Henry's Songbook

All original copyrights respected / For private use only

go to  de   Susannes Folksong-Notizen   English Notes  uk

Banks Of Red Roses I

  •  (Trad)

    When I was a wee thing and easy led astray
    Before that I would work I would rather sport and play
    Before that I would work I would rather sport and play
    Wi' my Johnny on the banks o' red roses

    On the banks of red roses his love and he sat doon
    And he took oot his fiddle for tae play his love a tune
    In the middle o' the tune, oh she sighed and she said
    Oh my Johnny, lovely Johnny, dinna leave me

    Oh they walked and they talked till they cam untae a cave
    Where all night long her Johnny had been digging at her grave
    Where all night long her Johnny had been digging at her grave
    By the bonnie bonnie banks o' red roses

    Oh Johnny, lovely Johnny, oh that grave it's no for me
    Oh yes, my lovely Jeannie, that your bridal bed shall be
    Oh yes, my lovely Jeannie, that your bridal bed shall be
    By the bonnie bonnie banks o' red roses

    Repeat verse 2

    He's ta'en oot his wee penknife, an' it was lang an' shairp
    An' he pierced it through and through the bonnie lassie's hairt
    Aye, he pierced it through and through the bonnie lassie's hairt
    And he left her lyin' low on red roses

    And as he was walkin' hameward, his heart was filled wi' fear
    Till every face he saw, he thocht it was his dear
    Till every face he saw, he thocht it was his dear
    Lyin' cold upon her bed o' red roses

    Repeat verse 2

    1, As sung by Cilla Fisher & Artie Trezise

    Banks Of Red Roses II

    On the banks of the roses my love and I sat down
    And I took out a fiddle for to play my love a tune
    In the middle of the tune, oh she smiled and she said
    Oh Johnny, lovely Johnny, would you leave me

    Well when I was a young one I heard my father say
    That he'd rather see me dead and buried in the clay
    Sooner than be married to any runaway
    By the lovely sweet banks of the roses

    Well then I am a runaway and soon I'll let them know
    That I can take a bottle or can leave it alone
    If her daddy doesn't like it he can keep his daughter home
    And her Johnny will go roamin' with another

    And when I get married it'll be the month of May
    When the leaves they are green and the meadows they are gay
    And me and my true love will sit and sport and play
    By the lovely sweet banks of the roses

    2, As sung by Swan Arcade (different tune)


Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • [1984:] Where the theme of the girl murdered by her boy-friend appears in Western folk-song, it is generally understood that she is pregnant, even when this is not explicitly stated. Sheila Douglas regards this as a story which ends in tragedy, and she shapes the song accordingly. "It is the love that is doomed", she says, and there is no anger or harshness in her singing. She finds sexual symbolism in the second line of v. 1 [...] "It seems to me to be about the way all-consuming sexual passion can wreck people's lives and bring about tragedy and death." Stanley Robertson of Aberdeen, a nephew of Jeannie Robertson, treats the song very differently. His fuller version of the words, and Peter Shepheard's [see Fisher/Trezise version], makes it clear that the murder was calculated. This is the fastest account [...] He has since described it as "... a horror ballad - if sung slow, it's too much; the tune is euphemistic and puts it over in a digestible way." He is very hard on the woman: "In the song, the girl admits she is loose - 'Before I wad work [...]' She obviously becomes pregnant and the young man feels trapped. He could cope with fatherhood but not with her constant nagging." The only reason he gave in support of the "constant nagging" charge was that she had interrupted her lover in the middle of the tune he was playing for her, having always taken the "tune-box" line literally. As for the "sporting and playing" he evidently regards this as all the woman's fault, and he says "wee thing" can refer to an adult. [...]

    "Many travellers used this song to teach their daughters the dangers and perils in breaking their moral standards, and that the aftermath could bring much suffering and heartbreak." (It seems it was not used as a warning to sons.) [...]

    Dr. Peter Sheapard learned his version from Jane [Turriff]'s uncle, old Davie Stewart, "and conflated it with other versions". [...] His highly individual conflation is sung [...] the whole effect being not only relaxed but almost jolly, and with gusto. The tempo is second only to Stanley's here. (But Stanley, although he described the tune as "pleasant", and chooses a fast pace, does not sound relaxed or jolly; his fast-driven version has a certain grimness, probably directed against the girl for causing the man to undergo the terrible experience of murdering her!) [...]

    One interpretation of this song is that the girl is not really murdered at all but lying back exhausted after vigorous lovemaking, the knife and the stabbing "through and through" being another piece of erotic imagery; and there are versions where this is clearly indicated, including some from Ireland. This underlines the fact that the same words are used [...] to announce the start of lovemaking and to announce the start of killing [...] Going a step further, the connection between murder, and sexual love which is doomed and hopeless, has been made before, perhaps especially in fiction [...]

    I was particularly interested to find that [...] the two travellers, should ignore the sexual implications in verse 1 [...] and wondered at first if this was common in traveller versions generally. But the evidence does not support this. [...] Betsy [Whyte of Montrose]'s childhood was spent in the real travelling life; she often heard the song and says that "You could see everyone understood this meaning". She thought the symbolic words were probably used partly to avoid being explicit in front of the children, who were with the grown-ups all the time. She also says she heard it sung, "He took oot his grinding-box to play his love a tune": "grinder" is a name for the penis. [...]

    We may conclude that this is probably a very old song, and that the symbolic meaning [...] was suppressed and frowned on at certain times and in certain places. [...]

    Betsy Whyte thinks "runaway" means a deserter, a man who has run away from battle. [...]

    Stanley Robertson offers an interesting theory about roses [...] "Some travellers considered this song as being unlucky because it contained the word 'roses'. Roses many times are associated with superstition and ill luck. For example: The butcher boy [...] The bonnie bunch o' roses [...] Tamlin [...] Matty Grove [...] In each case a woman was pregnant. [...] There are many examples. ... This of course was one of my mother's theories." (Munro, Revival 288ff)

  • [1986:] In its eighteenth-century broadside form, this popular song is represented as a somewhat slight collection of innocent and inconsequential floater verses. Since then, it has changed radically. In Ireland, a young man's violin - or tuning-fork - robs the broadside's "pretty brown girl" of her virginity; in Scotland, she loses her life. The transformation of this simple pastoral piece into a murder ballad is, we suggest, of a comparatively recent date. In its murder form, the song does not appear - to our knowledge - in any Scots collection printed before 1970. (MacColl/Seeger, Doomsday 230)

  • [1987:] A tender murder ballad. The motive may be found in the fact that red roses are a symbol of pregnancy. (Notes Rod Sinclair, 'When the Cock Crows')

Quelle: Scotland

go back  de  B-Index  uk

© Sammlung : Susanne Kalweit (Kiel)
Layout : Henry Kochlin (D-21435 Stelle)

aktualisiert am 02.04.2010, 08.09.99