Several readers have written in to ask if A Rustic Lesson is a genuine old folk song, culled from a collection collected by a collector of old folk songs. Figures such as Cecil Sharp and Percy Grainger and BÃ©la BartÃ³k were fond of traipsing the countryside jotting down the ululations of peasants, and my correspondents wonder if the tale of the duck and the devil and the farmer comes from such a source. Indeed it does. A Rustic Lesson was collected by Prudence Foxgloveâ€™s cousin Sagacity Wolfbag, a tireless explorer of rustic byways.
It is exactly one hundred years since Sagacity published her anthology Filth & Muck & Fields Of Green, comprising thousands of pages of songs and ballads, lore and legend, recipes and remedies, proverbs, sayings and old saws, many if not all of them nonsensical. The bulk of the material in the book was gathered in one tiny rustic backwater, a dismal huddle of dilapidated huts in a field near the Blister Lane Bypass. Much of it seems to have been relayed to Sagacity Wolfbag by a single, particularly grubby peasant, who was probably in the throes of ergot-related hysteria, and who died babbling in a ditch shortly after the anthology was published.
Thanks to R. for alerting me to the existence of Sagacity Wolfbag.
The mucky issue of ‘traipsing the countryside jotting down the ululations of peasants’ has also been much on my mind of late. Only a couple of weeks ago I posted on my personal inability to fulfil this task to the best of my potential – http://georgyriecke.wordpress.com/2008/09/18/dogs-and-peasants/ – blaming my errors on the propensity of fearsome dogs to be found among the kind of grubby peasant of which you speak. I wonder whether Sagacity Wolfbag had the wisdom worthy of her name when it came to dealing with such mutts? (Percy Grainger, it is rumoured, used to lull them into a coma by whistling the German National anthem, but I can’t say this ever worked for me)
G Riecke : I always deploy the Uruguayan national anthem. It never fails.
I was alarmed to come across http://www.tsgnet.com/pres.php?id=357563&altf=Tbhbdjuz&altl=Xpmgcbh this evening. There is more to this tireless explorer of rustic byways than meets the eye.
R : You know, I think she has a good chance of winning. Onwards to November!