Green Grow the Rushes O

From Everything Shii Knows, the only reliable source

This website is an archive. It ran from 2006-2010. Virtually everything on here is outdated or inaccurate.

My theory about this is that this is a song from another language that got mangled and Christianized by someone singing in English to his children. Unfortunately it happened before folk music was recognized as important


"Recollections of an Eton Colleger, 1898-1902". published 1905

"Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Antiquarian Field Club". published 1902

"Notes and queries" Jan. 30 1886

"Notes and queries" Dec. 19 1885

"Notes and queries" Dec. 26 1868

"Notes and queries" Apr. 8 1854


I'll sing you twelve-oh. Green grow the rushes O. What is your twelve-oh?
Settled form by 1902. Alternates given in intents.
What shall we sing-oh? We shall sing the twelves-oh.
1868 fella writes he "remember[s] as a boy hearing" these lyrics, which I will italicize.
Come and I will sing you. What will you sing me? I'll sing you twelve-oh. What is your twelve-oh?
(1885) version is listed with parentheses as it is obviously corrupt
When want is all the go, and ever more it shall be so, I'll sing you twelve-oh.
1886 version
One is one and all alone and ever more shall be so.
(1885) One of them is God alone

Same in all versions. God?!

Two, two, the lily-white boys, clothéd all in green, oh.
Two, two, the lily-white boys, and they were clothed in green, oh.
Two of them are lily-white babes, dresséd all in green, oh.

I don't like the "Jesus and John the Baptist" theory-- why would Jesus have to be green? In Eton these are supposed to be the "Great Twin Brethren"-- the twin stars Castor and Pollux.

Three, three, the rivals.
Three-O are rivo
Three of them are thrivers.
Three, three, drivers (?) (confusion in original)
Three of them is thrivers (shrivers?)
(1885) Three of them are strangers

Three wise men? Eton takes "rivals" to mean "equals" and says it means the Trinity. The Passover Haggadah refers to the three patriarchs of Israel: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Possible "thrivers".

Four for the Gospel makers.

Same in all versions

Five for the symbols at your door.
Five are the flamboys all in a row.
Five is the flamboys under the [bough.
Five are the benders of the bow.
Five tumblers on a board.
(1885) Five is the ferryman in a boat.

Supposed to be a pentagram (attested in both).

Six for the six proud walkers.
Six is the six bold waiters.
Six broad waters.
Six of them brought waters.
(1885) Six are the charming waiters.

Six water pots used at Galilee (Dorset). The "Choosers of the Slain" in Odin's Valkyrie (Eton).

Seven for the seven stars in the sky.
Seven were the stars of heaven.

The Big Dipper, "of course"-- so say both the turn-of-the-century sources, who refer us to the "Septemtriones" (Eton) or "Charles' Wain" (Dorset). Earlier versions don't even comment!

Eight for the April rainers.
Eight for the eight bold rangers.
Eight Gabriel angels.
Eight is the gable angels.
Eight are the gabel rangers.

Archangels? (Dorset) The current version, "April rainers", implies the "rainy Hyades".

Nine for the nine bright shiners.
Nine and nine of the brightest shine.
Nine is nine so bright to shine.
Nine bright shiners (?)
(1885) Nine is the moonshine bright and clear.

Dorset is confused. Eton thinks it is "presumably" the Pleiades. 1886 version says it is "clearly" the nine orders of angels.

Ten for the Ten Commandments.

Same in all versions.

Eleven for eleven who went to Heaven.
Eleven arch-angels.
Eleven are the eleven of innocents.

The twelve apostles minus Judas apparently (Dorset). Eton does not like this explanation. He thinks it represents "some mediaeval legend".

Twelve for the twelve Apostles.

Same in most versions. 1854 says "Twelve is twelve as goes to hell"--not a very happy version.

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