“Go To Saint Pether”


The singer orders that news be carried to "Saint Pether" (i.e. the Papacy) of the troubles facing the Catholic cause. The Pope is distressed to hear that his armies are defeated. Mary of Hungary calls for "liquor to temper me pain."

Supplemental text

Go To Saint Pether
  Complete text(s)

          *** A ***

From Mary O. Eddy, Ballads and Songs from Ohio, #149, p. 315.
From Mrs. Robert R. Cox, Steubenville, Ohio.

"Go to Saint Pether, or send him a letther,
And tell him if iver he loved me to run
Or if he can't come, to send good Saint Dorsan
to beat out the head of the Protestant drum.

Wather, wather, more hourly wather,
We'll sprinkle the Papishes ivery one.
We'll send them more crosses to make up their losses,
And relics to mast the Protestant drum.

When news came to the Pope that his legions were bate,
Just as he sat him down to his tay,
He let fall cup and saucer, which caused a piaster,
And said, "My dear Cardinal, what shall I do?"

When Mary of Hungary heard of the news
That her legions were bate and dare not be seen,
He girdle gave way before she could say,
"Give me some liquor to temper me pain."


This is truly a difficult song to figure out, because so few details survive in the text. The one seemingly-identifiable figure is Mary of Hungary. The most notable woman of that name and title is Mary of Hungary and Bohemia (1505-1558), the sister of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and the wife of Louis II of Hungary.

In 1531, Mary was appointed regent of the Low Countries by Charles V. Charles was becoming involved in his great wars against Protestantism (this is, of course, shortly after Luther began his revolt, and the period in which Calvin was forming his opinions). That being the case, Mary of Hungary was involved in the persecution of Protestants. But they were Dutch Protestants, and for the most part she kept them under control. Thus it is hard to see how this song, presumably of English or Irish origin, could refer to her.

Another possibility occurring to me is that this song describes the Catholic distress after the defeat at the Battle of the Boyne (July 11, 1690). Catholics supported the former King James II (reigned 1685-1688/9) against the protestant William III of Orange, but were defeated. It may be that "Mary of Hungary" is Mary of Modena, James II's second wife, who bore him his son James the Old Pretender (it was the birth of this child that led to the Glorious Revolution of 1688; the nobility was not prepared to allow James to raise his son as a Catholic). - RBW


  1. Eddy 149, "Go to Saint Pether" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. ST E149 (Full)
  3. Roud #5346
  4. BI, E149


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1939 (Eddy)
Keywords: battle religious
Found in: US(MW)