I’ve had this song in my head for a week. We used to sing it around the campfire at the Russian church camps I went to as a teenager, and I loved the words, which are a mixture of obvious Christian references (“ten for the ten commandments”) and lines so obscure that nobody has ever worked out what they mean (“two, two, the lilywhite boys, clothèd all in green ho ho”).
It’s also terrific fun to sing, and can last the full length of a shower or even quite a hefty round of washing up. This video gives you the guitar chords for added activity value.
NB: he has some of the words wrong. In addition to the lilywhite boys, who in his version are “all dressed up” in green ho ho (much less poetic), he seems to sing “five for the simples at your door”, which is charming but incorrect. It’s symbols. Here are the complete lyrics, should you want to sing along (this is just the last verse, but you can extrapolate):
I’ll sing you twelve ho
Green grow the rushes ho
What is your twelve ho?
Twelve for the twelve apostles
Eleven for the eleven that went to heaven
And ten for the ten commandments
Nine for the nine bright shiners
And eight for the April rainers
Seven for the seven stars in the sky
And six for the six proud walkers
Five for the symbols at your door
And four for the gospel makers
Three, three, the rivals
Two, two, the lilywhite boys, clothèd all in green ho ho
One is one and all alone and ever more shall be so
4 thoughts on “Green Grow the Rushes”
Ahh, we used to sing this around campfires on Woodcraft Folk camps, and we also had lots of variant words for it.
(Oh yeah, now I’m reading your blog too)
YOU may call them “variants”. I call them “wrong”.
I used to be outraged whenever I heard “non-standard” versions of any of the songs we sang… but eventually I came to realise that all traditional songs exist in about a million different formats.
(Although perhaps not Green Grow the Rushes – all of the “variations” I remember to that were actually “bastardisations” that we introduced ourselves, for “comic effect”).
For some reason 2 always ended up as “two two, the lilywhite boys, OW’S YER FATHER? ORLRIGHT!”
inappropriate office laughter
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