Friday, May 6, 2011

A Donkey Cart Built for Two

     One of life's little ironies is that some beautiful songs appear, make us happy for a while, and then vanish like an evanescent perfume, while songs of minimal merit hang on like a bad smell. A friend of mine once suggested that this is because they bear similar features to jingles.
     As an example, in 1892 Harry Dacre penned a song entitled, Daisy Bell, which contained three easily forgettable verses, each followed by a single, totally unforgettable chorus, which commenced:
Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do,
and ended with a reference to
a bicycle built for two.
     People who do not know the second verse of the National Anthem - or even the first - can recite the chorus of Daisy Bell verbatim - and probably one of the many parodies.  But not one in a thousand knows the three verses, or the name of the author. Probably most people think of it as a folk song, in the same category as such anonymous evergreens as My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean and She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain When She Comes.
     Be that as it may, the Wikipedia entry for Daisy Bell contains the full three verses, if you really want to read them. But it has relegated to the discussion page what used to appear on the feature page: a link to a British ballad broadsheet in the Bodleian Library, containing the text of what might have been a predecessor. This was Sarah, Sarah, or A Donkey Cart Built for Two, written and composed by Harry Bedford, and sung by Kate Carney. Allegedly, the broadsheet dates from the period 1877 - 1884, but no date appears on its pages. Also, Kate Carney was born in 1869, and Harry Bedford in 1873. Therefore, I am inclined to believe that the song is a parody, rather than the origin, of the more famous one. If so, it was a very early one. A contemporary newspaper records that it was being performed in the Tivoli Theatre, Sydney on 4 August 1894. That was little more than two years after Daisy Bell opened in New York. Admittedly, we do not know what music Bedford composed for it, but the wording and rhythm of the chorus make it impossible to believe they were independent.
    In any case, in my continuing campaign to bring culture to the masses, I have decided to record the lyrics here: