Mary Brown Fair Gundela

★ Mary Brown Fair Gundela Story:

A slightly dramatic character may be observed in this game, which was obtained from Essex. Children form a ring, one girl kneeling in the centre, and sorrowfully hiding her face with her hands. One in the ring then says,–

Here we all stand round the ring, And now we shut poor Mary in; Rise up, rise up, poor Mary Brown, And see your poor mother go through the town.

To this she answers,–

I will not stand up upon my feet, To see my poor mother go through the street.

The children then cry,–

Rise up, rise up, poor Mary Brown, And see your poor father go through the town.

Mary.

I will not stand up upon my feet, To see my poor father go through the street.

Children.

Rise up, rise up, poor Mary Brown, To see your poor brother go through the town.

Mary.

I will not stand up upon my feet, To see my poor brother go through the street.

Children.

Rise up, rise up, poor Mary Brown, To see your poor sister go through the town.

Mary.

I will not stand up upon my feet, To see my poor sister go through the street.

Children.

Rise up, rise up, poor Mary Brown, To see the poor beggars go through the town.

Mary.

I will not stand up upon my feet, To see the poor beggars go through the street.

One would have thought that this tiresome repetition had been continued quite long enough, but two other verses are sometimes added, introducing gentlemen and ladies with the same questions, to both of which it is unnecessary to say that the callous and hardhearted Mary Brown replies with perfect indifference and want of curiosity. All versions, however, conclude with the girls saying,–

Rise up, rise up, poor Mary Brown, And see your poor sweetheart go through the town.

The chord is at last touched, and Mary, frantically replying,–

I will get up upon my feet, To see my sweetheart go through the street,

rushes with impetuosity to break the ring, and generally succeeds in escaping the bonds that detain her from her imaginary love.

The Swedish ballad of the “Maiden that was sold into Slavery,” has a similar dramatic character. (See an article by Mr. Stephens, on the Popular Ballads and Songs of Sweden, in the Foreign Quarterly Review for 1840.) Another Swedish ballad, or ring-dance song, entitled, “Fair Gundela,” is, however, more analogous to the above. A girl sits on a stool or chair within a ring of dancers; and, with something in her hands, imitates the action of rowing.

She should have a veil on her head, and at the news of her sweetheart’s death, let it fall over her face, and sink down, overwhelmed with sorrow. The ring of girls dance round her, singing and pausing, and she sings in reply. The dialogue is conducted in the following manner:

The Ring.

Why row ye so, why row ye so? Fair Gundela!

Gundela.

Sure I may row, ay sure may I row, While groweth the grass, All summer through.

The Ring.

But now I’ve speir’d that your father’s dead, Fair Gundela!

Gundela.

What matters my father? My mother lives still. Ah, thank heaven for that!

The Ring.

But now I’ve speir’d that your mother’s dead, Fair Gundela!

Gundela.

What matters my mother? My brother lives still. Ah, thank heaven for that!

The Ring.

But now I’ve speir’d that your brother’s dead, Fair Gundela!

Gundela.

What matters my brother? My sister lives still. Ah, thank heaven for that!

The Ring.

But now I’ve speir’d that your sister’s dead, Fair Gundela!

Gundela.

What matters my sister? My sweetheart lives still. Ah, thank heaven for that!

The Ring.

But now I’ve speir’d that your sweetheart’s dead, Fair Gundela!

[Here she sinks down overwhelmed with grief.]

Gundela.

Say! can it be true, Which ye tell now to me, That my sweetheart’s no more? Ah, God pity me!

The Ring.

But now I’ve speir’d that your father lives still, Fair Gundela!

Gundela.

What matters my father? My sweetheart’s no more! Ah, God pity me!

The Ring.

But now I’ve speir’d that you mother lives still, Fair Gundela!

Gundela.

What matters my mother? My sweetheart’s no more! Ah, God pity me!

The Ring. But now I’ve speir’d that your brother lives still, Fair Gundela!

Gundela.

What matters my brother? My sweetheart’s no more! Ah, God pity me!

The Ring.

But now I’ve speir’d that your sister lives still, Fair Gundela!

Gundela.

What matters my sister? My sweetheart’s no more! Ah, God pity me!

The Ring.

But now I’ve speir’d that your sweetheart lives still, Fair Gundela!

Gundela.

Say! can it be true Which ye tell now to me, That my sweetheart lives still? Thank God, thank God for that!

The veil is thrown on one side, her face beams with joy, the circle is broken, and the juvenile drama concludes with merriment and noise. It is difficult to say whether this is the real prototype of the English game, or whether they are both indebted to a still more primitive original. There is a poetical sweetness and absolute dramatic fervour in the Swedish ballad we vainly try to discover in the English version. In the latter, all is vulgar, common-place, and phlegmatic.

Cannot we trace in both the national character? Do we not see in the last that poetic simplicity which has made the works of Andersen so popular and irresistibly charming? It may be that the style pleases by contrast, and that we appreciate its genuine chasteness the more, because we have nothing similar to it in our own vernacular literature.

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