“The Green Bushes”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1845 (in the play "The Green Bushes" by Buckstone); before 1839 (broadside, Bodleian Johnson Ballads fol. 30)
Keywords: courting love clothes infidelity
Found in: US(NE,SE) Canada(Mar,Newf) Britain(Scotland,England(Lond,South)) Ireland


The singer courts a girl he meets by chance, offering her fine clothes if she will marry him. Although clothes do not interest her, she is willing to marry, even though she is already pledged. Her former love arrives and comments bitterly on her falseness


Not to be confused with the song called "Behind the Green Bush" in Huntington. The latter appears to be derived from a minstrel piece (the lovers are "Damon" and "Pastora"), and does not appear to be traditional.

The broadside text "The Nut Bushes" is very like some versions of this song, but with a somewhat different ending, which Ben Schwartz describes as follows: "Singer meets Molly who is singing that she is to meet her lover below the nut bushes. He promises fine clothes if she will marry. She refuses. Her lover comes. Singer is frantic at losing Molly. His Captain threatens to send him to Bedlam."

As Ben says, "The Captain threatening the singer with Bedlam convinces me that the singer is a sailor; 'Molly' rejecting a sailor bound to Bedlam" is the plot line of 'False Mallie.' However, 'Nut Bushes' shares neither text nor structure with that ballad. The last verse -- the only one to name Molly and the only one to mention Bedlam -- is shared almost word for word with 'Lovely Annie'; the significant differences are the committer ('Captain' vs 'master') and the name of the woman." On that basis, I'm treating "Nut Bushes" as a redaction of this song, and filing it here because there is little evidence it exists in tradition. - RBW

Broadside LOCSinging as104920: J. Andrews dating per _Studying Nineteenth-Century Popular Song_ by Paul Charosh in American Music, Winter 1997, Vol 15.4, Table 1, available at FindArticles site.

One of the Bodleian broadsides, Johnson Ballads fol. 30, has the written date "1827" though the printer is not known. In any case, broadside Bodleian Johnson Ballads fol. 30 predates the 1845 play by Buckstone. - BS

Or at least its publication; Buckstone was not a very successful author, though certainly prolific. The Londoner (1802-1879), who was an actor as well as a writer, is credited by the _New Century Handbook of English Literature_ with "200 melodramas and farces," but Larousse's Biographical Dictionary counts only 150, none of them being of any note. (My quick check revealed the names of only three pieces by Buckstone, and none of the contents.)

Buckstone did do a tour of the U. S. in 1840; it is thus possible that he introduced the British song in America. - RBW

Cross references




  1. Laws P2, "The Green Bushes"
  2. Sharp-100E 40, "Green Bushes" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Meredith/Anderson, pp. 173-174, "Green Bushes" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. SharpAp 126, "Green Bushes" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Sharp/Karpeles-80E 48, "Green Bushes" (1 text, 1 tune -- a composite version)
  6. Copper-SoBreeze, pp. 240-241, "Down by the Green Bushes" (1 text, 1 tune)
  7. Kennedy 156, "Green Bushes" (1 text, 1 tune)
  8. SHenry H143, p. 395, "The Green Bushes" (1 text, 1 tune)
  9. Ord, p. 147, "Green Bushes" (1 text)
  10. Greenleaf/Mansfield 30, "The Green Bushes" (1 text, 1 tune)
  11. Karpeles-Newfoundland 84, "Green Bushes" (1 text, 1 tune)
  12. Creighton-NovaScotia 19, "Green Bushes" (1 text, 1 tune)
  13. Flanders/Brown, pp. 246-247, "Way Down by the Green Bushes" (1 text)
  14. MacSeegTrav 66, "Green Bushes" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  15. Darling-NAS, pp. 134-135, "The Green Bushes" (1 text)
  16. DT 491, GREEBUSH*
  17. Roud #1040
  18. BI, LP02