By the dangers of the ocean, one morning in the month of June,
The sweet feathered warbling songsters their charming notes so sweet did tune,
'Twas there I spied a female seemingly in grief and woe,
Conversing with young Buonaparte concerning the bonny bunch of Roses O!
Oh! Mother, said young Napolean, as he pressed his mother by the hand,
Do Mother, pray, have patience until I'm able to command,
I will raise a terrible army and o'er the frozen realms I'll go,
And in spite of all the universe I will gain the bonny bunch of roses O!
Oh! son, never speak so venturesome, for in England their are hearts of oak,
There's England, Ireland and Scotland, their unity has never been broke,
Now son, look at your father, in St Helena his body lies low,
And you might follow after, so beware the bonny bunch of roses O!
For he took three hundred thousand men, likewise some kings to join his throng,
Why! he was so well provided, enough to sweep the world along
But when he came to Moscow, they were overpowered by driving snow,
And Moscow was a-blazing, so they lost the bonny bunch of roses O!
Now Mother, adieu for ever, for alas I'm dying on my bed,
If I'd lived I might have been clever, but now I droop my youthful head,
But while my bones do moulder and weeping willows over me grow,
The deeds of bold Napolean will sting the bonny bunch of roses O.
abc | midi | pdf
Source: Marrow Bones, Ed Frank Purslow, EFDS Publications,1965
Gardiner H.399. Collected from Chas. Windebank, Lyndhurst, Hants, July 1906
Frank Purslow's notes follow:
Many people have been puzzled by the inconsistancies in the text of this song.
James Reeves, in "The Everlasting Circle" (Heinemann 1960) mentions especially
those in verse 4. These inconsistancies can, however, be very simply
explained if it is borne in mind that the song is an imaginary conversation between
Napoleon's young son and his mother, and that verse 4 is a continuance of his
mother's warning and not, as is sometimes thought, a statement of unhistorical
fact. When young Napoleon speaks of "The deeds of bold Napoleon" he is
referring to the deeds of his father, not of himself. The Rev. Baring-Gould, in his
notes to the song in "Songs of the West" states "it is unmistakably an anti-
Jacobite production" later adapted as an anti-Napoleonic song. No proof has ever
come to light to support this claim as far as we know and we, personally, doubt
it very much. The tune to which the early Irish broadsides of the song are directed
to be sung is "The Bonny Bunch of Rushes". The tune which Chas. Windebank
sang is "The Rose tree in Full Bearing", (which is still in use as a Morris tune
by the traditional Morris team at Bampton, Oxfordshire), and this is also of Irish
origin. The high-flown language of some versions of the song would indicate that
the song originated as an Irish broadside. It is certainly meant to be pro-Napoleonic;
note especially the sting in the tail.
A popular song throughout Britain and Ireland, where most folk song collections contain one or more examples; also found in the USA and Canada. It is often assumed to be Irish because of the sympathy expressed for Napoleon; this is to ignore the fact that republican sentiments were strong in Britain at the time of the Napoleonic wars, and the ordinary people were oppressed just as much as they were in Ireland. The Bunch of Rushes is generally considered to be an English tune, not to be confused with the Irish reel The Bunch of Green Rushes. There is an Irish air, The Little Bench of Rushes (An Beinsin Luacra) which some have claimed as the original tune, but I for one am not convinced. Having said all that, I'd consider the question of origin to be open. Sets of the song beginning By the margin... all seem to be Irish versions, incidentally.
The song appeared on broadsides as The [Bonny] Bunch of Roses [O], as Young Napoleon and, very occasionally, The Bonnie Bunch o Roses O. There are a number of 19th century editions at √?¬†Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads. √?¬†They differ little, so I'll mention just two:
Young Napoleon, or The bonny bunch of roses ("By the dangers of the ocean...") √?¬†To the tune of: The bunch of rushes, O! Printed between 1858 and 1885 by W.S. Fortey, 2 & 3, Monmouth Court, Seven Dials [London]. Harding B 17(350a).
Young Napoleon ("By the side of the green ocean ...") √?¬†Printer and date unknown. Firth b.27(8) and Harding B 11(4380).
We have not identified any Irish broadside editions, so have no idea if they are earlier than the English and Scottish ones. At all events, the song as we have it now can hardly be older than 1832, when Fran√?¬ßois Charles Joseph Bonaparte, "Young Napoleon", died of tuberculosis in Vienna.
Roud: 664 (Search Roud index at VWML) Take Six
Related Songs: Bonny Bunch of Roses (1) (thematic)