The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #16164   Message #1069523
Posted By: Joe Offer
10-Dec-03 - 01:11 PM
Thread Name: Origin: Mary Mild / Bitter Withy / Holy Well
Subject: RE: History of 'Mary Mild' ? (Bitter Withy)
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
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)
cf. Belden, p. 102, "Jesus and Joses" (a legend he connects with this piece)

Roud #452
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
cf. "The Bitter Withy" (plot)
File: L690

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