“Of All the Birds”


"Of all the birds that ever I see, the owle is the fairest in her degree, For all the day she sits in a tree... Te-whit, te-whow, to whom drinks thou... Nose, nose, nose, nose, And who gave thee thy jolly red nose? Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves."


This piece is a curiosity. Published by Ravenscroft, I've never seen a collection from tradition (Roud lists a couple which I cannot verify). But, in John Fletcher and Francis Beaumont's 1611 play "The Knight of the Burning Pestle," Act I, scene v, lines 45-46, we find Old Merrythought singing,

Nose, nose, jolly red nose,

And who gave thee this jolly red nose?

And in lines 51-52, Merrythought follows this up with

Nutmegs and ginger, cinnamon and cloves;

And they gave me this jolly red nose.

Merrythought's songs, where they can be identified at all, are mostly traditional pieces -- and we note that his words are not identical to Ravenscroft's. Nor is the Baring-Gould text identical. This raises at least the possibility that the song is traditional. So I've include it here.

The real question is the relationship between the stanzas. Ravenscroft includes "Of all the birds" and "Nose, nose, (jolly red) nose" in one item. The Baring-Goulds split them, but based on books more recent than Ravenscroft's. If they are songs at all, are they two joined by Ravenscroft or one split by tradition? - RBW


  1. Chappell/Wooldridge I, pp. 141-142, "Of All the Birds" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Opie-Oxford2 50, "Of all the gay birds that e'er I did see" (1 text)
  3. Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #248, p. 155, "(Of all the gay birds that e'er I did see"); #138, p. 114, ("Nose, nose, jolly red nose")
  5. Roud #496
  6. BI, ChWI141


Author: Thomas Ravenscroft?
Earliest date: 1609 (Deuteromelia)
Keywords: bird drink nonballad
Found in: Britain(England)