Ed de Moel

Child Ballads - Narrative

The Carnal and the Crane

  1. 'The Carnal and the Crane.'
    1. Sandys, Christmas Carols, p. 152, Christmastide, p. 246, from a broadside.
    2. Husk, Songs of the Nativity, p. 97, apparently from a Worcester broadside.
    3. Birmingham cbap-book, of about 1843, in B. Harris Cowper's Apocryphal Gospels, p. xli.
    Version A

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 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.[foot-note]

The well-informed Crane instructs his catechumen, the Crow, in several matters pertaining to the birth and earliest days of Jesus: the Immaculate Conception; the Nativity; the conference of Herod with the Wise Men, including the miracle of the roasted cock; the Flight into Egypt, with the Adoration of the Beasts and the Instantaneous Harvest; the Massacre of the Innocents. Of the apocryphal incidents, the miracle of the cock, sts 10, 11, has been spoken of under No 22. The adoration of the beasts, sts 15, 16, is derived from the Historia de Nativitate Mariæ, etc. (Pseudo-Matthæi Evangelium), c. 19, Thilo, p. 394, Tischendorf, p. 81, and is of course frequent in legendaries of the infancy of the Saviour,[foot-note] but is not remarkable enough to be popular in carols. The miraculous harvest, by which the Holy Family evade Herod's pursuit, is, on the contrary, a favorite subject with popular poetry, as also, like the bowing of the palm-tree, with pictorial art. I do not know where and when this pretty and clever legend was invented. In the Greek Gospel of Thomas, ch. 12, Jesus sows one grain of wheat, in the Latin Gospel of Thomas, ch. 10, and ch. 34 of the Pseudo-Mattthew, a very little, and reaps an immense crop at harvest time; Tischendorf, pp 143 f, 165 f, 97: but this passage would hardly even suggest the miracle in question.[foot-note] In a Swedish carol, 'Staffans-Visan,' reprinted from a recent broadside, in Dansk Kirketidende, 1861, cols 35, 36, by Professor George Stephens, and afterwards by Grundtvig, Danmarks Folkeviser, III, 882, the legend of the Cock and that of the Sower are combined, as here. The legend of the Sower is followed by that of the Palm-tree, and others, in La Fuito en Egypto, Arbaud, Chants p. de la Provence, II, 235. Another Provençal version of the Sower is given by Briz, IV, 70; a Catalan at pp 65 and 68, 'Lo rey Herodes;' ten Catalan versions by Milá, 'Herodes,' Romancerillo, pp 6-9, No 10. To these add: 'La Fuite en Égypte,' Poésies p. de la France, Manuscript, I, fol. 226, 'Le roi Hérode,' VI, 192; 'De Vlucht naar Egypten,' Lootens et Feys, p. 32, No 20, Hoffmann von Fallersleben, Horæ Belgicæ, Part Ten, p. 22, No 4; 'Die Flucht Maria's,' Haupt und Schmaler, Volkslieder der Wenden, I, 275, No 283; Bezsonof, Kalyeki Perekhozhie, II, 116, No 319. The legend of the Sower occurs also in Le Geu des Trois Roys, Jubinal, Mystères inédits du 15e Siècle, II, 117-131.

It is ordinarily Mary, and not Jesus, who operates the miracle; in the French mystery it is perhaps Joseph.[foot-note] In the Provençal and Catalan ballads the Virgin commonly hides behind a sheaf or a stack, and does not pass on.[foot-note]

This page most recently updated on 05-Mar-2011, 17:01:41.
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