All Around My Hat (I)
DESCRIPTION: The singer's true love has been transported; (he) promises that "All around my hat I will wear the green willow... for a twelve month and a day... [for] my true love ... ten thousand miles away." He hopes they can reunite and marry
EARLIEST DATE: 1888 (Ashton)
KEYWORDS: love separation transportation
FOUND IN: Britain(England(Lond,South)) Canada(Mar)
REFERENCES (7 citations):
Kennedy-FolksongsOfBritainAndIreland 145, "All Round My Hat" (1 text, 1 tune)
Creighton/Senior-TraditionalSongsOfNovaScotia, pp. 126-127, "All Round My Hat" (2 fragments, 2 tunes)
Creighton-MaritimeFolkSongs, pp. 80-81, "All Around My Hat" (1 text, 1 tune)
Meredith/Covell/Brown-FolkSongsOfAustraliaVol2, pp. 194-195, "All Round My Hat" (1 tune, presumably this one)
Browne-AlabamaFolkLyric 108, "The Fisherman's Girl" (1 text, 1 tune, with the first verse being from "All Around My Hat (I)" and the rest being "The Fisherman's Girl")
SongsOfAllTime, p. 15, "All 'Round My Hat" (1 text, 1 tune)
Neil O'Brien, "All Around My Hat" (on MRHCreighton)
cf. "The Jolly Miller" (tune)
cf. "The Death of Brugh" (tune)
cf. "Around Her Neck She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" (theme)
cf. "The Green Willow" ("All around my hat" lyrics)
The Death of Brush (File: RcTDOB)
NOTES [842 words]: Kennedy-FolksongsOfBritainAndIreland calls this "Perhaps one of the most popular of all English love songs." And this does not even take into account the Steeleye Span recording, said to have gone higher on the British pop charts than any other traditional song. (Don't ask me if that's a compliment.)
But Kennedy also claims this as the same tune as "The Budgeon It Is a Delicate Trade" (for which see under "The Miller of Dee") -- which it is *not*; "The Budgeon" is in the Lydian mode, and his tune for "All Around My Hat" is an ordinary Ionian melody. (Possibly the two were more alike in the original version of Chappell, which was his reference for "The Budgeon"; that edition levelled some modal tunes).
One of Sam Henry's texts, "The Laird's Wedding," mixes this with "The Nobleman's Wedding (The Faultless Bride; The Love Token)" [Laws P31]. There are hints of such mixture in other versions of the two songs. Roud goes so far as to lump them.
Spaeth (A History of Popular Music in America, pp. 83-84) has what is evidently a version of this song, from about 1840 -- in dialect! ("All round my hat, I vears a green villow.") It is credited to J. Ansell (John Hansell) and John Valentine. If this is the actual origin of the chorus, I have to think it merged with some separate love song. But I suspect the Ansell/Valentine piece of being a perversion of an actual folksong.
Hazlitt, p. 621, declares, "To wear the willow long implied a man's being forsaken by his mistress." However, none of the supporting evidence cited by Hazlitt seems very relevant.
Ault, pp.. 14-15, 519, claims that the first mention of wearing green willow comes in a poem by John Heywood (1497?-1580?): "All a green willow, willow, willow, All a green willow is my garland." The manuscript, BM Add. 15233, is dated c. 1545. We also find the notion in Shakespeare's "Othello," IV.iii, and in Salisbury's "Buen Matina" (1597).
According to Alexander, p. 319, "The willow, especially the weeping variety, symbolized the pain of lost love. Hence the expression 'To wear the willow' meant to go into mourning, especially for a bride or a girl who had lost her sweeheart."
Interestingly, something similar is found as far away as China, although the willow there was considered a more positive plant. According to Eberhardt, p. 314, "In ancient China it was customary to give someone who was going away twigs broken from a willow-tree. Thus, a scholar who was being moved to a post in the provinces would receive such twigs from women and friends assembled at the east gage of the capital city."
Simpson/Roud, pp. 391-392, note a strong association between the willow and sorrow -- commemorated even by the phrase the "weeping willow." They cite Vickery, who noted the association between willows and weeping in the King James Bible translation of Psalm 137:2 (where the exiles from Jerusalem hung their harps on the willows) while noting that Vickery thought these were in fact poplar trees. The identity of the tree is in fact far from certain. The New Revised Standard Version has "willows" in the text, "poplars" in the margin. The Revised English Bible also has "willow trees" in the text, with "poplars" in the margin. Dahood, p. 268 has "poplars" in the text but mentions "aspens" in his margin on p. 270.
InterpretersDict, volume IV, p. 848, observes that willows and poplars are fairly closely related, and both grow by watercourses. There are two Hebrew words which might be translated "willow"; one is found only in Ezekiel 17:5, the other in Leviticus 23:40, Job 40:22, Psalm 137:2, Isaiah 15:7, 44:4. My guess is, the KJV rendered "willows" based on Jerome's Vulgate Latin, which implies that the meaning "willow" goes back at least to the fourth century. "Willow" is also the rendering used by the LXX Greek, which puts us back to at least the first century B.C.E., although the unknown translator of LXX wasn't nearly the Hebrew scholar that Jerome was.
Of course, what people knew was the King James translation; the actual meaning of the word hardly matters.
Alexander, who concurs with Simpson/Roud in linking the mourning willow to Psalm 137, adds that "It was a tradition that as a result of the Babylonian Captivity the branches of some willow trees drooped to become weeping willows." - RBW
In view of the broadside parodies listed below I am surprised not to find (yet) any broadsides for "All Around My Hat."
Bodleian, Harding B 11(38), "All Around My Hat I'll Wear the Green Willow" ("All round my hat I vears a green villow ..."), J. Pitts (London), 1797-1834; also Firth b.27(536), "All Around My Hat I Wear a Green Willow"; Harding B 16(5a), Firth c.21(60), Firth c.21(62), Harding B 20(2), Harding B 11(40), "All Round My Hat"
LOCSinging, as200070, "All Round My Hat," J. Andrews (New York), 1853-1859; also cw100090, as100150, "All Round My Hat"
Broadside LOCSinging as200070: 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
Last updated in version 6.3
- Alexander: Marc Alexander, A Companion to the Folklore, Myths & Customs of Britain, Sutton Publishing, 2002
- Ault: Norman Ault, Elizabethan Lyrics, 1949 (I use the 1960 Capricorn Books edition)
- Dahood: Mitchell Dahood, Psalms III, being volume 17A of the Anchor Bible, Doubleday, 1970
- Eberhard: Wolfram Eberhard, A Dictionary of Chinese Symbols: Hidden Symbols in Chinese Life and Thought (originally published in 1983 as Lexicon chinesischer Symbole), translated from the German by G. L. Campbell, 1986 (I use the 2003 Routledge paperback edition)
- Hazlitt: W. C. Hazlitt, Dictionary of Faiths & Folklore, Reeves & Turner, 1905 (I use the 1995 Studio Editions paperback)
- InterpretersDict: [George Arthur Buttrick et al, editor], The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, four volumes, 1962 (a fifth supplementary volume was published later)
- Simpson/Roud: Jacqueline Simpson and Steve Roud, A Dictionary of English Folklore, Oxford, 2000
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2022 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.