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Origin: Mary Mild / Bitter Withy / Holy Well

DigiTrad:
BITTER WITHY
THE HOLY WELL


Melanie 13 Dec 99 - 06:10 PM
Bruce O. 13 Dec 99 - 08:16 PM
Rick Fielding 13 Dec 99 - 08:22 PM
Nancy King 14 Dec 99 - 02:21 PM
Bruce O. 14 Dec 99 - 07:19 PM
Abby Sale 14 Dec 99 - 11:36 PM
Bugsy 15 Dec 99 - 12:50 AM
Bruce O. 15 Dec 99 - 01:27 AM
Abby Sale 15 Dec 99 - 07:55 PM
Steve Parkes 16 Dec 99 - 11:26 AM
Bruce O. 16 Dec 99 - 01:07 PM
Melanie 28 Dec 99 - 05:46 PM
katlaughing 28 Dec 99 - 06:32 PM
Joe Offer 17 Dec 01 - 06:32 PM
GUEST,Desdemona 17 Dec 01 - 06:36 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 17 Dec 01 - 08:31 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 17 Dec 01 - 08:35 PM
GUEST,Desdemona 17 Dec 01 - 08:47 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 17 Dec 01 - 09:05 PM
masato sakurai 18 Dec 01 - 09:39 AM
Joe Offer 10 Dec 03 - 01:11 PM
GUEST,Tinker in Chicago 10 Dec 03 - 01:23 PM
Joe Offer 10 Dec 03 - 01:50 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 10 Dec 03 - 02:07 PM
Joe Offer 10 Dec 03 - 02:33 PM
GUEST,anais 10 Dec 03 - 07:28 PM
Tinker 10 Dec 03 - 07:53 PM
Joe Offer 10 Dec 03 - 09:08 PM
Art Thieme 10 Dec 03 - 10:42 PM
GUEST,Roger May, Southampton, England 19 Dec 03 - 12:15 PM
Malcolm Douglas 20 Dec 03 - 01:54 AM
GUEST,Hick LaFromme 23 Feb 06 - 04:10 PM
GUEST,Hugh Fuller 27 Dec 07 - 03:56 PM
Herga Kitty 28 Dec 07 - 02:55 PM
GUEST,Terry McDonald 28 Dec 07 - 03:38 PM
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Subject: History of 'Mary Mild' ?
From: Melanie
Date: 13 Dec 99 - 06:10 PM

Can anyone give me any history on the song "Mary Mild"? It is a lovely song but the lyrics aren't exactly biblical:

As it fell out on a cold winter day, the drops of rain did fall. Our Savior asked leave of his mother, Mary, if He might go play at ball.

"Go up the hill," His mother said, "and there you will find three jolly children. But let me hear no complaint of You when You come home again...........

Thanks!


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Subject: RE: History of 'Mary Mild' ?
From: Bruce O.
Date: 13 Dec 99 - 08:16 PM

See "Bitter Withy" in DT. There's also a variant called "The Holy Well"


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Subject: RE: History of 'Mary Mild' ?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 13 Dec 99 - 08:22 PM

Melanie, try to find an album by John Roberts and Tony Barrend (perhaps called Sing We Nowell). It has a lovely version of "Bitter Withy. My faulty memory isn't much help with more details.
Rick


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Subject: RE: History of 'Mary Mild' ?
From: Nancy King
Date: 14 Dec 99 - 02:21 PM

I've been singing "Mary Mild" for 35 years or so--learned it from the Kingston Trio's Christmas album, "Last Month of the Year." Yes, I admit it. The song is obviously a version of "The Bitter Withy," but without the withy, as it were. I like it because it makes Mary and Jesus seem like a real mother and child. --Nancy


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Subject: RE: History of 'Mary Mild' ?
From: Bruce O.
Date: 14 Dec 99 - 07:19 PM

[Here's a tet of the other version. From Bullen's 'Carols and Poems', 1886. Earlier in Sandy's 'Carols', 1833]

The Holy Well

As it fell out one may morning,
And upon on bright holiday.
Sweet Jesus asked of his dear mother,
If he mught go to play.

To play, to play, sweet Jesus shall go,
And to play pray get you gone;
And let me hear of no complaint
At night when you come home.

Sweet Jesus went down to yonder town,
As far as the Holy Well,
And there did see as fine children,
As any tongue can tell.

He said, God bless you every one,
And your bodies Christ save and see:
Little children, shall I play with you,
And you shall play with me?

But they made answer to him, No:
They were lords' and ladies' sons;
And he, the meanest of them all,
Was but a maiden's child, born in an ox's stall.

Sweet Jesus turned him around,
And he neither laughed nor smiled,
But the tears came trickling from his eyes
Like water from the skies.

Sweet Jesus truned him about,
To his mother's dear home went he,
And said, I have been in yonder town
As far as you can see.

I have been down in yonder town
As far as the Holy Well,
There did I meet as fine children
As any tongue can tell.

I bid God bless them every one,
And their bodies Christ save and see;
Little children, shall I play with you,
And you shall play with me?

But they made answer to me, No:
They were lords' and ladies' sons;
And I, the meanest of them all,
Was but a maiden's child, born in an ox's stall.

Though you are but a maiden's child,
Born in an ox's stall,
Thou art the Christ, the King of heaven,
And the Saviour of them all.

Sweet Jesus, go down to yonder town
As far as the Holy Well,
And take away those sinful souls,
And dip them deep in hell.

Nay, nay, sweet Jesus said,
Nay, nay, that may not be;
For there are too many sinful souls
Crying out for the help of me.

^^


    Added to DT April 2000


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Subject: RE: History of 'Mary Mild' ?
From: Abby Sale
Date: 14 Dec 99 - 11:36 PM

Leach saith Bitter Withy was first reported by Frank Sidgwick in "Notes and Queries" series 10 No. 83. (No date given - say c.1910) The legend is based on hagiographic literature. It was well-known & appears in religious & pictorial art. See GH Gerould, The Ballad of the Bitter Withy"

The text given (from "Notes and Queries") is much the one generally sung.


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Subject: RE: History of 'Mary Mild' ?
From: Bugsy
Date: 15 Dec 99 - 12:50 AM

Looks like at touch of the old "MILD AND BITTER" to me. I'll have a pint if anyone's offering.

Cheers

Bugsy


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Subject: RE: History of 'Mary Mild' ?
From: Bruce O.
Date: 15 Dec 99 - 01:27 AM

The Bitter Withy" is sung by A. L. Lloyd on Riverside RLP 12-629 Ewan Macoll sang "The Holy Well" on the same, and for another, but slightly variant from that below, (DT's Corpus Christi Carol) we have A. L. LLoyd on the same recording.

[From Frank Sigwick in 'Notes and Queries', 1905, but here from repeat in Chambers and Sidgwick's notes in 'Early English Lyrics', dedicated to A. H. Bullen.]

[Down in Yon Forest]

Over yonder's a park, which is newly begun,
All bells in paradise I heard them a-ring;
Which is silver on the outside, and gold within,
And I love sweet Jesus above all things

And in that park there stands a hall,
Which is covered all over with purple pall,

And in that hall there stands a bed,
Which is hung all around with silk curtains so red,

And in that bed there lies a knight,
Whose wounds they do bleed by day and night,

At that bed side there lies a stone,
Which is our blessed Virgin Mary then kneeling on,

At that bed's foot there lies a hound,
Which is licking the blood as it daily runs down,

At that bed's head there grows a thorn,
Which was never so blossomed since Christ was born,


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Subject: Bitter Withy
From: Abby Sale
Date: 15 Dec 99 - 07:55 PM

I've been disturbed by my own post here. The blessed Leach wrote that the story is based on hagiographic literature. Hesitant as I am to gainsay the my own mentor, it seems unlikely that the story, no mater how folk Processed, could be based on any Old Testiment story or comment on one. Further my memory insists that I've seen reliable reports it was based on New Testament Apocrypha or Pseudepigrapha. (Or perhaps that's the same thing.) O.T. Apocrypha is easy to come by but N.T. is kinda obscure to me. But I've never seen a specific citation to the possible source.

I found the following as cited. It seems as good a possibility as any. There were other child-play stories for Jesus in other online sources but this seemed closest.

I post for what it's worth.

http://wesley.nnc.edu/noncanon/pseudepigrapha.htm

New Testament Apocrypha
    THE GOSPEL OF PSEUDO-MATTHEW

    HERE beginneth the book of the Birth of the Blessed Mary and the Infancy of the Saviour. Written in Hebrew by the Blessed Evangelist Matthew, and translated into Latin by the Blessed Presbyter Jerome.

    To their well-beloved brother Jerome the Presbyter, Bishops Cromatius and Heliodorus in the Lord, greeting.

    etc.

    CHAP. 26.--And it came to pass, after Jesus had returned out of Egypt, when He was in Galilee, and entering on the fourth year of His age, that on a Sabbath-day He was playing with some children at the bed of the Jordan. And as He sat there, Jesus made to Himself seven pools of clay, and to each of them He made passages, through which at His command He brought water from the torrent into the pool, and took it back again. Then one of those children, a son of the devil, moved with envy, shut the passages which supplied the pools with water, and overthrew what Jesus had built up. Then said Jesus to him: Woe unto thee, thou son of death, thou son of Satan! Dost thou destroy the works which I have wrought? And immediately he who had done this died. Then with great uproar the parents of the dead boy cried out against Mary and Joseph, saying to them: Your son has cursed our son, and he is dead. And when Joseph and Mary heard this, they came forthwith to Jesus, on account of the outcry of the parents of the boy, and the gathering together of the Jews. But Joseph said privately to Mary: I dare not speak to Him; but do thou admonish Him, and say: Why hast Thou raised against us the hatred of the people; and why must the troublesome hatred of men be borne by us? And His mother having come to Him, asked Him, saying: My Lord, what was it that he did to bring about his death? And He said: He deserved death, because he scattered the works that I had made. Then His mother asked Him, saying: Do not so, my Lord, because all men rise up against us. But He, not wishing to grieve His mother, with His right foot kicked the hinder parts of the dead boy, and said to him: Rise, thou son of iniquity for thou art not worthy to enter into the rest of my Father, because thou didst destroy the works which I had made. Then he who had been dead rose up, and went away. And Jesus, by the word of His power, brought water into the pools by the aqueduct.


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Subject: RE: History of 'Mary Mild' ?
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 16 Dec 99 - 11:26 AM

I've seen a story, complete with mediaeval illustrations, of Jesus at school, sliding down sunbeams while the teacher's out of the class. His school chums try it, and break their necks. He comes across as a vicious little brat in these tales - why is this? It's greatly at variance with the Victorian 'meek and mild' image, not to mention the NT.

Steve


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Subject: RE: History of 'Mary Mild' ?
From: Bruce O.
Date: 16 Dec 99 - 01:07 PM

Abby, go to www.princeton.edu/~religion/ and look at the short bio of Elaine Pagels; she's expert in the early CE gnostic literature, and probably on the biblical related literature, too. I saw her on a TV documentary about a week ago, and she's gotten older (probably a grandmother now), since the picture I got of her about 25 years ago, and is no longer the stunning beauty she was then (but still very good). Her husband, Hans, used to be (maybe still is) a freelance reseacher with some noteable books to his credit.


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Subject: RE: History of 'Mary Mild' ?
From: Melanie
Date: 28 Dec 99 - 05:46 PM

Thanks all for the CD suggestions, the lyrics, and the discussion. You folks always amaze me with your knowledge. That's why I'm mostly just a listener here!

Hope you all had a Merry Christmas and here's wishing you a safe and happy New Year!


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Subject: RE: History of 'Mary Mild' ?
From: katlaughing
Date: 28 Dec 99 - 06:32 PM

According to a couple of reference books I have, which are based on some ancient archived records of the Essenian Brotherhood and the real Rosicrucian Order, AMORC (Ancient Mystical Order Rose Croix), Jesus was initiatied into the mystery school of the Essenes, as a young child. They are The Mystical Life of Jesus and The Secret Doctrines of Jesus by H. Spencer Lewis, Ph.D. published in the 1930's and both available at www.bibliofind.com.

katlaughing


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Subject: ADD: Mary Mild
From: Joe Offer
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 06:32 PM

Gee, the Kingtson Trio sure cleaned this song up.
-Joe Offer-


MARY MILD
Bob Shane/Tom Drake/Miriam Stafford

As it fell out on a cold winter day, the drops of rain did fall.
Our Savior asked leave of his mother, Mary, if He might go play at ball.

"Go up the hill," His mother said, "and there you will find three jolly children.
But let me hear no complaint of You when You come home again."

But the children said, "We are royal sons and we will not play at ball,
For You are but a poor maid's child, born in an oxen stall."

"If you are Lord's and Ladies' sons and you will not play at ball.
I'll build you a bridge of the beams of the sun to play upon us all."

And He built them a bridge of the beams of the sun and over the pools they played, all three,
And the mothers called, "Mary, call home your child," their eyes all drowned in tears.

Mary mild (Mary mild, Mary mild), Mary mild (Mary mild) called home her Child.
And when she asked Him, "Why?" Said He,
"Oh, I built them a bridge of the beams of the sun so they would play at ball with me.
So they would play with me."


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Subject: RE: History of 'Mary Mild' ?
From: GUEST,Desdemona
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 06:36 PM

Yeah---THIS Mary Mild probably employed the "time out" chair instead of "the bitter withy"!

"Now, Jesus, I'm going to count to ten...."


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Subject: ADD Version: The Bitter Withy
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 08:31 PM

Maddy Prior sings The Bitter Withy on "Flesh and Blood." I must get that.
From a version without notes, there are some variations in the verses. The one about upling and downling corns, I would guess, is old. For comparison, here is the version, although some is almost the same.

THE BITTER WITHY

And it fell out on a high holiday,
When drops of rain did fall,
Jesus asked of his mother Mary
If He might play at ball.

"To play at ball, my own dear son,
It's time you're going or gone,
But let me hear of no complaints
At night when you come home."

Sweet Jesus went down to yonder town
As far as the Holy Well,
And there He saw as fine children
As ever tongue can tell.

"I say God bless you every one.
Your bodies and souls pray keep.
Little children shall I play with you?
And you shall play with Me?"

"Oh nay, oh nay, that must not be,
And oh nay, that must not be
For we are all lords' and ladies' sons
Born in bowers all."

Jesus made a bridge of beams of the sun,
And over Jordan went He.
And there followed after the three children,
And drowned the three, all three.

And its upling corns, and downling corns,
The mothers of them did whoop and call,
"Oh Mary mild, call home your child,
For ours are drownded all."

Then Mary mild called home her child,
And laid it across her knee.
And with a rod of bitter withy,
She gave him thrashes three.

Oh the withy, the withy, the bitter withy,
Which caused my back to smart!
The withy shall be the very first tree
To perish at the heart.
    Maddy Prior's version starts out:
      As I fell out on a bright holiday
      Small hail from the sky did fall
      Our Saviour asked etc.

    Leave it to Maddy Prior to change rain to Hail!
    She also inserts:
      "If I am nought but a poor maid's child
      Born in a ox's stall
      I'll make you believe at your latter end
      I'm an angel above you all!"
    Many more variants!


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Subject: RE: History of 'Mary Mild' ?
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 08:35 PM

Odd! If I put Bitter Withy in the Forum I get the threads but "No results in the Digitrad." I do get it in Lyrics Search.


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Subject: RE: History of 'Mary Mild' ?
From: GUEST,Desdemona
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 08:47 PM

Yes, the Watetrsons' version is very similar if not identical to Maddy Prior's.


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Subject: RE: History of 'Mary Mild' ?
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 09:05 PM

Lloyd, in the liner notes to the Waterson's cd, says clapbooks of the 1840s helped the song to survive.
The Kingston trio site goes so far as to say Jesus was age 11, and that the story is an oriental legend known in Europe before the 11th Century. No references, of course! A likely story! Trivia courtesy Google.
Although suggestive of gnosticism, I doubt that there is any evidence of the song that far back. The Gnostics were pretty well wiped out by the Church, which did a better job of rooting out heretics and unbelievers that the Romans did with the Christians.


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Subject: Lyr ADD: Bitter Withy
From: masato sakurai
Date: 18 Dec 01 - 09:39 AM

The Bullen version of "The Holy Well" Bruce O. posted above (from A.H. Bullen, Carols and Poems from the Fifteenth Century to the Present Time, John C. Nimmo, 1886, pp. 46-48) seems to have been copied from William Sandy, Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern (1833; rpt. Folkroft, 1976, pp. 149-152), but the Sandy version has one more verse at the end (the rest is the same; both without music):

O then spoke the Angel Gabriel,
Upon one good Saint Stephen,
Altho' you're but a maiden's child,
You are the King of Heaven.

The version of "The Bitter Withy" collected by Cecil Sharp is as follows:

THE BITTER WITHY
(Sung by Thomas Taylor (67) at Ross Workhouse, Herefordshire, 1 September 1912)

1. As it fell out upon one day
The stars from heaven did fall
And our Saviour asked his dear mother
If he could play at ball.

2. To play at ball, dear child,
It's time that you were gone,
And don't let me hear of your ill-doings
At night when you come home.

3. If I do play with those children
And they do play with me,
We are lords' and ladies' children
And born in a bowery hall.
And you are but a mild Mary's child
And born in an oxen stall.

4. If I am but a mild Mary's child
And born in an oxen stall,
I'll make you appear at the very latter end,
I'm ruler above you all.

5. Our Saviour built a bridge with the rays of the sun,
And over it went he.
There was three jolly Jordans went for to follow
And drownded were all three.

6. Then it's up the lane call and it's down the lane call
The mothers they did run,
Saying: Mary mild, correct your child,
For he has drownded all.

7. Sweet Mary took a bunch of the green withy
And placed our Saviour across her knee,
And with a bunch of green withy
She gave him lashes three.

8. O the withy, the withy, the bitter withy
That has causèd me to smart,
The withy shall be the very first tree
For to perish all at the heart.

(From Cecil Sharp's Collection of English Folk Songs, vol. 2, pp. 485-486).

Sharp collected 5 versions of "The Holy Well", too. One version of "The Bitter Withy" is in Roy Palmer, ed., Folk Songs Collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams (Dent, 1983, no. 44; pp. 70-71). A traditional version ("The Bitter Withy") is recorded on English Customs & Traditions (Saydisc).

~Masato


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Subject: RE: History of 'Mary Mild' ? (Bitter Withy)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 10 Dec 03 - 01:11 PM

I was trying to make sense out of things as I was cross-linking threads this morning, and I was almost led astray by Mary Mild in the Digital Tradition, which is a version of "Mary Hamilton" found in the Greig Duncan Folk Song Collection. Then I came across this thread, which appears to be about a Kingston Trio cleaned-up version of "Bitter Withy" - so I added "Bitter Withy" to the thread title to attempt to quell confusion.
Does the song title "Mary Mild" appear in tradition in association with "Bitter Withy," or is this recent?
The Traditional Ballad Index has entries for "Bitter Withy" and for "Holy Well":

Bitter Withy, The

DESCRIPTION: Jesus is sent out by Mary to play. He is snubbed by a group of rich boys. He builds "a bridge with the beams of the sun," and the boys who follow him across fall into the river and drown. Mary beats her child with a withy branch
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1905
KEYWORDS: Jesus poverty punishment religious discrimination
FOUND IN: Britain(England(West))
REFERENCES (6 citations):
Leach, pp. 689-690, "The Bitter Withy" (1 text)
Friedman, p. 60, "The Bitter Withy" (1 text, 1 tune)
PBB 5, "The Bitter Withy" (1 text)
Hodgart, p. 152, "The Bitter Withy" (1 text)
DT 310, BITWITHY*
cf. Belden, p. 102, "Jesus and Joses" (a legend he connects with this piece)

Roud #452
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "The Holy Well" (plot)
Notes: It should perhaps be noted that this event has no place in the Bible, nor even in the (known) apocryphal gospels (though it reminds one of various events in the "Infancy Gospel of Thomas," which also contains some rather nasty miracles). The bridge of sunbeams is a commonplace in religious art.
Belden sees a connection between this song and the folk legend "Jesus and Joses," in which Joses (Jesus's brother; cf. Mark 6:3) tattles on Jesus and Jesus is beaten with willow twigs. There is a fundamental difference, however: In "The Bitter Withy," Jesus is genuinely guilty; in "Jesus and Joses," he is said to be innocent. - RBW
File: L689

Holy Well, The

DESCRIPTION: Mary sends Jesus out to play. He meets a group of noble children, who scorn him as poor. Jesus bitterly runs home to Mary. She urges him to curse/damn them. Jesus, as the worlds's savior, realizes he cannot do so
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1833 (Sandys)
KEYWORDS: abuse Jesus poverty
FOUND IN: Britain(England)
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Leach, pp. 690-691, "The Holy Well" (1 text)
OBB 110, "The Holy Well" (1 text)
OBC 56, "The Holy Well" (1 text, 2 tunes)
PBB 9, "The Holy Well" (1 text)

Roud #1697
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "The Bitter Withy" (plot)
File: L690

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions

The Ballad Index Copyright 2003 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


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Subject: RE: History of 'Mary Mild' (Bitter Withy / Holy Well)
From: GUEST,Tinker in Chicago
Date: 10 Dec 03 - 01:23 PM

And here we see a good example of why certain writings were not included in the Bible. Not because of their content but because no one in the Christian Church at the time the Bible was codified took them seriously as inspired Scriptures. They were just fantastic forgeries, and were treated as such. You might as well ask why the New York Times doesn't cover all of those "important" stories in the tabloids: because the tabloids make up their stories just to sell papers!

And by the way, the gnostics are still among us. No heresy ever dies, it just changes its marketing strategy.


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Subject: Jesus and Joses
From: Joe Offer
Date: 10 Dec 03 - 01:50 PM

Aw, I was hoping for a song about Jesus and Joses in Belden, but all I found was a brief entry. Here is the entire entry from Ballads and Songs Collected by the Missouri Folk-Lore Society (H.M. Belden, editor, 1940/1955):

Jesus and Joses
The following, a folk-legend, not a song, seems to be related in spirit and by its curse upon the willow tree, tho not in the motivation of the story, to the ballad of The Bitter Withy — for which see G. H. Gerould in PMIJA XXIII 141- 67 and Barry in JAFL XXVII 79-89. It was sent to me in 1914 by H. A. Chapman of the Missouri School of Mines at Rolla.

    'I have known for some time that the mountain folk had a fear or prejudice against the willow tree; and some time back I heard an explanation that may be the reason. An old man who trapped south of Warrensburg [Johnson County] gave it to me.
    '"When Jesus was a child he had a brother named Joses, who tho younger was much larger and stronger. Near where they lived were willows, and Joses would tell fibs about Jesus to Mary and then bring willow switches for her to punish him (Jesus) with (to be exact, he said 'God rot it'). And the willow always brings bad luck, rots quicker than any tree and if a child is punished with it he will have much suffering and will die before he is old."
To counter what Tinker said, I think I'd say we should be careful to neither dismiss nor canonize the "Christian Apocrypha." It's true that these writings were not accepted into the Canon of Scripture, but they still can provide fascinating insights into the spirituality and folklore of the early days of Christianity. At times, they can provide insight into the writings that were recognized as part of Scripture. Still, there was a reason these writings aren't canonical - they do not define the core beliefs of the Christian faith. I don't think it was so much a matter of suppression, although I suppose there may have been some of that - to put it simply, let's just say they just didn't make it into the major leagues. Believers didn't accept them as scripture.
But they've got some really great stories in them.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: History of 'Mary Mild' (Bitter Withy / Holy Well)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 10 Dec 03 - 02:07 PM

These songs never seem to have made it into North American tradition.


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Subject: RE: History of 'Mary Mild' (Bitter Withy / Holy Well)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 10 Dec 03 - 02:33 PM

Yeah, Q, I checked a good number of resources and found no traditional North American version of Bitter Withy/Holy Well. It's an interesting song, but certainly not one that fits within the mainstream of Christian tradition in the U.S. I think Europeans may be more open to what American Christians would consider sacrilege.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: History of 'Mary Mild' (Bitter Withy / Holy Well)
From: GUEST,anais
Date: 10 Dec 03 - 07:28 PM

it always sounded to me as if maddy prior sang, in her variant
"it came about on a bank holiday
small hail from the sky did fall"
but that can't be right! or can it?


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Subject: RE: History of 'Mary Mild' (Bitter Withy / Holy Well)
From: Tinker
Date: 10 Dec 03 - 07:53 PM

Just a quick note that the "guest Tinker in Chicago" is not me. I'm not nearly as assured that the committees of political men in the various Councils and Synods made all of their scriptural decisions on the basis of what was "inspired" without regard to personal political power bases.

In fact I am probably as or more inclined than Joe to review and study the Christian Apocrypha. There is much within those books that has captured my deliberation.

I've really enjoyed this thread and being introduced to these songs.

Tinker


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Subject: RE: History of 'Mary Mild' (Bitter Withy / Holy Well)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 10 Dec 03 - 09:08 PM

Thanks for the clarification, Tinker. We're pleased to have Tinker in Chicago - but it's better that it's understood that we're talking to two Tinkers.

I can't think of the New Testament Apocrypha as "forgeries." I think they reflect the sincere beliefs of people, their attempts to make sense out of this universe. Besides, they're ancient writings, well-preserved, and they're often very colorful and interesting.

On the other hand, I don't think the selection of the Canon of Scripture was highly politicized. Every decision is political, but I think the canon of the New Testament was fairly well set by 150 AD, before the heavy-duty politicians got hold of Christianity.

As for Gnostics, well, they certainly seemed to be pious.

-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: History of 'Mary Mild' (Bitter Withy / Holy Well)
From: Art Thieme
Date: 10 Dec 03 - 10:42 PM

Does Molly know there are two Tinkers?


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Subject: RE: History of 'Mary Mild' (Bitter Withy / Holy Well)
From: GUEST,Roger May, Southampton, England
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 12:15 PM

I've known "the Bitter Withy" for years, in Peter Bellamy's version, when he was with Young Tradition. I've always thought the first two lines were:
"As it fell out on a bright holiday,
Small ale from the sky did fall".

Isn't this just a figurative term - everywhere you look there's small ale (i.e. weak beer) - like the modern "it's raining men"!

If it was a bright holiday and the infant Jesus built a bridge from the beams of the sun, how come it was hailing? And why "small" hail?

I rest my case.


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Subject: RE: History of 'Mary Mild' (Bitter Withy / Holy Well)
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 20 Dec 03 - 01:54 AM

Of the examples found in tradition that contain the verse (including the earliest-printed full example, in Notes and Queries, 1905), the line is usually "Some drops of rain did fall". "Small hail" occurs in a text from the Evesham area said to have been current in the later years of the 19th century (Roy Palmer, Songs of the Midlands, 1972, 113) and in an unprovenanced example in Lloyd, Folk Song in England, 1967, 124-5. Maddy Prior recorded an arrangement of the set in Lloyd. Peter Bellamy reckoned to have learned the song from one Audrey Coppard, but whether that was a set direct from tradition or out of a book I don't know; he didn't say. On the whole, I'd tend to put the "small ale" down to Peter's pronounciation (he dropped "h-" a lot when singing, though far less so when talking); that way we don't have to worry ourselves with ingenious but probably unlikely explanations.


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Subject: RE: History of 'Mary Mild' (Bitter Withy / Holy Well)
From: GUEST,Hick LaFromme
Date: 23 Feb 06 - 04:10 PM

A folk band in Abilene, TX just recorded this song on their new CD. Check out www.jamisonpriest.com for more info.


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Subject: RE: History of 'Mary Mild' (Bitter Withy / Holy Well)
From: GUEST,Hugh Fuller
Date: 27 Dec 07 - 03:56 PM

Perhaps we should think of Jesus and the fig tree that bore no fruit (see Matthew 21:18-22). There are varying interpretations of this piece of Scripture, but one of them might well be a remnant of the Gospels trying to preserve the "fully human" aspect of Jesus. We tend to overemphasize Jesus' divine aspects and to forget that He was also fully human and I find the songs to reflect that fully human aspect pretty well. Try to imagine a child with the powers of God and you will have some understanding to what Joseph and Mary went through and Joseph's fear of confronting Jesus that is evident in one of the versions of the song.

http://www.rapturealert.com/jesusfigtree.asp


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Subject: RE: History of 'Mary Mild' (Bitter Withy / Holy Well)
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 28 Dec 07 - 02:55 PM

The version I remember from the YT was something like

As it fell out one bright summer's day
Small hail from the sky did fall
Our Saviour asked his mother dear
If he might go and play at ball.

At ball, at ball, at ball my son
It's time that you were gone
And don't let me hear of any mischief
This night when you come home

So it's up the hill and down the hill
Our sweet young Saviour run
Until he met three rich young lords
Good morning to each one

Good morn, good morn, good morn he said
Good morning, then said he
And which of you three rich young lords
Will play at the ball with me.

Oh we are lords and ladies' sons
Born in the bower and hall
And you are nothing but a poor Jew's child
Born in an ox's stall.

Well if I'm nothing but a poor Jew's child
Born in an ox's stall
I'll make you believe to your latter end
I'm an angel above you all.

So he's built him a bridge from the beams of the sun
And over the water ran he
And the rich young lords ran after him
And drowned they were all three.

Then it's up the hill and down the hill
Three rich young mothers run
Saying Mary mild, fetch home your child
For ours he's killed each one

So Mary mild fetched home her child
And laid him across her knee
And with a twig of willow wand
She gave him lashes three.

Oh bitter withy, oh bitter withy
Since you've caused me to smart
The willow shall be the very first tree
To perish at the heart.


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Subject: RE: History of 'Mary Mild' (Bitter Withy / Holy Well)
From: GUEST,Terry McDonald
Date: 28 Dec 07 - 03:38 PM

Kitty - that's the version I've always known and sung. I learned the words from the EFDSS quarterly magazine c1970 and remember it as being 'from Gloucestershire.'


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Subject: RE: History of 'Mary Mild' (Bitter Withy / Holy Well)
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 28 Dec 07 - 06:05 PM

Couldn'r help but see Mary's Mild and Withy's Bitter in the title.

Mmmmmm. Mild. Bitter....


:D


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Subject: RE: Origin: Mary Mild / Bitter Withy / Holy Well
From: GUEST,Grenadine
Date: 16 Dec 09 - 04:12 PM

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I've been listening to the Kingston Trio's version of this song for 40 years and the line is not: "And the mothers called, "Mary, call home your child," their eyes all drowned in tears", as Joe Offer states, but:
"...call home your child, 'ere ours all drown-ded be".

Just saw the timeless trio last night in San Francisco. Sadly, they did not play this song, despite my calling out for it numerous times. I think some people get distracted by the unexpected element of this tune and do not appreciate its moral message of the Golden Rule. Also, it is rather sweet that the young Jesus in these lyrics is innocent of the fact that all children can't cavort across sunbeams, as He can.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Mary Mild / Bitter Withy / Holy Well
From: mark gregory
Date: 16 Dec 09 - 09:25 PM

In his 1944 booklet The Singing Englishman Bert Lloyd wrote:

As far a I know Lloyd was the first to put the song on a record, where he replaces
"nothing but a Jewess' child" with "nothing but a poor man's child"

In the enlightened days we live in, the surrealist painter Max Ernst painted the Virgin Mary laying the infant Jesus across her knee and smacking him, and the picture was impounded as a blasphemy. But a common carol in Hereford is the Bitter Withy.

As it befell on a bright holiday
Small hail from the sky did fall.
Our Saviour asked his mother dear
If he might go and play at ball.

At ball, at ball, my own dear son,
It is time that you were gone.
But don't let me hear of any doings
At night when you come home.

So up the hill and down the hill
Our sweet young Saviour run
Until he met three rich young lords
A-walkin in the sun.

Good morn, good mom, good morn, said they.
Good morning all, said he.
And which of you three rich young lords
Will play at ball with me?

We are all lords' and ladies' sons
Born in our bower and hall,
And you are nothing but a Jewess' child
Born in an ox's stall.

If you're all lords' and ladies' sons
Born in your bower and hall,
I'll make you believe in your latter end
I'm an angel above you all.

So he made him a bridge of the beams of the sun
And over the river danced he.
The rich young lords chased after him
And drowned they were all three.

Then up the hill and down the hill
Three rich young mothers run,
Crying: Mary mild, fetch home your child
For ours he's drowned each one.

So Mary mild fetched home her child,
And laid him across her knee,
And with a handful of withy twigs
She gave him slashes three.

Ay, bitter withy! Ay, bitter withy!
You've caused me to smart.
And the withy shall be the very first tree
To perish at the heart.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Mary Mild / Bitter Withy / Holy Well
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 04 Jun 11 - 08:49 AM

Oh, a folk song about whipping of children! Might sound great paired with "Cat O'Nine Tails." "Send 'em to Carrera with licks like fire and they bound to surrender."


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Subject: RE: Origin: Mary Mild / Bitter Withy / Holy Well
From: GUEST
Date: 01 Jan 12 - 08:36 AM

I've just put up a version of The Bitter Withy from the Wirral as part of my A Liverpool Folk Song a Week project. It was collected by Janet Blunt from a Mrs Haigh in the 1920s - Mrs Haigh recalled being sung by boy carollers in Birkenhead. The manscript of this version is in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, and the EFDSS have put it up online as part of their fantastic "Take Six" project. I know there are a lot of other versions of this song esp from Herefordshire and Gloucestershire, so I'd be interested to know whether anybody here recognises the tune as occurring elsewhere. It's not one of the usual tunes that I've heard in recorded versions of this song.

http://aliverpoolfolksongaweek.blogspot.com/2011/12/39-bitter-withy.html


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Subject: RE: Origin: Mary Mild / Bitter Withy / Holy Well
From: Richard from Liverpool
Date: 01 Jan 12 - 08:38 AM

Previous post was from me, without a cookie. Sorry about that.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Mary Mild / Bitter Withy / Holy Well
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 01 Jan 12 - 09:36 AM

Re the YT version ~~ my recollection is that Peter Bellamy sang "thrashes three", rather than either 'slashes' or 'lashes'.

~Michael~.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Mary Mild / Bitter Withy / Holy Well
From: GUEST,Don Wise
Date: 01 Jan 12 - 10:42 AM

Could it simply be that,long long ago, people found the super goody-goody JC (as child) a bit hard to swallow and gave him, from their point of view, a more credible behaviour in tune with their own experiences and observations? Furthermore, who knows what stories were being circulated in those far-off days by illiterate and semi-literate itinerants? As we know all too well from the boulevard/red-top/gutter press, if you package the story properly then the masses will believe anything, no matter how far-fetched.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Mary Mild / Bitter Withy / Holy Well
From: Tradsinger
Date: 01 Jan 12 - 11:23 AM

Check out this version from Gloucestershire with notes on the song and apochryphal carols, plus a comparison with 'Holy Well'. http://www.gloschristmas.com/songs-carols/list-of-songs-carols/bitter-withy/. Several versions have been collected in Gloucestershire and I collected a version of "The Holy Well" from gypsy Wiggie Smith, who called it "The High Low Well" - see http://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/smith.htm.

Tradsinger


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