The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #16164   Message #612311
Posted By: masato sakurai
18-Dec-01 - 09:39 AM
Thread Name: Origin: Mary Mild / Bitter Withy / Holy Well
Subject: Lyr ADD: Bitter Withy
The Bullen version of "The Holy Well" Bruce O. posted above (from A.H. Bullen, Carols and Poems from the Fifteenth Century to the Present Time, John C. Nimmo, 1886, pp. 46-48) seems to have been copied from William Sandy, Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern (1833; rpt. Folkroft, 1976, pp. 149-152), but the Sandy version has one more verse at the end (the rest is the same; both without music):

O then spoke the Angel Gabriel,
Upon one good Saint Stephen,
Altho' you're but a maiden's child,
You are the King of Heaven.

The version of "The Bitter Withy" collected by Cecil Sharp is as follows:

(Sung by Thomas Taylor (67) at Ross Workhouse, Herefordshire, 1 September 1912)

1. As it fell out upon one day
The stars from heaven did fall
And our Saviour asked his dear mother
If he could play at ball.

2. To play at ball, dear child,
It's time that you were gone,
And don't let me hear of your ill-doings
At night when you come home.

3. If I do play with those children
And they do play with me,
We are lords' and ladies' children
And born in a bowery hall.
And you are but a mild Mary's child
And born in an oxen stall.

4. If I am but a mild Mary's child
And born in an oxen stall,
I'll make you appear at the very latter end,
I'm ruler above you all.

5. Our Saviour built a bridge with the rays of the sun,
And over it went he.
There was three jolly Jordans went for to follow
And drownded were all three.

6. Then it's up the lane call and it's down the lane call
The mothers they did run,
Saying: Mary mild, correct your child,
For he has drownded all.

7. Sweet Mary took a bunch of the green withy
And placed our Saviour across her knee,
And with a bunch of green withy
She gave him lashes three.

8. O the withy, the withy, the bitter withy
That has causèd me to smart,
The withy shall be the very first tree
For to perish all at the heart.

(From Cecil Sharp's Collection of English Folk Songs, vol. 2, pp. 485-486).

Sharp collected 5 versions of "The Holy Well", too. One version of "The Bitter Withy" is in Roy Palmer, ed., Folk Songs Collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams (Dent, 1983, no. 44; pp. 70-71). A traditional version ("The Bitter Withy") is recorded on English Customs & Traditions (Saydisc).