September–let’s remember: Twelve, for the twelve apostles

One of the songs learnt as a boy they I love is Green grow the rushes, O! It’s a round and one I learnt as a Boy Scout. Great for long bus rides to head off to the woods for some uncomfortable nights under canvas and the stars. Or, ideal for heading to the ordeal of orienteering in the Welsh mountains. No matter how and when, however, my youngest really dislikes the song, which is a good reason to start humming a few verses on a car ride 🙂

The verses are not hard to remember, but like The twelve days of Christmas, some get forgotten or misplaced. You start with one, then the chorus, then progress through the numbers and chorus. The last verse is fun, because the song has a tendency to speed up; each turn around is getting longer. So, verse 12 is:

I’ll sing you twelve, O. Green grow the rushes, O!

What are your twelve, O?

Twelve for the twelve Apostles,

Eleven for the eleven who went to heaven,

Ten for the ten commandments,

Nine for the nine bright shiners,

Eight for the April Rainers,

Seven for the seven stars in the sky,

Six for the six proud walkers,

Five for the symbols at your door,

Four for the Gospel makers,

Three, three, the rivals,

Two, two, the lily-white boys,

Clothed all in green, O!

One is one and all alone,

And evermore shall be so.

Then, exhausted, you slump over. If you’ve still been singing this song as an adult, and maybe had just one pint too many, the slump will likely be followed by slumber. 🙄

The religious or mystical significance of the verses is often obvious, though some is a bit obscure. Who are the six proud walkers? Wikipedia give’s the most extensive explanations,

If you like these sorts of songs, then you also know that variations, depending on context and company, are quite acceptable. Give it a try!

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