“Oh, They Put John on the Island”


"Oh, they put John on the island When the Bridegroom comes, They put John on the island when he comes." "They put him there to starve him." "But you can't starve a Christian." "They fed him on milk and honey." "Oh, look down Jordan river."


This song contains an odd mix of elements -- the final verses in Brown seem to be imports, and insignificant. But the early verses seem a conflation.

According to Revelation 1:9, John was "on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus." Note that there is no sign he was exiled there; indeed, the general sense is that he voluntarily fled there (probably during the persecution of Domitian, reigned 81-96 C.E.).

Nowhere, however, do we read of John being miraculously fed, let alone with milk and honey (in 10:9-11, he is fed a scroll that tastes like honey, but that's hardly the same thing!). The closest parallel I can think of is in the gospels: In Matthew 4:11, after the temptation by the Devil, "angels came and tended [Jesus]." No mention of milk and honey, though. - RBW

Cross references


  1. BrownIII 546, "Oh, They Put John on the Island" (1 text)
  2. Roud #11824
  3. BI, Br3546


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1922 (Brown)
Found in: US(SE)