Sunday, 13 August 2017

The Bitter Withy

In his 1944 book The Singing Englishman A.L.Lloyd writes about this song, an ancient English Folk Carol written from the perspective of the poor.

As it befell out 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's time that you were gone;
But don't let me hear of any mischief
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',
"Good morning to each one."

"Good morn, good morn, good morn," said they,
"Good morning," then said he,
"And which of you three rich young lords
Will play at ball with me?"

"Oh we're all lords' and ladies' sons
Born in a bower and hall,
And you are nothing but a poor maid's child
Born in an ox's stall."

It's if I'm nothing but a poor maid's child,
Born in an ox's stall."
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 water run he;
Them 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 willow twigs
She give him slashes three.

"Oh bitter withy, oh bitter withy
You've caused me to smart.
And the willow shall be the very first tree
To perish at the heart."

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