Friday, October 28, 2005

The Bitter Withy

Traditionally Christian parents believed that to spare the rod was to spoil the child.

Not in social-worker Britain. There can be no doubt that the Blessed Virgin would be facing very serious charges if this folksong bears any truth. Note the class warfare aspect - I bet this didn't get sung at the "big house" too often. More on the withy and Max Ernst here.

The 'Withy' is the willow tree, which indeed rots from the inside.

As it fell out on a high holiday
Sweet rain from heaven did fall,
Our Saviour asked his mother Mary mild
If he might play at ball.

"At ball, at ball, my own dear son
"It's time that you were gone
And don't let me hear of the games of youth
At night when you return."

So it's up the hill and down the hill
Our sweet young saviour ran,
And there he met three rich young lords,
Good morning to each one.

"Good morn," "Good morn," "Good morn," they said,
"Good morning," then said he,
And which of you three rich lord's sons
Will play at the ball with me?

Oh, we are lords and ladies sons
Born bower or in hall
And you are naught but a poor maid's child
Born in an asses stall.

Though you be lords and ladiess sons
Born in bower or in hall,
Yet I will show you at the last,
I'm an angel above you all.

So he built a him a bridge of the beams of the sun
And over the river ran he,
Three rich lords sons came after him
And drowned they were all three.

So it's up the hill and down the hill
Three rich young mothers did call,
Crying, "Mary mild, call home your child,
For ours he's drownded all."

So Mary mild fetched home her child,
And laid him across her knee,
And with a handful of bitter withy twigs
She gave him slashes three.

Oh bitter withy, oh bitter withy,
The bitter withy caused me to smart,
The withy shall be the very first tree
That perisheth at the heart.

Image - Max Ernst "The Blessed Virgin Chastises The Infant Jesus" via Dynamic Planet

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