The Lumineers’ hit song “Ho Hey” was just covered by two adorable kids on the TV show Nashville to great instant acclaim. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eP1YEADdHRw.
What neither those cute kids nor The Lumineers may know is that “Ho Hey”—or at least “Hey Ho”—is a motif in a song that Shakespeare wrote for (or at least included in) Twelfth Night. More specifically, “Hey Ho” is part of the refrain in the Fool’s song that ends that bittersweet play:
When that I was and a little tiny boy,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
For the rain it raineth every day.
But when I came to man's estate,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain—etc.
Then again, can this really be mere coincidence? The Fool’s “hey ho” is encased in a song about moving through the stages of life—growing from a “tiny boy” to “man’s estate” to the point where he is “alas to wive” before taking “to his beds;” meanwhile, The Lumineers’ song is also about coming to terms with growing up and even has a line about “sleeping in my bed.”
All this has me thinking about laws regarding copyright—and the elusive line between inspiration, appropriation, allusion, and plagiarism. Tracing this fuzzy boundary will continue to be the “brave new world” (The Tempest, V.1) of the 21st century. Meanwhile, I love spotting uncanny resonances that may or may not be dismissed as “mere coincidence” but make me grateful to be privy to the way poets through the ages throw lifelines to one another. Recognizing such resonances is, essentially, like scoring a triple word score or sipping a peculiarly complex pinot noir. Hey ho!