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Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)

DigiTrad:
BLOOD RED ROSES


Related threads:
(origins) Origins: Blood-Red Roses, WW2 version (19)
'Blood Red Roses' in 'Holby City' (19)
happy? - Mar 29 (Blood Red Roses) (6)
Lyr Req: Go down you bugged computer (23)


GUEST,Handy 16 Jun 15 - 09:20 AM
GUEST,BosunRich 16 Jun 15 - 05:58 AM
GUEST 30 Mar 15 - 05:31 PM
Lighter 30 Mar 15 - 05:00 PM
Gibb Sahib 30 Mar 15 - 04:29 PM
Lighter 30 Mar 15 - 01:29 PM
Gibb Sahib 30 Mar 15 - 11:47 AM
Lighter 29 Mar 15 - 09:23 AM
Reinhard 29 Mar 15 - 01:15 AM
Joe Offer 28 Mar 15 - 05:26 PM
GUEST,Lighter 25 Jan 13 - 08:40 PM
GUEST 21 Jan 13 - 11:29 AM
Phil Edwards 11 Jul 12 - 05:03 AM
Phil Edwards 11 Jul 12 - 05:01 AM
Les in Chorlton 11 Jul 12 - 04:23 AM
GUEST,Send Help 11 Jul 12 - 12:28 AM
Charley Noble 11 Nov 11 - 08:55 PM
GUEST 11 Nov 11 - 03:38 PM
GUEST,Mandy 14 Sep 11 - 04:29 PM
GUEST,Lighter 23 Apr 11 - 02:52 PM
Gibb Sahib 23 Apr 11 - 02:38 PM
Gibb Sahib 23 Apr 11 - 02:37 PM
GUEST,Can I just say... 23 Apr 11 - 01:27 PM
Gibb Sahib 03 Apr 11 - 02:58 PM
JeffB 03 Apr 11 - 07:19 AM
Gibb Sahib 03 Apr 11 - 04:52 AM
Les from Hull 31 Mar 11 - 04:54 PM
Gibb Sahib 31 Mar 11 - 02:11 PM
Mr Red 31 Mar 11 - 01:46 PM
Lighter 31 Mar 11 - 09:14 AM
GUEST,Desi C 09 Feb 11 - 07:30 AM
Gibb Sahib 09 Feb 11 - 03:15 AM
Gibb Sahib 08 Feb 11 - 03:07 AM
Abby Sale 30 Jan 11 - 03:26 PM
Gibb Sahib 20 Jan 11 - 01:31 AM
Gibb Sahib 20 Jan 11 - 01:09 AM
Lighter 16 Jan 11 - 04:15 PM
Abby Sale 16 Jan 11 - 01:09 PM
shipcmo 16 Nov 10 - 09:27 AM
GUEST,Urnungal 14 Feb 10 - 07:30 PM
Charley Noble 07 Jan 10 - 08:51 PM
Richard Bridge 07 Sep 09 - 04:42 PM
Richard Bridge 07 Sep 09 - 04:41 PM
Leadfingers 07 Sep 09 - 04:40 PM
Gibb Sahib 07 Sep 09 - 03:23 PM
Gibb Sahib 07 Sep 09 - 03:20 PM
Les in Chorlton 07 Sep 09 - 02:45 PM
Lighter 07 Sep 09 - 02:34 PM
MGM·Lion 07 Sep 09 - 02:26 PM
Lighter 07 Sep 09 - 02:11 PM
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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: GUEST,Handy
Date: 16 Jun 15 - 09:20 AM

always was led to believe that blood red roses was a derogatory term used to describe newer crew members on the whaling ships sailing out of American ports . Whaling being so richly rewarded after a successful trip that men not being used to the outdoor life might venture a trip to make a profit. Then getting so badly sunburned and blistered as to to have to "go down", below. Just another fish in the barrel of conjecture

    Thread closed because it's become a magnet for Spam. -Joe Offer- 16 Aug 2016-


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: GUEST,BosunRich
Date: 16 Jun 15 - 05:58 AM

Fascinating thread, but there is one possible origin which has never been mentioned. The red coats of soldiers have been alluded to, but might it, in fact, refer to the red coats of the Royal Marines. Every R.N. vessel from a frigate upwards carried a complement of Marines. Not normally involved in the working of the ship, in some circumstances the marines would be expected to add their weight to hauling and, less adept at such duties, would become the object of guarded ribaldry from the Naval crew, exhorting the "blood red roses" to hang down.
This, of course, is only conjecture, particularly as the Royal (sailing) Navy did not officially allow work songs. Nevertheless, naval vessels on distant, detached service would often press extra hands from merchant ships and whaling vessels, despite any (sometimes dubious) letters of protection. These hands might bring songs with them and would, on discharge revert to their former merchant occupations, taking adaptations of the songs with them. And so it goes on!!


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Mar 15 - 05:31 PM

Hi Joe, et alia,

Your version there is essentially identical to what I sing. I got it from MacColl.

I'm interested this week as Lloyd suggested it's a possible reference to the War of the Roses (no date suggested for the chantey, itself, though). I believe this is absolutely, 100% true. A hard fact.

The reason for my certainty is that the last, climactic battle of the Wars of the Roses was played March 29, 1461 and I sang it yesterday with that in mind, also a Palm Sunday. Since that could hardly be a mere coincidence, it must be true.

Abby Sale


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Lighter
Date: 30 Mar 15 - 05:00 PM

> "Bunch of Roses" as (so far as the concept of "origins" is reasonably used) African-American[/Caribbean] originally.

I think the preponderance of the limited evidence points that way.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 30 Mar 15 - 04:29 PM

I agree, Lighter. I'm certainly not ready to conclude anything about "Drunken Sailor" from Smith's funny footnote! Although to thicken the plot [off topic]: Bullen gives lyrics to "Drunken Sailor" that are written in dialect that I think is meant to be read as "Black" dialect. Again, I don't think this necessarily says anything about the "origins" of the song in general, but it is interesting so far as (I think) "Drunken Sailor" is typically thought of as a pretty well established "Anglo" song, and yet these two folks experienced it (it seems) in a way that led them to "mark" it as Afro-American.

To be clear, I'm not operating under any agenda to see "Drunken Sailor" as African-American. I do, however, see "Bunch of Roses" as (so far as the concept of "origins" is reasonably used) African-American[/Caribbean] originally.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Lighter
Date: 30 Mar 15 - 01:29 PM

Good post, Gibb, as always.

> his apparent belief that "Drunken sailor" could be ascribed to Afro-Caribbean workers specifically!

It may simply mean that he first heard it in that context. For most people that would probably be evidence enough.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 30 Mar 15 - 11:47 AM

I'll add to this thread a note included in the collection of songs by William Smith (1867-1955) of Liverpool, Nova Scotia, which were taken down by his son in 1940. They appear in:

Edith Fowke, ed. _Sea Songs and Ballads from Nineteenth Century Nova Scotia, The Willian H. Smith and Fenwick Hatt Manuscripts_. NY and Phila.: Folklorica, 1981.

On pg 36, after giving lyrics to "Drunken Sailor," this note on the song (and another) is recorded.

"[Referring to Drunken Sailor:] West Indie Nigger shanty. Does not think there was more to it. [Now referring to Come Down You Roses:] In hoisting, the West Indies darkies, on pulling down on a rope, used this refrain: 'Come down you bunch of roses.'"

We may note that other significant deepwater sailor "sightings" were in Doerflinger (from the Silsbee manuscript) and in Adams—both being of New England. And then the other evidence is from the Caribbean. Smith's Nova Scotia world is close enough, in my book, to that world of New England/Canadian Maritimes trade with the Caribbean to reinforced a picture of the trade/routes where this song traveled—the Caribbean-Grand Banks "cod/rum" jaunt, when Afro-Caribbean men were part of the crew.

(What's perhaps more interesting about Smith's footnote is his apparent belief that "Drunken sailor" could be ascribed to Afro-Caribbean workers specifically! A topic for elsewhere…)


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Lighter
Date: 29 Mar 15 - 09:23 AM

RE the Ballad Index entry posted above: "Frederick Pease Harlow, _The Making of a Sailor, or Sea Life Aboard a Yankee Square-Rigger_, 1928; republished by Dover, 1988, p. 124, (no title) (1 fragment, 1 tune, probably this)."

This is not a chantey but a "singout." (Harlow calls it a "semi-chantey.") The tune is little more than a chant and nothing like "Blood Red Roses."

Here are the words - apparently *not* a fragment:

Oh, Mary!
Come down with your bunch of roses!
Come down when I call, oh, Mary!
Oh, Mary! Come down!

Gibb has mentioned this (and the similar "Molly" version") without giving all the words.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Reinhard
Date: 29 Mar 15 - 01:15 AM

I don't have his album 50 South to 50 South that the DT entry refers to so I can't verify that. But on the Revels' album Homeward Bound, Louis sings verses 1, 3, 2, 6 and 7 of the DT Blood Red Roses lyrics.


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Subject: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 28 Mar 15 - 05:26 PM

I'm working on lyrics for this song for the upcoming Rise Again Songbook. I'm thinking of using these lyrics from the Digital Tradition. I think they come from Lou Killen, but I can't find a Killen recording to verify that.

BLOOD RED ROSES (from DT)

Our boots and clothes are all in pawn
     Go down, you blood red roses, Go down.
And it's flamin' drafty 'round Cape Horn,
     Go down, you blood red roses, Go down.

CHORUS:
Oh, you pinks and posies,
     Go down, you blood red roses, Go down.


My dear old mother said to me,
My dearest son, come home from sea.

It's 'round Cape Horn we all must go
'Round Cape Horn in the frost and snow.

You've got your advance, and to sea you'll go
To chase them whales through the frost and snow.

It's 'round Cape Horn you've got to go,
For that is where them whalefish blow.

It's growl you may, but go you must,
If you growl too much your head they'll bust.

Just one more pull and that will do
For we're the boys to kick her through.

Recorded by Louis Killen- 50 South, also MacColl and LLoyd
@sailor @whaling
filename[ BLOODRED
TUNE FILE: BLOODRED
CLICK TO PLAY
RG


Here's the Traditional Ballad Index entry on this song:

Blood Red Roses

DESCRIPTION: Shanty. Characteristic lines: "Come/go down, you blood red/bunch of roses, Come down... Oh you pinks and posies, come down...." The verses generally refer to life at sea, with perhaps floating verses on other themes
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1893
KEYWORDS: shanty ship flowers
FOUND IN: US(NE)
REFERENCES (7 citations):
Doerflinger, pp. 22-23, "Come Down, You Bunch of Roses, Come Down" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hugill, pp. 365-367, "Bunch O' Roses," "Ho Molly!" (3 texts, 3 tunes - includes a fragment of text titled "Ho Molly! which seems to follow the same meter and rhyme) [AbrEd, pp. 275-277]
Scott-BoA, pp. 132-134, "Blood Red Roses" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-FSNA 27, "Blood Red Roses" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber-FSWB, p. 90, "Blood Red Roses" (1 text)
DT, BLOODRED*
ADDITIONAL: Frederick Pease Harlow, _The Making of a Sailor, or Sea Life Aboard a Yankee Square-Rigger_, 1928; republished by Dover, 1988, p. 124, (no title) (1 fragment, 1 tune, probably this)

Roud #931
RECORDINGS:
A. L. Lloyd, "Blood Red Roses" (on Lloyd3, Lloyd7)
Henry Lundy & David Pryor, "Come Down, You Roses" (AAFS 511 A1, 1935; on LomaxCD1822-2)

CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "O Mary, Come Down!" (lyrics)
NOTES: Doerflinger comments of this piece, "I doubt that the movie version, with a 'blood red roses' chorus, is authentic folklore." However, that's the version I've always heard (including even an alleged New Zealand version), so I've adopted that title. Doerflinger also thinks the "bunch of roses" refers to Napoleon. Obviously that is the case in other "roses" songs, but I can't see any connection here. - RBW
Last updated in version 3.3
File: Doe022

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2015 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 25 Jan 13 - 08:40 PM

Gibb et al., see my post just now to the "Van Dieman's Land" thread re Hugill, MacColl, and Lloyd.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: GUEST
Date: 21 Jan 13 - 11:29 AM

After having read all these threads about blood red roses lyrics, I was fascinated by
the variety of explanations. What a great source!

I'm a Matthews Southern Comfort fan and first heard Iain Matthews
version (Second Spring Album) while I was serving in Vietnam. It still remains
a favorite after all these years, but it wasn't until recently that I began to
wonder how the lyrics could relate to World War II.

I taking a bit of a dive here, but I'll risk a explanation about the World War
II version. I don't know about Farina's version, and even if I did there's nothing
on the internet that explains it..other than a mention of it on your site.
So here goes, perhaps the lyrics run deeper than the merchant marine
and are a reference, instead, to the British subs operating in and around
Japan...ie "Around Japan we'll have to go". "Sunken ships will tell no tale"
would clearly entail subs sinking ships, and subs DO GO DOWN and the
ocean is definitely "NO MAN's LAND"

BTW, there is a wonderful YouTube video you can watch in which Iain Matthews
sings the WWII version of Blood Red Roses. http://www.maxilyrics.com/matthews%27-southern-comfort-blood-red-roses-video-8e6f.html It's a beautiful version, well sung
and performed!

Cheers,
Jack Kid/singer/songwriter


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 11 Jul 12 - 05:03 AM

I think Gibb's said all that needs to be said on this one.

...but I can't resist quoting myself (from the link above).

As for "Come down you bunch of roses", it seems to have been based on a West Indian children's game (a singing game with the refrain "Come down with a bunch of roses" was recorded in 1962). Shanty writers worked with whatever was to hand – the not at all family-friendly "Little Sally Racket" also seems to have started life in the playground. Asking what the roses meant is a bit like asking for the meaning of the socks in "While shepherds washed their socks by night" – there was this song, and it got twisted to use as a shanty, and, er, that's it. Having said that, perhaps the appeal of the phrase in this context has to do with the contrast between the flower imagery and the masculine job of hauling on a rope; a shantyman singing "Oh you pinks and posies!" is a bit like a sergeant major saying "Come on, you great fairies, put your backs into it!" (Perhaps we should sing it as "pinks and pansies". Or perhaps not.)


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 11 Jul 12 - 05:01 AM

I think Gibb's said all that needs to be said on this one. Here's what it sounded like when I had a bash:

Come down, you bunch of roses


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 11 Jul 12 - 04:23 AM

If you want help Ms/Mr Send come down The Beech tonight and we will play some good tuned and next Wednesday we will sing some good songs

M21 9EG

Cheers

L in C#


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: GUEST,Send Help
Date: 11 Jul 12 - 12:28 AM

Redcoats? The French for red roses is 'roses rouges' which the English would have corrupted into god knows what but probably not red roses.

After reading too many pages of this I am not longer interested in the meaning of the phrase, and am beginning to think the shanty was written by Alexander Pope and a bottle of sack or two.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 11 Nov 11 - 08:55 PM

"GROW down you blood red roses grow down."

I don't think so, other than some folk/rock group might have heard the shanty that way and then recorded it. Something to ponder.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Nov 11 - 03:38 PM

Decades ago I heard a folk/rock group (Pentangle???)sing "GROW down you blood red roses grow down. They said that it was adapted from another song. They were specifically addressing the poppies of Flanders field. I found the image powerful and moving and have never forgotten it. In fact I came across this post while searching for it given upcoming remembrance day.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: GUEST,Mandy
Date: 14 Sep 11 - 04:29 PM

This is a whaling song - I was told the red roses and pink posies refer to the great 'flowers' of blood which cloud the water when a whale is harpooned.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 02:52 PM

"Go Down, You Bunch of Roses" began in Atlantis before America. People began to sing when their gardens were flooding. Kind of like the Titanic but in Atlantis. They were always cheerful.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 02:38 PM

Sorry, I shouldn't have said "we're dating." I meant "I am" -- shouldn't speak for others.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 02:37 PM

What "these songs"? Which ones? (We are mainly talking of one.) When does the history of America start? We're dating "Bunch of Roses" to mid-late-19th c. Do you have some argument about how it predates that? Sorry, I don't get it!


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: GUEST,Can I just say...
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 01:27 PM

The history of these songs pre-dates the existence of America...food for thought?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 03 Apr 11 - 02:58 PM

Here's a bio for Elder, who was born and raised in Tobago. He would have been 15-16 when the version of "Comin' Dung" that he gives was heard.

http://www.culturalequity.org/alanlomax/ce_alanlomax_profile_elder.php

The recording made in 1962 in Trindad by Lomax, with Elder's help, can be heard here (there are two excerpts):

http://research.culturalequity.org/get-audio-ix.do?ix=recording&id=11122&idType=

For comparison, one can see the MacLagan 1901 source that Elder cited in suggesting the game-song was from Scotland. One must scroll down to pp61-62:

http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=ikmvAAAAIAAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA1&dq=games+a

The songs really aren't very similar at all. Elsewhere in his book, Elder states his belief that a number of Trini game-songs descended from English ones. This sounds reasonable because they are, after all, in English language. It's not unreasonable to suspect that this "Bonny Bunch o' Roses" game was an ancestor to the song, however, by the 20th century the Trini one would have to be recognized as a different song. The chanty is related to the Caribbean song, not the Scottish one.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: JeffB
Date: 03 Apr 11 - 07:19 AM

The copyright is 1962, well after the time that Lloyd is suspected of working up some kind of "Come down with your roses" shanty to produce BBR. Both Hugill and Lomax accepted BBR as an old shanty, and as Mr Elder worked with Lomax perhaps the reference to an analogy in his book is due to him. Particularly as Mr Elder was able to quote all the collectors who had something to do with an early "Roses" shanty.

I think it's very interesting too that the children's game which apparently provided the original song might have come from Scotland. If so, it's another astonishing example of how songs sometimes migrate and evolve from one culture to another. Reminds me of the theme from Dvorak's "New World" symphony, which again started out as a Scottish tune, a lament for the pipes, became a spiritual in the Deep South, and ended up being played in concert halls around the world.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 03 Apr 11 - 04:52 AM

I recently found a book in the library with some more evidence about this song.

1965 [copyright 1962]        Elder, Jacob D. _Song Games from Trinidad and Tobago._ The American Folklore Society.

Incidentally, the author seems to have been with Alan Lomax in 1962 when they recorded "Coming Down with a Bunch of Roses" at the San Juan Girls Government School. However, it is implied that his experience with the song goes beyond that one occasion. They example he gives is actually from Tobago in 1928, although it's not clear to me if he collected it all the way back then.

Pg63-64 -- includes score. Lyrics:

1. Lift up you' clotheses,
Comin' dung;
Right up to you' noses,
Comin' dung.

CHO:
Comin' dung with you' bunch o'roses,
Comin' dung;
Comin' dung with you' bunch o'roses,
Comin' dung.

2. Gal show me you' motion,
Gal show me you' motion,

3. Bring in you' lover,
Bring in you' lover,

Notes say that the game is played with 12-24 boys and girls in two files, facing one another. The last pair forms arch with arms, others dance under/through.

"This song was collected from Harrington Benjamin (10) and others at Charlotteville, Tobago in 1928. It is a popular game among children in Tobago although adults usually play it at wakes. This game-song is analagous [sic] to the shanty "Blood Red Roses" as well as to "Bonny Bunch o' Roses." The game which it accompanies is a courtship-game in which the player with the dramatic role—usually female—makes a display of her finery, good looks and dancing styles, and then chooses a lover with whom she dances."

There are a few other notes about this songs scattered in the book.

Pg13 "Brown girl in da ring," "Coming down with you' buncha roses," and "Mizay Marie," played as a rule by adults at a dead-wake from which children are barred, can also be heard among children playing on the neighbourhood compounds on moonlight nights."

Pg 14-15
"Many games, like "Brown gal in da ring" and "Comin' dung with you' buncha roses," have connotations for adults which are far beyond the understanding of the children who learn them from their parents…In "Comin' dung with you' buncha roses," the players must choose partners and arrange themselves in couples to start the game."

Pg50, as references for the song, Elder cites Doerflinger, Adams, Harlow, Hugill. Also says, "Related to the Scottish game "Bonny bunch o' roses"," citing MacLagan.

A couple other game-songs in the collection have "roses" lyrics:

Pg 77, "In my right hand / I have a rose"..."Come in, come in / My charmin' rose." This game actually involves a girl who holds a roses and is admitted into a circle.

Pg105 – "See Miss Lilian So Fresh'n Gay" has lyrics, "See Miss Lilian so fresh 'n gay / With a bunch of roses in her hair". Also involves a girl holding flowers.

Unless one thinks the chanty turned into a game-song, after which it was reinterpreted, these examples suggest pretty strongly that it was a decorated female that was being addressed to "come down" (e.g. down the line).

Possibly cf. "Ring a Ring o' Roses."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Les from Hull
Date: 31 Mar 11 - 04:54 PM

Lighter - You mean the Johnny Horton Battle of New Orleans song? Yeah, like that's a stickler for historical accuracy!


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 31 Mar 11 - 02:11 PM

Interesting to compare this other chantey appearence of "roses." The 1909 Coast Seamen's Journal article attribute to F. Buryeson has these lyrics in "Haul Away, Joe."

Away, haul away, boys, and haul away, my rosies.
Away, haul away, and haul away, Joe.

Away, haul away, boys, and haul, my bunch of posies.
Away, haul away, and haul away, Joe.

First off, the lyrics in the article seem to reflect oral tradition, and don't seem to be derivative of any printed material. So it is a good piece of evidence for comparison.


It may be notable that there is no "red" or "blood-red" here, either.

"Haul Away Joe" is a song that I think can be reasonably argued to have had its genesis in the minstrel-y "Jim Along Josey" -- a song of the American milieu, w/ Afro-American associations. Certainly by 1909 it had developed a lot, and whatever its geographic and cultural origins, they are not necessarily relevant. However, one can wonder if, in the same way the "bunch of roses" idea turned up in Caribbean and Black American songs, it turned up here.

On the other hand, it could be a phrase of chantydom that was shared within that repertoire, with no necessary national or cultural associations attached to it. For example, the shantman might have lifted the rhyme from the "Bunch of Roses" shanty itself.

On the third hand (of the alien man), "rosies" could be simply what happened to the word "josey."

Most people are familiar with the version of Haul Away Joe that has "Rosey"/"Rosie" construed as a woman's name. But I won't speculate when and how each of these changes might of happened.

Lots of possibilities...impossible to say... I guess the one thing I would go out on a limb and argue is that the evidence of the Haul Away Joe again challenges the idea that "Bunch of Roses" was a chanty conceived in reference to any military forces.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Mr Red
Date: 31 Mar 11 - 01:46 PM

So this greenhorn asked the oldest tar what the words mean. And the old tar is remembering from when he was a novice. Or he doesn't know and tries to guess at the origin. Or wants to shut the newbie up. Memory plays tricks - it is not to be relied on unconditionally.

Stands to reason that the old lag, in his invention, will relate it to his profession. And maybe the old lag is having a joke at the expense of the naive. THAT is a tradition as old as the hills. Ask anyone who served as an apprentice.

So all explanations are valid, in the context of the route they take to get to this century.

And shanty double and triple entendre is pretty universal. Plenty of examples.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Lighter
Date: 31 Mar 11 - 09:14 AM

A new twist on an old rationalization. From the notes to _Rolling Home_, a nice CD by Pat Sheridan and Brasy:

"The soldiers in their red tunics, often referred to as lobsters, were, we understand, the focus point in some of these shanties as well as targets in battle: Go down you red roses, as they shot down the red tunics."

This leads me to picture American merchant seamen shantying during the battle of, who knows, New Orleans, "as they shot down the red tunics."

Someone will some day claim that this shows the existence of the shanty during the War of 1812 - or even the American Revolution. It certainly could tie in with the Johnny Horton song, which does mention "pretty scarlet coats." Don't try to deny it.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 09 Feb 11 - 07:30 AM

It's one of those phrases crops up oten in music, esp in Trad Irish ballads. There it's often realated to armed conflicts, James PLunket organisor of the 1916 Easter Rising notably wrote a poem called Blood upon the rose, and that line also appeaes in the song, Grace, a tribute to his wife. I've always assumed it's a metaphor for the ugliness of war upon the beauty of a flower/the land


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 09 Feb 11 - 03:15 AM

Just a comment. After hearing Ives' version, I believe it likely that he referenced Doerflinger's book for his tune -- rather than, for example, following Lloyd's. I do think there was an influence of Lloyd, too (or, some common version doing the rounds of folk clubs).

And FWIW I do still think Lloyd referenced Doerflinger. But this would mean a parallel trajectory...even if Lloyd's did win out as the most influential.

By chance, does anyone reading know if Burl Ives could read music well/ at all?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 08 Feb 11 - 03:07 AM

I came across a sample on-line of Burl Ives' rendition. Since it doesn't seem to be the most easily accessible recording (I had trouble finding it earlier), I thought I'd share the link.

Burl Ives - Come Down You Red Red Roses

*Warning: the lyrics on the page do not correlate.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Abby Sale
Date: 30 Jan 11 - 03:26 PM

Good. I couldn't agree more that, as with many songs, the academic and the entertainment value are very different. I had the pleasure to hear "John Barleycorn" last night (pleasure for the fine singing but also because it's so rare to hear any traditional song at all around here).

The singer asked me if I knew the origin. I answered that it was a pretty old traditional song that many of want to believe is of an extremely old pre-Christian root - but I doubt actually is. But I said it likely didn't matter to the audience even if the singer "should" have some thought about it. It helps (me, anyway) to have a setting for the song - to interpret it. But especially since it's 300+ years old, anyway...

BRR is like that - a great song, at worst related to a chantey and certainly sounds like one.

As to Ives, Lloyd, etc. Them guys didn't have the advantages of the Web, the Bodley online, the DT or even all the books printed or reprinted in the 60's. They had to work pretty hard for material. Many, Ives notably, were considerable collectors. And if they came on the same sources or stole from each other - well no big surprise. I'd never thought of that much until I read the brief note in Dyer-Bennett's break-through "1601" LP of the bawdy version of:

"The Eer-i-e Canal - A canal boatmen's song .
I heard it first in Portland, Maine, and later
an almost identical version from Burl Ives."

As I write, "Pablo Meshuggie" is web-streaming a song from the MacColl/Lloyd "Blow, Boys, Blow." That's where I learned BRR in 1960. Huh! That's wrong. It's on their later "Whaling Ballads" LP. I learned if from taping MacColl at his and Peggy Seeger's concert at Penn in 1959.

I still sing it.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 20 Jan 11 - 01:31 AM

To add to my last post:

While Lloyd's THE SINGING SAILOR album is commonly dated (or estimated) to 1956, I've discovered a review of the album in the Dec. 1955 issue (Vol 7, #4) of _Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society_. So, the Lloyd's album came out before Ives registered his copyright in late Nov. of that year -- if that means anything.

Gibb


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 20 Jan 11 - 01:09 AM

Hi Abby

Good point in that Burl Ives' version was not necessarily influenced by the film MOBY DICK -- though it still may have been influenced by Lloyd's renditions in 1954 (i.e. during shooting) or earlier (if he had it in his repertoire around and about). Indeed, I does seem Ives copyrighted "Go Down, You Red, Red Roses" in Nov. 1955, if this link is accurate:

http://www.faqs.org/copyright/the-burl-ives-songbook-american-song-in-historical

Now, this is all interpretation, but FWIW:

1. Hugill's mystery version and Lloyd's version are, in my opinion, just too similar to be a coincidence. Either Hugill was on the scene contributing that version in the early/mid 50s (an idea that Lighter has put forth) or Hugill himself was influenced by the revival version and put it in his 1961 book. The latter is what I lean towards. If that was the case,

2. Lloyd or Ives are likely to have worked up their versions from another source. My best conjecture is that whoever the person was, he read Doerflinger's book. I think the items, texts, and title spellings from Lloyd and Ives' albums show that one or both used Doerflinger's book as a reference for several of his/their songs. I have not done any close analysis of that. I also believe that the tune of Lloyd's "Blood Red" is appreciably similar to that in Doerflinger.

3. If I had to guess Lloyd or Ives as the originator of a revival version, I'd guess Lloyd. No disrespect to Ives, but it does seem that Lloyd and his cohort were leading the sea music trend. Lloyd's solo verses are nothing like Doerflinger's, however they are all stock chanty lines (e.g. from "Handy, My Boys, So Handy") that he could have fitted as per his aesthetic -- an aesthetic which, I would argue, did not favor the "downhome" minstrel-y American couplets. On the other hand, Ive's text resembles Doerflinger's in keeping "come down"/"bunch of", and the solo lines, while different, have that downhome quality. I would think he certainly read Doerflinger's 1951 book. But why does Ives have "red red"? And why O why in the title is it "go down"? The latter smacks of Lloyd's reinterpretation, and the former seems like a toning down of Lloyd's "blood-red."

My GUESS would be that Ives drew from both Doerflinger's book and Lloyd's live performance activities.

If all my guesswork has not entertained you enough :) then here is an anecdote: I was thinking about this today and suddenly remembered that I had recently overheard someone at a coffeeshop saying that he would occasionally get a call from Burl Ives. Apparently, Ives was a friend of his father; the gent had to explain the significance of Ives to whomever he was talking to. So I got this crazy idea that I'd go back to the coffeeshop and ask this guy if he could arrange a call to Ives. I'd ask Ives where he learned the song from. I entertained the idea for about half an hour before I remembered to check if Ives had died...15 or so years back!


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Lighter
Date: 16 Jan 11 - 04:15 PM

Thanks, Abby. That's very interesting. It prompted me to see if Ives's lyrics have been posted online since 2009, and it looks like they have:

Come sailors listen unto me:
Chorus: Come down you bunch of roses, come down
A lovely song I'll sing to thee.
Chorus: Oh, you pinks and posies,
Come down, you red, red roses, come down.

A whale is bigger than a mouse;
Come down you bunch of roses, come down
A sailor's lower than a louse.
Oh, you pinks and posies,
Come down, you red, red roses, come down.

The cook he rolled out all the grub:
One split pea in a ten-pound tub.

In eighteen hundred and fifty-three
We set sail for the Southern Sea.

In eighteen hundred and fifty-five
I was breathing but not alive.

In eighteen hundred and fifty-seven
We sailed up to the gates of Heaven.

Saint Peter would not let us in.
He sent us back to earth again.

All this is true that I do tell.
The ship we're on's a livin' Hell.

The captain's covered o'er with fur;
Has grown a tail like Lucifer.

I still don't know where he found - or if he invented - the text. I've never seen the stanzas anywhere else. So-called "internal evidence" means nothing here.

FWIW, Huston knew Ives personally and had hoped to star him in a film about the Irish poet Raftery. (It didn't happen.) However, Huston actually filmed Moby Dick in 1954 and 1955, though it wasn't released till 1956.

I've never heard a song "sing itself" into or out of anything. How Huston happened to find and cast Lloyd as the chanteyman seems to be unknown. Just possibly Huston heard Ives sing "Red, Red Roses," realized Ives was too huge (in every sense) to play the chanteyman, and got Lloyd to sing the song in whatever version he knew. Of course, we don't where Lloyd got it. Was he in contact with Hugill in 1954-55? We don't for sure.

The musical connections between Hugill, Huston, Ives, Lloyd and "Blood-Red Roses" (or any other kind) are very murky and uncertain.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Abby Sale
Date: 16 Jan 11 - 01:09 PM

Lighter & Guest Gibb,

If Burl Ives recorded "RED red roses" on an album in 1956 and I see it's also in his 1956 book _Sea Songs_ (no month given), it seems he could not easily have gotten it from, learned and published after the June 1956 movie.

Very different verses and style - seems to be a bit in the style of Appalachian game songs. Still, he uses "blood red" in the refrain and that "the ship we're on is a living hell." Hardly bawdy but less safe.

    1. Come sailors listen unto me,
       Come down, you bunch of roses, come down,
       A lovely song I'll sing to thee,
       Oh, you pinks and posies come down, [sic]
       You bunch of roses come down.

Same tune as Lloyd without the "come down" refrain after the second line.

FWIW, Ives claims copyright "because of variation in melody or text" on this and 12 other of the 66 songs printed. There is no other attribution for this song.

OTOH, the January, 1956 foreword by John Huston, director of "Moby Dick," only says that he put the four sea songs, including "Red, Red Roses," in the movie. Not by his own decision, they were already there and sang themselves into the picture.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: shipcmo
Date: 16 Nov 10 - 09:27 AM

refresh


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: GUEST,Urnungal
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 07:30 PM

I wonder. The VD mess on board ships of the Andrew used to be referred to as "Rose Cottage".


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 07 Jan 10 - 08:51 PM

I just ran across a variant verse of this old shanty in Gordon Grant's book SAIL HO!: Windjammer Sketches Alow and Aloft, pubished by William Farquhar Payson, New York, © 1930, p. 16:

Ho, Molly come down,
Come down with your pretty posey,
Come down with your cheeks so rosy,
Ho, Molly, come down
He O! He O!

Grant who sailed aboard the Balclutha in 1925 describes this song being used for "swaying off":

"They have set the main topgallant staysail. In order to stretch it taut along the stay one man takes a turn under the belaying pin; the other two stand on the fife rail, grasp the halliards, and "sway off," putting all the weight into it. As they bend their knees, the slack is taken up on the pin and the process repeated.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 04:42 PM

Bugger! missed it!


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 04:41 PM

100


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Leadfingers
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 04:40 PM

100


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 03:23 PM

oops, In my 1:37 pm post, above, I meant to write "HE was taking for granted..."
A psychological slip? :)


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 03:20 PM

Lighter,
Thanks for pointing out to me the Lomax FOLKSONGS OF NORTH AMERICA source. I acknowledge you in the footnote to the prospective article, but would like to here, as well.

*****

On a different note, my interest is piqued by the ring-play song from Trinidad and I wonder if the "Ring around the Roses" game could be a connection. On a self-reflective note: My interest in that avenue might be a good example with which to compare Hugill's interest in the "redcoats." He may have been more inclined to look to English literary precedents while I am more inclined to look towards vernacular music of the creole New World; both reflect our biases. My hope, however, is to avoid doing what (I allege) Hugill did in this instance, which was to use language like "probably" when only speculating!

And to be honest, if only as speculation for the fun of it, I'd still be interested to learn what "bunch of roses" might have meant.

Gibb


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 02:45 PM

And fond of re-arranging, re-creating and even making up songs?

Still a genius?

L in C


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Lighter
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 02:34 PM

Sorry, MtheGM, but national styles in irony must vary.

I meant to imply that *of course* Lloyd must have read Whitman, and that the phrase may well have stuck in his mind.

Had I meant to patronize, I'd have written instead "And what are the chances Lloyd had ever read Whitman?"

Nobody who's read "Folk Song in England" could imagine the man wasn't widely read, knowledgable, insightful, and all the rest.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 02:26 PM

'And what are the chances that Lloyd had never read Walt Whitman?' What a peculiarly patronising tone here!

I knew Bert Lloyd - interviewed him at gr8 length [3xA4 close-printed pages] for Folk Review Sep 1974. Despite his background and lack of early formal education, he was widely and eruditely read & would most certainly have read Whitman. To quote a short passage about his time in Aus way out in the Bush but subscribing to Sydney Central Lib's bushworkers' postal-loan scheme: "cheap bound editions - Cape's Travellers Library, Chatto&Windus Phoenix Library ... Joyce's Dubliners & Proust & a number of other works..." Can't believe a man who would spend his youthful wages educating himself like that in the Bush had never read Whitman, can you?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
From: Lighter
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 02:11 PM

That's great work, Gibb Sahib.

AFAIK - and I've been interested in this stuff for 45 years - there is not a scrap of historical evidence to suggest that "blood-red roses" meant redcoats - ever or anywhere. The song "Bonnie Bunch of Roses O" is undoubtedly the origin of this folk-revival belief, but there aren't any "blood-red roses" in it and the "Bunch of Roses" is used merely as a symbol of the United Kingdom.

Though the phrase "blood-red roses" turns up occasionally in Victorian poetry and fiction, the only person before Lloyd who is absolutely known to have addressed said roses personally ("O blood-red roses!") was Walt Whitman in Leaves of Grass.

And what are the chances that Lloyd had never read Walt Whitman?


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