Blog Post · Folk Music

Dawning of the Donald

Two things prompted this post, one is the behaviour of Donald Trump and the other was a search for an early ballad to record. I have written before about my own journey out of misogyny and also about the topic of misogyny in folk ballads.

In searching for a ballad, I found a version of The Dawning of the Day printed in broadside and probably published in 1853. I have found two versions from this era, the lyrics are largely the same except one includes an additional final verse. The full lyrics are available here, along with an image of the broadside. The shorter (by one verse) version is available here.

I had originally only been exposed to the shorter version on the Wikipedia page cited above, which includes a Gaelic version and English translation of a song about a man besotted by a young beauty who tells him to “sod off”. Most folk-revival performers have recorded this shorter version, examples being Tommy Makem & Liam Clancy and a much earlier recording by John McCormack.

My recording of the full version goes for 10 minutes!

The Trump connection here is that in the full version of the ballad, after being refused the man rapes the young milkmaid and continues on his way. When he comes back seven months later he spurns her because she is dropsical (swollen, i.e. pregnant). She is, of course, expecting him to marry her but he tells her that he has married someone else for 300 pounds and that she shouldn’t have left her father’s house so early in the morning.

It is easy to feel outrage at the sentiment expressed in this ballad, but possibly understand that the world was a different place in the 1800s and a woman had few rights in the society. If you don’t believe that, be sure to watch the 2015 film Suffragette.

What is far more outrageous is that the man running for President of the United States has been caught on numerous occasions expressing the same attitude towards women as presented in this ballad. I’m not barracking for Hilary Clinton here, in my opinion her and her family, with their sense of elitist entitlement and complete dislocation from the common people, are not much better. If I, or the American people, had any say, I would prefer four more years of Mr Obama or Bernie Sanders, as expressed in this song.

I would be interested to know if the Irish origins of this ballad only ever included the first verses, and that the broadside printed in England grew from a translation of the initial verses and then later addition of some self-serving endorsement of rape-culture tied with victim shaming. It would be hard to know whether the initial collector of the Gaelic ballad truncated the verses for fear of censorship, especially if the ballad only existed in memory. Fortunately, the complete text of Edward Walsh’s Irish Popular Songs published in 1847 is available here and the fact that it predates the broadside and only has the initial verses would support my initial hypothesis (blame the English).

In any case, Mr Trump, a locker-room is not a justification for any objectionable behaviour and I would expect the leader of the free world to be a gentlemen both in public and behind closed doors. I despair at Donald’s example and despair more at the many people trying to justify it.