Green Grow the Rushes-O (was Re: Patterns)

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Thu Jun 26 17:47:05 EDT 2003


Rosie continued with my eddication in matters of song:

>> Who are the Lily White Boys?
>Jesus and John the Baptist. Of course ... ;-)

I like that "Of course".  :-))  Thank you for it: it sums up the whole thing.

Many people at many times have made many assertions about the "meaning" of
various bits of the text; none I have ever managed to find has produced any
evidence to back the assertions; none has managed to "explain" all, or even
more than half, of it. in any way I have found satisfactory.

F'rinstance I've previously been told with Authority (but no authority)
that those two are Cain and Abel before they had their little spat, or they
are Castor and Pollux, or (so help me!) Romulus and Remus....

Someone kindly did a websearch for this webless fish and came up with scads
of stuff, none particularly convincing, ending with

>Journal of American Folklore:
>- V.62 no. 246, Oct-Dec 1949 (Leah Yoffie)
>- Songs of the Twelve Numbers and the Hebrew Chant of Echod Mi Yodea
>The song was well known in many sections of Europe as early as the sixteenth
>century, when it first appeared as an addition to the German Jewish Passover
>Haggadah, and may have existed as a Jewish folk song some time before it was
>printed.  A Latin version from a 1630 manuscript lists two testaments, three
>Patriarchs, four evangelists, five books of Moses, six vessels (of Cana) etc.

There are also Pagan and Islamic interpretations of varying plausibility.

My favourite "explanation" involves Baden-Powell, and his old regiment
having been called "the Lily-White Boys" (like the Cherry-Pickers and other
regimental nicknames, I s'pose); though why he would have chosen only to
have two of his lads in there is not made clear.... and how it can be
asserted that he and the Scout movement invented the thing when there are
versions printed before that, don't ask.

I'll cheerfully agree that the Christian bits are Christian (whenever they
were incorporated); that doesn't explain the bits that evidently are *not*
Christian, and to my mind doesn't really justify shoehorning a Christian
gloss onto every bit that is not obviously so.  In fact, I'd say that it
does the opposite: the Christian bits are so *obviously* Christian that the
bits that aren't obvious seem to me to be a great deal less likely to be
Christian: debatable at best, would be my view.  After all, there are Wise
Virgins and Sleepers of Ephesus and such with the right numbers who could
have been put in if it were all Christian, rather than these symbols and
stars and other mysterious wossits that don't seem to turn up as Christian
anywhere else.  And why would a bunch of winejars be called Proud Walkers
for goodness' sakes?

I revert to my original position.  I said that "I do not, and DWJ does not,
*understand* that extraordinary song/poem ("Green Grow the Rushes-O") -- I
don't know whether anyone really does."

*I* think it's a Gnomic Utterance (OMT).

Or else it's a Prophecy, and not being the Missing Heir I cannot expect to
understand it the moment I find it in the Library, and know that it plans
my life for the rest of the five-book trilogy.

Minnow


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