The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #16164   Message #2790022
Posted By: mark gregory
16-Dec-09 - 09:25 PM
Thread Name: Origin: Mary Mild / Bitter Withy / Holy Well
Subject: RE: Origin: Mary Mild / Bitter Withy / Holy Well
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.