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
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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