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Why Is the Lady of Carlisle Speechless?

Peter T. 13 Dec 03 - 10:21 AM
Amos 13 Dec 03 - 10:57 AM
Amos 13 Dec 03 - 11:01 AM
Malcolm Douglas 13 Dec 03 - 12:26 PM
Mudlark 13 Dec 03 - 05:26 PM
Joybell 13 Dec 03 - 05:55 PM
GUEST,John Harmer 28 Apr 10 - 11:19 AM
GUEST,CupOfTea at work, no cookies 28 Apr 10 - 02:30 PM
Paul Burke 28 Apr 10 - 02:38 PM
GUEST,Songbob 28 Apr 10 - 02:54 PM
GUEST,Roger Knowles 28 Apr 10 - 03:21 PM
GUEST,JEFarrow www.gnostics.com 12 Aug 10 - 06:36 PM
McGrath of Harlow 13 Aug 10 - 01:03 PM
Joybell 13 Aug 10 - 08:37 PM
GUEST 12 Jul 11 - 07:55 PM
MGM·Lion 12 Jul 11 - 10:31 PM
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Subject: Why Is the Lady of Carlisle Speechless?
From: Peter T.
Date: 13 Dec 03 - 10:21 AM

In "the Lady of Carlisle", just before she tosses her fan in the lion's den for the two lovers (or one of them) to retrieve it, she falls down on the ground for half an hour speechless. Does anyone have any reports from the Folk Tradition as to why? Is she a magician? Trying to manipulate the lions, soldiers, overcome with fear?

yours,

Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Why Is the Lady of Carlisle Speechless?
From: Amos
Date: 13 Dec 03 - 10:57 AM

I expect the intensity of emotion -- passion and life and death and lion-halitosis all combined -- caused her faint. Ladies of that era were much given to vapours, I believe.

A


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Subject: RE: Why Is the Lady of Carlisle Speechless?
From: Amos
Date: 13 Dec 03 - 11:01 AM

There she stopped and there she halted
These two soldiers stood gazing around,
And for the space of half an hour,
This young lady lies speechless on the ground.

And when she did recover,
Threw her fan down in the lion's den
Saying, "Which of you to gain a lady
Will return her fan again?"

(Excerpt from Lady of Carlisle)


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Subject: RE: Why Is the Lady of Carlisle Speechless?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 13 Dec 03 - 12:26 PM

That passage appears in a (very) few American versions of the song, but is absent, so far as I can tell, in most, nor does it appear in any Canadian or British example, oral or broadside, that I've seen so far (there are a number in Greig-Duncan that I don't have). In a set that Sharp got in Somerset, the lady goes up to Town (there were lions kept at the Tower of London until 1834) "...one single hour, The lions and tigers for to see", and then does her fan trick. It may be that the fainting episode is a dramatisation based upon that, but there might also be some borrowing from a different song.

My provisional feeling would be that it doesn't actually mean anything much in the broad context of the song because it really belongs somewhere else, but perhaps the singers who had that particular variant may have had specific thoughts on the subject; there's no indication with the examples I've seen, though, that they were asked. The essential story doesn't vary all that much, but the action is localised to a great many different places.

There are a few examples at  Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads:

The bold lieutenant in the lions' den ("In London city there lived a lady ...")

The lions' den ("In Reading Isles there lived a lady ...")

The underlying story is quite old, and appeared in Les Mémoires de Messire Pierre de Bourdeilles, Seigneur de Brantôme (1666, Discours 10e). Schiller based his Der Handschuh (1797) on it, as did Browning his The Glove, and Leigh Hunt his The Glove and the Lions. de Brantôme asserted that the original event took place in the reign of Francis I (1515 - 1547). (See Journal of the Folk Song Society, V (20) 1916 258-60). In literary forms, the victorious suitor, having recovered the glove, rejects the lady for her pride and presumption; but as a popular song it has acquired a conventional happy ending.

Perhaps the oldest English form is a broadside in the Percy Collection, The distressed lady; or, A trial of true love; in which the story is told at some length in five parts. There is a passage which may or may not have some bearing on the question:

And at last they back returning
Came unto the lion's den.
Loud they roar'd as they ca[me ne]ar 'em
Seemingly the earth did wak[ ]
She at first did seem to fear the[m]
But at length sh[e] thus did speak...

The variation in question is a device for increasing dramatic tension, of course, and likely enough suggested by the lady's dramatic pause before issuing her challenge. I'd guess, though, at the fainting fit being a late embroidery made to impress the audience rather than having any meaning intrinsic to the story being told.


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Subject: RE: Why Is the Lady of Carlisle Speechless?
From: Mudlark
Date: 13 Dec 03 - 05:26 PM

Malcolm...Great background on a song I've always loved, but have only heard in the broad country vernacular (the ending..."She throwed herseff acrost his boosum, sahn heer's the prahze thet yew have won")

Was especially interested in the info that lions were kept at the Tower at one time...makes more sense, as lions are thin on the ground in US Eastern hill country (painters, yes, but no real lions).

Thanks for taking the time to explicate!


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Subject: RE: Why Is the Lady of Carlisle Speechless?
From: Joybell
Date: 13 Dec 03 - 05:55 PM

That is great Malcolm. Thank you from me too.


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Subject: RE: Why Is the Lady of Carlisle Speechless?
From: GUEST,John Harmer
Date: 28 Apr 10 - 11:19 AM

guess everyone'll have forgotten this thread, but just to add I heard somewhere years ago that The Lions Den was a pub in Carlisle, and the Lions were a gang of cutthroats and robbers, ie people not lions - always seemed to make more sense to me that way.


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Subject: RE: Why Is the Lady of Carlisle Speechless?
From: GUEST,CupOfTea at work, no cookies
Date: 28 Apr 10 - 02:30 PM

My dearest friend lives in a wee town in (mostly rural) southern Ohio called Carlisle.

I've been delighted each time I've visited him by the four reclining lion sculptures on the bridge across the Miami River, one on each end of the rail on each side of the bridge. (each is about 2 ft tall)

At Christmastime, they get fuzzy red "Santa" hats one each of their heads.

So, at least, down in Carlisle Ohio there is a pride of lions!

Joanne in Cleveland


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Subject: RE: Why Is the Lady of Carlisle Speechless?
From: Paul Burke
Date: 28 Apr 10 - 02:38 PM

Is she a magician? Trying to manipulate the lions, soldiers, overcome with fear?

Probably drunk, the lot of them. They probably hung about because it was her round. All that throwing herself about is just confirmation.

Or maybe she'd forgotten her lions.


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Subject: RE: Why Is the Lady of Carlisle Speechless?
From: GUEST,Songbob
Date: 28 Apr 10 - 02:54 PM

"Ladies of that era were much given to vapours, I believe."

Actually, the term "vapours" (never "vapors," because American women didn't have them, as such) was a euphemism for 'intestinal gas,' going back to England in the 1420s. It grew to mean, over the next two centuries, 'a morbid condition supposed to be caused by the presence of such exhalations; depression of spirits, hypochondria, hysteria, and other nervous disorders.'

[Source, Oxford English Dictionary, as quoted in "Forgotten English," a desk calendar I got for Christmas, under the word 'wamble', meaning 'to twist as in the wind.']

And 'the vapours' certainly could have been what drove the lady to the ground in a faint (feint?).

Bob


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Subject: RE: Why Is the Lady of Carlisle Speechless?
From: GUEST,Roger Knowles
Date: 28 Apr 10 - 03:21 PM

She was totally speechless at the utter stupidity of the two guys going into a lion's den to retrieve her fan. They could have bought her another fan on e-bay and not risked their dismal lives.


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Subject: RE: Why Is the Lady of Carlisle Speechless?
From: GUEST,JEFarrow www.gnostics.com
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 06:36 PM

I became enthralled with this song when I purchased the Ian & Sylvia version when it was released in the late 1960's. Then I listened to Pentangle's version & love it just as much (and I REALLY like Pentangle's Bluegrass/Rockabilly background.) I was fascinated by the elements already mentioned here 1. The Lady's Swooning. 2. A lion's den--where were they, in Ethiopia? Perhaps the special carriage she rode in was originally a chariot? Well, the point is, I thought that I was the only person obsessing about such esoteric things, then discovered this blog. This is the most intelligent set of responses I've seen on the Net. That's all I really wanted to say. THANKS!


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Subject: RE: Why Is the Lady of Carlisle Speechless?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 01:03 PM

Always makes me think of Albert and the Lion. Maybe there should be a monologue version of the Lady of Carlisle. Preferably of a version in whyihc the "winner" ends up by saying "No thank you."


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Subject: RE: Why Is the Lady of Carlisle Speechless?
From: Joybell
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 08:37 PM

The idea of trying out possible husbands with a test of bravery (stupidity?) always reminds me of the poem "Mad Carew" -- which everyone knows as "The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God". I've loved this poem since I was three years old. My mother used to recite it to me. Wonderful.
Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Why Is the Lady of Carlisle Speechless?
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Jul 11 - 07:55 PM

@GUEST,JEFarrow www.gnostics.com: "A lion's den--where were they, in Ethiopia?"

Read the thread. Specifically, Malcolm Douglas, 13 Dec 03 - 12:26 PM


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Subject: RE: Why Is the Lady of Carlisle Speechless?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 12 Jul 11 - 10:31 PM

"Schiller based his Der Handschuh (1797) on it, as did Browning his The Glove, and Leigh Hunt his The Glove and the Lions. de Brantôme asserted that the original event took place in the reign of Francis I (1515 - 1547" - from Malcolm D's fine post above···
,,,,,
Worth recording here, I think, Leigh Hunt's different gloss on the whole thing from the usual traditional one [connected to above suggestion from McGrath that he should have said "No thank you"]

{from memory} -

The leap was quick, return was quick
He has regained his place
Then threw the glove but not with love,
Right in the lady's face.

"Bravo," said Francis, "rightly done"
And he rose from where he sat
"Not love," said he, "but vanity
Sets love a task like that."

~Michael~


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