Child's Ballads

Week 12: England - Assignments - Reading - Resources - Images

Jew's Garden (Child 155)

Listening time: (6 minutes)

CHILD 155 versions A-U. I was amazed to find a version of this song being sung in the Ozarks, since it goes back to the persecution of Jews in medieval and early modern Europe. It was a widely known ballad; Child records over 20 different versions. Lesley Nelson-Burns comments:

"The ballad appears in Jamieson's Popular Ballads (circa 1783). Anglo-French ballads of the tale date back to 1259. The events are supposed to have taken place in the 13th century. The Annals of Waverly (1255) related the tale of a child who was crucified by the Jews. To conceal this fact the body was thrown in a stream, but it surfaced. The body was then buried, but found above ground the next day. The body was thrown into a well. The well was then lit by a bright light which caused people to think something holy was there. Looking into the well they found Hugh's body floating. The King ordered an investigation and eighteen Jews confessed and were hung. However, Bishop Percy [an early collector of English ballads] concluded that the events were "groundless and malicious." Charges of ritual murder was common against Jews. They were first levelled in twelfth-century England, and occurred throughout Europe as late as the 1880s. Jews were said to kill Christian children, often before Easter, for ritual purposes. These fabrications, known as the Blood Libel, made a cult of the supposed victims and was an excuse for persecution which took a toll of thousands of Jewish lives over many centuries."


It rained, it mist, it rained, it mist
It rained all over th town
Th boys went out to throw their ball
To toss their ball one day, one day
One day to toss their ball

Th first was to high and th next to low
And into th Jews garden
Into th Jews garden, it rolled
Where no one would dare to go, to go
Where no one would dare to go

Th first that came out was th Jews youngest daughter
All dressed in ribbons gay
She said, come in my little boy
And you shall have your ball, your ball
And you shall have your ball

I won't come in, I shan't come in
I will not come in there
For if I was to come in there
I'd never get out any more, any more
I'd never get out any more

Th first she showed 'im, was a mellow apple
Th next a finger ring
Th next a cherry, red as blood
To entice that little fellow in, o in
To entice that little fellow in

She took him by th lily white hand
She led 'im through th hall
And in th corner laid him low
Where no one could hear him layment, layment
Where no one could hear him layment

Go bury my Bible at my head
My prayer book at my feet
And when my schoolmates calls for me
You tell 'em that I am a sleep, o sleep
You tell 'em that I am sleep

Go bury my prayer book at my feet
My Bible at my head
And when my schoolmates calls for me
You tell 'em that I am dead, o dead
You tell 'em that I am dead

Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

  • why does the boy want to go into the garden?
  • how does the woman entice him in?
  • what happens to the boy in the end?

Source: From The Max Hunter Folksong Archive (weblink) and Lesley Nelson's Child Ballad website (weblink). See also Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (1882-1898). Weblink.


Modern Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:52 PM