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Dives and Lazarus

[ Roud 477 ; Child 56 ; Ballad Index C056 ; trad.]

Dives and Lazarus is a story told by Jesus in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 16:19-31). It tells of an unnamed rich man and a poor beggar named Lazarus. In the Latin Bible, the unnamed rich man is referred to as Dives from dives, the Latin word for rich.

The ballad's variant Child 56A was taken from Joshua Sylvester's A Garland of Christmas Carols, ancient and modern, including some never before given in any collections, London, 1861. Sylvester cited “an old Birmingham broadside” as his source. Under 56A Child also cites a text in William Henry Husk's Songs of the Nativity (London, 1870s), derived “from a Worcestershire broadside of the last century”, and specifies the relatively minor particulars in which it differs from the main text. There are a number of broadside texts at Bodleian Library Broadsides, including four printed in Birmingham.

Dives and Lazarus is sung to a tune that is also used for other songs like Norfolk's Murder of Maria Marten, Scottish Gilderoy, and the Irish air Star of the County Down.

Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote an arrangement called Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus for harp and string orchestra.

Royston Wood sang Dives and Lazarus on the Young Tradition's eponymous first album, The Young Tradition. The album's liner notes commented:

Collected by both Sharp and Vaughan Williams, this is a simple but eloquent version of the story of rich old Dives who slighted the beggar Lazarus and got his desserts for doing so. The sung must have appealed to the countryfolk, who would have appreciated the idea of Lazarus, downtrodden on Earth, finding a place in Heaven, where he sits on an angel's knee. Since Royston started singing this song, it has undergone some subtle changes musically. The tune is related to the Irish air of Star of the County Down.

Swan Arcade learned Dives and Lazarus from the singing of Royston Wood and recorded it with their own tune for their 1983 LP, Together Forever. They commented in the album notes:

The words came from Royston Wood when he sang with us. Heather [Brady] put them to this tune. The Story has a great sense of fair play which is not much on evidence in today's world.

June Tabor sang Dives and Lazarus in 1990 on her and the Oysterband's album Freedom and Rain.

Martin Simpson recorded Dives and Lazarus for his 2001 album The Bramble Briar.

Eliza Carthy sang Dives and Lazarus unaccompainied live at The Queen's Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland on December 21, 2003. The whole concert (with Rory McLeod, Mary Macmaster and lots of others) was published on the Green Linnet CD Cold Blow These Winter Winds.

Rick Kemp re-worked Diversus and Lazarus somewhat for Steeleye Span's 2004 CD They Called Her Babylon. He reasoned in the album's sleeve notes:

A perennial tale of haves and have nots, the dire consequences of greed and selfishness, the rewards of humility and frugality. This is assembled from several versions, and then wildly cut to make space for the riffs, but I think that the essence of the story remains.

Derek Gifford sang Dives and Lazarus in 105 on his WildGoose CD Songs from the Past … into the Future. He commented in his liner notes:

This was one of my early additions to my traditional repertoire which I learned from the singing of The Young Tradition. The simple moral of this tale of course is that if you're rich you'll go to hell and if you're poor you'll go to heaven—so we're all right!

Lyrics

The Young Tradition's Dives and LazarusSteeleye Span's Diversus and Lazarus

As it fell out upon one day,
Rich Divers he gave a feast;
And invited all his neighbours in,
And gentry of the best.

As it fell out upon a day
Rich Diversus made a feast.
And he invited all his friends
And the gentry of the best.

And it fell out upon that day,
Poor Lazarus he was so poor,
He came and laid him down and down,
Even down by Diverus' door.

Then Lazarus laid him down and down,
Even down by Diverus' door,
“Some meat, some drink, brother Diverus,
Do bestow upon the poor.”

Then Lazarus laid him down and down,
Laid him down at Diversus door.
“Some meat, some drink, my brother Diversus
Will you bestow upon the poor.”

“Thou are none of mine, brother Lazarus,
Lying begging at my door,
No meat, no drink, will I give thee,
Nor bestow upon the poor.”

“Thou art none of my brothers, Lazarus,
That lies begging at my door.
No meat nor drink will I give to thee, Lazarus,
Nor bestow upon the poor.”

Then Lazarus he laid him down and down,
Even down by Diverus' wall,
“Some meat, some drink, brother Diverus,
Or surely starve I shall.”

“Thou are none of mine, brother Lazarus,
Lying begging at my wall,
No meat, no drink, will I give thee,
And surely starve you shall.”

Then Lazarus he laid him down and down,
Even down by Diverus' gate,
“Some meat, some drink, brother Diverus,
For Jesus Christ His sake.”

“Thou are none of mine, brother Lazarus,
Lying begging at my gate,
No meat, no drink, will I give thee,
For Jesus Christ His sake.”

Then Diverus sent his merry men all
For to whip poor Lazarus away.
They had no will to whip one whip
But threw their whips away.

Diversus sent his men
To whip poor Lazarus away.
But they had no power to strike a stroke
But flung their whips away.

Then Diverus sent his hungry dogs
For to bite poor Lazarus away;
They had not will to bite one bite
But licked his wounds away.

Diversus sent his hungry dogs
To bite him as he lay.
But they had no power to bite
But licked his sores away.

Then it fell out upon one day,
Poor Lazarus he sickened and died.
There came two angels out of Heaven,
His soul thereto to guide.

It fell out upon a day
Poor Lazarus grew sick and died.
There came two angels out of heaven above,
His souls thereto to guide.

“Rise up, rise up, brother Lazarus
And come you along with me.
There is a place prepared in Heaven,
For to sit upon an angel's knee.”

“Rise up, rise up, my brother Lazarus,
And you come along with me.
There is a place prepared in heaven
Upon an Angel's knee.”

Then it fell out upon one day,
Rich Diverus he sickened and died.
There came two serpents out of hell,
His soul thereto to guide.

And it fell out upon a day
Rich Diversus sickened and died.
There came a serpent out of hell,
His souls thereto to guide.

“Rise up, rise up, brother Diverus
And come you along with me.
There is a place prepared in hell
For to sit upon a serpent's knee.”

“Rise up, rise up, my evil brother,
Won't you come along with me.
There is a place prepared in hell
Upon a serpent's knee.”

𝄆 If I were alive again,
In the space of one half hour
I would make my peace secure
And take the devil's power. 𝄇

Acknowledgements

The history of the ballad is from Malcolm Douglas' words in the Mudcat Café thread Help: Dives and azarus - or vice versa.