Saturday, November 16, 2013

"Coming Down With A Bunch Of Roses" (lyrics, sound file, & comments)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part II a two part series on the Caribbean chantey and children's game "Coming Down With A Bunch Of Roses".

This post focuses on the Caribbean game song "Coming Down With A Bunch Of Roses".

Part I of this series focuses on folkloric research provided online by hultonclint [Guest, Gibb on Mudcat Cafe]. That research debunks the belief that "Go Down, You Blood Red Roses" [BRR] is an actual 19th century chantey. Click for that post.

The content of this post is presented for folkloric and entertainment purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.


Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?) "Blood Red Roses"
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 03 Apr 11 - 04:52 AM
"I recently found a book in the library with some more evidence about this song.

1965 [copyright 1962] Elder, Jacob D. _Song Games from Trinidad and Tobago._ The American Folklore Society.

Incidentally, the author seems to have been with Alan Lomax in 1962 when they recorded "Coming Down with a Bunch of Roses" at the San Juan Girls Government School. However, it is implied that his experience with the song goes beyond that one occasion. They example he gives is actually from Tobago in 1928, although it's not clear to me if he collected it all the way back then.

Pg63-64 -- includes score. Lyrics:

1. Lift up you' clotheses,
Comin' dung;
Right up to you' noses,
Comin' dung.

Comin' dung with you' bunch o'roses,
Comin' dung;
Comin' dung with you' bunch o'roses,
Comin' dung.

2. Gal show me you' motion,
Gal show me you' motion,

3. Bring in you' lover,
Bring in you' lover,

Notes say that the game is played with 12-24 boys and girls in two files, facing one another. The last pair forms arch with arms, others dance under/through.

"This song was collected from Harrington Benjamin (10) and others at Charlotteville, Tobago in 1928. It is a popular game among children in Tobago although adults usually play it at wakes. This game-song is analagous [sic] to the shanty "Blood Red Roses" as well as to "Bonny Bunch o' Roses." The game which it accompanies is a courtship-game in which the player with the dramatic role—usually female—makes a display of her finery, good looks and dancing styles, and then chooses a lover with whom she dances."

There are a few other notes about this songs scattered in the book.

Pg13 "Brown girl in da ring," "Coming down with you' buncha roses," and "Mizay Marie," played as a rule by adults at a dead-wake from which children are barred, can also be heard among children playing on the neighbourhood compounds on moonlight nights."

Pg 14-15
"Many games, like "Brown gal in da ring" and "Comin' dung with you' buncha roses," have connotations for adults which are far beyond the understanding of the children who learn them from their parents…In "Comin' dung with you' buncha roses," the players must choose partners and arrange themselves in couples to start the game."

Pg50, as references for the song, Elder cites Doerflinger, Adams, Harlow, Hugill. Also says, "Related to the Scottish game "Bonny bunch o' roses"," citing MacLagan.

A couple other game-songs in the collection have "roses" lyrics:

Pg 77, "In my right hand / I have a rose"..."Come in, come in / My charmin' rose." This game actually involves a girl who holds a roses and is admitted into a circle.

Pg105 – "See Miss Lilian So Fresh'n Gay" has lyrics, "See Miss Lilian so fresh 'n gay / With a bunch of roses in her hair". Also involves a girl holding flowers.

Unless one thinks the chanty turned into a game-song, after which it was reinterpreted, these examples suggest pretty strongly that it was a decorated female that was being addressed to "come down" (e.g. down the line).

Possibly cf. "Ring a Ring o' Roses." "

Source: Alan Lomax, J.D. Elder, and Bess Lomax Hawes, editors Brown Girl In The Ring: An Anthology Of Song Games From The Eastern Caribbean (New York: Pantheon Press, 1997, pp. 16-17

"Sung by a children’s group at the San Juan Girl’s Government School, San Juan, Trinidad, also by agroup of girls at El Socorro Government School, Port of Spain, Trinidad

Group: Annie, Annie
Coming down with a bunch of roses,
Coming down

Solo: You walk in style
Group: Coming down with a bunch of roses,
Coming down
Solo: You show me your dress, etc.*
You show me your hat (watch, hair, shoes, slip, friend) etc.
You dance the rhumba (limbo), etc.

To Play:
Several ways of dancing “Coming Down With A Bunch Of Roses” have been reported in Trinidad and Tobago. In one, a single player dances down between parallel lines of singing and clapping players, matching actions to the lead singer’s directions, and then takes a new place at the eend of the line. His opposite from the head of the lineee then follows and thee gamee continues till all have soloed.

Alternatively, the end couple make an arch by clasping hands across the lines; the lead couple dances down and under the arch, stops, and makes a new arch, allowing the original couple to drop hand. The new head couple turns away from the arch, separates, and leads the files around and back down to the arch and back up to a position for a repetition with the new head and the new end couple...

...Caribbean children dance “Coming Down With A Bunch Of Roses” in parallel lines of partners facing each other, a popular British country dance formation described by Iona and Peter Opie in The Singing Game as “longways for as many as will”. A widespread African-American children’s game in the United States, variously titled “Willowbee”, “Zudio-O”, “This- A-Way, Valerie” etc, is still another member of this venerable game family, along with such country dances as the “Virginia Reel” and “Sir Roger de Coverley”."

*I gather that “Etc” means to sing the group part. I also believe that words in parenthesis are possibilities for other verses. I also assume that the name "Annie" is replaced by the name or nickname of the actual girl who is "coming down with a bunch of roses".
My Comment:
In the beginning portion of the “About This Song” section, information is provided about sea chanteys and the authors write that “It is thus quite possible that the children’s song game “Coming Down With A Bunch of Roses” is a children’s remembrance of the rare and beautiful British work chantey
“Go down, you blood red roses, go down,
Oh, you pink and posies
Go down, you blood red roses, go down."
However, I believe that the research put forth by hultonclint in the Mudcat thread [under the name Guest Gibb] and in his summary statement to that video very effectively debunk the theory that there was ever any British work chantey entitled “Go down, you blood red roses” except that which was composed in 1956 by the American Bert Lloyd, who might have been of British ancestry.

Instead of that theory put forth by Alan Lomax et al, I believe that the "Come Down With A Bunch Of Roses” singing games that Lomax & Elder collected in 1962 have their sources in the Caribbean chanties and songs that are mentioned in this post.

ADDITIONS: November 18, 2013
Source: "GAMES GAMES GAMES" by Nick Cox

Ring Game

In my young days, first half of the sixties, I recall that we were the fortunate one in the neighborhood to have a radio. The Beatles, Peter, Paul and Mary and the like are what I recall hearing. As school days began in the latter half of the sixties, cultural (local) music began to be a part of my life. The ring games, both those approved by the teachers and those scorned were of great interest. They were mainly mating games. I think they played an integral part in moulding the minds of the future adults.

Official class ring game: On person is picked as "It" and stands in the middle of the ring. The ring is formed by all classmates holding hands. Alternate bous [sic]and girls...

(This one is the origin of wind and go down)**

Ah went dow Princess Village
A meet ah lady stooping.
Ah ask ahr ah simple question,
She gimme ah forward answer.
Go down my lady. Go down
Go down like a bunch ah roses.
Come up my lady. Come up.
Come up like ah bunch ah roses.
*This is the second of what appears to me to be three separate rhymes under the title "Miss Mary". The first one of these rhymes begins with the lines "Miss Mary Plant, plant, plant/Ah basket ah yam, yam, yam". That singing game verse reminds me of the textual structure of the African American rhyme "Miss Mary Mack". The third rhyme under the title "Miss Mary" begins with the phrase "Ini mini moe" and then repeats the line "Diamond ah shiver and ah front she so".

**"Wind and go down" is a dance movement or dance movements.
Explanation of words & lines
In the line "Ah went dow[n] [to] Princess Village"
"Princess Village" is probably a location in Carriacou.
"Carriacou and Petite Martinique is a dependency of Grenada, lying north of Grenada island and south of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in the Lesser Antilles."

Here's my sense of what these these lines mean in American English:

I went down to Princess Village [a community]
And met a lady sitting.
I ask[ed] her a* simple question,
She answered with a smart remark [she responded sarcastically].
Go down my lady. Go down
Go down like a bunch of roses.
Come up my lady. Come up.
Come up like a bunch of roses.
Among African Americans "a" is usually informally pronounced "ah".
This example is probably newer than the other examples of "Coming Up With A Bunch Of Roses" that are found in this post. I think that the "go down" and "come up" phrases refer to physical movements and probably were accompanied by those movements. My guess is that the beginning lines serve as a preface for those "go down"/"come up" lines and that children's movements mimicked those actions.

I also think that the entire rhyme was created in an attempt to make sense out of the "coming down with a bunch of roses" words.

Example #2: COMING DOWN WID LEMONADE - Trinidad (1978)
Source: West Indian Songs And Games for Children
Folkway Record FC 7856
editor: Edna Smith Edet

Coming down wid a Lemonade
coming down. Oh lemonade.
Coming down wid a Lemonade
coming down.
That girl can’t do she ole thing
Chi chi chi chi chi chi chi chi chi chi

The girls stand in a circle. One girl stands in the middle of the circle. On “That girl can’t do”, she choose her partner. If the partner cannot imitate her motions, the other girl goes into the middle. This is also danced in a line and seems to be a variant of “Coming down wid a Bunch of Roses”.

Gypsy in the Moonlight, sung by the San Juan Girls' Government School Children, 1962

rootbeerfloatful, Published on Jun 23, 2013
and Coming Down with a Bunch of Roses

Recorded by Alan Lomax, 1962
“Coming Down With A Bunch Of Roses” begins at 1:14 in this sound file.

hultonclint, whose research was summarized in Part I of this series, speculates that the phrase "bunch of roses" in the chantey "Coming Down With A Bunch Of Roses" may have been a term of endearment. It seems quite pausible to me that pretty females or a sweetheart could have been referred to as a "bunch of roses". However, in the "Coming Down With A Bunch Of Roses" children's singing game, I believe that phrase may also have referred to girls walking down the row between parallel lines ["coming down" the row -or as African Americans refer to it-walking down alley]* carrying a bunch of roses.

*The Soul Train line is a popular example of the "walking down the alley" format.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post, with special thanks to hultonclint [Guest, Gibb] for his research on this subject, and his publication of videos of & information about that chantey and other chanties on YouTube & on Mudcat. Thanks also to Alan Lomax, J. D. Elder, and Bess Lomax Hawes for collecting and commenting about this singing game.

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