The Prince and the Pauper – Chapter Thirteen – Historical Tidbit

Chapter 13’s Historical Tidbit was a hard one to find! There weren’t many options to choose from in Chapter 13. But there was a part of the chapter that I’ve always been curious about. While Miles is repairing a set of clothes that he bought secondhand for Edward, he sings to himself. But is the song that he sings a real song? Today’s Historical Tidbit is….

Miles’ Song

Keep reading or watch the video below to learn more about it!

As stated before, in Chapter 13, Miles is singing a song as he works. He only sings a few lines, and it is constantly interruped by his narration about sewing, but he sings enough of it for me to be curious. Part of the chapter where he is singing pieces of the song is featured below:

“‘She loved her husband dearilee,
But another man—’
“These be noble large stitches!”—holding the garment up and viewing it admiringly—“they have a grandeur and a majesty that do cause these small stingy ones of the tailor-man to look mightily paltry and plebeian—
“‘She loved her husband dearilee,
But another man he loved she,—’” (p. 72)

What is the song?

From what I could find, this song is a traditional folk song. In most of the variations, it is about a wife’s attempted murder of her husband. The song has unknown origins, and has a number of different variations. Some of those variations have different titles like “Eggs and Marrowbone”, “There Was An Old Woman”, “The Old Woman from Boston”, “The Rich Old Lady”, and more.

Lyrics (from one version)

There was an old woman in our town,
In our town did dwell,
And she loved her old husband dearly,
But another man twice as well.

Sing whip she la-rey, tid-i-foo la-rey,
Whip she la-rey O.

Now she went and got six marrow-bones
And she made him suck them all,
And that made the old man blind
Till he couldn’t see any at all.

The old man said he’d drown himself
If he could find the way.
The old woman quickly answered:
O I’ll show you the way.

She led him to the water
And took him to the brim.
And he said he’d drown himself
If she would push him in.

The old woman she went to give a run
To push the old man in,
And he popped to the one side,
And the woman went tumbling in.

She plunged about in the water
A-thinking she could swim
But the old man went and got a puthering prop
And he propped her further in.

So now my song is ended,
You may pen it down in ink,
I won’t bother my head to sing any more
If you don’t give me some drink.

Modern Song Variation

  • Richard Dryer-Bennet
  • “Eggs and Marrowbone”
  • Recorded in 1945

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