“The Poor Old Couple”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1895 (Baring-Gould, _A Book of Nursery Songs and Rhymes_)
Keywords: husband wife separation disease food age disease request dialog husband wife
Found in: Britain(England) US(SE)

Description

"There was an old couple, and they were poor." The wife is afraid to stay alone; when the man goes away, she locks the doors and goes to bed. When he returns, she complains of his absence and asks for an (apple). He falls off the ladder. She insults him

Notes

It sounds like a "spark" is some sort of supernatural creature [in the SharpAp version, after she request the fruit, "up jumped a spark and he run like a hare"], but none of my dictionaries lists any such definition. Local dialect for "spook"? Or has the lady been two-timing the "poor old fool," and is the spark her paramour? Now if she'd asked the old man to fetch a cabbage-head, we'd know for sure. - PJS

My guess is that it's an error for "up HE jumped [like?] a spark...." Or maybe it's an oblique reference to Job 5:7, "Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward." - RBW

References

  1. SharpAp 184, "The Poor Couple" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #821, pp. 305-306, "(There was an old couple, and they were poor)"
  3. Roud #491
  4. BI, BGMG821