Sounding ChildhoodMain Menu30 Selections from the Top Ranking Hymns for ChildrenAlphabetical Index of Hymn TitlesScoresRecordingsTimelineCredits, 2015 Recording & WebsiteCredits, Permissions and CopyrightWorks CitedRehearsal VideosPart 2--Songs for School and PlayPart 3--Bands of Mercy SongsAlisa Clapp-ItnyreAlisa Clapp-Itnyre ea81b58f96dc50ac6f0312cb8dfd4bbc7d5bfddcSOUNDING VICTORIAN Project 2016
Voice of the Helpless (Band of Mercy)
12017-06-23T17:40:05+00:00Donal Hegartyd91ac6951fc09687a65f62d6a62eb9d3c37c260311Recording: Annetta Itnyre, November 2014 (verse 5).plain2017-06-23T17:40:05+00:00Donal Hegartyd91ac6951fc09687a65f62d6a62eb9d3c37c2603
“Voice of the Helpless,” written by Carlotta Perry with music by L. B. Marshall, was published in Sarah Eddy’s Songs of Happy Life for Schools, Homes, and Bands of Mercy (1897), popular both in England and America as part of the Bands of Mercy movement. This movement, started in 1875 by Catherine Smithies, brought the century’s growing focus on animal welfare to children’s attention. Bands of Mercy formed in towns and cities, met in evenings or even in schools, and used songs, hymns, skits, and recitations to bring compassionate living to children’s awareness. This song discusses the growing, and lucrative, market for bird feathers on women’s fashions. In the song, a young girl hears the cry of orphan nestlings who have been left by their mother, killed by a hunter. The line “Oh! Lovely, unthinking maiden, The wing that adorns your hat” (v. 3) brings culpability to the young girl. Anthropomorphizing the situation, the hymn, in verse 4, asks mothers to “think of that other, that tender mother, Brooding upon her nest” when young nestlings are killed. The music, of the Victorian ballad tradition, adds to the poignancy of this song.
More discussion on this song can be found in Chapter 5, British Hymn Books for Children.
12020-09-18T01:54:04+00:00Voice of the Helpless2plain2020-09-18T02:08:28+00:00This song, "Voice of the Helplss," reflects late-century activism which, led by the RSPCA, the Association for the Protection of British Birds, and others, resulted in several Wild Birds’ Protection Acts (of 1872, 1876). By the nineties, society turned attention to the slaughter of birds for women’s hat fashions. Found in Songs of Happy Life(No. 65), its words are by Carlotta Perry and reflect on the various birds of the air who are killed for sport and vanity. Set to a haunting tune by L. B. Marshall in D minor, this sentimental ballad reveals “a woodland tragedy:” ’Tis the cry of the orphan nestlings, ’Tis the wail of a bird that sings His song of grace in the archer’s face, ‘Tis the flutter of broken wings… (v. 2) If the archer, presumably adult, is the guilty party from afar, the third verse brings culpability to the very young girls who may sing this song: Oh! Lovely, unthinking maiden, The wing that adorns your hat, Has the radiance rare, that God placed there, But I see in place of that, A mockery pitiful, deep, and sad… (v. 3) Deepening the guilt, the fourth verse personifies this tragedy as a human one, the song now addressing a human mother who, it suggests, is not unlike an animal mother: Oh! Mother you clasp your darling, Close to your loving breast; Think of that other, that tender mother, Brooding upon her nest… Does no sound touch your motherhood? (v.4) Functional co-opting of nature for human vanity is described—“that little dead bird on your bonnet” and “the hummingbird on your velvet dress” (v. 5)—and compared to a human tragedy; all singers and listeners are urged to see connectedness with, not objectification of, the “other.” Furthermore, they are forced to admit their personal culpability in a larger, societal problem: that their choice of fashion can have far-reaching moral implications. Daughters in turn school their mothers to think of those other “mothers” as children attempt the reform of adults.
This version was sung as a solo by my daughter Annetta when she was twelve: she sings the final verse (only).