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Green Bushes

[ Roud 1040 ; Laws P2 ; Ballad Index LP02 ; trad.]

Joseph Leaning sang Green Bushes on Unto Brigg Fair, from a cylinder recorded in 1908 by Percy Grainger. The LP sleeve notes said:

This tune had done great service with a great many folk song texts but even as Green Bushes has a very widespread popularity. Other versions in print include: BGSW, BCS, SFS, REC, HGG, KTT, OBSB, FSJ Nos. 19, 33, 34 and broadsides by C, H, Di, Fo, HP, HC etc. Sound recordings: BBC 12611 BBC 18624, BBC 21492, BBC 22038, BBC 22369, BBC 22740.

Martyn Wyndham-Read learned Green Bushes in 1971 on his eponymous Trailer album Martyn Wyndham-Read. He noted in his sleeve notes:

All the songs on this record were acquired during the seven years I spent in Australia. Some are indigenous, but the majority are Australian variants of the songs taken over by British convicts and settlers in the 18th and 19th century.

Cyril Poacher sang The Green Bushes at home in Grove Farm, Blaxhall, Suffolk in September 1974. This recording made by Tony Engle was published in 1975 on Poacher's Topic album The Broomfield Wager: Traditional Songs from Suffolk and in 2004 on his Musical Traditions anthology Plenty of Thyme.

Geoff Ling sang The Green Bushes in a recording made by Keith Summers in in Cyril Poacher's home in tone Common, Blaxhall, Sussex, on November 17, 1974. This was published in 1977 on the Ling Family's Topic album Singing Traditions of a Suffolk Family, and in 1998 on the Topic anthology Come Let Us Buy the Licence (The Voice of the People Series Volume 1).

Phoebe Smith sang Green Bushes in a recording made by Mike Yates in 1975/76. This was published in 1977 on the Smith Family's Topic album The Travelling Songster: An Anthology from Gypsy Singers and in 2001 on her Veteran CD The Yellow Handkerchief. The former album's notes commented:

The song Green Bushes was popular in 1845 when J.B. Buckstone based a play on the same theme—keeping the same title incidentally. It was printed on numerous 19th century broadsides, which possibly helps to explain why so many versions were noted by song collectors at the beginning of this century. Phoebe Smith's version begins with a ‘rogue’ verse—from the song The Pride of Kildare—which, characteristically does not sound out of place.

Walter Pardon sang The Green Bushes in a recording made by Mike Yates in 1975 on his Musical Tradition anthology of 2000, Put a Bit of Powder on It, Father. Rod Stradling commented in the accompanying booklet:

Although The Green Bushes was printed widely on broadsides it does not appear to have survived well in tradition—only 14 recorded instances appear in Roud—a surprising fact when one considers its one-time popularity. Instances of the song can be traced back to 1740 via broadsides and MSS.

It was fairly popular in Ireland due, possibly, to a 78 recording. It has been seen published in a ‘Sing a Song of Ireland’ type book and has been sung at fleadh competitions, where it seems acceptable as an authentic Irish ballad. It appears in Irish Fireside Songs No 8, published by Walton's Musical Instruments—not dated, but probably '40s or '50s to judge from the cover illustration. Roud lists 81 oral sources, of which only four are Irish. He also notes an Australian version from the superb Sally Sloane of New South Wales.

Mike Yates comments that this song (along with Lovely Joan, The Knight and the Shepherd's Daughter, Seventeen Come Sunday, etc) is similar to the old French Pastourelles that date from the Middle Ages. In the Pastourelle a knight meets a shepherdess; the setting is usually Spring time (especially May). He tries to court her and offers her all sorts of presents (see Green Bushes) but she says that she is in love with a local shepherd. Usually that is the end of the affair. She goes off with the shepherd and the knight rides off alone. The themes are certainly mediaeval and some scholars have noted the similarity between them and the Song of Solomon.

Magpie Lane sang Green Bushes in 1994 on their Beautiful Joe album Speed the Plough.

Bob Copper sang Down by the Green Bushes and James Fagan sang The Green Bushes in 2003 on the Fellside anthology Song Links: A Celebration of English Traditional Songs and Their Australian Variants.

Alice Jones sang Green Bushes in 2016 on her CD Poor Strange Girl. She commented:

This song is taken from the Frank Kidson publication Traditional Tunes. It was collected from Mrs Holt who was a resident in Alderhill, Meanwood. She remembered it as “being sung in Stockport in about 1838”. I have been lucky enough to have spent the last few years researching and working on songs from Frank Kidson’s collection along with folk legend Pete Coe. It is an absolute treasure trove of material that continues to yield interesting and unusual versions of songs both familiar and unfamiliar to me. This song stood out for me particularly because the situation is entirely controlled by the female. She plays the role of the philanderer and abandons her true love in favour of a more appealing suitor she bumps into whilst in the woods… a most uncommon folk song denouement!

Lyrics

Joseph Leaning sings Green Bushes

As I was a-walking one morning in May,
To hear the birds whistle and see the lambs play.
I beheld a fair damsel so sweetly sung she,
Down by the green bushes where she chanced to meet me.

“Come let us be going kind sir if you please,
Come let us be going from under the trees
For yonder he's coming, he's coming I see,
Down by the green bushes where he thinks to meet me.”

Phoebe Smith sings Green Bushes

Now sometimes I am jovial and sometimes I am sad
Since my love has been courting another young man.
And as she walked by my side oh my heart filled with woe
Make a bloomer on you Susan, you're the pride of this land.

“I will buy you fine beavers, I'll buy you fine gowns,
I will buy you fine petticoats flounced down to the ground
If you will prove loyal and be constant and true
And forsake your own true love and get married to me.”

“I want none of your beavers nor fine silk or gown,
I want none of your fine petticoats flounced down to the ground.
For I will prove loyal, I'll be constantly true,
I'll forsake my own true love, I'll get married to you.”

“Now you let me be going from under green tree
For it's yonder my true love is a-coming can't you see
And down by the green bushes where he means to meet me.”

Now when he got there he found she were gone
He feel like some school boy spend his time at play
“Now false hearted young girl we're not loomy any more
There's adieu to green bushes for ever and more.”

Walter Pardon sings Green Bushes

As I was a-walking one morning in Spring
To hear the birds whistle and the nightingales sing
I met a young damsel and sweetly sang she
“Down by the green bushes, he thinks to meet me.”

I stepped up to her and this I did say
“Why wait you so long, love, on this sunny day?”
“My true-love, my true-love,” so sweetly sang she,
“Down by the green bushes, he thinks to meet me.”

“I'll buy you fine dresses and a new silken gown
I'll buy you a fine petticoat with a flounce to the ground
If you will promise you'll be true to me
And leave the green bushes, and marry to me.”

“I want none of your dresses nor your fine silken hose,
I ne'er was so poor as to marry for clothes.
But if you will promise you'll be true to me,
Then I'll leave the green bushes and married we'll be.”

“Come let us be going, kind sir, if you please
Come let us be going from beneath these green trees
For my true love is coming and plainly I see
Down by the green bushes, he thinks to meet me.”

And when he arrived there and found she had gone
He stood there so lonesome, so sad and forlorn,
“She's gone with another and forsaken me
So adieu to green bushes, for ever,” cried he.

Acknowledgements

Joseph Leaning's verses were copied from the liner notes of Unto Brigg Fair.