Tag Archives: landlords

(1400s) The Bitter Withy

The Bitter Withy was a popular carol carried in the oral tradition for many generations, believed to date back to the 15th century. In it some haughty young lords are drowned by a young Jesus after they mock him for being poor:

As it fell 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;
Don’t let me hear of any complaints
At night when you come home.”

So up the hill and down the hill
Our sweet young Saviour ran
Until he met three rich 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?”

“We are 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.”

Sweet Jesus turned him round about,
He did neither laugh nor smile,
But the tears came trickling from his eyes
Like water from the sky.

“If you’re all lords’ and ladies’ sons
Born in your bower and hall,
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 ran he;
The rich young lords chased after him
And drowned they were all three.

So up the hill and down the hill
Three rich young mothers ran
Saying, “Mary mild, fetch home your child
For ours he’s drowned each one.”

“Oh I’ve been down in yonder town
Far as the holy well,
I took away three sinful souls
And dipped them deep in hell.”

Then Mary mild, she took her child
And laid him across her knee
And with a handful of withy twigs
She gave him slashes three.

“Oh bitter withy, oh bitter withy
You’ve caused me to smart.
And the withy shall be the very first tree
To perish at the heart.”


(1550) Of Rente Raysers by Robert Crowley

Today’s discovery, some lovely words from 1550…

“Of Rente Raysers” by Robert Crowley

————————Original

A Manne that had landes of tenne pounde by yere,
Surueyed the same and lette it out deare;

So that of tenne pounde he made well a score (20)
Moe poundes by the yere than other dyd before.

But when he was told whan daunger it was
to oppresse his tenauntes, he sayed he did not passe.

For thys thynge, he sayde, full certayne he wyste,
That wyth hys owne he myghte alwayes do as he lyste.

But immediatlye, I trowe thys oppressoure fyl sicke
Of a voyce that he harde, “geue accountes of thy baliwicke!”

———————–my adaptation

A man that had lands worth ten pound each year,
Surveyed the same and then let it out dear;

So that of ten pound he made well a score (20)
More pounds by the year than all others before.

But when he was told what danger it was
To oppress his tenants, he said I don’t pause,

For this thing, he said, full certain he wist,
That with his own, he might do as he list.

But immediately, I trow, this oppressor fell sick:
Of a voice that he heard, ‘Give accounts of thy bailiwick!’