The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #34080   Message #3698408
Posted By: Gibb Sahib
30-Mar-15 - 11:47 AM
Thread Name: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
Subject: RE: Origins: Blood Red Roses (what's it mean?)
I'll add to this thread a note included in the collection of songs by William Smith (1867-1955) of Liverpool, Nova Scotia, which were taken down by his son in 1940. They appear in:

Edith Fowke, ed. _Sea Songs and Ballads from Nineteenth Century Nova Scotia, The Willian H. Smith and Fenwick Hatt Manuscripts_. NY and Phila.: Folklorica, 1981.

On pg 36, after giving lyrics to "Drunken Sailor," this note on the song (and another) is recorded.

"[Referring to Drunken Sailor:] West Indie Nigger shanty. Does not think there was more to it. [Now referring to Come Down You Roses:] In hoisting, the West Indies darkies, on pulling down on a rope, used this refrain: 'Come down you bunch of roses.'"

We may note that other significant deepwater sailor "sightings" were in Doerflinger (from the Silsbee manuscript) and in Adams—both being of New England. And then the other evidence is from the Caribbean. Smith's Nova Scotia world is close enough, in my book, to that world of New England/Canadian Maritimes trade with the Caribbean to reinforced a picture of the trade/routes where this song traveled—the Caribbean-Grand Banks "cod/rum" jaunt, when Afro-Caribbean men were part of the crew.

(What's perhaps more interesting about Smith's footnote is his apparent belief that "Drunken sailor" could be ascribed to Afro-Caribbean workers specifically! A topic for elsewhere…)