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Rosebud(s) in June

[ Roud 812 ; Ballad Index ShH93 ; Bodleian Roud 812 ; trad.]

Rosebud in June is from the Journal of the Folk Song Society, collected from William King by Cecil Sharp in Somerset, 1904. It was also printed in Sharp's 100 English Folk Songs. The song is also printed with the title The Sheep Shearing Song in Frank Purslow's book of English folk songs from the Hammond and Gardiner manuscripts, Marrow Bones.

Steeleye Span recorded Rosebud in June in 1972 for their album Below the Salt and a second time—with Maddy singing solo—as hidden track after King Henry on their CD Present to accompany the December 2002 Steeleye Span reunion tour. The original recording's sleeve notes said:

“Reality is a complex of related hypotheses,” he said pulling up the horses. “Take they hypotheses yonder.” He pointed to a flock of sheep with the wet end of his sucking straw. “Now theyse all related in a complex sort of way so theyse got ter be real ain't they.” Ned looked at him very hard. “Ev you been drinkin' with parson again?”

The Watersons sang Rosebuds in June with somewhat different verses on their LP and CD Green Fields. This track was reissued in 2003 on The Definitive Collection. A.L. Lloyd commented in the original recording's sleeve notes:

Probably the most famous version of this beauty is the one obtained by Cecil Sharp from a farmer, William King, of West Hastree, Somerset. Gustav Holst, for one, made an orchestral setting of the melody. Eighteenth century print may have helped to keep in alive, both words and music. It was sung on the stage in a play called The Custom of the Manor in 1715, but it's doubtful whether a town composer made it, even though it's an unusual shape for a traditional tune. Most probably he lifted it from tradition. The Watersons found this present version in Mr H. Mason's Nursery Rhymes and Country Songs (1878).

Sally Dexter, Julie Murphy, Ian Giles and Andy Turner sang The Sheepshearing Song on The Mellstock Band's 1995 Saydisc CD Songs of Thomas Hardy's Wessex. Their source is Hammond D.358 from William Miller, Wootton Fitzpain, April 1906.

Magpie Lane sang A Rosebud in June in 1998 on their Beautiful Joe CD Jack-in-the-Green.

Martyn Wyndham-Read and company sang Rosebud in June in 1998 on their CD Maypoles to Mistletoes.

The Cecil Sharp Centenary Collective sang Rosebud in June in 2003 on their CD As I Cycled Out on a May Morning.

Hilary James and Simon Mayor sang Linden Lea on the latter's 2006 CD Music from a Small Island. He noted:

As with so many English folk songs, a version of this was collected—rescued even—by Cecil Sharp on one of his song hunting expeditions, in this case in Somerset. The words are a simple celebration of rural life and love, the beauty of the melody has haunted me for many years.

Bella Hardy sang Rosebud in June in 2009 on her CD In the Shadow of Mountains.

Eliza Carthy sang Rosebuds in June on The Imagine Village's 2010 CD Empire and Love.

James Findlay sang The Rosebuds in June in 2012 on his Fellside CD Another Day, Another Story. He commented:

The classic novel by Thomas Hardy, Under the Greenwood Tree, begins with Dick Dewy singing this song on Christmas Eve whilst walking to join other members of the Mellstock Quire. The song rings of ‘Sheep Shearing Feasts’ when farm workers would meet, drink and talk about their sheep, very much in the fashion of ‘Young Farmers’ today. This version was collected in Wootton Fitzpaine, Dorset, from William Miller by Henry Hammond in 1906. It is likely to be the tune that Hardy was humming as he was writing the novel.

Sproatly Smith sang Rosebuds in June on the 2012 Folk Police Recordings anthology Weirdlore.

Lyrics

Steeleye Span sing Rosebud in June

It's a rosebud in June and the violets in full bloom,
And the small birds singing love songs on each spray.

Chorus (after each verse):
We'll pipe and we'll sing love.
We'll dance in a ring love.
When each lad takes his lass
All on the green grass,
And it's, oh, to plough where the fat oxen graze low
And the lads and the lasses do sheep-shearing go.

When we have all sheared our jolly, jolly sheep,
What joy can be greater than to talk of their increase.

For their flesh it is good, it's the best of all food,
And their wool it will cloth us and keep our backs from the cold.

Here's the ewes and the lambs, here's the hogs and the rams,
And the fat wethers too they will make a fine show.

The Mellstock Band sing The Sheepshearing Song

Here's the rosebud in June, the sweet violet's in bloom,
And the small birds singing gaily on ev'ry green bough.
The pink and the lily and the daffy-down-dilly
To adorn and perfume the sweet meadows in June.

Chorus (after each verse):
Whilst out o' the plough, the fat oxen go slow
And the lads and the lasses a-sheep-shearing go.

Our shepherds rejoice in their fine heavy fleeces,
And frisky young lambs which their flocks do increase.
Each lad takes his lass all on the green grass
To adorn and perfume those sweet meadows in June.

Here's the cleanly milk pail is full of brown ale;
Our table, our table, our table we'll spread,
We will sit and we'll sing, we'll laugh, joke and drink,
Each lad takes his lass out on the green grass.

Now the shepherds have sheared all their jolly, jolly sheep,
What joy can be greater than to talk of the increase.
Here's the ewes and the lambs, the hogs and the rams,
The fat wethers too, they'll make a fine show.

The Watersons sing Rosebuds in June

Here the rosebuds in June and the violets are blowing,
The small birds they warble on every green bough.
Here's the pink and the lily and the daffy-down-dilly
To adorn and perfume those sweet meadows in June.

Chorus (after each verse):
If it weren't for the plough, the fat ox would grow slow
And the lads and the bonny lasses to the sheep-shearing go.

Our shepherds rejoice in their fine heavy fleeces,
And frisky young lambs which their flocks do increase.
Each lad takes his lass all on the green grass
To adorn and perfume those sweet meadows in June.

Our clean milking pails, they are fouled with good ale;
At the table, there's plenty of cheer to be found.
We'll whistle and sing and we'll dance in a ring
To adorn and perfume those sweet meadows in June.

Now sheep-shearing's over and harvest do draw nigh,
We'll prepare for the fields, our strength for to try.
We'll reap and we'll mow, we'll plough and we'll sow
To adorn and perfume those sweet meadows in June.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Greer Gilman for transcribing the Watersons' singing and to Patrick Montague for correcting the Steeleye Span lyrics.