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The Jew's Garden / (Little) Sir Hugh

[ Roud 73 ; Child 155 ; Ballad Index C155 ; trad.]

Cecil Sharp collected Sir Hugh from Dol Small of Nellysford, Nelson County, VA, on May 22, 1918. Maud Karpeles recorded it from her in September 1950 with hardly changed text and tune. This recording was included in 2017 on the Musical Traditions anthology When Cecil Left the Mountains.

Nelstone's Hawaiians from Atlanta, GA, sang Fatal Flower Garden in a November 30, 1929 recording that was included in 2015 on the anthology of British songs in the USA, My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.

Cecilia Costello sang The Jew's Garden on November 30, 1951 in Birmingham to Maria Slocombe. This BBS recording was included on the anthology The Child Ballads 2 (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 5; Caedmon 1961; Topic; 1968), on her eponymous 1975 Leader album Cecilia Costello, and on her 2015 Musical Traditions anthology Old Fashioned Songs. Rod Stradling commented in the accompanying booklet:

Although the supposed 12th-century murder of Hugh of Lincoln has been cited by some scholars as the origin of this ballad, it would seem more likely that it is, in fact, based on even earlier beliefs—mythological rather than historical. According to Chaucer:

O yonge Hugh of Lincoln—slayne also
With cursed Jewes, as it is notable,
For it is but a litel while ago—
Praye eek for us, we synful folk unstable.
                                        The Prioress's Tale

The ballad has remained popular with Gypsies in Britain—Child included a set collected by Francis Groome, a Victorian gypsiologist—an ironic fact when one considers that this is a ballad concerning the persecution of the Jews, being sung by Gypsies, some 2 million of whom died alongside 6 million Jews in Nazi Germany. In several American sets the murderer is shown to be a Gypsy—a reflection there of the prejudice that is inherent in so many societies.

A surprisingly well-known song, with 272 Roud entries—two thirds from the USA. It was widely printed in broadsides, which may account for its popularity. Most of the 54 English entries include named singers, but the 25 Scots ones reveal only 6 names, and there's only one from Ireland.

A.L. Lloyd sang Sir Hugh on his and Ewan MacColl's 1956 Riverside anthology The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (The Child Ballads) Volume I. This recording was re-issued in 2011 on his Fellside anthology Bramble Briars and Beams of the Sun. Vic Gammon commented extensively in the album's booklet:

This song is traditional balladry's contribution to the blood libel that has underpinned the persecution of Jewish people, including numerous confiscations, executions and banishments, for centuries. […] Matthew Hodgart remarks that “the story is a common motif in folklore, an anti-Semitic legend which appears in many forms in the Middle Ages,” Cecil Sharp states:

Bishop Percy rightly concludes “the whole charge to be groundless and malicious”. Murders of this sort have been imputed to the Jews for seven hundred and fifty years or more; and similar accusations have been made in Russia and other countries in Eastern Europe even in the 19th century—and as late as 1883. Child sums up the whole matter by saying, “These pretend child-murders, with their horrible consequences, are only a part of a persecution which, with all its moderation, may be rubricated as the most disgraceful chapter in the history of the human race.”

Sharp thus places himself in a line of denunciation going back to the eighteenth century and taking in monuments of ballad publication; he, nevertheless, chose to print the song, replete with piano arrangement. It is worth noting other minorities and cultural groups have also been accused of similar practices but it is Jewish communities that have been the chief victims of such slanders. […]

That this song of enticement and ritual murder proved popular in oral tradition and print is one indication of its efficacy and hold on the popular imagination. Child prints 21 texts from English, Scottish and (unusual for him) North American sources. Bronson reproduces 66 tunes with texts with an emphasis on North American versions; Roud gives a stunning 253 references to publications and deposits.

The story the song tells is arresting enough without its long-lasting anti-Semitism and in fact exists in some (particularly North American) versions where the perpetrator is not Jewish (Coffin comments on the loss of elements of the story in some North American versions and writes “the religious note is almost forgotten”). Mortal danger and death of children has long been a widespread theme in traditional and vernacular song. There is an obvious historical interest in this ballad but I am at a loss to understand why revivalists singers carry on singing it. The ballad is evil and perpetuates a lie that has caused the suffering and death of many innocent people. […] Yet the song is very high in what could call ballad quality; it combines deadly and dangerous ideology with a way of telling that puts it among some of the best examples of its kinds. This is something of a paradox.

[…]Lloyd's tune is from John Swain of Donyatt, Somerset, but his text is a collation made from Swain's and two other Somerset versions collected by Sharp and printed by him, as a set, in the Journal of the Folk Song Society in 1916.

In his performance Lloyd uses his mid and upper range, pushing towards the limits of his full-voice range. The performance is measured and stoical.

Martyn Wyndham-Read sang The Fatal Flower Garden on his 1964 Australian EP Folk Songs.

The Ian Campbell Folk Group sang Little Sir Hugh on their 1968 Transatlantic album The Cock Doth Crow. This track was also included on their 2005 anthology The Times They Are A-Changin'.

John Ban Byrne from Co.Donegal, sang Little Sir Hugh to Hugh Shields on September 5, 1968. This recording was included in 1975 on the Leader album of songs from Shields' collection, Folk Ballads from Donegal and Derry.

Caroline Hughes performed The Jew's Garden to Ewan MacColl and Pegger Seeger in 1963 or 1966. This was included in 1977 in MacColl's book Travellers' Songs from England and Scotland and in 2014 on the singer's Musical Traditions anthology Sheep-Crook and Black Dog. Rod Stradling commented in the accompanying booklet:

Mrs Hughes is not alone in being uneasy about actually singing this song—Peter Shepheard had a similar problem getting Lemmie Brazil to sing it; she also preferred to recite the words and la-la the tune.

Lemmie Brazil sang Little Sir Hugh in his caravan at Walham Tump, Glos., to Peter Shepheard on September 29, 1967. This recording was included in 2007 on the Brazil Family's Musical Traditions anthology Down By the Old Riverside.

Pete and Chris Coe sang Hugh of Lincoln on their 1972 Trailer album Open the Door and Let Us In.

Margaret Stewart sang Sir Hugh and the Jew's Daughter on the 1975 anthology The Muckle Sangs (Sottish Tradition 5).

Steeleye Span recorded Little Sir Hugh for their 1975 album Commoners Crown. A live recording from the Royal Opera Theatre in Adelaide, Australia in 1982 was released on the rare Australian-only LP On Tour.

Minty Smith from Epsom, Surrey, sang The Jew's Garden to Mike Yates in 1975 or 1976. This recording was included in 1977 on the Smith's Topic anthology The Travelling Songster and in 2003 on the Musical Traditions anthology of Gypsy songs and music from South-East England, Here's Luck to a Man.

Jim Eldon sang The Jew's Garden on his 1984 album I Wish There Was No Prisons.

Alasdair Roberts sang Little Sir Hugh on his 2010 CD Too Long in This Condition.

Compare the chorus to Eliza Carthy's song Mother, Go Make My Bed on the album Eliza Carthy and The Kings of Calicutt.

Viola Cole sang It Rained, It Mist to Mike Yates at her home near Hillsville, Carroll County, VA, on August 23, 1980. This recording was included in 2002 on the Musical Traditions anthology of songs, tunes and stories from Mike Yates' Appalachian collections, Far in the Mountains Volume 2. Mike Yates commented:

This once popular European ballad has survived well in the upland south of America, although I doubt that Viola really understood the full horror of the tale. The abduction and murder of Christian children by the Jews was a well-known idea in the Middle Ages. In England, the story of Hugh of Lincoln was included in the Annals of Waverly (1255), and Chaucer took the idea for The Prioress's Tale. But there are many other similar tales scattered throughout Europe. According to Professor Child, “Murders like that of Hugh of Lincoln have been imputed to the Jews for at least seven hundred and fifty years, and the charge, which there is reason to suppose may still from time to time be renewed, has brought upon the accused every calamity that the hand of man can inflict, pillage, confiscation, banishment, torture, and death, and this in huge proportions.” Bernard Malamud's novel The Fixer is but a retelling of this very ancient theme and James Joyce incorporates the ballad (as a short song) in his novel Ulysses.

Other American recordings include those by Ollie Gilbert on Rounder CD 1707 and the curiously named Nelstone's Hawaiians on Smithsonian Folkways Anthology of American Folk Music (SFW CD 40090), while there is a Scottish set sung by Margaret Stewart on Greentrax CDTRAX 9005 and an Irish version sung by John Byrne on the European Ethnic cassette Early Ballads in Ireland (no issue number) edited by Tom Munnelly and Hugh Shields.

Sam Lee sang The Jew's Garden on his 2012 CD Ground of Its Own.

Lyrics

Dol Small sings Sir Hugh

She tossed it high and she tossed it low,
She tossed it in yonder's hall,
Saying, “Come along, my little boy Hugh
And get your silken ball.”

“I can't come in and I won't come in
To get my silken ball,
For if my master knew it all
He'd let my life's blood fall.”

She took him by his lily-white hand,
She led him through the hall,
And in that silver basin clear
She let his life's blood fall.

She wound him up in a lily-white sheet,
Three or four times four,
And tossed him into her draw well,
'Twas both deep and cold.

The day had passed and the even' had come,
The scholars going home.
Every mother had a son,
Little Hugh's had none.

She broke a switch all off that birch,
Through the town she run.
“I'm going to meet my little boy Hugh,
I'm sure for to whip him home.”

She ran till she came to the old Jew's gate,
The old Jew's all so sleep.
She heard a voice in that draw well,
It were both cold and deep.

“Cheer up, dear mother, it's here I've lain,
It's here I've lain so long.
With a little penknife pierced through my heart,
The stream did run so strong.”

“Go take me out of this draw well,
Make me a coffin or birch.
O take me out of this draw well,
Bury me at yonder's church.”

Cecilia Costello sings The Jew's Garden

It hails, it rains in merry Scotland
It hails all over the sea
When all the children in the town
They like to play at ball.

They throwed the ball so high and so low
They throwed it into the air
They throwed it into the Jew's garden
The Jew he lay below.

He showed him an apple as green as grass
He showed him a prettier thing
He showed him a cherry as red as blood
Until he 'ticed him in.

He laid him in a chair of gold
‘Til he went fast asleep
He laid him on the Jew's board
And stabbed him like a sheep.

Caroline Hughes' The Jew's Garden

Spoken:
Down in merry Scotland
Where the rain it did come down,
There was two little boys went out one day
To have a game with the ball.

He kicked the ball so very, very high,
He kicked the ball so low;
‘Twas pitched all over the Jew’s garden
Where the Jew lived just down below.

Out come one of the head Jews. He asked the little boy what he wanted. He said, “I kicked my ball in the garden.” “You come, you shall have your ball again.” He took the little boy and he laid ‘m on the table and he stuck him like a sheep. He said, “Let me say these last few words before I die.” He said:

“You’ll dig my grave so very, very deep
Put a marble stone on my grave;
And if my tender mother should happen to come this way,
You tell her I’m asleep.”

Mrs Hughes then sings the melody

Lemmie Brazil sings Little Sir Hugh

As she was a-walking through the park, the snow was very deep
And up come two pretty little boys for to play at ball.

They tossed it up so very high, they tossed it down so low
They tossed it over in the Jew's garden, where the Jews do lay by law.

Out come one of the Jew's daughters, all dressed up in green
She said, “Come in, my pretty little boy, you'll have your ball again.”

She sat him in the golden chair, she give him sugar sweet;
She laid him on the chest of drawers and stabbed him like a sheep.

“Put a bible at my head and a testament at my feet
And if my mother should come this way, don't tell her I'm dead; I'm asleep.”

Steeleye Span sing Little Sir Hugh

2× Chorus:
“Mother, mother, make my bed,
Make for me a winding sheet.
Wrap me up in a cloak of gold,
See if I can sleep.”

Four and twenty bonny, bonny boys playing at the ball.
Along came little Sir Hugh, he played with them all.
He kicked the ball very high, he kicked the ball so low,
He kicked it over a castle wall where no one dared to go.

Out came a lady gay, she was dressed in green.
“Come in, come in little Sir Hugh, fetch your ball again.”
“I won't come in, I can't come in without my playmates all;
For if I should I know you would cause my blood to fall.”

2× Chorus

She took him by the milk white hand, led him to the hall
Till they came to a stone chamber where no one could hear him call.
She sat him on a golden chair, she gave him sugar sweet,
She lay him on a dressing board and stabbed him like a sheep.

Out came the thick thick blood, out came the thin.
Out came the bonny heart's blood till there was none within.
She took him by the yellow hair and also by the feet.
She threw him in the old draw well fifty fathoms deep.

3×Chorus

Minty Smith sings The Jew's Garden

Oh, three little boys went out for to play,
A-playing with the ball.
Till they playing with the ball,
Over in the Jew's garden.

“Come here little boy, you can have your ball,
You can have your ball again.”
As he reached for this ball
And she grabbed him like a sheep.

She takes him upstairs and lays him on her knee.
The first thing she picked him was an apple—green as grass.
Then the next thing what she picked him was a cherry—as red as blood.

“Oh, if my mother was to come by this way,
Will you tell her I'm asleep.”

Viola Cole sings It Rained, It Mist

It rained, it mist, it rained, it mist,
It rained all over the town.
And two little boys went out to play,
To toss their ball around, around.
To toss their ball around.

It was first too high and then too low,
Till they tossed it into the jury room,
Where no one was allowed to go, to go,
Where no one was allowed to go.

Pretty soon, pretty soon, there came a pretty miss,
All stylish and dressed in green.
“Come in, come in, my dear little ones,
You shall have your ball again, again.
You shall have your ball again.”

“I shan't come in, I won't come in,
Unless my playmate comes too.
For I've often heard of the one's going in,
And never coming out anymore, anymore.
And never coming out anymore.”

At first she showed him a red rosy apple,
And then she showed him a chain.
And then she showed him a diamond ring,
To entice the little one in, oh, in.
To entice the little one in.

She took him by the little white hand,
She led him through the hall.
She led him into the dining room,
Where no one could hear his call, his call.
Where no one could hear his call.

She pinned a napkin over his face,
She pinned it with a pin.
And then she took her little penknife,
And took his little heart in, oh, in.
And took his little heart in.

“Oh, spare my life, Oh, spare my life,
Oh, spare my life,” he cried.
“If ever I live to be a man,
My treasures shall all be thine, oh, thine.
My treasures shall all be thine.”

“Oh, place the prayer book at my feet,
The Bible at my head.
And when my playmate calls for me,
You can tell him that I am dead, oh, dead.
You can tell him that I am dead.”

Links

See also the Mudcat Café threads Origins: It Rained a Mist (Child #155), Lyr Req: Little Sir Hugh (from Steeleye Span), and Origins: Controversial songs - Little Sir Hugh.