The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #13819   Message #119257
Posted By: Wolfgang
30-Sep-99 - 04:40 AM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: The Hungry Child
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: MOTHER I'M HUNGRY/GIVE ME BREAD OR I
There is a German version of 'The hungry child' in an old Folksong collection, in von Arnim and Brentano's 'Des Knaben Wunderhorn'. This collection of German folksongs has first been published in 1806/1808. The song is denoted as coming from 'oral tradition', so it is definitely more than 200 years old.
Piepe's original title is 'The Procrastination Song', Des Knaben Wunderhorn prints the title as 'Versp├Ątung' (lateness) and the first line as 'Mutter, ach Mutter'. Now, in Germany the song is known as 'Das hungrige Kind (The hungry child). For comparison here are two verses and choruses:

Judith Piepe (contemp.):
Now when the wheat it had been threshed
the young child started crying:
'Mother I'm hungry, mother dear,
give me bread or I'll be dying.'
'Wait my child, wait my child,
tomorrow we'll be grinding.

Des Knaben Wunderhorn (orig. 1806/1808; a 1963 reprint adapting the spelling to modern German):
Und als das Korn gedroschen war (and when the corn/grain had been threshed)
rief das Kind noch immerdar (the child still was calling):
'Mutter, ach Mutter, es hungert mich (mother, oh mother I'm starving),
gib mir Brot, sonst sterbe ich (give me bread, or I'll be dying).'
'Warte nur, mein liebes Kind (just wait, my dear child),
morgen wollen wir mahlen geschwind (tomorrow, we'll grind quickly).

The similarities in the other verses are just as compelling. The succession of the activities in the verses are ploughing, sowing, reaping, threshing, grinding, baking in Judith Piepe's version, sowing, reaping, threshing, grinding, baking in the old German song.

I'd say the case is clear enough. Ms. Piepe may have rewritten an old song, she may have translated an old song, she may have written a new tune to an old song (we could check that, Susanne, I have Piepe's tune, you have the German tune), but the basic song is more than 200 years old and should have been marked so on the CD and not as '(Piepe) Copyright Control'.
The notes to this song from Heather Wood on the Young Tradition CD (these notes I guess are the basis for wildlone's remark):
"The Hungry Child (3.49)
(Piepe) Copyright Control

Peter, Heather, Royston

We have a friend called Judith Piepe. She once came into collision with a Folk Drag, who knew All About The English Tradition and could tell a traditional song any day. So Judith wrote him a couple, which he averred were rural gems from the seventeen hundreds. When she told him the truth he went away and hasn't been heard from since. Splendid. So, we thought, was one of the songs. Judith calls it 'The Procrastination Song': we prefer to call it 'The Hungry Child'. Note by Heather."

The irony is that the 'Folk Drag' Heather Wood is making fun of in her notes to the song on the Young Tradition CD was right after all.

It is still not clear, however, whether this song is of German or English origin. Even a song being in oral tradition in Germany more than 200 years ago can have an English origin.
If anyone knows about an English early origin I'd love to know and if anyone knows Judith Piepe, I'd love to read what she has to say. Jon, have you had any reaction on your newsletter publication?

Wolfgang