“Green Grows the Laurel (Green Grow the Lilacs)”


The singer laments, "I once had a sweetheart but now I have none." (S)he wrote him a letter; the reply says to stop writing. (His/her) very looks are full of venom. (S)he wonders why men and women love each other


A legend has it that Mexicans call Americans "Gringos" because, during the Mexican War, the yanquis sang "Green Grow the Lilacs" so often. The term "gringo" is much older than this, however. - RBW

Leach does not explain why the title of this cut on NFMLeach is "The Nightengale."

"Cupid's Garden" (I) includes the following lines: "For I mean to live a virgin, And still the Laurel wear" (see, for example, Bodleian broadside Harding B 20(119)). In the language of flowers laurel stands for "perfidy"; the spurge laurel stands for "coquetry"

In Louie Fuller's Voice15 version each verse lists another seducer: the singer, a sailor and a pageboy.

Mary Delaney's version on IRTravellers01 adds verses I haven't seen before: "Now me mamma she blames me For courting too young, She may blame my small beauty And my flattering old tongue. She may blame my small beauty And my dark rolling eye, If my love is not for me And sorry am I." and "Oh then, thank God, agraghy, The case could be worse, I got money in my pocket And gold in my purse, When my baby is born I can pay for a nurse, And I'll pass as a maiden In a strange countery." - BS

Cross references


  • Bodleian, Firth c.18(245), "I Changed the Green Willow for the Orange and Blue", W.S. Fortey (London), 1858-1885


  • Mary Delaney, "Green Grows the Laurel" (on IRTravellers01)
  • Louie Fuller, "Green Grow the Laurels" (on Voice15)
  • Marie Hare, "Green Grows the Laurel" (on MRMHare01)
  • Mike Kent, "The Nightengale" (on NFMLeach)
  • Tex Ritter & his Texans, "Green Grow the Lilacs" (Capitol 206, 1945)
  • Jeannie Robertson, "Green Grow the Laurels" (on FSB1)


  1. Belden, pp. 490-491, "Green Grows the Laurel" (2 texts plus mention of 1 more)
  2. Randolph 61, "The Orange and Blue" (3 texts plus a fragment, 1 tune)
  3. Randolph/Cohen, pp. 118-121, "The Orange and Blue" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 61A)
  4. BrownIII 280, "Red, White, and Blue" (3 texts with an interesting assortment of green-growing flowers); also probably 282, "I Sent My Love a Letter" (3 texts, of which "B" is clearly this; "A" is "Down in the Valley" and "C" is a mess with some "Down in the Valley" verses and others about Lulu; it's not clear which Lulu)
  5. Chappell-FSRA 77, "Green Frows the Laurel" (1 text)
  6. Scarborough-SongCatcher, pp. 331-332, "The Orange and the Blue" (3 texts, all short, with local titles "Red, White and Blue," "Green Grows the Laurel," "Green Grows the Laurel"; 2 tunes on pp. 445-446)
  7. SharpAp 156, "Green Grows the Laurel" (1 text, 1 tune)
  8. Kennedy 158, "Green Grows the Laurel" (1 text, 1 tune)
  9. SHenry H165a+b, p. 260, "Green Grow the Rashes (Green Grows the Laurel)" (2 texts, 2 tunes, though both are strongly mixed with something like "If I Were a Fisher"); also H624, p. 349, "I Am a Wee Laddie, Hard, Hard Is My Fate" (1 text, 1 tune, also probably a composite of this and something else)
  10. Gardner/Chickering 29, "Green Grows the Laurel" (2 texts; the "A" text is probably mixed with some other lost love song)
  11. Peacock, pp. 454-455, "Green Grows the Laurel" (1 text, 1 tune)
  12. Creighton-NovaScotia 20, "I Wrote My Love a Letter" (1 text, 1 tune)
  13. Ives-NewBrunswick, pp. 29-30, "Green Grows the Laurel" (1 text, 1 tune)
  14. Flanders/Brown, pp. 113-114, "Green Grows the Laurel" (1 text, 1 tune)
  15. Ord, p. 182, "Green Grows the Laurel" (1 text); also p. 187, "The Rose and the Thyme" (1 text, mostly "I Wonder What Is Keeping My True Love Tonight" but with several verses which probably belong here)
  16. BrownII 130, "Sweet William and Nancy" (1 text, mostly "William and Nancy (II) (Courting Too Slow)" [Laws P5] but mixed with this song and other material)
  17. Lomax-FSNA 170, "Green Grows the Laurel" (1 text, 1 tune)
  18. JHCox 139, "The Green Laurels" (2 texts)
  19. MacSeegTrav 62, "Green Grows the Laurel" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  20. Silber-FSWB, p. 165, "Green Grow the Lilacs" (1 text)
  21. DT, GREENGRO* GRENGRO2* WEELADDY* (the last being the mixed Sam Henry version)
  22. Roud #279
  23. BI, R061


Author: unknown
Earliest date: before 1886 (broadside, Bodleian Firth c.18(245))
Keywords: love rejection parting
Found in: US(Ap,MW,NE,Ro,SE,So) Ireland Britain(Scotland,England) Canada(Mar,Newf,Ont)