Folk Songs from the Southern Highlands - online songbook

Southern Appalachians songs with lyrics, commentary & some sheet music.

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Ballads and Songs
4
THE TWA SISTERS
(Child, No. 10)
Campbell and Sharp (No. 4) quote four versions, one from North Carolina and three from Virginia. Pound (No. 4) gives the N. C. version from Camp­bell and Sharp and a Missouri version imported from Kentucky from H. M. Belden's "Old Country Ballads in Missouri," Journal of American Folk-Lore, XIX, p. 233. See also Sharp, Folk-Songs of English Origin, 2nd series, pp. 18—21; Cox, No. 3; Gray, p. 75; Hudson, No. 3; Kittredge, Journal, XXX, 286; Cox, The School Journal andEducator (West Virginia), 1916, XLIV, 428, 441—442; Davis, Traditional Ballads of Virginia, No. 5 (eleven versions); Shearin and Combs, p. 7; Pound, Syllabus, p. 11; Barry-Eckstorm-Smyth, British Ballads from Maine, p. 40; Belden, No. 2; Barry, No. 3; R. W. Gordon, New York Times Magazine, Oct. 9, 1927. Add Barry, Journal, XVIII, 130—132 (two texts: A with air, B reprinted in Barry-Eck-storm-Smyth, 40—41); Sharp, MSS., Harvard University Library: several texts with airs, collected in the Southern Highlands; Thomas, p. 70; Journal, XLII, 238; XLIV, 295; Brown, p. 9; PTFLS, No. 10, pp. 141—143.
The text A with the exception of a few verbal differences is close to that in James Watt Raine's The Land of the Saddle Bags, Richmond, 1924, p. 118, which is the same as that of Richardson and Spaeth's American Mountain Songs, New York, 1927, p. 27, though no mention is there made of the source. Professor Raine says of this ballad (p. 117): "Many of the ballads have a refrain in which all the auditors may join. Sometimes the refrain has no connection with the story, as in the short lines of 'The Twa Sisters'. cBowee Down!' and 'Bow and balance to me!' are a remnant from an old dance jingle, which was occasionally sung by dancers even after the music was furnished by the fiddle. 'Bowee' was originally 'Bow ye' but it has dropped the 'y' and become 'bowee', as is common in Scottish familiar speech. The triple repetition of the first line in every stanza is a frequent characteristic ol ballads, — it gives intensity to the tale." C on the authority of Child is more nearly complete in its theme than A and B of this group. He says: "According to all complete and uncorrupted forms of the ballad, either some part of the body of the drowned girl is taken to furnish a musical instrument, a harp or a viol, or the instrument is wholly made from the body" (English and Scottish Popular Ballads, edited by Helen Child Sargent and George Lyman Kittredge, Cambridge, 1904, p. 18).
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III