The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #46310   Message #3888929
Posted By: Brian Peters
16-Nov-17 - 05:20 PM
Thread Name: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
Lyrics for Sharp's Appalachian version, collected from Victoria Donald, June 8, 1916:

I went down by St James hospital one morning
So early one, morning, it was early one day
I found my son, my own son
Wrapped up in white linen, as cold as the clay

Dear father, dear father, come sit you down by me
Sit you down by me and pity my case
My head is aching, my heart is breaking
Without relief I surely must die

I'll send for a doctor to heal up your wounds
And three gay soldiers to bear up your body
And three gay young ladies with a bunch of red roses
In each hand to perfume you to march you on

O beat your drum loudly and play your fife merry
To march a dead body along to the grave yard
And plant the green sods over me
If I am a young man I knew I done wrong

Apart from the first line I don't see any similarity to the jazz / blues version. On the other hand, from English tradition we have:

Wrapped in a blanket far colder than clay (Cox)

Oh mother, oh mother, come sit you down by me
Come sit you down by me and pity my case (Adams)

His poor heart was breaking, his poor head was aching (Cox)

And into my coffin throw handfuls of roses
So as they may smell me as I go along (Sebbage)

Beat the drums.... , or similar is common to most of the English ones, though not the jazz song.

Mrs Donald's song is garbled, but almost all the elements are [resent in English tradition / broadside.