Page:One Hundred English Folksongs (1916).djvu/45
NOTES ON THE SONGS
the “lily-white babes” are probably the Gemini, or signs for Spring.
(3) “Thrivers,” “Tires,” or “Trivers.” It has been suggested that these may be corruptions of “Wisers,” as one printed version gives it, and may refer to the Wise Men from the East.
(4) Always “Gospel Preachers” or “Makers.”
(5) “The boys upon the pole,” “The thimble over the ball,” “The plum boys at the bowl,” or “in the brow.”
(6) “Broad Waiters,” “Charming Waiters,” “Go Waiters,” “The Minger Waiters.” The editors of English County Songs suggest that these may refer to the six water-pots used in the miracle of Cana of Galilee.
(7) Always “Seven stars in the sky” — presumably the constellation of Ursa Major.
(8) “The Gibley Angels,” “The Angel Givers,” “The Gabriel Angels.”
(9) No Somerset variants. Mr. Baring-Gould records a Devon variant, “The Nine Delights,” that is, the joys of Mary.
(10) No variants.
(11) “Eleven and eleven is gone to heaven,” that is, the twelve Apostles without Judas Iscariot.
(12) No variants.
In Notes and Queries for December 26, 1868, there is a version of the words of this song as “sung by the children at Becktngton, Somerset.” It begins as follows:
Sing, sing, what shall we sing ?
Sing all ever one.
One! What is one?
One they do call the righteous Man.
Save poor souls to rest. Amen.
These are the remaining verses:
Two is the Jewry.
Three is the Trinity.
Four is the open door.
Five it the man alive.
Six is the crucifix.
Seven is the bread of leaven.
Eight is the crooked straight.
Nine is the water wine.
Ten is our Lady’s hen.
Eleven is the gate of heaven.
Twelve is the ring of bells.
A Hebrew version of the words of “The Ten Commandments” is to be found in the service for the Passover (see Service for the First Nights of Passover according to the custom of the German and Polish Jews, by the Rev. A. P. Mendes). The service for the second night of the Passover concludes with two recitations, both of which are accumulative songs. The second of these, “One only kid,” has nothing to do with “The Ten Commandments,” but, as it is analogous to the English nursery song, “The Old Woman and her Pig,” it is perhaps worth while to quote the last verse:
Then came the Most Holy, blessed be He, and slew the slaughterer, who had slaughtered the ox, which had drunk the water, which had burnt the staff, which had smitten the dog, which had bitten the cat, which had devoured the kid, which my father bought for two zuzim; one only kid, one only kid.
This, of course, is explained esoterically. The “cat,” for instance, refers to Babylon; the “dog” to Persia; the “staff” to Greece, and so on (see Mendes).
The other accumulative song, which precedes “One only kid,” is a Hebrew rendering of “The Ten Commandments” of western England. It contains thirteen verses:
Who knoweth one? I, saith Israel, know one: One is God, who is over heaven and earth.
Who knoweth two? I, saith Israel, know two: there are two tables of the covenant; but One is our God, who is over heaven and earth.
Who knoweth three? I, saith Israel, know three: there are three patriarchs, the two tables of the covenant; but One is our God, who is ever heaven and earth.
Etc., etc., etc.
Who knoweth thirteen? I, saith Israel, know thirteen: Thirteen divine attributes, twelve tribes, eleven stars, ten commandments, nine months preceding child-birth, eight days preceding circumcision, seven days in the week, six books of the Mishnah, five books of the Law, four matrons, three patriarchs, two tables of the covenant; but One is our God, who is over the heavens and the earth.
Whether “One only kid” and “Who knoweth One?” originated with the common people and were afterward taken into the Passover service, or vice versa, is a matter of some doubt. Sim-