Green Grow the Rushes, O

Green Grow the Rushes, O, Traditional song.

Traditional song Not to be confused with Green Grow the Lilacs.

Green Grow the Rushes, O (alternatively "Ho" or "Oh") (also known as "The Twelve Prophets", "The Carol of the Twelve Numbers", "The Teaching Song", "The Dilly Song", or "The Ten Commandments"), is an English folk song (Roud #133) popular across the English-speaking world. It is sometimes sung as a Christmas carol. It often takes the form of antiphon, where one voice calls and is answered by a chorus.

The song is not to be confused with Robert Burns's similarly titled "Green Grow the Rashes" nor with the Altan song of the same name. It is cumulative in structure, with each verse built up from the previous one by appending a new stanza. The first verse is:

I'll sing you one, O Green grow the rushes, O What is your one, O? One is one and all alone And evermore shall be so.

The song occurs in many variants, collected by musicologists including Sabine Baring-Gould and Cecil Sharp from the West of England at the start of the twentieth century. The stanzas are clearly much corrupted and often obscure, but the references are generally agreed to be both biblical and astronomical.

Contents

Lyrics

The twelfth, cumulated, verse runs:

I'll sing you twelve, O Green grow the rushes, O What are your twelve, O? Twelve for the twelve Apostles Eleven for the eleven who went to heaven, Ten for the ten commandments, Nine for the nine bright shiners, Eight for the April Rainers. Seven for the seven stars in the sky, Six for the six proud walkers, Five for the symbols at your door, Four for the Gospel makers, Three, three, the rivals, Two, two, the lily-white boys, Clothed all in green, O One is one and all alone And evermore shall be so.

Origins

The lyrics of the song are in many places extremely obscure, and present an unusual mixture of Christian catechesis, astronomical mnemonics, and what may be pagan cosmology. The ...read more

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