I emailed Master Ioseph of Locksley about Appalachian ballad style. Cross fingers and hope for a reply!
I started translating the first fytt of "Robin Hood and the Potter" yesterday. It's not hard, since it is in English, just archaic English, and the online edition has notes for the extinct or obscure words.
I made a run through the whole thing (30 stanzas!) and have noticed two issues:
- Ballads are often a little hard on their 8-6-8-6 meter, but this one seems to really take some liberties.
- We're used to the two short lines rhyming. Most of the time, that was the case with this poem - except when it wasn't, and the long lines rhymed.
I already made the decision to regularize the rhyme scheme. (I think that we're too familiar with ballad form to accept it turned around; it'll sound 'wrong' to the audience.) But what about the meter? There were a lot of lines with 7 syllables, in both the long and the short positions. There were also a good number of long lines with exactly 8 syllables and good scansion - until the "said Little John" or "said Robin" that's tacked on to the end. It makes me wonder if the dialogue tags were presented as a sort of aside?
In the interests of preserving my sanity, now and in the future, I think what I'll do is read it over with a ballad tune in my head. The lines that can be made to work in the usual ways (subdividing unstressed notes, slurring the last bar into a melisma over one word, etc.) I'll leave alone. The ones that are too broken to sing, I'll fix.
I was able to talk with Storvik's MOAS over the weekend; she has an interest in medieval drama and we thought this would make a good project for Twelfth Night. The first fytt is pretty much the entirety of the play-version of "Robin Hood and the Potter." Go figure - it's mostly a framing device for a cool fight scene.
We'll need two stage fighters (Robin Hood and the potter) and Little John (who doesn't fight); more Merry Men are optional stage dressing. Little John could also be "played" by the ballad singer/narrator.
I think the other two "major" characters in Fyttes 2 and 3 are the sheriff and his wife; so a cast of three, plus musicians and singer/narrator, could do us. That's 4-6 people to get to commit now to a January event. That's... within the realm of the possible...