H'Emmer Jane, The
DESCRIPTION: "Now 'tis of a young maiden this story I tell, and of her young lover...." Her love, a ship's captain, sails away and is presumed lost. H'Emmer Jane goes crazy and drowns herself. He finally returns; shown the grave of his beloved, he dies himself.
EARLIEST DATE: 1941 (Fowke/MacMillan)
KEYWORDS: love separation death drowning humorous
FOUND IN: Canada(Newf)
REFERENCES (5 citations):
Fowke/MacMillan 50, "The H'Emmer Jane" (1 text, 1 tune)
Doyle4, p. 45, "The H'Emmer Jane" (1 text, 1 tune)
Doyle5, p. 21, "The H'Emmer Jane" (1 text, 1 tune)
Blondahl, p. 105, "H'Emmer Jane" (1 text, 1 tune)
Guigne, pp. 161-164, "H'emmer Jane" (1 text, 1 tune)
Omar Blondahl, "The H'Emm'r Jane" (on NFOBlondahl03)
Lloyd Soper, "H'emmer Jane" (on NFAGuigne01)
cf. Vilikens and His Dinah (tune, meter and same satirical treatment of story) and references there
NOTES: Satire on popular broadsides and ballads of the period that told such melodramatic tales in great seriousness. Lyrics are written in imitation of an exaggerated Newfoundland accent, [e.g.] "On a cold stormy mornin' all down by the sea, H'Emmer Jane sot a-waitin', sot a'waitin' for 'e. On a cold stormy mornin' her body were found, so t'was figgered pretty ginerally she'd gone crazy and got drowned."
[The] date from a broadside set by Golden Hind Press, Madison NJ, 1941. States that "Emmer Jane is a fold song from the south shore on Newfoundland here printed for the first time." - SL
The dead captain is recognized because he is carrying H'Emmer Jane's handkercheif. If a [broken] ring is a man's token to be kept by a woman then perhaps the woman's token is her handkercheif. That is true in "Jack Robinson" where Jack reveals himself to his old lover by showing her handkercheif. See also the French ballad "Arthur" [indexed here] where the heroine embroiders Arthur's name on her handkercheif. Maybe the question is: How much credit do we give H"Emmer Jane's author for familiarity with the broadside scene? Is Jane's name a reference to "Crazy Jane" [also indexed here, with allusions to its many parodies]?
H'Emmer Jane's handkercheif is found in the vest-pocket of the Captain's "cold carcass"; in a modern literal (?) reading of "The Suffolk Miracle," the daughter's "holland handkercheif" is found around her dead young man's head [but then there's the counter-example of "The Silvery Tide" in which the murdered Mary is found bound by the murderer's handkercheif].
Soper's 1951 recording includes an introduction by the singer. Soper says "H'emmer Jane is a folk song which comes to us from the northeast coast of Newfoundland. At least, that's what was picked up several years ago by Bob McLeod who worked [I'm not sure about the word 'worked'] for Mr. Gerald Doyle in compiling a couple of books of Newfoundland folk songs."
Soper refers to the line in his text, "with a boatload of shingles our captain sailed away": "As far as we know, this is a Newfoundland folk song. The references are local. The idiom is local. And most of all, the melody [that] is followed ['Vilikens and His Dinah'] is one that has been frequently used in various poems for several Newfoundland folk songs. The only point that causes me to query at the authenticity of it as a Newfoundland folk song is one reference there to 'shingles' -- 'a boatload of shingles' -- which would indicate that it might have originated, probably, in Cape Breton because shingles are not a local product, strictly speaking. However, it is now accepted as a Newfoundland folk song, and there's no desire to disown it or let anybody else gain the benefit of the origin of it."
The point about the locality of the tune is not convincing and Guigne has a long discussion of the history of the tune as a stage favorite across the English-speaking world and as a common vehicle for poems that could be fit to the meter and tune. In the case of "H'emmer Jane" the last line of each verse is often so long that its words must be clipped and jammed together to fit the tune. - BS
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