The Bitter Willow

The Bitter Willow
It happened to be on one Lord’s Hallow Day,
When a voice from Heaven called,
Our sweet Christ to his dear mother,
“Might I play a ball?”.
From the singing of Lemmie Brazil, Gloucester 26 December 1972. Collected by Peter Shepheard (Springthyme 73.1.15, 16, 17). I had already collected the song from Lemmie's sister Alice Webb at Christmas 1969 and, after asking if Lemmie knew the song, she played the tune on her melodeon and then recited parts of the song with discussion. Lemmie then sang the song.


As sung:
It happened to be on one Lord’s Hallow Day,
When a voice from Heaven called,
Our sweet Christ to his dear mother,
“Might I play a ball?”

“A ball, a ball, dear son,” she cried,
It’s time that you been gone,
And don’t let me hear none o’ your ill doings,
Tonight when you comes home.”

Oh away, away run our sweet Christ,
And away and away run he,
Until he come to a three dwellèd house,
An he met three Jollian sons.

“Good evening you three Jordean sons,
Your souls to be saved I pray,
And which of you three Jollian sons,
Will play a ball with me?”

“We are lords' and ladies’ sons,
Borned in the bowers of hall,
But you are nothing but a poor mother’s child,
Born in the oxen stile.”

“If you are lords’ and ladies’ sons,
Borned in the bowers of hall,
I’ll make you repent the very next hour,
I’m an angel above you all.”

Christ built a bridge with the beams of the sun,
An’ across the sea went he,
And these three Jews they follow after him,
And they all got drownded three.

“Oh Mary Mild call in your child,
He’s just now just drownded three.”
Mary took hold of our sweet Christ,
She layed him across her knee,
And with a handfull of willow twigs,
She give him a lushy three.

“Oh the willow, the bitter, bitter willow,
It caused my back to smart,
But the willow it shall be on the very next tree,
It shall die and perish to the heart.”
Discussion and recitation:
Oh the willer the bitter bitter willer,
It caused my back to smart,
The willer it shall be on the very next tree,
It shall die and perish to the heart.

PS: What do you mean by that?
LB: Christ said to his mother he wanted to play a ball. She said:

“A ball, a ball, dear son,” she said (Mary),
It’s time that you’d ’a’ been gone,
(She said) And don’t let me hear none o’ your hill doings,
Tonight when you comes home.”

Oh away, away run our sweet Christ,
And away and away run he (that were Him),
Until he come to a Jollian’s house (a Jew’s house — he met three Jew’s).

(He said) “Good evening you three Jollian men,
(He said) Your souls to be saved I pray,
And which out of you three Jollian mens,
Will play a ball with me?”

(They said) “We are lords’ and ladies’ sons,
Borned in the bowers of hall,
And you are but a poor mother’s child,
You was borned in the oxen stall (He said to our Lord see).”

(And our Lord said) “If I am a poor man’s child,
Borned in the oxhen’s stall,
I’ll make you repent the very next hour,
That I’m an angel above you all.”

Christ built the bridge with the beams of the sun,
An’ across the sea he went,
And these three jolly me went after him,
And they all got drownded three.




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