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The Ballad of Judas

[Peter Bellamy]

Peter Bellamy sang his song The Ballad of Judas, accompanied by his concertina and Chris Birch’s fiddle, in 1975 on his album Tell It Like It Was. He noted:

An attempt to make sense of the illogical story we all learned in school of the “heartless betrayer”. Words and tune are both attempts writing “in the traditional idiom”, but sumehow the result is not very convincing. Just a song.


Peter Bellamy sings The Ballad of Judas

When I was young I served my time at the leatherworker’s trade
I’d never have it good in careful life with part in little played
Until the man came to me and he bade me with him go.
He would preach a better way of life than all thing would I know.

So me and eleven others we went with this holy man;
We followed him from town to town both up and down the land.
And he made the lame to walk with pride, he made the blind to see
And me and my companions served the way of charity.

And very soon I came to see he was more than a man
But the very son of heaven, the Lord’s almighty hand.
So I followed him with my heart so glad all the ways that he would go
For that way lay deliverance upon us long ago.

For this man was born in David’s line and cast in Moses’ mould,
The one to lead the chosen race into a better world.
The one to cast the tyrant down, and to take the highest road
Yet to do this thing with humility enough to win the crown.

So thus I followed him gladly till to Jerusalem we came
He entered on a donkey and the people praised his name.
And ’twas then that I began to doubt the master and the man
That he reveled in their easy praise I could not understand.

For they salved his feet with ointments that might buy a familiy bread
It seemed cheap adulation had turned my prince’s head.
And with violence and arrogance the tradesmen he despoiled
And it seemed to me that he had lost the truth for which I toiled.

But the holy mob it was with him now, the holy men they frowned
It seemed to me my prince of peace might cast all order down
And then I was torn ’twixt loyalties to the old way or the new
But when they offered me bounty then I knew what I must do.

’Twas thus that he was taken, ’twas thus that he came to die,
My companions called me traitor and from them I must fly.
He has promised he will rise again, now I must bide and see
For if he comes then I must pay the price of villainy.


Transcription first attempted by Reinhard Zierke. But Peter’s singing is very difficult to understand in this song, so thanks to Ann Dowker for many corrections.