Fair Annie [Child 62]

DESCRIPTION: (Annie's) lover is going off to fetch a bride. On his return, he orders Annie to serve his new bride. She does, but that night weeps for her lost lover. The new bride hears and visits her; they find they are sisters. The bride leaves her husband to Annie
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1769 (Herd)
KEYWORDS: love marriage abandonment adultery sister
FOUND IN: Britain(England(North),Scotland(Aber,Bord)) US(Ap,NE,Ro,SE) Ireland
REFERENCES (33 citations):
Child 62, "Fair Annie" (10 texts)
Bronson 62, "Fair Annie" (7 versions)
Bronson-SingingTraditionOfChildsPopularBallads 62, "Fair Annie" (2 versions: #1, #3)
Chambers-ScottishBallads, pp. 166-172, "Fair Annie" (1 text)
Riewerts-BalladRepertoireOfAnnaGordon-MrsBrownOfFalkland, pp. 136-140, "Lady Jane" (1 text, printed parallel to blank pages)
Greig/Duncan6 1161, "Fair Annie" (5 texts, 3 tunes)
Lyle-Andrew-CrawfurdsCollectionVolume2 110, "Fair Annie" (1 text)
Sharp-EnglishFolkSongsFromSouthernAppalachians 16 "Fair Annie" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #4}
Gentry/Smith-ASingerAmongSingers, #7, "Fair Annie" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #4}
Barry/Eckstorm/Smyth-BritishBalladsFromMaine pp. 446-448, "Fair Annie" (1 text)
Davis-TraditionalBalladsOfVirginia 15, "Fair Annie" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #3}
Hubbard-BalladsAndSongsFromUtah, #6, "Rosanna" (1 text, 1 tune)
Leach-TheBalladBook, pp. 196-201, "Fair Annie" (2 texts)
Quiller-Couch-OxfordBookOfBallads 42, "Fair Annie" (1 text)
Friedman-Viking/PenguinBookOfFolkBallads, p. 114, "Fair Annie" (2 texts+2 fragments)
Grigson-PenguinBookOfBallads 50, "Fair Annie" (1 text)
Combs/Wilgus-FolkSongsOfTheSouthernUnitedStates 16, pp. 114-118, "Fair Annie" (1 text)
Gummere-OldEnglishBallads, pp. 247-251+355, "Fair Annie" (1 text)
Hodgart-FaberBookOfBallads, p. 44, "Fair Annie" (1 text)
Buchan-ABookOfScottishBallads 9, "Fair Annie" (1 text)
Whitelaw-BookOfScottishBallads, pp. 188-189, "Lady Jane" (1 text)
Whiting-TraditionalBritishBallads 3, "Fair Annie" (1 text)
Henry/Huntingdon/Herrmann-SamHenrysSongsOfThePeople H126, p. 510, "Fair Annie" (1 text, 1 tune)
Morgan-MedievalBallads-ChivalryRomanceAndEverydayLife, pp. 15-18, "Fair Annie" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Walter de la Mare, _Come Hither_, revised edition, 1928; #423, "Fair Annie" (1 text)
RELATED: versions of the romance "Lay le Friene"
Anne Laskaya and Eve Salisbury, _The Middle English Breton Lays_, TEAMS (Consortium for the Teaching of the Middle Ages), Medieval Institute Publications, Western Michigan University, 2001. Much of the material in this book is also available online), pp. 61-78 "Lay le Friene" (1 text)
Thomas C. Rumble, editor, _The Breton Lays in Middle English_, 1964 (I use the 1967 Wayne State University paperback edition which corrects a few errors in the original printing), pp. 80-94, "Lay Le Friene" (1 text plus an image of the first page in the manuscript)
Donald B. Sands, editor, _Middle English Verse Romances_, Holt Rinehart and Winston, 1966, pp. 233-245 "Lay Le Friene" (1 text)
Brown/Robbins-IndexOfMiddleEnglishVerse, #3869
DigitalIndexOfMiddleEnglishVerse #6173
MANUSCRIPT: {MSAuchinleck}, The Auchinleck Manuscript, Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland MS. Advocates 19.2.1, folios 261r-262a, "Lay le freine"

Roud #42
cf. "Thomas o Yonderdale" [Child 253] (plot)
The Sister's Husband
NOTES [378 words]: Child makes much of the relationship between this song and the "Lai le Freisne," a "Breton Lai" (metrical romance on a Celtic theme) of Marie de France. This has been translated into the Middle English romance "Lay le Freiene." That there are similarities cannot be denied; in the lai, a woman bears twins, and leaves one at a convent to preserve her reputation (there was a belief that twins meant that a woman had slept with two men), and eventually the separated reunite. And this story was translated into English, as the "Lai le Fresne"; there is a single copy, damaged, in the famous Auchinleck manuscript (National Library of Scotland, Advocates 19.2.1), from the early fourteenth century. Copies of this can be found in Rumble, p. 81 (without notes but extensive glosses) and Sands, p. 233 (with more notes but slightly fewer glosses); the third version cited above, Anne Laskaya and Eve Salisbury, The Middle English Breton Lays, is available online as well as in book form.
Marie's original version receives a translation into modern English in Marie/Burgess/Busby, p. 62, and Marie/Hanning/Ferrante, p. 73.
But the lai is much concerned with the mechanisms of separation and reunion, which are of no consequence at all in the ballad. And the English romance survived so weakly that it is hard to imagine it as the main source. It is possible that the two pieces are independent, or at best, entirely separate redactions of a very brief fragment of plot.
There are also some similarities to Chaucer's "Clerk's Tale," although often the similarities consist of paired opposites. That almost seems like a technicality, though: The scene in Peggy Seeger's version where the husband tells his new bride that the old love is just a "housekeeper" instantly makes me think of Chaucer's tale. Again, in Chaucer, the old and new bride are mother and daughter, not sisters, but still separated relatives. In the ballad, the old love wants her children dead; in Chaucer, it was the husband who took away the children. It's sort of a case of the same plot done with different actors. One major similarity: In both this ballad and Chaucer, the old love brought no wealth, nor does she have a distinguished ancestry, and the new wife is supposed to bring great honor. - RBW
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