“Hang on the Bell”

Author: T. Connor, C. Erard, R. Parker (according to Joe Hickerson)
Earliest date: before 1950 (recording, Beatrice Kay)
Keywords: prison execution humorous reprieve father children derivative

Description

"The scene is in a jailhouse; if the curfew rings tonight The guy in number 13 cell will go out like a light." To prevent the bell from ringing, the convict's daughter Nellie ties herself to the bell, and keeps it silent until a pardon arrives

Notes

This is often listed as a parody of Rosa Hartwick Thorpe's 1867 poem "Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight." "Parody" may be a rather strong word; there is no stylistic influence at all. (The first lines of the Thorpe poem are "Slowly England's sun was setting o'er the hilltops far away, Filling all the land with beauty at the close of one sad day, And the last rays kissed the forehead of a man and maiden fair," or, in other publications, "England's sun was slowly setting...." The rest is equally nauseating.)

Despite its lack of quality, this thing was popular enough to earn nine citations in _Granger's Index of Poetry_.

The one thing that survived from the Thorpe original to this song is the absurdist plot of the girl silencing the curfew bell.

This byblow is not widely published, and there are few if any early recordings, but Joe Hickerson traced enough oral transmission that I have, with some misgivings, included it in the Index. Mostly, perhaps, to examine the relationship between the original poem and the derived song. - RBW

References

  1. DT, HANGBELL
  2. BI, DThangbe