Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Dubliners

February ’09 – ‘FOGGY DEW’ (not the 1916 Irish rebel song, but the 17th century ballad) is a song I’ve rhapsodised about before, but over the past few weeks, I’ve finally made the effort to learn it, rewinding, then rewinding again, the cassette with the Dubliners on one side and Gordon Lightfoot on the other. A man sings about a love affair he had in his youth; at the time, he didn’t especially value it, and let it slip away - his lover becomes another man’s wife. One defining feature of youth is the feeling of, “Plenty more where that came from – and better-looking ones, too!” Twenty years later, you look back and think, “Actually, it doesn’t get better than that.” The girl of the song is caught between her superstitious fear of the foggy dew, and her fear of sleeping with the man and becoming pregnant. The man thinks it would do her good to have some children, “It would make you leave off your foolish young tricks.” I suppose it reminds me of a relationship or two I had in my late-teens, early-twenties, which were matters of grave seriousness to me, and “sport and play” to him. Like this young servant maid, I would wring my hands and cry, “Oh, what shall I do?” or else, “I am undone!”, and he would say, “Hold your tongue you silly young girl, for the foggy dew is gone, gone, gone!” The foggy dew is the territory of fairies (potentially bad ones) and other perils; an earlier version of the song substitutes “foggy dew” for “Bogulmaroo” or “Buggaboo”, a bogey man. But to me, the “foggy dew” is something else as well – youth? Falling in love? Romantic notions? The formless mystery of night? Hopes? Something that is felt intensely for a moment, and then evaporates. The song ends with him saying that he has never told her husband (no doubt they all live in the same village) “of her faults, and I’m damned if ever I’ll do, for many’s the time, as she winks and smiles, I think on the foggy dew, dew, dew.” It’s a beautiful, emotionally complex song, which is why it has been piquing people’s interest regularly enough, over the past four hundred or so years, for it to have endured till today. I’ll sing it at my show at the Sando on March 26th.