Beam of Oak (Rambling Boy, Oh Willie)

DESCRIPTION: A farmer's daughter loves a servant man. Her father has him sent to sea. He is killed in battle. His ghost visits the father. The daughter hears about it. She hangs herself. Father finds her hanging. Her note blames the father, who goes mad
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1910 (Lomax, Cowboy Songs)
KEYWORDS: battle navy death suicide father lover ghost
FOUND IN: Canada(Newf) US(SE,So)
REFERENCES (7 citations):
Leach-FolkBalladsSongsOfLowerLabradorCoast 15, "Beam of Oak" (1 text, 1 tune)
Henry-SongsSungInTheSouthernAppalachians, pp. 173-174, "I Am A Rambling Rowdy Boy" (1 text, short enough that it might be a "Butcher Boy" version, but the first verse tentatively puts it here)
Warner-TraditionalAmericanFolkSongsFromAnneAndFrankWarnerColl 86, "A Rude and Rambling Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
Owens-TexasFolkSongs-2ed, pp. 61-62, "Oh, Willie" (1 text, 1 tune)
Brown/Belden/Hudson-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore2 81, "The Butcher Boy" (6 texts plus 5 excerpts and mention of 3 others; although most are clearly Laws P24, Renwick believes the "M" text is "Beam of Oak (Rambling Boy, Oh Willie)")
Darling-NewAmericanSongster, pp. 106-107, "The Rambling Boy" (1 text) {filed here based on the title}
ADDITIONAL: Renwick: Roger deV. Renwick, _Recentering Anglo/American Folksong: Sea Crabs and Wicked Youths_, University Press of Mississippi, 2001, pp. 94-95, "Rambling Boy" (1 text, from Lomax's _Cowboy Songs_); also, on pp. 108-109, a broadside, "The Rambling Boy," from Pitts, which he considers to have influenced the song; p. 113, "(William, William, I Love You Well")" (1 text, of another related text)

ST LLab015 (Partial)
Roud #18830
cf. Bodleian, Harding B 25(1597), "The Rambling Boy" ("I an a wikd and rambling boy"), J. Pitts (London), 1802-1819 [barely legible]; also Harding B 11(4216), "The Rambling Boy," T. Birt, London, 1833-1841 [This is the related broadside cited by Renwick, not the true "Beam of Oak/Oh Willie" song]
cf. "The Butcher Boy" [Laws P24] (theme)
cf. "The Isle of Cloy" (Roud #23272) (location in the "Isle of Cloy," mentioned in the Bodleian "Rambling Boy" broadsides)
NOTES [366 words]: This is not "The Butcher Boy" [Laws P24] in spite of the suicide by hanging, the father finding the body and the suicide note. Consider the differences: the lover is faithful, the father causes the separation, the lover is killed and his ghost returns, and the suicide note blames the father. - BS
Roud used to lump this with "Love Has Brought Me to Despair" [Laws P25], but this is a much more detailed song than that. At most, it might be the inspiration, but even that seems forced. The feeling seems very different -- more like "The Suffolk Miracle" than "The Butcher Boy." In more recent editions, Roud has moved it to #18830, a much more obscure song although related to "The Butcher Boy." It may be that he did this on the basis of Roger deV. Renwick, Recentering Anglo/American Folksong: Sea Crabs and Wicked Youths, University Press of Mississippi, 2001. Renwick, pp. 92-115 is an essay, "'Oh, Willie': An Unrecognized Anglo-American Ballad," which makes a case for this song's independence. Roud's list of versions doesn't correspond precisely with van Renwick's. And the suicide at the end means that fragmentary versions can hardly be classified; readers should surely check both.
Renwick considers the family to include not just this song and "The Butcher Boy" but also "Love Has Brought Me to Despair," plus lyric pieces he calls "Deep in Love" and "Died for Love," which are almost beyond classification; "Waly Waly" is probably one of them.
The description of this version is based mostly on Leach. Renwick, pp. 100-101, notes the usual differences between this song and "The Butcher Boy": This is told from the man's point of view, it usually opens with him describing himself as some sort of rambler, and it continues with the man's fate after the girl's suicide. Also, the father threatens Willie, and the mother generally does not make an appearance in this song. He also says on p. 107 that it oftan the woman, not the man, who was unfaithful. In broad summary, Renwick calls this a song of Family Opposition to Lovers, whereas "The Butcher Boy" is a song about an unfaithful lover. Thus, in theme, the two are quite different; it is the suicide that pulls them together.- RBW
Last updated in version 4.1
File: LLab015

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