> Tim Hart & Maddy Prior > Songs > Of All the Birds

Of All the Birds

[ Roud 496 ; Ballad Index ChWI141 ; Wiltshire 180 , 902 ; Thomas Ravenscroft]

Tim Hart and Maddy Prior sang Of All the Birds in 1971 on their third duo album, Summer Solstice. Maddy Prior returned to the song in 2012 when she, Hannah James and Giles Lewin sang it on their CD 3 for Joy.

Iona and Peter Opie comment in their Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd ed., 1997, p. 97 (rhyme 50)) on the first verse:

These lines form the opening of a song in Ravenscroft's Deuteromelia or The Seconde part of Musicks melodie, published in 1609. James Orchard Haliwell, The Nursery Rhymes of England (1842) collected the text version in Lincolnshire as as he remarks ‘it is singular that it should have come down to us from oral tradition.’ A writer in Notes & Queries (1915) inquired after ‘an amusing old Yorkshire song, believed to be called The Owl, containing a line—“Of all the gay birds that e'er I did see” ’; and Williams [Folk-Songs of the Upper Thames] found the song still being sung beside the upper reaches of the Thames. Furthermore, the burden of the song, Nose, nose, jolly red nose, which already by 1632 was sung independently, has also survived to the present day.

Sound Tradition sang Of All the Birds in 2017 on their CD Well Met, My Friend. They noted:

Ravenscroft was a collector and writer of songs; this one appeared in his collection Deuteromelia, published in 1609. It seems also to have been popular as a nursery rhyme. It is unusual that the owl should receive such praise as it was considered a bird of ill omen in Britain at this period.

Lyrics

The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes Tim Hart and Maddy Prior sing Of All the Birds

Of all the gay birds that e'er I did see
The owl is the fairest by far to me:
For all day long she sits on a tree
And when the night comes away flies she.

Of all the birds that ever I see
The owl is the fairest in her degree:
For all the day long she sits on a tree
And when the night cometh away flies she.

Tu whit — Tu whoo,
To whom drink'st thou? — Sir Knave, to thee.
My song is well sung, I'll make you a vow
That he is a knave that drinketh now.

Nose, nose, jolly red nose,
And what gave thee thy jolly red nose?
Nutmeg and ginger, cinnamon and cloves:
That's what gave me this jolly red nose.

Nose, nose, nose, nose,
And who gave thee thy jolly red nose?
Cinnamon and ginger, nutmeg and cloves:
And that gave me my jolly red nose.