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.