ballad as Narrative. Two advantages attach to the analysis of ballads as sung by modern singers: we have an exact rendering of performance and we can be more certain of how and where ballads have been learned and passed on. This chapter briefly recounts James Porter’s early analysis of changes in Jeannie Robertson’s singing of “My Son David during the late 1950s, shortly after her “discovery” by collectors. It then goes on to a textual analysis of her 1962 recording of “Little Mattie Groves,” demonstrating how her “expansive style” uses traditional ballad structures to expand or alter a story without undoing its form.
Atkinson, David. The English Traditional Ballad: Theory, method, and practice. Ashgate, VT: Ashgate, 2002. This book serves two needs: it provides a sophisticated introduction to ballad studies, including history and transmission, social contexts and metaphoric structures, while also greatly expanding the generally available fund of information on ballad singing in England. Each chapter thoroughly covers its announced subject, but also furthers our general knowledge of ballad structure and transmission. Thematic emphasis is on songs of sex, death, and marriage, including comic a chapter songs. Discussion of “ballads” is imbedded in the more general field of “folk song,” which leads him – despite ample discussion of contexts, singers, places, and times – to conclude that if “ballad” has meaning it must be defined by form and genre, rather than by social markers it shares with other traditional song. The introduction, “Accessing ballad tradition,” includes both ballads and ballad studies. Chapters include “The lover’s tasks in ‘The Unquiet Grave,’” “Comic ballads and married life,” “Incest and ‘Edward’,” “Motivation, gender, and talking birds,” “Magical corpses and the discovery of murder,” and “An English ballad tradition?” Includes a discography as well as bibliography, and some of his discussions include Revival singers such as Martin Carthy.
†‡Ballad Index: http://www.csufresno.edu/folklore/BalladIndexTOC.htm/
For help using this massive index, go to Ballad-L website, search for “Ballad Index” and look for postings regarding updates & new instructions.
Ballad-L Archive. Archive of the Ballad-L Listserv discussion group (US based). The web site allows you to search by name of the person posting, subject line, message contents, and/or date, or simply to browse recent threads. You can also go through the site to subscribe to the list.
‡Bayard, Samuel P. “Prolegomena to a Study of the Principal Melodic Families of Folk Song,” in Leach. A 1950 essay arguing that the number of distinctly different folk song melodies is relatively small; that groups of variants, versions, and otherwise closely related airs account for most songs; and that these variant forms ae current wherever folk songs in English are sung.
Bishop, Julia C. “Bell Duncan: ‘The greatest ballad singer of all time’?” in Russell & Atkinson. An introduction to the repertoire of the premier source singer of the James Madison Carpenter Collection. Carpenter, an American scholar trained at Harvard by Child’s successor George Lyman Kittredge, collected (by Dictaphone) thousands of versions of hundreds of songs in England and Scotland from 1929 to 1935, but most of his work was never published. Bell Duncan, an elderly rural Aberdeenshire woman, gave him from memory more than 300 songs, about 65 of them Child ballads. This essay provides a biographical sketch of Duncan, sketches the history of Carpenter’s contacts with her, textual analyses of several songs, and an appendix listing all Duncan’s child ballads.
Blackie, John Stuart. Scottish Song: Its Wealth, Wisdom, and Social Significance. New York: AMS Press, 1976 
†‡Brander, Michael. Scottish & Border Battles & Ballads. Barnes and Noble, 1993.
Bronson, Bertrand Harris. The Ballad as Song. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969. A collection of essays by the leading scholar of ballad tunes. Some are annotated separately here. Others include more technical essays on modes, the morphology of ballad tunes, and a comparative analysis of British and American tunes, as well as several essays on American songs, ballads, and collectors. Some are annotated separately here.
“’Eward, Edward. A Scottish Ballad.’and a Footnote.” An analysis of “Edward” as of probable late, literary origin (despite Child’s remark about its superiority and authenticity)--highly relevant to the subsequent celebrity of Jeannie Robertson’s “Son Davit,” now believed to represent a more “authentic” variant of this ballad story.
‡“The Interdependence of Ballad Tunes and Texts.” [Originally printed in Leach.] A 1944 essay that was part of Bronson’s heroic effort to stop the study of ballads as if they were silent literary texts. Discusses the relationship between music the ballad stanza, asserts that lack of attention to the refrains led Child astray in some of his definitions of variants (w/ discussion of “The Twa Sisters”); goes on to investigate the melodic traditions of several ballads or pairs of ballads; and finally argues that ballads with the most melodic stabilty are the oldest and most widely established--in contradiction of those who have assumed the opposite.
“Mrs. Brown and the Ballad.” Discusses Mrs. Brown’s literacy, reasons for the variations among her versions of some ballads, and other issues treated at length by Buchan.
‡“Habits of the Ballad as Song.” A general discussion of the ballad as part of a larger body of folk song (including the interesting statistic that at the time of writing there existed approximately 5000 distinguishable written and recorded texts and tunes of the 305 Child ballads. Note that since that time the SSS alone has amassed more than 3000 recordings of Scottish folk-songs.) Covers the problem of internal evidence for the age of a tune, the sparse historical record of tunes in print or manuscript, and various 20th century efforts at tune collection. Argues that when a song reaches a particularly affective melodic form it tends to become more stable, and that, in the absence of other evidence, we should assume that particularly fine tune/text combinations came into being at approximately the time of their first known records. Goes on to a good discussion of the interrelatedness of retention and innovation in the performances of a skilled and authoritative singer. Concludes with the supposition of families of related tunes extending greatly over time and space, illustrated by a chart showing melodic lines from 27 ballads.
‡“On the Union of Words and Music in the ‘Child’ Ballads.” Begins with a summary of the historical record of ballad tunes before 1900. Reiterates the argument for a relatively small number of melodic families traceable over time and the difficulties encountered when trying to examine them in relation to their associated texts. Moves then to his main discussion, an exploration of the semantic values of modal tunes and the peculiar emotional affects of “impersonality” in the traditional singing style. This last is discussed at length in relation to possibilities of interchange among the modes and the “emotional multivalence” of gapped scales. Also touches on the sculptural effect produced by the inherent conflict between melody/verse structure and the linear pressure of narration, and the shifting of first- and third-person narration to maintain impersonal distance in violent and emotional narratives.
“About the Most Favorite British Ballads.” Looks for explanations of the enduring appeal of Barbara Allen (popular since the 17th c.), “Lord Thomas and Fair Elinor,” “Lord Randall,” “Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight” (known in
“Fractures in Tradition among the ‘Child’ Ballads.” Looks at some structural oddities in some ballads, such as irrational collocation of text and refrain. Includes a discussion of “The Twa Sisters” that begins with its refrain and moves on to fractures caused by changing social attitude, the rise of parodies, intervention by broadside writers.
‡“Of Ballads, Songs & Snatches.” Continues Bronson’s investigation into the melodic relationships among ballads and between ballads and other forms of folk song. Also investigates widely disseminated rhythmic patterns in various forms of folk song, the integration of rests; then turns to an historical discussion of church and folk music.
‡- - - - . The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads. 4 volumes. (Princeton:
- - - The Singing Tradition
of Child’s Popular Ballads.
Mary Ellen. “Old Singing Women and the Canons of Scottish Balladry and
in A History of Scottish Women’s
ed. Douglas Gifford & Dorothy McMillan.
Buchan, David. The Ballad and the Folk. East
Buchan based his discussions on the repertoires of three singers: Anna Gordon, a.k.a. Mrs. Brown of
Today, few scholars accept whole-cloth the transfer of Lord’s analysis to Scottish ballads, which are structurally unrelated to and far shorter than Yugoslavian epics (see Friedman, & Henderson, “The Ballad, the Folk, and the Oral Tradition,” below, for rebuttals) but Buchan is still respected as the scholar who forced the issue, who directed attention to the making not of song texts but of singings. Some aspects of his history have also been criticized, particularly his portrayal of pre-industrial fermtoun culture; but again, his insistence on attention to culture cleared a path. Today it would be rare to find a scholar discussing the ballads without reference to source singers as makers of the texts collected or without reference to particular cultural conditions from which they came.
Beyond these issues, The Ballad and the Folk contains chapters of brilliant analysis of the ballad form, including rhyme and its relations to meaning; stanzaic, character, & narrative structure; and patterns created by stanzas of narrative vs. stanzas of dialogue--which Buchan calls “tonal structure.” His chapters on James Nichol and his era are also useful for highlighting linguistic, thematic, and structural elements introduced into traditions by the broadside.
All the ballads discussed by Buchan are anthologized in his companion volume, A Scottish Ballad Book.
- - - - . “Talerole Analysis and Child’s Supernatural Ballads,” in Harris. You can see this methodology critiqued and applied by David Atkinson, in The English Traditional Ballad.
Campbell, Olive Dame. English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians: comprising 122 songs and ballads, and 323 tunes. NY: G.P. Putnam’s sons, 1917.
†Child, Francis James, editor. The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, 5 volumes.
Chld texts, without notes, are available at
The Child Ballads Project lists recorded sources for 218 Child Ballads
†Coffin, Tristram Potter. The British Traditional Ballad in
Coffin, Tristam Potter. “Four Black Sheep Among the 305,” in The Ballad Image, ed. Porter. Discusses four riddle ballads (Riddles Wisely Expounded, The Elfin Knight, The Fause Knicht Upon the Road, & Captain Wedderburn’s Courtship) which involve an encounter but no real plot structure, and contrasts them to other riddling ballads in which something seems to happen, such as Proud Lady Margaret. See also Shields, below.
‡Collinson, Francis. The Traditional and National Music of
Constantine, Mary-Ann & Gerald Porter. Fragments and Meaning in Traditional Song: From the Blues to the Baltic. Oxford: Oxford UP/British Academy, 2003.
†Contemplator Web Site
Edward J., ed. The People’s Past:
Scottish Folk, Scottish History.
- - . “Calvinism and the Survival of the Folk,” in Cowan, The People’s Past. Outlines in detail the effects of
Reformation on Scottish folk music. Cites evidence of pre-Reformation
- - - . The Ballad in Scottish
- - - . “Sex and Violence in the Scottish Ballads.” In The Ballad in Scottish History.
Crawford, Thomas. Society and the Lyric: A study of the song culture of eighteenth century Scotland. Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1979.
Digital Tradition folk song index:
Douglas, Sheila. “Belle Stewart, ‘The Queen Amang the Heather,” in Russell and Atkinson.
- - - - . “Ballads and the Supernatural: Spells, Charms, Curses and Enchantments.” Source? oh dear!
Duffin, Charles. “Just How Was the Bonny Earl of Moray Killed?” In Cowan, The Ballad in Scottish History.
- - - - . Warrior Women and Popular Balladry, 1650-1850. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.
David C. A Literary History of the
Friedman, Albert B. “The Oral-Formulaic Theory of Balladry: A Rebuttal,” in The Ballad Image, ed. Porter. Friedman rehearses Albert B. Lord’s theory of oral-formulaic creation, derived from the study of Serbocroation singers of Homeric epics, and then takes on those who have attempted to apply his ideas to the British ballad--principally James H. Jones’ theory of “communal recreation” by many anonymous singers of some original authored text, and David Buchan’s attempt to make of Anna Brown an oral-recreative singer on the Lord model. For another comment on Buchan’s ability to exceed his evidence, see
†‡Gaughan, Dick. Song Index & Discography. <http://www.dickgaughan.co.uk/main.html/> Gaughan, the pre-eminent professional singer of
Gerould, Gordon Hall. The Ballad of Tradition.
†‡Gower, Herschel & James Porter. “Jeannie Robertson: The Child Ballads,” Scottish Studies 14 (1970) 35-48. Lists 20 Child ballads sung by Jeannie, and presents texts & tunes for ten of them: Lord Randall, Edward/Son David (with hawk stanza), The Twa Brothers, Lord Lovel/Lovat, Mary Hamilton, Bonnie House of Airlie, The Gypsie Laddie, The Jolly Beggar, The Sweet Trinity/Golden Victoree, The Trooper and the Maid. See also Munro, below, on ten of these ballads as sung by Jeannie’s daughter, Lizzie Higgins.
Francis B. “The Ballad and Communal Poetry,” in Leach. Grummere
was one of the
leading proponents of the theory of communal composition of folk songs,
from “throngs” of dancers or chorus singers, rather
than from individual artists.
Harris, Joseph, ed. The Ballad as Oral Literature.
Henderson, Hamish. Alias MacAlias: Writings on Songs, Folk and Literature.
“The Ballads.” An excellent short introduction: what they are, who has sung and collected them, with a final note re: ballad Scots.
“The Underground of Song.” Interesting short introduction to the “underground” survival of folk-song among Travellers.
“Enemies of Folk-Song.” A comment on the two principle means of killing folk-song: declaring it already dead (therefore undeserving of either attention or nurture, financial or otherwise) and capturing it as a pet of the elite arts. His illustrations are a comparison of Burns’ version of McPherson’s Rant with a traditional version, and the text of “Hairst of Rettie.”
“‘At the Foot of Yon Excellin’ Brae’: The Language of Scots Folk-Song.” The premise of this invaluable essay is that a “curious bi-lingualism in one language” has prevailed in
“The Ballad and Popular Tradition to 1660.” Begins & ends with comments on
“How a Bothy Song Came into Being.” A short account (with words & music) of John MacDonald’s shaping of “The Rovin’ Ploughboy,” and Jeannie Robertson’s subsequent borrowing of its tune for “The Gypsy Laddie.”
“Scots Folk-Song: A Select Discography.” This seven-part discography of the best and most important commercially-released recordings of the Revival appeared in Tocher from 1977 to 1983.
- - - - . The Armstrong Nose: Selected Letters of Hamish Henderson. Ed. Alec Finlay. Edinburgh: Polygon, 1996.
- - - - . “The Ballad, the Folk, and the Oral Tradition,” in The People’s Past, ed. Cowan. A three-part essay. The first part offers a critique of Buchan’s oral-recreation claims in The Ballad and the Folk--particularly as they are contradicted by Anna Brown’s literacy and by the practices of 20th c. ballad singers--and faults him for omitting bawdy ballads from his study. The second part provides an historical introduction to bawdy songs & ballads and their underground relations with Calvinism. Includes an introduction to the “Horseman’s Word” secret society of ploughmen and a glance at how bawdy songs, because of their strictly oral, underground nature, have preserved a particularly fine strain of “ballad Scots.” The brief third part returns to the Muckle Sangs to place them in the broad context of Scottish folk song--from underground bawdry to literate master singers like Anna Brown. (Note: photocopy in notebook omits the center section.
†‡Henderson, Hamish & Francis Collinson. “New Child Ballad Variants from Oral Tradition,” Scottish Studies 9: 1965) 1-33. Ballads presented here (with tunes) are: The Elfin Knight (versions from Andra Stewart & Martha “Peasie” Reid), The False Knight Upon the Road (Duncan McPhee, Nellie MacGregor, Willie Whyte, Margaret Eyre), Captain Wedderburn’s Courtship (Willie Matheson), The Cruel Brother (Martha Stewart), The Banks o Airdrie/Bonnie Banks o Fordie/Babylon (Martha “Peasie” Reid), Tam Lin (Bessie Johnstone,Willie Whyte), Little Sir Hugh and the Jew’s Daughter (Maggie Stewart, Donald Whyte, Willie Whyte). Introduction includes remarks on social barriers to song collecting (i.e. Geordie Robertson/Gavin Greig) and an introduction to the Pentatonic & Hexatonic scales & the church modes. More commentary on tunes than texts.
Henderson, Lizanne. “The Road to Elfland: Fairy Belief and the Child Ballads.” In Cowan, The Ballad in Scottish History.
Hodgart, M.J.C. The Ballads.
Hyman, Stanley Edgar. "The Child Ballad in
America: Some Aesthetic Criteria." Journal of American
Folklore 70 (1957). 235-239.
†Johnson, R. Brimley. A Book of British Ballads.
Keith, Alexander. “Scottish Ballads: Their Evidence of Authorship and Origin,” in Leach. An early (1927) step in examining the origins of ballads historically and debunking the theories of communal authorship. Follows in the footsteps of Pound’s Poetic Origins and the Ballad (1921).
†Laws, G. Malcolm. American Balladry from British Broadsides. 1957.
Leach, MacEdward & Tristam P. Coffin, eds. The Critics and the Ballad..
†Legman, G., editor. The Merry Muses of
Lloyd, A.L. Folk Song in
Lord, Albert B. The Singer of Tales.
†Lyle, Emily. Scottish Ballads.
- - - - . “Parity of Ignorance: Child’s Judgment of ‘Sir Colin’ and the Scottish Verdict ‘Not Proven’,” in Harris. This brief essay traces the adventures of the title ballad (for which a previously unknown, much older, text was discovered in the 1970s) and lays out the logical contradictions inherent in the practice of assuming a song is no older than its earliest surviving text.
†‡MacColl, Ewan. Folk Songs and Ballads of
†‡ - - - - . Shuttle and Cage: Industrial Folk-Ballads.
- - - - . Journeyman.
†‡MacColl, Ewan and Peggy Seeger. Travellers’ Songs from England and Scotland. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1977. A landmark collection, including texts & tunes for 130 songs of all types (traditional ballads, broadside ballads, bawdy songs, funny songs, children’s songs, work songs, etc.) collected over 15 years of work with Traveller singers, including some of the most important in Britain. Includes four songs in Anglo-Romani. Tunes, as well as texts, were noted from performance. Extensive notes, including technical analysis of performance.
†‡- - - - . Till Doomsday in the Afternoon: The Stewart Family of Blair. A comprehensive study of this highly accomplished Traveller family. The portrait of Traveller life includes family life, childhood, work, life on the road, names, education, discrimination & other aspects. Chapters on their art include language, folktales, riddles, children’s rhymes, music, & “mak’-ye-ups.” Includes words, music, & notes for seventy-one songs from the repertoires of Belle Stewart, one of the matriarchs of the Revival, and her daughters Sheila & Cathy. Tunes, as well as texts, were noted from performance.
MacKinnon, Niall. The British Folk Scene: Musical Performance and Social Identity. Buckingham: Open University Press,1993. An ethnographic study of the revival folk scene. Why did the revival happen? What was purported to be revived? How has it survived? MacKinnon argues that the folk scene has “a powerful structuring ethos” that encompasses its otherwise various human and musical strands.
MacNaughton, Alan. “The Folksong Revival in Scotland,” in Cowan, The People’s Past. Begins with the questions “Why was there a folksong revival? Why was a revival necessary? Why did we not grow up singing the songs that have since been revived?” His short answer is “industrialization,” from which point he goes on to sketch out key events in the 1950s and 1960s that shaped the revival. Provides a very short but reasonably good introduction to the subject.
McCarthy, William Bernard. The Ballad Matrix: Personality, Milieu, and the Oral Tradition. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990. McCarthy’s introduction provides a survey of ballad scholarship and a brief introduction to the annular and binary diagramming of ballad structure. In the book proper, Part I sketches historical and biographical details for Agnes Lyle, an 18th c. singer from whom William Motherwell collected 22 songs and about 15 additional fragments, making her one of the most important sources of the so-called Golden Age of ballad collecting, 1780-1830. Part II focuses on verse structure, relying perhaps too heavily on Buchan’s version of oral-formulaic theory, but useful nonetheless. I find his methods more elaborate than necessary but have adapted them to my own uses. Interestingly, McCarthy includes analyses some of Mrs. Lyle’s less successful songs in order to highlight their structural weaknesses in comparison with her triumphs. Part III, tracing Lyle’s themes and leitmotifs, is an excellent discussion of how a singer’s ideas and values shape traditional material in ways that create distinct bodies of work.
- - - - . “The Americanization of Scottish Ballads: Counterevidence from the Southwest of Scotland,” in Harris.
- - - - . “The polarization of Scots society and ballad collecting in the early nineteenth century.” Lore & Language 12 (1994) 129-146.
McCue, Kirsteen. “Women and Song 1750-1850,” in A History of Scottish Women’s Writing, ed. Douglas Gifford & Dorothy McMillan. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1997. An excellent introduction to a body of song that, while not traditional, was deeply influenced by and sometimes derived from traditional song. Some of the songs written in this era are commonly believed to be “traditional” -- a fate more likely to befall songs by women, because so many were published anonymously during their authors’ lifetimes.
McCulloch, Margery Palmer. “Women, Poetry and Song in Eighteenth-century Lowland Scotland. Women’s Writing 10:3 (2003) 453-468.
McKean, Thomas A., ed. The Flowering Thorn: International Ballad Studies. Logan: Utah State UP, 2003. 26 essays on narrative songs from multiple cultures and languages. Essays on the Anglo-American tradition by Gammon, Wollstadt, McCarthy, Douglas, Campbell, Fischer, Bold and Renwick are annotated separately.
McKnight, George. “Ballad and Dance,” in Leach. An example (1920) of the theory of dance origin for the ballads.
Muir, Willa. Living with Ballads. New York: Oxford University Press, 1965.
†‡Munro, Alie. The Democratic Muse: Folk Music revival in Scotland. Aberdeen: Scottish Cultural Press, 1996. [Revised edition of The Folksong Revival in Scotland, 1984.] A history of the revival, including its antecedents in the USA and development in Scotland, sources among the travellers, the folk-club scene, importance of storytelling, a section on Gaelic song, and relations to Scottish and international politics. Presents a number of songs (with tunes) as performed by singers of the 1970s, plus comparative versions of four songs by four singers each. Munro is on the faculty of the School of Scottish Studies.
†‡- - - - . “Lizzie Higgins, and the Oral Transmission of Ten Child Ballads,” Scottish Studies 14 (1970) 155-188. Introduction includes a biographical profile, stressing how her life has differed from that of her mother, Jeannie Robertson, the difficulties of following in the footsteps of a famous parent, and technical remarks on Lizzie’s “bagpipe style” ornamentation. Texts & tunes are for the same ten ballads presented by Herschel & Gower from Jeannie Robertson, above, in the same issue of SS. Excellent notes on style, pace, decoration, and differences from her mother’s style.
†‡Olsen, Bruce. It's coming!
†Ord, John. Ord’s Bothy Songs and Ballads of Aberdeen, Banff & Moray, Angus and the Mearns. Ed. with a new introduction by Alexander Fenton. Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers, 1995.  John Ord, a Glasgow policeman, collected these several hundred songs in his spare time. Though he scornfully excluded songs of the music hall or the newfangled wireless, his collection is otherwise a diverse and inclusive musical representation of the society of rural, Victorian Scotland. Includes currently sung versions of many ballads and, of course, bothy songs. Fenton’s introduction stresses their social contexts and photos of farm life of the time.
Pettit, Thomas. “‘St. Stephen and Herod’ and the Songs of the Sloane Manuscript.” In Andersen, Holapfel, & Pettit. The Sloane Manuscript is a 15th c. collection of Middle English lyrics, believed by some to be a minstrel’s song book. Child selected only 2 of its 71 songs as “ballads” for his collection, one of which is here discussed in detail. Fowler has argued that it is difficult to find what distinguishes the two songs Child selected, but Pettitt makes a counter-argument based on narrative structure. The essay accepts Fowler’s thesis, that ballads emerged from “a coming together of traditional song and medieval minstrelsy,” and takes a step forward in examining just how a “ballad” differs from its parents.
_ _ _ _ . “The Later English Ballad Tradition: ‘The Outlandish Knight’ and ‘Maria Marten.” In Andersen, Holapfel, & Pettit. Focuses on English versions of two songs, collected by Cecil Sharp after publication of Child’s collection, demonstrating by close analysis that one can be properly called “a ballad” while the other, though certainly “a narrative song,” cannot be so called.
Pittock, Murray G.H. “The Complaint of Caledonia: Scottish Identity and the Female Voice,” in Archipelagic Identities: Literature and Identity in the Atlantic Archipelago, 1550-1800, ed. Philip Schwyzer and Simon Mealor. Burlington,VT: Ashgate Publishing, 2004.
†Porter, James and Herschel Gower. Jeannie Robertson: Emergent Singer, Transformative Voice. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1995.
Porter, James, editor. The Ballad Image: Essays Presented to Bertrand Harris Bronson. Los Angeles: Center for the Study of Comparative Folklore & Mythology, 1983. Twelve essays on British and American ballads. Three are annotated separately here (see Coffin, Friedman, & Shields); other subjects include “Sir Patrick Spens,” “The Problem of Identity in Lyric Folk Song,” and David Buchan on “Hugh Spencer.”
Reiuwerts, Sigrid. “The Historical Moorings of “The Gypsy Laddie”: Johnny Faa and Lady Cassillis,” in Harris.
- - - . “Allan Ramsay and the Scottish Ballads.” Aberdeen University Review 58:201 (Spr 99) 29-41.
Renwick, Roger deV. English Folk Poetry: Structure and Meaning. No city: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1980. Employs structuralism & semiotics, phenomenology and general systems theory to analyze the underlying world views of English folk songs, local songs, and working-class poetry of the 18th to 20th centuries. Relevant chapters (cited by McCarthy & others) are “The Bold Fisherman: Symbolism in English Traditional Folksong,” and “The Semiotics of Sexual Liaisons.”
Russell, Ian and David Atkinson, eds. Folk Song: Tradition, Revival, and Re-Creation. Aberdeen: Elphinstone Instiute/University of Aberdeen, 2004. Thirty-six essays focusing on collection, and scholarship as well as singers and songs. Most concern the Anglo-American and Irish traditions, but others touch on folk song in cultures as diverse as Finland and Korea. Some are annotated separately: see O’Reilly, Verrier, Sweers, Bishop, Douglas.
†Sargent, Helen Child and George Lyman Kittredge, editors. English and Scottish Popular Ballads: Cambridge Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin/Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1904. A one-volume selection from Child’s five volumes. All but five of the 305 are represented by one or more texts, but with very short introductions and no critical or textual information. This edition has one distinct advantage over the original: if you find a copy you might be able to afford it.
†‡Seeger, Peggy and Ewan MacColl. The Singing Island: a collection of English and Scots folksongs. London: Belwin-Mills Music, 1960. Not heavy on ballads, but you’ll find here tunes for Banks o the Nile, Maids When You’re Young Never Wed an Old Man, Come All Ye Tramps and Hawkers, Johnnie o Breadislie, The Wind Blew the Bonnie Lassie’s Plaidie Awa, and others.
†‡Sharp, Cecil. English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians. Including 39 tunes contributed by Olive Dame Campbell. Edited by Maud Karpeles. 2 volumes. London: Oxford University Press, 1932. The most complete early collection. The 1932 and later editions include songs not in the 1925 edition.
Shepard, Leslie. The Broadside Ballad: The development of the street ballad from traditional song to popular newspaper. London: Herbert Jenkins, 1962. A general history, as indicated; among the 60 plates are 19th c. broadside versions of “Lord Bateman” and “Barbara Allen.”
Shields, Hugh. “Impossibles in Ballad Style,” in Porter. Part one discusses adynaton (Gr.: impossible) and hyperbole in oral literature in general (including beautiful woodcut illustrations). Part two surveys this motif in twenty-four Child ballads, with appendices indexing its occurrence.
- - - . “Popular Modes of Narration and the Popular Ballad,” in Harris.
†‡Shuldham-Shaw, Patrick and Emily B. Lyle. The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection. 8 volumes. Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1981. In the early years of this century a schoolmaster (Gavin Greig) and a mininster (James Duncan) collected more than 3000 texts and tunes in Northeast Scotland. A selection from their work was published in 1925; this edition is the first attempt to publish all of it. The volumes are organized thematically and “ballads” per se are not distinguished. Volume 1: Nautical Songs, Military Songs & Songs in which characters adopt the dress of the opposite sex. Volume 2: complete this
Sprott, Gavin. “Traditional Music: The Material Background,” in Cowan, The People’s Past. A brief introduction to the material life of the makers of folk songs over the last couple of centuries--less romantic but also less complete than Buchan’s in The Ballad and the Folk. Includes these important sentences: “Folk culture does not resurrect the experience of the past, but recycles it into the present. It is a bit more living and less traditional than is commonly supposed, and often what we hear reflected in music and language is not the past’s imagination but the present’s.” Contrast this with more antiquarian approaches to the ballad, and with Susan Stewart’s arguments.
Stewart, George R. “The Meter of the Popular Ballad,” in The Critics and the Ballad, ed. Leach. This 1925 essay discusses ballad meter as lying in a no-man’s land between song and verse--a dipodic meter, with stress generally falling on nouns, adjectives and adverbs, structurally interrelated with its use of rhyme. Discusses the difficulty of placing stress at the ends of some lines and the complex interrelationships of meter and tune. Uses statistical evidence to support some of his points (as Buchan later does re: rhyme).I get lost in the most intricate part of his discussion.
Stewart, Susan. “Scandals of the Ballad.” Crimes of Writing: Problems in the Containment of Representation. New York: Oxford UP, 1991. Examines how 18th c. scandals re: ballad authenticity & imitation shaped emerging ideas of authorship, pastness, and the temporality of literature. Stewart defines the ballad genre as consisting solely of its historical construction(s) and discusses how the literary sensibility defines itself by materiality & authorial subjectivity, thus inventing and requiring ephemerality for the oral; how the writing down of oral genres creates a sense of lost context & presence, imbued with nostalgia & requiring rescue; and (more briefly) how the creation of this genre reflected a need for national identity. Her discussion of thematics is problematic, though it serves to highlight the importance of alterity and transgression in several forms: incest, adultery & domestic murder; cross-class sexuality; defiance of the norms of marriage-as-property-transfer; hunting rights; relations with ghosts, fairies, and the bewitched; and of course the concept of “the border”, both Highland and Northumbrian, which is both dividing line and charged zone of shared lust and violence. Good on “the eroticization of boundary” including the thrill of discovering an “authentic” source singer. Assumes entirely the POV of the literati and assumes its isolation from and direct knowledge of what a ballad is.
Sweers, Britta. “Ghosts of voices: English folk(-rock) musicians and the transmission of traditional music. In Russell & Atkinson. Good introduction to the English revival and to the electrification of folk. Clarifies some ways the English revival singers differed from their Scottish counterparts, in that most of them lacked direct ties to traditional singing & did not learn songs by oral transmission within their families.
Symonds, Deborah A. Weep Not for Me: Women, Ballads, and Infanticide in Early Modern Scotland. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997. An examination infanticide in early modern Scotland, with particular focus on a statute requiring presumption of guilt and a death penalty. Discussion ranges from statistical analysis of trial records to speculation on the effect of the ballad-heroine on images of womanhood. Focuses on social & economic conditions that made infanticide more or less likely to occur and more or less likely to be prosecuted. Includes discussion of The Cruel Mother, Mary Hamilton and other infanticide ballads, as well as other pregnant-&-abandoned ballads, and of Sir Walter Scott’s Waverly.
Toelken, Barre. Morning Dew and Roses: Nuance, Metaphor, and Meaning in Folksongs. Urbana: U Illinois P, 1995.
Verrier, Michael. “Folk club or epic theatre: Brecht’s influence on the performance practice of Ewan MacColl.” In Russell & Atkinson.
Wells, Evelyn Kendrick. The Ballad Tree: A Study of British and American Ballads, Their Folklore, Verse, and Music, together with sixty traditional ballads and their tunes. New York: Ronald Press Company, 1950.
Whyte, Betsy. The Yellow on the Broom: The Early Days of a Traveller Woman. London: Warner Books, 1979. A beautifully written memoir of childhood among the Scottish travelers.
Würzbach, Natascha. “Tradition and Innovation: The Influence of Child Ballads on the Anglo-American Literary Ballad,” in Harris. Deals with mostly 19th c. popular literary verse.
Cameron, David Kerr. The Ballad and the Plough: A Portrait of Life in the Old Scottish Farmtouns. London: Futura Publications, 1979. Each chapter of this book includes a sample of songs that relate to its subjects--ploughing, harvest, courtship, etc.
Cockburn, Craig, editor & main author. “Frequently Asked Questions,” soc.culture.scottish newsgroup. <http://www.scot.demon.co.uk/scotfaq.html>
A good source for general information on Scotland, and a clearing-house for other on-line sources on Scotland and Scottish music.
Donaldson, William. The Jacobite Song: Political Myth and National Identity. Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1988.
Ewan, Elizabeth and Maureen M. Meikle. Women in Scotland, c.100-c.1750. East Linton: Tuckwell Press, 1999. Twenty essays on subjects as diverse as 12th c. nunneries and women in the early modern book trade. Nothing on ballad singers, but does include essays on Gaelic women singers and on subjects bearing on the content of many ballads, such as: images of women in literature, women at court, roles in marriage, and unwed mothers.
Gifford, Douglas & Dorothy McMillan, ed. A History of Scottish Women’s Writing. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1997. Forty-three essays on subjects ranging from early Gaelic poetry to the contemporary novel. See Brown and McCue, in the ballads bibliography.
Kerrigan, Catherine, editor. An Anthology of Scottish Women Poets. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1991. Poetry in Gaelic, Scots & English from the 15th c. to the present, including ballads and traditional songs in all three languages.
Lynch, Michael. Scotland: A New History. London: Pimlico, 1991. Generally considered the best one-volume history.
MacQueen, John and Tom Scott. The Oxford Book of Scottish Verse. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1966. Poetry in English and Scots, mostly English. A conservative collection that includes some ballad texts.
Marshall, Rosalind K. Virgins and Viragos: A History of Women in Scotland from 1080-1980. Chicago: Academy Chicago, 1983. Arranged thematically, this book covers such issues as marriage, sexuality, work, literacy, family life, & religious life.
Mitchison, Rosalind. A History of Scotland. Second Edition. London: Routledge, 1982.  Another excellent one-volume history.
Pittock, Murray G. H. Poetry and Jacobite Politics in Eighteenth-Century Britain and Ireland. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. An outstanding study of Jacobite myth-making and verse-making.
Robinson, Mairi, editor. The Concise Scots Dictionary. Edinburgh: Chambers, 1996. 
Watson, Roderick, editor. The Poetry of Scotland: Gaelic, Scots and English. Edinburgh” Edinburgh University Press, 1995. No book trying to be this comprehensive really is: still it’s the best single-volume introduction to poetry in all Scotland’s languages.
Womack, Peter. Improvement and Romance: Constructing the Myth of the Highlands. London: MacMillan, 1989. Focusing on travel literature, art, and fiction, this book maps the Romantic and imperialist conversion of the image of the Highlands, after 1745, from the impenetrable wilderness home of barbarians to the misty landscape of a longed-for past, which is still so loved and marketed today.
Master of Fine Arts, Poetry
Dr. Margaret Yocom
George Mason University