The Bonny Bunch Of Roses, O (MacEdward Leach)

By the borders of the ocean,
One morning in the month of June,
For to hear those warlike songsters,
Their cheerful notes sang sweetly tuned.
I overheard a female talking,
Which seemed to be in grief and woe,
Conversing with young Bonaparte,
Concerning of the bonny Bunch of Roses, O.

Then up steps young Napoleon,
And takes his mother by the hand,
Saying, "Mother dear, have patience,
Until I am able to take command.
Then I will take an army,
To command your saviours I will go;
And in spite of all the universe,
I will conquer the bonny Bunch of Roses, O."

"Now, son, don't speak so venturesome,
For in England are the hearts of oak;
There is England, Scotland, and Ireland,
The unity was never broke.
Now, son, think on thy father,
On the isle of St Helena his body lies low;
And you must soon follow after him,
So beware of the bonny Bunch of Roses, O.

"He took five hundred thousand men,
With kings likewise to bear his train;
He was so well provided for,
That he could sweep the world alone.
But when he came to Moscow,
He was overpowered by the driven snow;
When Moscow was a-blazing so,
He lost his bonny Bunch of Roses, O."

"Now do believe, my dearest mother,
Now lie I on my dying bed;
If I had lived I'd been clever,
But now I but droop my youthful head.
And while our body lies a-mouldering,
And weeping willows over a body grows,
The deeds of great Napoleon
Will sting the bonny Bunch of Roses, O."

####.... Author unknown. Variant of a Scottish traditional first published in 1881 in William Christie's Traditional Ballad Airs, Vol 2, pp.232-233. Also a variant of a British broadside ballad, The Bonny Bunch Of Roses, O, published by J Harkness (Preston) sometime between 1840 and 1866, and archived at the Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads, shelfmark: Harding B 11(403) ....####

Collected from Francis (Ernest) Poole [1881-?] of Cape Ray, NL, and published in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada © 2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

A variant was collected in 1958 by Kenneth Peacock from Everett Bennett of St Paul's, and published in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Vol 3, pp.988-989, by The National Museum Of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

Kenneth Peacock noted that the Napoleon of this song is the Emperor's son by his second marriage to Marie Louise of Austria. After his famous father abdicated in 1814, the Allies refused to recognize his status as Napoleon II, and he was kept a virtual prisoner in the Austrian court at Vienna. His dreams of following in his father's footsteps were never realized for he died of tuberculosis at age 21. This song appeared immediately as a broadside and had wide circulation both in America and Britain. It is patterned after an older broadside called The Bunch Of Roses. Both William Roy Mackenzie [1883-1957] and Helen Creighton [1899-1989] have found it in Nova Scotia. Mackenzie writes that his singers took great pains to explain the symbolism of the Bunch of Roses (England, Ireland, Scotland) before beginning the song.


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