Adam and Eve
DESCRIPTION: "Adam and Eve could never believe That Peter the Miller was dead." Peter had been locked up for stealing flour. "They bored a hole in Oliver's nose and led him by a string "for murdering Charles our king."
EARLIEST DATE: 1893 (Broadwood/Maitland)
KEYWORDS: captivity homicide punishment theft nonballad
May 29, 1660 - On his 30th birthday Charles II enters London. Restoration Day is celebrated May 29.
FOUND IN: Britain(England(South))
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Broadwood/Maitland, pp. 176-177, "Adam and Eve" (2 texts, 1 tune)
NOTES [609 words]: There are two issues here. First is boring a hole in someone's nose and leading them by a string. The second is leading "Oliver."
Here's a verse from Johnny Lad: "We'll bore in Aaron's nose a hole, And put therein a ring; And straight we'll lead him to and fro, Yea, lead him with a string" (source: Peter Buchan, Ancient Ballads and Songs of the North of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1875 (reprint of 1828 edition)), Vol II, pp. 153-154, "Johnny, Lad" (1 text)). Here's a verse from something like "Old Grimes is Dead": "A friend of mine living in Oxfordshire remembers part of a song sung forty years ago (called "Old Rose") to the tune of the Old Hundredth Psalm, as follows:-- 'Old Rose is dead, that good old man, We ne'er shall see him more; He used to wear an old blue coat All buttoned down below. 'We bored a hole through Cromwell's nose, And there we put a string; We led him to the water's side, And then we pushed him in" (source: Sidney Beisly, "Song, 'Old Rose'" in Notes and Queries (London, 1868 ("Digitized by Google"), Fourth Series, Vol. I, Jan-Jun 1868 (March 7, 1868), p. 235). Also, "if the old poets can be believed, "I bored a hole in Aesop's nose, And through it run a string; I led him to the river bank, And kicked the bugger in" (source: W.W.H. Davis, El Gringo; or New Mexico and Her People (New York, 1857 ("Digitized by Google")), p. 362).
Moving from song and rhyme to story: "Now Tom, being married, made a plentiful feast, to which he invited all the poor widows in the parish, for the sake of his mother, who had been lately buried. This feast was carried on with the greatest solemnity, and, being ended, a silver cup was missing, and being asked about it they all denied it. At last, all being searched, the cup was found on an old woman named Strumbelow. Then all the rest were in a rage; some were for hanging her, others for chopping the old woman in pieces for ingratitude to such a generous benefactor. But he entreated them all to be quiet, saying they should not murder a poor old woman, for he would appoint a punishment for her, which was this: - -He bored a hole through her nose, and put a string in it, and then ordered her to be stripped; so commanding the rest of the old women to lead her through all the streets and lanes in Cambridge, which comical sight caused a general laughter. This being done, she had her clothes again, and so was acquitted" (source: "The History of Thomas Hickathrift" in Robert Hays Cunningham, editor, Amusing Prose Chap-Books Chiefly of the Last Century, (London, 1889 ("Digitized by Google"), p. 49).
[Note that this latter story has substantial similarities to the tale of Joseph, Benjamin, and the divining cup, found in Genesis 44. - RBW]
Broadwood/Maitland: "Mr Kidson writes: This is evidently a nursey or nonsense rhyme, with what appears to be an addition or alteration as early as Cromwell's time. See Hone's Every Day Book, vol.i., p. 718, for a custom connected with the subject of this song, kept up as late as 1831 [actually, as late as 1825] at Tiverton, Devon, on Restoration Day, May 29." Hone's informant writes, "... it is customary for a number of young men, dressed in the style of the 17th century, and armed with swords, to parade the streets, and gather contributions from the inhabitants. At the head of the procession walks a man called 'Oliver,' dressed in black, with his face smeared all over with soot and grease, and his body bound by a strong cord, the end of which is held by one of the men to prevent his running too far" (source: William Hone, The Every-Day Book or the Guide to the Year (London, 1825 (Digitized by Google), p. 718). - BS
Last updated in version 2.6
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2018 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.