This is a good example of a song with various unrelated ‘floating’ verses and no coherent story. The song can be traced back to the late 18th century and has proved popular on both sides of the Atlantic. The symbolism of the last line is varied and obscure, despite academic theories. Harry Brazil wants to change the Green Laurel to “the red, white and blue”, Elizabeth Smithers for “the orange and blue” and Mrs Sallis for the “violets so blue” – so no consensus there, then. The song is nearly always sung to the same tune and is particularly favoured by gypsy singers.
Notes by Gwilym Davies 29 March 2015.