“The Green Linnet”


"Curiosity bore a young native of Erin To view the gay banks of the Rhine" where he sees a "young empress" looking for her "green linnet." She recounts his exploits and says she will search until she finds him


This song is curiously confused. The speaker seems to be Maria Louisa of Austria, Napoleon's second wife (it can hardly be his first wife Josephine; she died before Waterloo) -- but surely she would know her husband's career better than she seems to.

This apart from the fact that theirs was a political marriage, and neither party seems to have had any real affection for the other. (Napoleon died with the name of his first wife Josephine on his lips, and Maria Louisa, once Napoleon was exiled, quickly became involved with other men.) - RBW

The ballad is recorded on one of the CD's issued around the time of the bicentenial of the 1798 Irish Rebellion. See:

Franke Harte and Donal Lunny, "The Green Linnet" (on Franke Harte and Donal Lunny, "My Name is Napoleon Bonaparte," Hummingbird Records HBCD0027 (2001))

Harte on the bird theme here: "The Irish have throughout history attributed the names of animals, and of birds in particular, to their various leaders... During the Jacobite period the Stuart Pretender was known as the 'Royal Blackbird' [a symbol of course shared by the Scots - RBW], Dan O'Connell was known as the 'Kerry Eagle,' and Charles Stewart Parnell was known as the 'Blackbird of Avondale;' so that it would not be strange for an Irish singer to find Napoleon Bonaparte referred to as the 'Royal Eagle,' or as in this song, the 'Green Linnet.'"

Broadside LOCSinging as104930: J. Andrews dating per _Studying Nineteenth-Century Popular Song_ by Paul Charosh in American Music, Winter 1997, Vol 15.4, Table 1, available at FindArticles site. - BS

Historical references

  • 1769 - Birth of Napoleon Bonaparte
  • 1798 - Napoleon's Egyptian campaign. When his fleet is destroyed at the Battle of the Nile, he is forced to abandon the troops there
  • 1809 - Napoleon divorces his first wife Josephine; he marries Maria Louisa of Austria in 1810
  • 1814 - Napoleon exiled to Elba
  • June 18, 1815 - Battle of Waterloo
  • 1821 - Death of Napoleon on Saint Helena

Cross references


  • Bodleian, Johnson Ballads 227, "Maria Louisa Lamentation. The Green Linnet," J. Catnach (London), 1813-1838; also Harding B 11(2326), Harding B 11(2327)[some illegible words], Harding B 11(3877), "Maria Louisas Lamentation"; Harding B 11(934), "Maria Louisa's Lamentation for the Green Linnet"; Harding B 25(1217)[largely illegible], "Maria Louisa's Lamentation"; Harding B 11(1421), 2806 b.11(72), 2806 c.17(158), 2806 c.18(134), "The Green Linnet" ("Curiosity bore a young native of Erin")
  • LOCSinging, as104930, "The Green Linnet," J. Andrews (New York), 1853-1859


  • O. J. Abbott, "The Green Linnet" (on Abbott1)


  1. Huntington-Whalemen, pp. 211-214, "The Green Linnet" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Peacock, pp. 458-460, "The Green Linnet" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. O'Conor, pp. 10-11, "The Green Linnet" (1 text)
  4. Zimmermann 30, "The Green Linnet" (2 texts, 1 tune)
  5. Moylan 201, "The Green Linnet" (1 text, 1 tune)
  7. Roud #1619
  8. BI, SWMS211


Author: unknown
Earliest date: before 1839 (broadside, Bodleian Johnson Ballads 227); c.1830 (Zimmermann)
Found in: Canada(Newf,Ont) Ireland