Rhymes for Singing Games

John Johnson Marshall
Chapter XIII (3) - Start of Chapter

Singing games are very popular where boys and girls are mixed in play and with girls alone. A quaint one is:—

“Green gravel, green gravel, your grass is so green,

And the fairest young damsel that ever was seen;

I washed her in milk and rolled her in silk,

And wrote down her name with a glass pen and ink,

Dear Annie, your true love is dead—

I send you a letter to turn round your head.”

The players take hands singing and walking round in a ring. The girl named turns her head and walks the reverse way, then joins the ring; this is continued till all the players are gone over.

There is a Scots or English game called “Growing Apples,” in which four lines of the above rhyme occur, commencing with “We’ll wash you with milk, etc.” It is differently played. Another favourite is:—

“Down on the carpet you shall kneel,

While the grass grows at your feet—

Stand up straight upon your feet

And choose the one you love so sweet.

Now they are married, life enjoy,

First a girl and then a boy;

Seven years after and seven years to come,

Fire on the mountains, run, boys, run.”

The players all take hands and move round one who kneels in the centre and when they come to “Stand up straight upon your feet,” the one in the middle stands up and chooses some one out of the ring, then the two dance round while the others sing the second verse, after which the first player joins the ring and the game goes on as before.

There is Scottish rhyme of four lines named “Fire on the Mountains,” but it has nothing in common with the Irish rhyme except the four words in the last line.

A game in which love-making does not form the staple ingredient is “The Wee Falorey Man.”

“I’m the wee Falorey Man,

A rantin’ rovin’ Irishman,

I do all the work I can,

Follow the wee Falorey Man.”

The leader performs certain actions such as playing a musical instrument and the others have to imitate him. This is also an English and Scottish game, of which there are at least two versions under the name of “The wee Melodie Man,” but the words differ slightly in both instances from above, hence it has been set down here.

Another rhyme that used to be in great vogue is:—

“Here is one knight has come from Spain,

A courting of your daughter Jane—

My daughter Jane she is too young,

She can’t abide your flattering tongue—

Go home, you saucy Knight

And scour your spurs till they grow bright.

My spurs, my spurs, they owe you nought,

For in your land they were not bought—

Then fare you well, my lady gay,

I’ll go and court some other way.

Come back! come back! you Spanish Knight

And choose the one you love so bright.”

There is a Scottish version called “We are three Jews,” in which the three Hebrew gentlemen take the place of the “Spanish Knight.” It is much longer, but the Jews do not make so picturesque or suitable a figure as the “Spanish Knight.”

Another rhyme of which there is a Scottish form the words of which differ considerably from the Irish version, being also sung to a different tune is:—

Here’s an Oul’ Widow.”

This is also a mixed boys and girls’ game, and is played as follows:—All join hands to form a ring. A girl is put in the centre, the rest walking or dancing round and singing:—

“Oh, here’s an oul widow,

She lies alone,

She lies alone, she lies alone;

Oh, here’s an’ oul’ widow, she lies alone,

She wants a man an’ she can’t get none.

Choose one, choose two,

Choose the fairest of you;

The fairest one that I can see

Is Johnny Jones, come over to me.”

Being thus favoured, Johnny leaves the ring and joins the “oul’ widow” in the centre. The rest then resume their dance round and sing:—

“An’ now she’s married an’ tied till a bag,

An’ tied till a bag, an’ tied till a bag,

An’ now she’s married an’ tied till a bag,

An’ married a man with a wudden leg.”