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Of all the birds that ever I see,
The owl is the fairest in her degree.
For all the day long she sits in a tree,
And when the night cometh, away flies she.
To-whit! To-who! says she, To who!
Cinnamon, ginger, nutmegs and cloves,
And brandy gave me my jolly red nose.

The lark in the morn ascendeth on high
And leaves the poor owl to sob and to sigh;
And all the day long, the owl is asleep,
While little birds blithely are singing, cheep! cheep!

There's many a brave bird boasteth awhile,
And proves himself great, let Providence smile,
Be hills and be vallies all covered with snow,
The poor owl will shiver and mock with Ho! Ho!

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Source: Songs of the West S. Baring- Gould

Baring Gould notes:
This song occurs in part in King Henry VIII's music-book "Deuteromelia," published in 1609. It was set by Mr Freeman as a glee in "The Essex Harmony," vol i 1767, p8.
In Beaumont and Fletcher's play, "The Knight of the Burning Pestle,"1635, Old Merrythought trolls out snatches of songs, and amongst others-

"Nose, nose, jolly red nose,
And who gave thee this jolly red nose?
Cinnamon, ginger, nutmegs and cloves,
And they gave me this jolly red nose."

Mr Bussell noted down the melody from James Olver, tanner of Launceston, in 1889. Of the words, Olver could not recall the line that follows

"And all the day long the Owl is asleep,"
and I have had to supply what is lacked.

I gave this song because it is interesting to note the changes that the air has undergone since it was performed as a Three Man's song before King Henry V111. It will be noticed that Olver has not got all the portion of the song beginning "To whom drink'st thou," Chapell has given "Of all the birds," in vol i p75. On the other hand in "Deuteromelia," only the first verse is given; Olver had three. A re-writing of the song "Of all the Birds on Bush or Tree," in "The Thrush," London 1830, has two stanzas. The second concerns the lark.


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