Thursday, 23 December 2010

The Bitter Withy



('The Blessed Virgin chastises the Infant Jesus', Max Ernst)



A favourite folksong this, based on some peculiar and subversive apocryphal legends of Christ's childhood. The lyrics are below; go here for a jollier carol-like version from composer Nico Muhly's marvellous blog. You won't hear this on Carols from King's.

The Bitter Withy

As it fell out one high holy day,
Small hail from the heaven did fall,
Our Saviour asked His mother Mary mild,
If He might go 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 misdoings,
At night when you come home.”

So up the hill and down the hill,
Our sweet young Saviour ran.
There He spied three rich lords' sons
Playing in the sun.

"Good morn, good morn, good morn" said they,
"Good morning all", said He.
"Now which of you three rich lords' sons
Is going to play at the ball with me?"

“Oh, we are lords’ and ladies’ sons,
Born in bower and hall,
And you are nothing but a poor maiden's child
born in an ox's stall."

"Well if you're royal lords' and ladies' sons
born in your bower and hall,
I will make you believe at the very end
I am an angel above you all.”

So He built Him a bridge with the beams of the sun,
And over the river ran He;
And these rich lords' sons they followed after Him,
And drowned were they all three.

It was up the hill and down the hill!
These rich lords' mothers run,
Crying: “Mary mild, call home your child,
For ours he has drowned each one!”

Mary mild called home her Child,
And she put Him across of her knee,
And it's with a handful of green withy twigs
She gave Him lashes three.

“Oh, the bitter withy! The bitter withy!
Thou causes me to smart,
The withy shall be the very first tree
To perish at the heart!”


A very Merry Christmas to all readers.

1 comment:

Suem said...

Enough there to keep social services busy for a while! Have a merry Christmas!

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