The Banks of Roses
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

This Irish tune dates from the end of the 18th century. Its origins are in Limerick. It is also known as The Banks of the Red Roses.

According to The Traditional Ballad Index, in some versions Johnny takes his lover to a cave and kills her, burying her on the banks of the Roses.

Though the titles are very similar, this is not related to The Banks of the Sweet Primroses, which is an English tune.

On the banks of the Roses,
My love and I sat down,
And I took out my violin
To play my love a tune,
In the middle of the tune,
Oh, she sighed and she said,
O-ro, Johnny, lovely Johnny,
Would you leave me?

Oh, when I was a young man
I heard my father say,
That he'd rather see me dead
And buried in the clay,
Sooner than be married
To any runaway,
By the lovely sweet Banks
     of the Roses.

Oh, then I am no runaway
And soon I'll let them know,
I can take a good glass
Or can leave it alone;
And the man that does not like me
He can keep his daughter at home
And young Johnny will go roving
      with another.

And if ever I get married
'Twill be in the month of May,
When the leaves they are green
And the meadows they are gay;
And I and my true love
Can sit and sport and play
On the lovely sweet Banks
      of the Roses.
From Folk Songs of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales
See Bibliography for full information.