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Francis James Child
Francis James Child, a-ponderin'


Child Book

Lessons learned while reading the ballad collection of Francis James Child.

by David Kessler

     Dear Francis,

     Please help a long-time reader of your column.
     My husband and I arranged a fine marriage for our daughter to a wealthy man from a good family, but she won't even consider the man because she is in love with another.  And where is this other man?  Off to sea, with no expected return date, no fortune, and no proof of his devotion, fidelity, or ability to provide a good life.  No, nothing at all, apart from our daughter's declarations.
     My husband is particularly angry about the situation (strong-headed Irish daughters can be so hard to match) and has given our daughter an ultimatum to marry the man we chose for her.
     For her part, our daughter will only respond that "she'll die if she doesn't get her love"!  This is all she says these days, and as a long-time reader of your column, I know that the more often an Irish girl says that she'll die if such and such doesn't happen, the more likely it is to actually happen.
     I've given up on reasoning with my daughter.  Please help me speak to my husband.

     Trying to stop the inevitable

     Dear Trying to stop the inevitable,

     It is a well-documented fact that the relationship between conditional statements of immanent death made by Irish girls of marrying age and the likelihood of that death are directly proportionate.  Unfortunately, the obstinacy of character that creates these statistics is equaled (and very likely instilled) by the obstinacy of Irish fathers throughout folklore.
     Before you lose all heart, you should examine the situation closely to see if it has truly reached the endgame you describe: Does every verse/conversation between your husband and daughter finish with the exact same tag-line, or does it vary somewhat?  If there is any variation, there may still be time.  Station your daughter's handmaidens along the coast so that they may get word of her true love's return to her the moment it occurs.  Meanwhile, you should delay the date of the wedding as much as you can; It would be a shame for her true love to return only a day too late.

     Francis J. Child

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