click to play

As I walked out one morning
A little before it was day
I heard a conversation
Between a carnal and a crane.

The carnal said unto the crane:
"If all the world should turn;
But once we had a father,
But now we have a son."

There was a star all in the east
Shone out a-shining throng, [strong?]
And shone in King Pharaoh's chamber,
And where King Pharaoh lay.

The wise men they soon spied it,
And soon King Pharaoh told
That an earthly babe was born that night
As no man on earth could destroy.

King Pharoah sent for his arm-ed men,
And ready then they be,
For all children under two years old
Shall be slain-ed, they shall be.

Joseph and Mary
Was weary of their rest;
They travelled into Eygpt,
Into the Holy Land.

"Go speed thy work", said Joseph,
"Go fetch thy oxen wain,
And carry home thy corn again
As which this day hath sown."

"If anyone should ask of you
Whether Jesus has passed by
You can tell them Jesus passed this way
Just as your seeds were sown."

Then up came King Pharoah
With his arm-ed men so bold,
Enquiring of the husbandman
Whether Jesus has passed by.

"The truth it must be spoken,
The truth it must be told:
I saw Jesus passing by
Just as my seeds were sown."

King Pharaoh said to his arm-ed men:
"Your labour and mine's in vain;
It's full three-quarters of a year
Since these seeds were sown."

abc | midi | pdf
Source: Bushes and Briars (Vaughan Williams), Ed Roy Palmer, ISBN 1-86143-072-8

Collected from Mrs Hirons, The Haven, Dilwyn, Hertfordshire, 1909 by Ralph Vaughan Williams, BL MSS 54187/91. 1, 282

Roy Palmer notes that the word "carnal" seems to have been used nowhere else but in this ballad. The Oxford English Dictionary in fact uses the Child Ballads as the definitive reference, which certainly opens up the possibility that the word is a corruption of another term.

The entry for Child Ballad 55 contains the following note:
"Mr Husk, who had access to a remarkably good collection of carols, afterwards unfortunately dispersed, had met with no copy of The Carnal and the Crane of earlier date than the middle of the last [i.e. 18th] century. Internal evidence points us much further back. The carol had obviously been transmitted from mouth to mouth before it was fixed in its present incoherent and corrupted form by print.

Carnal, cornicula, corneille, might be thought to have been long obsolete from the word not occurring in ordinary dictionaries, if in any: but it is hazardous to build conclusions on the omissions of dictionaries."

F. J. Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, vol. II p.7.

The word would presumably be a borrowing from the French corneille.

Broadside examples at  Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads:

Christmas carol. Carnal and crane Printer and date unknown. Johnson Ballads 2399.

The carnal and the crane Printed between 1821 and 1827 by T. Bloomer, 53, Edgbaston-street, Birmingham. Douce adds. 137(17).

Roud: 306 (Search Roud index at VWML)
Laws: A1
Child: 55

Related Songs:  King Pharim (thematic)

Browse Titles: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y Z