Folk Music/Mam'selle Marie

Advertisement


Question
I am looking for the lyrics to this song

I believe it is a negro spiritual or written like a negro spiritual.

The first part is:  Mam'selle Marie, I hear the white folks pray
Mam'selle Marie, I hear the white folks say
That she's a blessed damoselle
With power in heaven and earth as well.
Mam'selle Marie

Answer
Dear Marjorie

I'm not sure if you have come to the correct person - as you'll see from my biog, my expertise is in traditional Scottish music and song - which does not cover this genre of music.

That said, this song rings a bell. I think I have looked into this before for someone. And I think this is is the same song. It certainly sounds like a spiritual - and even more of a mother's plea.

If you go on to the music streaming site Spotify, there are 2 instances (on the UK site at any rate) of Paul Robeson singing this. As you may well know, he was a beautiful singer with clear diction, so these are the lyrics I've taken down from that.

Mam'selle Marie, I hear the white folks say
Mam'selle Marie, I hear the white folks say
That you's a blessed damoselle
With power in heaven and earth as well.
O then, have pity on me, Mam'selle Marie

Mam'selle Marie, I hear them say that you
Mam'selle Marie, have one little baby too
His name's the Petit Jesus Lord
But oh you lose that Lamb of God
O then, have pity on me, Mam'selle Marie
Mam'selle Marie

On Spotify search for "Marie Paul Robeson" - the trouble with search ing on sites like that when it some to words like 'Mam'selle' is that they can be spelled in different  ways - ones is spelled Mam'selle, on the other track it shows up as Man'selle!

The albums on Spotify are:
Paul Robeson: The complete EMI sessions 1928-1939
Paul Robeson: The Ultimate Collection

Thank you so much for reminding me about this song. I have now put it into my playlists.

For your information, if you need more information - or think that there may be more verses, try www.mudcat.org - it's a forum where all kinds of traditional music is discussed and there are many instances of lyric requests.

All things good

Kaye  

Folk Music

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Kaye McAlpine

Expertise

My main field of expertise in in traditional ballads - those commonly known as the Child ballads. Those containing executions are my particular speciality, but I am also interested in ballad structure formula, functions and narrative constructs. However, I also have interest in - and academic knowledge of - bothy ballads, and the singing tradition of Scotland - although not Gaelic song. This includes Jacobite song, political song, songs about the trades, and so on. I'm pretty au fait with traditional singers and bands too. And while I enjoy singing the songs, I'm not so sure others might enjoy listening!

Experience

I studied ballads academically, as well as Scottish literature. This extended into Scottish social customs and social history. I was the traditional music reviewer for the Edinburgh Evening News for 4 years, and have several publications to my name. I have been a freelance tutor in outreach courses from Edinburgh University on Scottish Culture and Tradition, including lifecycle customs, broadsheet ballads in Scotland, the traditional ballad and history. I am a freelance writer, have been a guest presenter on Ch4 History Hunters programme, and was a contributor to BBC Radio Scotland's 'Songlines' series on 'The Dowie Dens of Yarrow', and have advised BBC Radio Scotland researchers regarding Scottish songs and ballads from the Borders.

Publications
Books: Forthcoming: The Gallows and The Stake. Published: Compendium of Scottish Ethnology, vol. 10 'Oral Literature and Performance Culture', chapter on The Traditional and the Border Ballad; The Harris Repertoire (Scottish Text Society, co-editor), The Ballad in History (chapter on Border ballads). Journals include Folklore, The Review of Scottish Culture, Scottish Studies, and The Scottish Literary Journal. Music reviews appeared in the Edinburgh Evening News

Education/Credentials
Ph D, M. Phil, BA (Hons)

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.