Oh, don't you remember, a long time ago,
When two little babies, their names I don't know,
Were stolen away one bright summer day,
And lost in the woods, I've heard people say.
And when it was night, oh, sad was their plight,
The moon had gone down, the stars gave no light;
They sobbed and they sighed, and bitterly cried,
Then the poor little babes, they lay down and died.
And when they were dead the robins so red,
Brought strawberry leaves and over them spread,
And sang them a song the whole summer long,
Poor babes in the woods, who never did wrong.
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Source: Randolph, V, 1982. Ozark Folksongs, Illinois Press, Urbana
Collected by Vance Randolph from Marie Wilbur, Pineville, Mo., June 30, 1929.
This old English piece was printed in Percy's Reliques, from a copy in the Pepys collection (Tolman and Eddy). In the original version, which Percy thought was written by Rob Yarrington in 1601, the children's uncle hired two ruffians to murder the children, so that he might inherit their property. One of the scoundrels slew the other and ran away, leaving the children to die of starvation and exposure.
For texts from oral tradition in America see McGill; Pund; Scarborough; Sharp; Gardiner and Chickering; Belden; Brewster.
Compare with the Copper Family version.
Roud: 288 (Search Roud index at VWML) Take Six