MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada

The Green Woods of Bonnie-O

John James NFLD 2 Tape 10 Track 12
Trepassey Audio:
Ballad

Now he gave to her ten thousand pounds
He gave to her ten thousand pounds
To murder the babes of Bonnie-O

Chorus
Fair flowers our valley-o
Fair flowers our valley in the green woods of Bonnie-O

She had a knife both long and sharp
She pierced it through their tender hearts
She buried them under a marble stone
She prayed to God twould never be known
In the green woods of Bonnie-O

Chorus
Fair flowers our valley-o
Fair flowers our valley in the green woods of Bonnie-O

As she was walking her father’s hall
She saw two babes a-playing ball
She saw two babes a-playing ball
In the green woods of Bonnie-O

Oh babes oh babes if ye were mine
How I would dress you in silk so fine
How I would dress you in silk so fine
In the green woods of Bonnie-O

Oh Momma dear when we were yours
You would neither dress us in fine or coarse
You'd neither dress us in fine or coarse
In the green woods of Bonnie-O

He gave to you ten thousand pounds
He gave to you ten thousand pounds
To murder the babes of Bonnie-O

You had a knife both long and sharp
You pierced it t'rough our tender hearts
You buried us under a marble stone
You prayed to God twould never be known
In the green woods of Bonnie-O

Chorus
Fair flowers our valley-o
Fair flowers our valley in the green woods of Bonnie-O

Oh babes oh babes tis ye can tell
If my poor soul it is damned for hell
If my poor soul it is damned for hell
For murd'ring the babes in the valley-o

Oh Momma dear it is we can tell
That your poor soul it is damned for hell
That your poor soul it is damned for hell
For murd'ring the babes of Bonnie-O

Seven year you will ring a bell
Seven year with heart of stone
Seven year you'll burn in hell
For murd'ring the babes of Bonnie-O

Chorus
Fair flowers our valley-o
Fair flowers our valley in the green woods of Bonnie-O

(Speaks): that can't be...yes it’s in the book is it


Notes


Sources: Child 20 (The Cruel Mother); Greenleaf, 1968: 15, 16 (Fair Flowers of Helio; Greenwood Siding); Karpeles, 1934a: 5; Karpeles 1971: 32 – 37, 301 (composite version); Mercer 111; Peacock 804, 805 (The Babes in the Greenwood).

Text: A mother is paid £10,000 to murder her two babies. She stabs and buries them beneath a marble slab in the woods of Bonnie-O. Thereafter, she is haunted by their spirits who tell her she will be dammed to hell.

Tune: The chorus is three lines long and irregularly repeated throughout. Verses are generally four lines except verse 6 (3 lines) and verses 2 and 7 (5 lines). Each verse ends with either "The green woods of Bonnie –O" or "For murd’ring babes in Bonnie-O." The final word is spoken. Speaking, instead of singing a final word or phrase is generally thought to indicate Irish influence on the singer or song. The meter is 6/8 and the key C# major with a range of an octave.

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