We're All Surrounded
DESCRIPTION: "Martha wept and Mary cried. We're all surrounded. That good old man he up and died. We're all surrounded."
EARLIEST DATE: 1945 (Harlow)
KEYWORDS: shanty worksong
FOUND IN: US
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Harlow, p. 6, "We're All Surrounded" (1 text, 1 tune)
cf. "Marthy Wept (Mary Wept and Marthy Moaned)" (lyrics)
NOTES: Harlow gives this as an example of a Negro cotton stowing song that was adapted as a shanty. - SL
The reference to "Martha wept and Mary cried" is presumably a reference to the sisters of Lazarus who mourned over their brother in John 11. I don't have a good explanation for the "We're all surrounded" chorus (unless it's a mistake); it occurs to me that it might, just possibly, be a reference to Hebrews 12:1, where we are told that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (who might well include Martha and Mary). The problem, is, the King James version uses the verb "compassed about" rather than "surrounded" (the Greek means something like "having an encirclement"). There is, in fact, no instance of the English verb "to surround," in any form, in the King James Bible.
The first line, "Oh! Martha wept and Mary cried," is found in a song, "Carry the News to Mary," with words by Charley Howard and music by Walter Bray; see WolfAmericanSongSheets, #275, p. 19. I do not know the relationship between the songs, if any. - RBW
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The Ballad Index Copyright 2017 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.