In Reply to: God bless us and save us said old Mrs Davies posted by Baceseras on January 28, 2009 at 17:37:
: : : : : : : : : : : "God bless us and save us said old Mrs Davies".
: : : : : : : : : : Wellerisms in Ireland: Towards a Corpus from Oral and Literary Sourcesý - Page 20
: : : : : : : : : : by Fionnuala Carson Williams - Ireland - 2003 - 321 pages
: : : : : : : : : : '"God bless us and save us," said old Biddy Davis,
: : : : : : : : : : above notes 1030's and it spread to Irish in Boston and such and appears in varied plays, books sometimes as Mrs Davis or Mrs O'Davis.
: : : : : : : : : : The basic "GBUASU" also is seen wiith other names but the Irish seems the source.
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: : : : : : : : : Thanks, Joe. I hadn't heard of Wellerisms before, though it's an obvious name. You give a date as "1030's" - is this 1830's?
: : : : : : : : : Earler today I had a quick look on the web (for a second time) and found something I'd missed first time around. It's a script for the US (CBS) radio show from 1941 (http://www.otrr.org/FILES/Scripts_pdf/Al_Pearce_Show/Al%20Pearce%2041-01-24.pdf, page 8). This ties in (possibly) with the nursery rhyme angle - and also with the Irish origins. It has: "Fire, fire said Mrs McGuire; Where, where said Mrs Blair; Down town said Mrs Brown; Heaven save us said Mrs Davis." To complete the circle to Wellerisms, I was able to use "McGuire" to make a more more fruitful search, and one ending of the rhyme appears to be "Oh help us and save us! said Mrs. Davis as she fell down the stairs with a sack of potatoes." It looks as if this may have been a school yard rhyme, at least in the US. How my father got hold of it, God alone knows. Thanks again - Graham C
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: : : : : : : : Interesting puzzle. The versions with "old Mrs. Davis" or "Mrs. O'Davis", even with the second line, "as she fell down the stairs with a sack of potatoes," can easily be scanned as dactylic tetrameter, one of the easiest meters to remember. This certainly supports the idea of a schoolyard rhyme, even if potatoes doesn't exactly rhyme with Davis.
: : : : : : : : SS
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: : : : : : : And (as I had another little surf following your reply - for which thanks) an OLD schoolyard rhyme, it seems:
: : : : : : : WHAT THEY SAY IN NEW ENGLAND - A BOOK OF SIGNS, SAYINGS, AND SUPERSTITIONS
: : : : : : : COLLECTED - CLIFTON JOHNSON
: : : : : : : BOSTON, LEE AND SHEPARD PUBLISHERS, 10 MILK STREET
: : : : : : : 1896
: : : : : : :
: : : : : : : A SCHOOLBOY JINGLE
: : : : : : : " Fire, fire ! " Said Mrs. McGuire.
: : : : : : : " Where, where ? " Said Mrs. Ware.
: : : : : : : " Down town ! " Said Mrs. Brown.
: : : : : : : " Oh, Lord save us ! " Said Mrs. Davis.
: : : : : : : So, around for over 100 years, apparently. But not much closer it's origins.
: : : : : : : http://www.eduqna.com/Quotations/2065-quotations-3.html sys the rhyme commemorates the 1871 Great Chicago Fire, and that "Mrs. McGuire's cow kicked over a lantern in a barn and started the fire", but Wikipedia says "The traditional account of the origin of the fire is that it was started by a cow kicking over a lantern in the barn owned by Patrick and Catherine O'Leary". So that doesn't seem to be it.
: : : : : : : There is a hint that the "Mrs O'Davis" bit - where we started - has connections with Catholicism, possibly referring to the Virgin Mary. If true, this is leading in very odd directions. I'll keep digging, in odd moments, but any thoughts from others would be welcome.
: : : : : : I just realized that "Oh, dear, what can the matter be?" is also in dactylic tetrameter, in spite of the two spondees at the start. Not helpful, I'm afraid, but startling, inasmuch as we have just been discussing "Oh, dear ...." < br>: : : : : : SS
: : : : : (Smokey of course means one spondee, consisting of two syllables equally stressed. But I'm not sure it's correct to call them a spo ndee, since each syllable is followed by a rest in singing equal to the duration of the succeeding dactyls' unstressed syllables. Thus Smokey said correctly, before he corrected himself, the measure of the line is four dactyls. - Bac.)
: : : : Thank you for your ccrrection, Baceceras. My notions of meters in English poetry, so very different from French or Italian meters, stand on shaky ground, especially as I failed to take any English lit courses in college. In connection with the verses above, I find that the anacrusis at the beginning of a line of dactylic feet is something of a stumper for me, when it comes to parsing.
: : : : SS
: : : I haven't tried linking to images before, but hopefully this will work. First cartoon (Thurber).
: : OK, as a link. (GC)
: (Smokey - I meant it more as a consideration than a correction, since I doubt whether most prosodists see it my way, that the singing of lyrics demands a complication of one's first-guess measure of a line. Musical time, I believe, plays a part in metric even when there are no syllables, nothing vocalized. This is how I work with it in practice, and theorists may catch up when they can catch up, God love 'em.
: (But then you cause me to scratch my head, wondering how you can have read "Oh, dear..." as a spondee and at the same time (?) anacrusis. The latter is a problematic figure at the best of times, but if it exists at all it consists of unstressed syllables only - the polar opposite (or ghostly negative) of a spondee. Please explain. - Bac.
: (And to Graham - Thanks for the Thurber cartoon - loved it! Made my day.) -Baceseras
I was generalizing, Baceceras, when I mentioned anacruses. I've tried parsing numerous poems, including Shakespeare's sonnets, which have the odd anacrusis here and there, not always to my satisfaction. In "Oh, dear," an example would be, "The" in "The first old lady...." In terms of singing, which I think is useful when it is possible, "Oh" and "dear" both occupy an entire measure when I sing them. You suggest, I believe, treating "Oh" and "dear" as taking only a third of the measure, with two short rests following. But the way the song is usually sung is with both syllables taking up a full measure.
Incidentally, I don't mind being corrected, and I consider you much better informed than I about prosody. I'm not certain I know what you mean by "a complication of a first-guess measure of a line" unless you mean that sometimes the correct meter of a poem does not reveal itself mmediately. If that's what you mean, then I say, "Too true!"
If you enjoy singable rhythms, then you must get hold of "General William Booth Goes to Heaven," by Vachel Lindsay. There's a trick to it, you might say, and a bit of humor. Well, perhaps more than a bit. Try it, you'll like it.