The Carrion Crow

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Melody -
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Traditional ballad

The carrion crow he sat upon an oak,
And he spied an old tailor a cutting out a cloak.
Heigho! the carrion crow.

2. The carrion crow he began for to rave,
And he called the tailor a lousy knave!
Heigho! the carrion crow.

3. Wife, go fetch me my arrow and my bow,
I'll have a shot at that carrion crow.
Heigho! the carrion crow.

4. The tailor he shot, and he missed his mark,
But he shot the old sow through the heart.
Heigho! the carrion crow.

5. Wife, go fetch me some treacle in a spoon,
For the old sow's in a terrible swoon!
Heigho! the carrion crow.

6. The old sow died, and the bells they did toll,
And the little pigs prayed for the old sow's soul!
Heigho! the carrion crow.

7. Never mind, said the tailor, I don't care a flea,
There'll be still black-puddings, souse, and chitterlings for me.
Heigho! the carrion crow.


The reader familiar with the annals of the Commonwealth and the Restoration, will readily detect the leading points of the allegory. The 'Carrion Crow' in the oak is Charles II., who is represented as that bird of voracious appetite, because he deprived the puritan clergy of their livings; perhaps, also, because he ordered the bodies of the regicides to be exhumed.

The religion of the 'old sow,' whoever she may be, is clearly pointed out by her little pigs praying for her soul.

The 'tailor' is not easily identified. It is possibly intended for some puritan divine of the name of Taylor, who wrote and preached against both prelacy and papacy, but with an especial hatred of the latter. In the last verse he consoles himself by the reflection that, notwithstanding the deprivations, his party will have enough remaining from the voluntary contributions of their adherents.

The 'cloak' which the tailor is engaged in cutting out, is the Genevan gown, or cloak; the 'spoon' in which he desires his wife to bring treacle, is apparently an allusion to the 'spatula' upon which the wafer is placed in the administration of the Eucharist; and the introduction of 'chitterlings and black-puddings' into the last verse seems to refer to a passage in Rabelais, where the same dainties are brought in to personify those who, in the matter of fasting, are opposed to Romish practices. The song is found in collections of the time of Charles II.

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