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Gown of Green
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The Gown of Green
; Master title: The Gown of Green
; G/D 4:907
; Ballad Index
; VWML HAM/2/10/5
; Mudcat 62307
Jack Norris of Whiteman's Green, Cuckfield, Sussex,sang The Gown So Green at home on 22 June 1957 to Mervyn Plunkett and Reg Hall. This recording was included in 1998 on the Topic anthology Come Let Us Buy the Licence (The Voice of the People Volume 1).
May Bradley of Ludlow, Shropshire, sang The Gown So Green to Fred Hamer on 12 April 1966. This recording was included in 2010 on her Musical Traditions anthology Sweet Swansea.
The Brazil Family's 2007 Musical Traditions anthology Down By the Old Riverside has three versions of The Gown So Green: One was recorded by Peter Shepheard from Alice Webb in her caravan at Apperley Lock, near Tewkesbury, at Christmas 1968, the other two were recorded by Gwilym Davies from Danny and from Harry Brazil in Staverton, Gloucestershire, in Fall 1977. Harry Brazil also sang The Gown So Green to Mike Yates in 1978. This recording was included in 1979 on the Topic anthology of songs, Stories and Tunes from English Gypsies recorded by Mike Yates, Travellers, and this song was printed in 2006 in Mike Yates' book Traveller's Joy. He commented in the album's sleeve notes:
The Gown So Green, titled The Answer to The Gown So Green by broadside printers, is another seduction ballad, although nothing like as popular as Once I Was a Servant. Cecil Sharp found a set, as yet unpublished, in Sussex in 1908.
John Kirkpatrick sang The Gown So Green in 2001 on his CD Mazurka Berserker. He commented:
May Bradley sang a couple of verses of this, and the Brazil Family sang a couple more. There are other versions that have other words, and by the time they'd all come together, and a few extras been added, the tune seemed to have decided to be never quite the same two verses running. Wonderful stuff, traditional music!
Blue Murder sang Gown of Green in 2002 on their album No One Stands Alone.
Jane and Amanda Threlfall sang Gown of Green as the title track of their 2002 CD Gown of Green, which was produced by Oliver Knight. They returned to it on their 2007 CD Revisited where they noted:
Joseph Taylor knew two variants of this song, which he had to hum to Percy Grainger because he couldn't remember the words. The version here is a reconstruction done by Patrick O'Shaughnessy and published in his excellent series of books on Lincolnshire Folksongs (Oxford University Press, 1968/l971) and Yellowbelly Ballads (1975).
The first three verses are from a Pitt broadside and the rest from the singing of Robert Barratt of Puddleton, Dorset, collected by the Hammond brothers on 1 September 1905 [ VWML HAM/2/10/5 ] .
Green has often been symbolic of seduction or betrothal in folk song. Either way, a loss of virginity is the eventual outcome.
Shan Cowan sang The Gown of Green on the 2005 Musical Traditions album Songs from the Golden Fleece.
Bernie Cherry sang The Gown of Green on his 2013 Musical Traditions anthology With Powder, Shot and Gun. Rod Stradling commented in the album's booklet:
Not a very well-known song, if Roud's total of only 51 instances is realistic; half of these are from broadside or book publications. For some reason or other, The Gown of Green was entitled The Answer to The Gown So Green on Victorian broadsides, so it may be that there was an earlier song with the first title.
The collected examples come mostly from England; four from Scotland make up the remainder. Percy Grainger recorded it from Joseph Taylor back in 1906, but the recording seems never to have been published.
Bernie: A ‘gown of green’ is what a young woman gets if she lies on the grass! This is from Jack Norris, a fine singer and melodeon player from Sussex.
George Sansome sang The Gown of Green in 2020 on his eponymous album George Sansome. He noted:
This is from the singing of Jack Norris of Whiteman’s Green, Cuckfield, Sussex. A recording of him singing this song at home was made in 1957 by Mervyn Plunkett and Reg Hall and included on Volume 1 of Topic Records’ The Voice of the People.
A “gown of green” is what someone might get if they were to lie down in the grass and roll around with someone else.
The woman is given very little voice in the song, and as such her answer to the soldier’s proposals is left to the listener’s imagination.
Alice Webb sings Gown So Green
Now abroad as I was walking, all on the King's highway,
I been weary of my travelling of many of long day;
I met a lovely woman with a babe all in her arms,
She kissed the babe and said she wished its father would return.
“Now good evening lovely woman, for I longed to meet you here,
With that pretty babe all in your arms you seem to love so dear;
I think I knows its father and you before I've seen,
Don't you remember the day my love, when you wore your gown so green?”
Now her arms she placeted round him and fainted away.
“Is it you my lovely Henery 'turned home to me again;
Long time I've been lamenting, but now I'll make revoe
Not a peace nor comfort have I had since from me you've been gone?”
“Now I've lost one limb in battle, love, and that you plain can see,
A-saving a bold commander's life, it proved the prince of me;
I'm left a noble pension, both silver an gold in store,
An I means to make you my lawful bride and go abroad no more.”
Now let's you and I take a licence love out on this very day,
Let's you an I get married love 'thout any more delay;
With your sweet prattling baby more pleasure you will see,
You'll never no more repent the day when you wore your gown so green.
Blue Murder sing Gown of Green
As a soldier was a-walking all on the broad highway,
Been weary of travelling for many a long day,
Oh, he met a lovely women with a baby in her arms,
Oh, that she kissed and said, “I wish your father would return.”
“Good morning, my fair creature, I'm proud to meet you here
With that sweet baby in your arms you seem to love so dear.
Oh, I think I know the father and you before I've seen,
Don't you remember the day, my dear, you wore the gown of green?
“Oh it's many battles I have fought all on the raging main
And many battles I have fought in Portugal and Spain.
But it's now that I return again with plenty of gold in store;
I've been to make you my lawful bride and rove abroad no more.
“So come let us buy the licence all on this very day
And then we will get married, love, without any more delay.
𝄆 With our pretty little prattling baby such pleasures may be seen
That you may never regret the day you wore the gown of green,” 𝄇
Bernie Cherry sings The Gown of Green
As a soldier was a walking all along the highway,
Being weary of travelling for many’s the long day.
Well he met a lovely woman with a baby all in her arms
Who that she kissed and said, “I wish your father would return.”
He said, “My charming creature I’m proud to meet you here
With that sweet babe all in your arms that you love so dear.
Well I think I know the father and you before I’ve seen,
Don’t you remember the day my dear you wore the gown of green.”
“Well it’s many battles have I fought all on that raging main
And many battles have I fought in Portugal and Spain.
But now I am returned again with plenty of gold in store
I mean to make you my lawful wife and roam abroad no more.
“So let us buy the licence all on this very day
And then we will get married without any more delay.
With our pretty little prattling babies some pleasures may been seen
That you may never regret the day you wore the gown of green.”