Here is a version where "Rosin the Bow" is both a person and something that fiddlers do. Notice that the usual drinking images are absent from this version. Old Rosin still dies in the end but he's a nice guy not a drunk. ONe wonders if this set of lyrics was penned so that Temperence minded people could sing the tune that everybody else was singing and still maintain their convictions.
ROSIN THE BOW
I've always been cheerful and easy,
And scarce have I heeded a foe,
While some after money run crazy,
I merrily Rosin'd the Bow.
Some youngsters were panting for fashions,
Some new kick seemed now all the go,
But having no turbulent passions,
My motto was "Rosin the Bow."
So kindly my parents besought me,
No longer a roving to go,
And friends whom I thought had forgot me,
With gladness met Rosin the Bow.
My young days I spent all in roving,
But never was vicious, no, no;
But somehow I loved to keep moving,
And cheerfully Rosin'd the Bow.
In country or city, no matter,
Too often I never could go,
My presence all sadness would scatter,
So cheerful was Rosin the Bow.
The old people always grew merry,
Young faces with pleasure did glow,
While lips with the red of the cherry,
Sipped "bliss to old Rosin the Bow."
While sweetly I played on my viol,
In measures so soft and so slow,
Old Time stopped the dhade on the dial,
To listen to Rosin the Bow.
And tho my sweet prime I've been spending,
When friendship made glasses ere now,
No pang of remorse is now rending,
The bosom of Rosin the Bow.
And peacefully now I am sinking,
From all this sweet world can bestow,
But Heaven's kind mercy I'm thinking,
Provides for old Rosin the Bow.
Now soon some still Sunday morning,
The first thing the neighbors will know,
Their ears will be met with the warning,
To bury old Rosin the Bow.
My friends will then so neatly dress me,
In linen as white as the snow,
And in my new coffin they'll press me,
And whisper "poor Rosin the Bow."
Then lone with me head on the pillow,
In peace I'll be sleeping below,
The grass and the breeze shaken willow,
That waves over Rosin the Bow.
Lyrics printed in "Popular Songs of Nineteenth-Century America, Complete Original Sheet Music For 64 Songs" by Richard Jackson (Dover 1976).