As I was a walking one morning in May
To hear the sweet birds sing aloud from the spray
I heard a young damsel, so sweetly sang she
'Down by the Green Bushes he thinks to meet me'
'I'll buy you fine beavers and a fine silken gown
I'll buy you fine petticoats with the flounced to the ground,
If you'll but prove loyal and constant to me
And forsake your own true love, and marry with me'
'I want none of your beavers nor fine silken hose
For I never was so poor as to marry for clothes
But if you will prove loyal and constant to me
I'll forsake my own true Love and get married to thee'
'Come let us be going, kind sir, if you please
Come let us be going from under these trees
For yonder he's coming, my true love I see
Down by the green bushes where he thinks to meet me'
Oh, when he came there and he found she was gone
He stood like some lambkin, that was quite forlorn
'She is gone with another and forsaken me
So adieu the green bushes for ever', said he
'Now I'll be like a schoolboy and spend my time in play
For I never was so foolishly deluded away
There is ne'er a false woman shall serve me more so
So adieu the green bushes, 'tis time to give o'er'
Palmer, R (1979) Everymans's Book of English Country Songs.
Sung by Mr. and Mrs. Ratford, Ingrave, Essex; collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams, 15.4.1904 (MS II 43).
A young man 'a-walking', as in so many English folk songs, 'one morning in May', overhears a woman singing of her true love. He immediately offers her rich clothing if she will marry him instead, but she rejects the offer. Almost immediately, however, she changes her mind, on condition that he will be 'loyal and constant'. The erstwhile true love is naturally disappointed as he sees the pair disappearing into the distance. The green bushes are both part of the landscape and a symbol of virginity. The song dates from the 1760s, though it remained popular until the early years of this century. The fine striding tune is often associated with 'The Cutty Wren'; Vaughan Williams collected it in Essex in 1904 with only a fragment of the text, for which I have substituted words from a ballad sheet, printed by Wright of Birmingham c.
1820-7, under the title of 'The False Lovers' (Birmingham Reference Library).
(Search Roud index at VWML) Take Six