I'm a Poor Old Chimney Sweeper
DESCRIPTION: "I am a poor old chimney sweeper, I have but one daughter and now I can't keep her. So since she has resolved to marry, Go choose you one and do not tarry." Once the girl has chosen her love, the couple is told to join hands, step over a broom, and be wed
EARLIEST DATE: 1916 (Wolford)
KEYWORDS: courting marriage playparty work worker courting family
FOUND IN: US(Ap,MW,SE)
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Wolford, p. 58=WOlfordRev, pp. 172-173, "I'm a Poor Chimney Sweeper" (1 text, 1 tune)
Warner 189, "Chimbley Sweeper" (1 short text, 1 tune)
Randolph 571, "The Chimney Swallow" (1 fragment)
Sulzer, p. 9, "Chimney-Sweeper (game song)" (1 text, 1 tune)
Rebecca King Jones, "Chimbley Sweeper" [excerpt] (on USWarnerColl01)
NOTES: The Warners (on the basis of the television miniseries "Roots"!) credit jumping over a broom as a Black wedding ceremony. But I have also seen (in, I must admit, a science fiction story) what appears to be a British rhyme on the same subject.
Elsewhere, however, a "broomstick wedding" is one not given formal or clerical recognition. An example of this is in Dickens's Great Expectations, chapter 48: Wemick describes a couple as having been "married very young, over the broomstick (as they say)."
Eric Partridge's A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English says that "to jump (over) the broomstick" is attested from the eighteenth century, and "hop the broomstick" and "marry over the broomstick" are known from the nineteenth; all are described as colloquial and obsolescent. All terms refer to a couple living together as man and wife without being (formally) married. The ceremony itself is a "broomstick wedding." Partridge compares "jump the besom" and "Westminster wedding." "Jump the Besom" apparently is attested c. 1700.
Randolph's text is shorter and rather different in tone from the Warners', but there are too many lyric similarities for me to separate them. - RBW
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