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GUEST,oz childs Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues (286* d) RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues? 27 Aug 06


A song about a dying woman or man at St. James's Hospital is pretty likely to be in its origin one of the oldest songs still current in English,though revised many times by the folk process (Not as old as "Sumer is a'coming in", but still).

Why? Because St. James's in London, where a palace now stands, was originally the site of a leper hospital, and it was pulled down in 1532 by Henry VIII, who made the park into a place to raise deer and eventually put up a palace. So the memory of St. James's as a place where people went who were sick with a loathsome disease is one of the oldest traditional geographical identifications. (While syphilis was too new a disease to be treated at the hospital, the connection between leprosy and syphilis is exemplified in the similar Paris institution, St-Lazare, which started as a leper hospital and ended up being for syphillitics and then for "fallen women").

St. James's Palace, rebuilt over the years, was where Queen Anne held court circa 1710, and ambassadors are still accredited to the "Court of St. James's).


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