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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Thomas Haynes Bayly - The Mistletoe Bough - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Today's story fits the Victorian, and even earlier, tradition of telling spooky stories.  Charles Dickens was far from the only author bring goosebumps to the holiday.  Back on October 17, 2013 here I devoted an entire article to Scary Ghost Stories for October, December, or Whenever.  At the time I mentioned on the My Merry Christmas network I posted this spooky ballad from 1830, The Mistletoe Bough, based on various traditional legends.

I don't recite the ballad as it is written, instead I tell the story, getting the audience to repeat the refrain.  It starts out a happy and merry chorus, changing as the tale evolves.  Because the link above takes you to where I posted it on MyMerryChristmas.com, I will give it here as I originally did it.

This is actually a ballad with lyrics by Thomas Haynes Bayly. I’ve never been able to find the music by Sir Henry Bishop, but I use the refrain for my own re-telling as it’s said to be based on a traditional legend.

The mistletoe hung in the castle hall,
The holly branch shone on the old oak wall;
And the baron’s retainers were blithe and gay,
And keeping their Christmas holiday.
The baron beheld with a father’s pride
His beautiful child, young Lovell’s bride;
While she with her bright eyes seemed to be
The star of the goodly company.
Oh, the mistletoe bough.
Oh, the mistletoe bough.

“I’m weary of dancing now,” she cried;
“Here, tarry a moment — I’ll hide, I’ll hide!
And, Lovell, be sure thou’rt first to trace
The clew to my secret lurking-place.”
Away she ran — and her friends began
Each tower to search, and each nook to scan;
And young Lovell cried, “O, where dost thou hide?
I’m lonesome without thee, my own dear bride.”
Oh, the mistletoe bough.
Oh, the mistletoe bough.

They sought her that night, and they sought her next day,
And they sought her in vain while a week passed away;
In the highest, the lowest, the loneliest spot,
Young Lovell sought wildly — but found her not.
And years flew by, and their grief at last
Was told as a sorrowful tale long past;
And when Lovell appeared the children cried,
“See! the old man weeps for his fairy bride.”
Oh, the mistletoe bough.
Oh, the mistletoe bough.

At length an oak chest, that had long lain hid,
Was found in the castle — they raised the lid,
And a skeleton form lay mouldering there
In the bridal wreath of that lady fair!
O, sad was her fate! — in sportive jest
She hid from her lord in the old oak chest.
It closed with a spring! — and, dreadful doom,
The bride lay clasped in her living tomb!
Oh, the mistletoe bough.
Oh, the mistletoe bough
.

I hope you got a bit of a shiver from that tale and enjoy telling it your own way.

Next week we'll choose something a bit livelier from Victorian Christmas tales.
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This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories.  


At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my regular posting of a research project here.  (Don't worry, this isn't dry research, my research is always geared towards future storytelling to an audience.)  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my other postings as often as I can manage it.  
 


There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I recommended it earlier and want to continue to do so.  He has just loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so one can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression he likes by pressing one key. http://folkmasa.org/motiv/motif.htm

He also loaded to his server the doctorate thesis of Prof. Dov Noy (Neunan) "Motif-index of Talmudic-Midrahic literature" Indiana University, 1954, as a PDF file.
in the hope that some of you would make use of it.

You can see why that is a site I recommend to you.

Have fun discovering even more stories!
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