Tom Welsch's Ditties
Mr. Welsch has had the blessed privilege of teaching various ages of children’s Sunday School classes at Trinity Baptist Church in Montville, New Jersey for over 30 years.
Tom can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Several years ago he began teaching The Pilgrim’s Progress to the 6th grade class, and he composed these ditties to help his students learn and remember what John Bunyan penned so many years ago.
In order to help students follow the plot and the import of characters and actions, ditty is really a play on 'did he', viz what did he do? who did he meet? etc.
There are 67 ditties in total...scroll to the bottom of the page to access all of them in a PDF.
Some commentators dismiss the simple poems that dot Bunyan's text of The Pilgrim's Progress. Because they take a form closer to popular ballards rather than courtly style they are slighted as unworthy of the company of other 17th century poets like fellow allegorist Spencer, or the godly George Herbert, metaphyscial Donne, or even epic Puritan Milton. Yet, Elizabeth Clarke suspects an element of elitist snobbery in overlooking popular rhyme. After all it is accessible in its communication and a great teaching aid. Bunyan certainly put it to that explicit use in his Book for Boys and Girls.
Mr Welsch's ditties might be seen as within the mode of memorable and fun rhyme that Bunyan employed in his text. If 'ditties' suggests trifling things of little weight, then no harm, in as much as they still help his students navigate the text.
Elizabeth Clarke, 'Truth in Meeter' Bunyan's Poetry and Dissenting Poetics, in Davies and Owens (eds) The Oxford Handbook of John Bunyan, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2018, pp. 325-342.
A dreamer dreamed upon his bed;
"What shall I do?" a poor man said.
As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I came upon a certain place where there was a den; and I lay down in that place to sleep; and as I slept I dreamed a dream.
I dreamed, and behold I saw a man clothed in rags standing in a certain place, with his face turned away from his own house, a book in his hand, and a great burden on his back. I looked and saw him open the book, and read therein; and as he read, he wept and trembled: and not being able to contain himself any longer, he broke out with a lamentable cry, saying, “What shall I do?”
Evangelist asks, "Why stand and wait?
"Follow that light to the Wicket gate."
Then said Evangelist, “If this is your condition, then why are you standing still?” He answered, “Because I do not know which way to go.” Then Evangelist gave him a parchment scroll on which was written within, “Fly from the wrath to come.”
Therefore, the man read the scroll, and looking upon Evangelist very carefully, said, “Which way must I go to escape?” Then said Evangelist, pointing with his finger beyond a very large field, “Do you see a Wicket-gate over there?” The man replied, “No.” Then he was asked, “Do you see a shining light not quite so far away?” He said, “I think I do.” Then said Evangelist, “Keep that light before your eye, and go directly toward it, and then you shall see the gate, at which, when you knock, you will be told what you are to do.”
His family cries out; but they cry out in vain;
With fingers in ears, Pilgrim runs toward the plain.
So I saw in my dream that the man began to run. Now he had not run far from his own door when his wife and children, perceiving it, began to cry after him to return; but the man put his fingers in his ears, and ran on crying, Life! life! eternal life!. So he looked not behind him, but fled towards the middle of the plain.
His neighbors advise, "Return! Go back home!"
"Don't be a crazy-headed coxcomb!"
The name of the one was Obstinate and the name of the other Pliable. Now by this time the man was got a good distance from them; but, however, they were resolved to pursue him, which they did, and in a little time they overtook him. Then said the man, “Neighbors, wherefore are you come?” They said, “To persuade you to go back with us.”[...] Obstinate: Come then, neighbor Pliable, let us turn again, and go home without him: there is a company of these crazy-headed coxcombs, that when they take a fancy by the end, are wiser in their own eyes than seven men that can render a reason.
Pliable says, “I think I’ll go too;”
Soon both of them fall—fall into the slough.
PLIABLE: Perhaps you are right. But don’t be so critical. If what good Christian says is true, then the things that he seeks after are better than ours; my heart is inclined to go with my neighbor.
NOW I saw in my dream that just as they had ended this talk, they drew near to a very miry slough that was in the middle of the plain. And not watching where they were going, they both suddenly fell into the bog. The name of the Slough was Despond.
While Help pulls Christian out of the Slough,
Pliable returns saying, “I’ve had it! I’m through!”
Hence, Pliable, making several toilsome attempts, eventually struggled out of the mire on that side of the Slough which was closest to his own house. So he went back and Christian saw him no more.
Therefore, Christian was left to tumble in the Slough of Despond alone. But he still endeavored to struggle to that side of the Slough that was further from his own house and closer to the Wicket-gate. And this he did, yet he was unable to get out because of the burden that was upon his back. However, I saw in my dream that a man came to him named Help.
A worldly wise-man then comes along;
“There’s an easier way!” (Easier, but wrong!)
NOW as Christian was walking all alone, he noticed someone else in the distance on his way across the field coming to meet him. And so it happened that they met just when their paths crossed. The name of this particular gentleman was Mr. Worldly-Wiseman who resided in the town of Carnal-Policy, a very large community not far removed from Christian’s former home Town.
WORLDLY-WISEMAN: But why do you seek for ease with regard to your present way, seeing that it involves so many dangers? If you had but patience enough to listen to me, I would advise you how to obtain what you desire, only without the perils that you are certain to encounter if you follow the way ahead. Yes, and further, the remedy I would suggest is close at hand. Besides, I will offer yet more, for instead of dangers you will meet with much safety, friendship, and content.
Evangelist finds Christian standing quite still,
In the dark shadow of a threatening hill.
SO Christian departed from his present course so as to head toward Mr. Legality’s house for help. But notice that when he had drawn very close to the Hill, it seemed so high that it appeared to almost hang over him and threaten to crush him. Being paralyzed with fear, he stopped rather than go any further. As a result he did not know what to do. Also his burden now seemed much heavier than when he was formerly in the way.
There also came flashes of fire erupting out of the Hill that made Christian fear that he would be burned. For this reason, he was terrified and began to sweat and tremble in his body. Now he was sorry that he had taken Mr. Worldly-Wiseman’s advice.
Yet, at that very moment, he saw Evangelist coming directly toward him, and this caused him to blush with shame. So Evangelist drew near, while appearing to be most indignant in his mood, for he seemed eager to talk soberly with Christian.
Goodwill opens the aforementioned gate,
And pulls Christian through before it’s too late.
SO after a while Christian arrived at the Wicket-gate. Now over the gate there was written, “Knock and it shall be opened unto you.” Therefore he knocked more than once or twice while saying:
May I now enter here? Will he within Open to sorry me, though I have been An undeserving rebel? Then shall I Not fail to sing his lasting praise on high.
At last there came to the Gate a dignified person named Good-will, who asked, “Who is there? From where have you come? What is your purpose in knocking?”
CHRISTIAN: Here is a poor burdened sinner who comes from the City of Destruction. But more importantly, I am going to Mount Zion, so that I may be delivered from the wrath to come. Therefore sir, since I have been informed that the way to my destination is through this Gate, I would like to know if you are willing to let me enter.
GOOD-WILL: I am willing with all my heart. (And at that he immediately opened the Gate.) Now, as Christian was stepping through the Gate, he was quite surprised when suddenly, Good-will pulled him through. In seeking an explanation for this forceful manner, Christian was told, “Just a little distance outside this Gate, a strong castle has been built, and its captain is named Beelzebub. From there both he and his army shoot arrows at those who seek entrance at the Gate, endeavoring to slay pilgrims before they pass through.”