SIGNS OF THE SEASON. 129
The strange, wild ballad beginning—
" 1 saw three ships come sailing in,
On Christmas day, on Christmas day ; I saw three ships come sailing in,
On Christmas-day in the morning ;"—
and the still stranger one of" The Holy Well,"—we would have copied at length, as examples of these curious relics, if we could have spared the space. Of the latter, however, we will give our readers some account, to show the singular liberties which were taken with sacred personages and things, in these old carols. In the one in question, the boy Jesus having asked his mother's permission to go and play, receives it, accompanied with the salutary injunction—
" And let me hear of no complaint At night when you come home.
Sweet Jesus went down to yonder town,
As far as the Holy Well, And there did see as fine children
As any tongue can tell."
On preferring, however, his petition to these children—
" Little children, shall I play with you, And you shall play with me ?"—
he is refused, on the ground of his having been " born in an ox's stall "—they being " lords and ladies' sons."
" Sweet Jesus turned him around, And he neither liugh'd nor smil'd, But the tears came trickling from his eyes, Like water from the skies."
Whereupon he returns home, to report his grievance to his mother :—who answers—
" Though you are but a maiden's child, Born in an ox's stall, Thou art the Christ, the King of Heaven, And the Saviour of them all;"— 10