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Lyr Add: Ballad of the Carpenter (MacColl)

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Lyr Req: Jesus Was a Workingman / Ewan MacColl? (9)
Lyr Req: Jesus Was a Carpenter (16)

GUEST,Philippa 23 Dec 01 - 05:16 PM
Haruo 24 Dec 01 - 01:36 AM
Joe_F 24 Dec 01 - 12:36 PM
Haruo 24 Dec 01 - 04:40 PM
Rasener 20 Jan 05 - 03:01 PM
Felipa 21 Apr 19 - 06:21 AM
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Subject: Lyr Add: THE BALLAD OF THE CARPENTER (Ewan MacColl
From: GUEST,Philippa
Date: 23 Dec 01 - 05:16 PM


by Ewan MacColl

Jesus wasa working man
And a hero, you shall hear
Born in the slums of Bethelehem
At the turning of the year
At the turning of the year

When Jesus was a little lad
The streets rang with his name
For he argued with the aldermen
And he put them all to shame
He put them all to shame

His father he apprenticed him
A carpenter to be
To plane and drill and work with skill
In the town of Galilee
The town of Galilee

He became a roving journeyman
And he wandered far and wide
And he saw how wealth and poverty
Lived always side by side
Always side by side

He said,"Come all you working men,
You farmers and weavers too,
If you will only organise,
The world belongs to you
The world belongs to you"

So the fishermen sent two delegates
And the farmers and weavers too
And they formed a working commitee of twelve
To see the struggle through
To see the struggle through

When the rich men heard what the carpenter had done
To the Roman troops they ran
Saying "Put this rebel Jesus down
He's a menace to God and man
Menace to God and man"

The commander of the occupying troops
He laughed and then he said,
"There's a cross to spare on Cavalry Hill
By the weekend he'll be dead,
By the weekend he'll be dead.

Jesus walked among the poor
For the poor were his own kind
And they never let the cops get close enough
To take him from behind
Oh, to take him from behind.

So they hired a man of the traitor's trade
And a stool pigeon was he
And he sold his brother to the butcher's men
For a fistful of silver money
A fistful of money.

When Jesus stood in the prison cell
They beat him and offered him bribes
To desert the cause of his own poor folk
And work for the rich men's tribe
Work for the rich men's tribe.

The sweat stood out upon his brow
And the blood was in his eye
And they nailed his body to the Roman cross
And they laughed as they watched him die,
They laughed as they watched him die.

Two thousand years have passed and gone
And many a hero too,
But the dream of this poor carpenter
At last is coming true.

I suggested this song on the secular Christmas songs thread, as I don't think one has to be Christian to believe in this parable. I'm not optimistic enough to sing the last line as MacColl wrote it, so I sing "May it at last come true" or something along those lines. Phil Ochs sang "the dream of this poor carpenter is in the hands of me and you".

I often leave out a verse or two, especially the second verse. Maybe somebody can fill me in on the story of a child Jesus arguing with the aldermen.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Ballad of the Carpenter
From: Haruo
Date: 24 Dec 01 - 01:36 AM

"... a child Jesus arguing with the aldermen."

According to King James it was "doctors" (Luke 2:41-51):
Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.
Actually, "aldermen" is probably a better cultural equivalency rendition than "doctors". The New International Version reads "teachers". In any case, it refers to members of an intellectual elite who were astounded the brat from Galilee of all places was so bright. "Scary."

I'm assuming this is the reference, because this is the only thing of the sort in the canonical gospels. But it's possible there's something even more à propos in the New Testament Apocrypha (e.g. the Protevangelium of James, or one of the other Infancy Gospels).

(coming out of the 66-book-canon tradition)

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Ballad of the Carpenter
From: Joe_F
Date: 24 Dec 01 - 12:36 PM

"Doctor" originally meant "teacher"; the doctorate meant you were qualified to teach the subject. I always imagined those people were rabbis. I recently looked up "alderman" in the OED & started a thread on this question on My notion is that "aldermen" is a mistake for "older men" (they would be hard to tell apart in MacColl's pronunciation), but on the other hand "aldermen" appears so spelled in Peggy Seeger's recent collection of MacColl's songs, so I guess it's official.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Ballad of the Carpenter
From: Haruo
Date: 24 Dec 01 - 04:40 PM

"Originally meant" is the nub of the matter. "Rabbis", "Teachers", "Doctors" and "Aldermen" are all anachronistic in connotation if not in denotation. When Jesus was 12 years old, although "rabbi" (and/or "rabboni") was in use as a title of respectful address in Judea, it did not refer (as it does now, usually) either to a professional spiritual leader of a synagogue or (as it does now, in historical contexts) to a member of a subset of the men engaged in the argumentation/compilation/redaction of what came to be the Mishnah, though this latter sense may have begun to pertain at the time Luke was written (the codification of the Oral Law by the Rabbis was begun after, and in reaction to, the destruction of the temple in AD 70 and was completed ca. 200; Luke was written in all probability towards the beginning of that period, but definitely post-70). If one assumes (as many Christians do) the historicity of this pericope, then there is probably no one term that is best, though aldermen is probably a bit closer than the others; if one assumes it is not historical, from "Luke"'s vantage point, but contemporary, then "rabbi" (but in the historical sense) might be better. Perhaps "curia" is a possibility, or "Temple intellectuals".


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Subject: The ballad of the carpenter question
From: Rasener
Date: 20 Jan 05 - 03:01 PM

Does anybody know if Luke Kelly ever sung this number?

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Ballad of the Carpenter (MacColl)
From: Felipa
Date: 21 Apr 19 - 06:21 AM

reviving for the Easter season; do see other discussion threads also (highlighted in blue at the top of this page)

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