Making Light: Folksongs Are Your Friends

Making Light: Folksongs Are Your Friends

Things I’ve learned from British folk ballads

Don’t ignore warnings. If someone tells you to beware of Long Lankin, friggin’ beware of him. If someone tells you not to go by Carterhaugh, stay away. Same goes for your mother asking you not to go out hunting on a particular day. Portents about weather, particularly when delivered by an old sailor who is not currently chatting up a country maid, are always worth heeding.

If someone says that he’s planning to kill you, believe him.

If someone says he’s going to die, believe him.

Avoid navigable waterways. Don’t let yourself be talked into going down by the wild rippling water, the wan water, the salt sea shore, the strand, the lowlands low, the Burning Thames, and any area where the grass grows green on the banks of some pool. Cliffs overlooking navigable waterways aren’t safe either.

Broom, as in the plant, should be given a wide berth.

Stay away from the greenwood side, too.

Avoid situations where the obvious rhyme-word is “maidenhead.”

If you look at the calendar and discover it’s May, stay home.

The flowing bowl is best quaffed at home. Don’t drink with strangers. Don’t drink alone. Don’t toss the cups or pass the jar about in bars where you haven’t arranged to keep a tab. Drinks of unusual or uncertain provenance should be viewed askance, especially if you’re offered them by charming members of the opposite sex. Finally, never get drunk and pass out in a bar called the “Cape Horn.”

Members of press gangs seldom tell the truth. Recruiting sergeants will fib to you shamelessly. They are not your friends, even if they’re buying the drinks. Especially when they’re buying the drinks.

If you’re drinking toasts, mention your One True Love early and often.

If you’re a young lady, dressing yourself in men’s array and joining the army or the navy has all sorts of comic possibilities, but you yourself aren’t going to find it too darned humorous at the time.

If you are an unmarried lady and have sex, you will get pregnant. No good will come of it.”

And so on. Quality stuff.

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