The Three Ravens The Three Ravens compared to Centaress

 dainefemme: Fallow Doe of The Three Ravens Ballad

"To render 'fallow doe' literally presents three problems incapable of solution: 1) How does the doe get past the knight's hounds?; 2) How does the doe manage to "lift up his bloudy hed"?; 3) How does the doe manage to fill the grave (if we assume it already dug)? . . . However, if we take 'fallow doe' as a metaphor for a woman two new problems arise: 1) What is the significance of the epithet?; 2) The tasks of getting the knight on her back and carrying him to a grave require a strength which is inconguous with her attributes of tenderness and loving concern. These problems strongly suggest the need of some third alternative, and one is readily available; viz, this "fallow doe" is a centaur-like woman, or to coin a word, a dainefemme(deerwoman), presumably possessing nymph-like qualities."
From The Three Ravens Explicated.


The Three Ravens Lyrics (pdf)

The Three Ravens Lyrics (html)

The Three Ravens Explicated (pdf image) also here
    1911 Encyclopedia Britannicaca
    Hrolfs saga Kraka
    Herculanum et Pompéi
    Teutonic Mythology (Vol I, pp 430 - 433, wood-wives)

The Three Ravens Explicated (html/docx) and here

The Three Ravens - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Facts on File companion to British poetry before 1600

The New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature p. 719



Re: The Three Ravens article

I'm pleased my article, some 55+ years since publication, maintains interest.

The author responds to: Thomas Ravenscroft and The Three Ravens: A Ballad Under the Microscope by Arthur Knevett

Counter argument is a good thing.  The argument that 'the monastery of Derry escaped the worst effects of ... [the Viking] raids' is not a [an effective] counter argument against 'the Scandinavians plundered the city, and it is said to have been burned down at least seven times before 1200; it thus is a site of many battles.'  The modern day Encyclopedia Britannica [] states 'the settlement was destroyed by Norse invaders, who reportedly burned it down seven times before 1200,' so this is not merely 'Chatman's contention.'  Further, the assertion that the monastery escaped the worst effects is beside the point or at least its import is not explained.

The claim that Derry was 'a small settlement, not a city' is of no weight, even if true.  The impact of any import is not explicit in the analysis of locale.

One is hard pressed as to what to make of the remarks regarding Derry and Dorie when the explication by Chatman is that the ballad (as we have it) is 'of Irish derivation.'  Whatever problem this represents is not explained in the critique.  For example, Knevett writes: 'The Ballad also migrated to America and Arthur Kyle Davis Jr writes that; 'The American texts, ... are far removed from the British versions.'  Substantial variation in versions can be observed.

Knevett seems to complain about Chatman 'making use of grammar;' using grammar seems reasonable for analysis of language artifacts, so I'm not clear on what the argument is here.

The OED, as referenced in the explication, confirms the description of the use of 'hay.'  Knevett's referring to the phrase 'to make hay of' is inexplicable.  See also: The Protestant Whore: Courtesan Narrative and Religious Controversy in England, 1680-1750, approx. p.127 ('to make hay,' ... and this is the OED again, 'to make confusion'. []

Tracing the history of written documents combined with historical linguistic information can be useful for analysis of what is recorded of the products of oral tradition; however, their undocumented pre-history can only be addressed with informed speculation and analysis.

In conclusion, we have seen that the most effective understanding of 'fallow doe' is the notion of the dainefemme, the refrain is a meaningful and functioning element of the ballad.  The song is probably Irish in its origins, (the notion of the dainefemme is probably the result of Scandinavian contact), the ballad makes use of ideas which strongly suggest it originated long before 1611, the ballad is probably a 'war-song', and The Three Ravens expresses a sense of possible victory over fate and death.  All the elements of this ballad coalesce to produce a tense, subtle, terse, and complex verbal icon.