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Bog Down In The Valley
(Roud 129)
Pat MacNamara
Kilshanny, near Ennistymon
Recorded in Kilshanny, August 1975

Carroll Mackenzie Collection


Pat McNamara

Oh in this bog there was a tree,
A curious tree and a handsome tree;
The tree in the bog and the bog down in yon valley;
And a stupid old tree and a quare old tree,
And the bog down in yon valley.

Now it’s in this tree there grew a branch,
A handsome branch and a curious branch;
The branch on the tree and the tree in the bog,
And the bog down in yon valley;
It’s a curious tree and a handsome tree,
And the bog down in yon valley.

Now it’s in this branch there was a bough,
A curious bough and a handsome bough;
The bough in the branch and the branch in the tree,
The tree in the bog
And the bog down in yon valley.
Curious tree and a handsome tree,
And the bog down in yon valley.

Now it’s in this branch there was a nest,
A curious nest and a handsome nest.
Nest in the bough, bough in the branch,
Branch in the tree and the tree in the bog,
And the bog down in yon valley.
Curious tree and a handsome tree,
And the bog down in yon valley.

Now it’s in this nest there was an egg,
A curious egg and a handsome egg;
The egg in the nest, the nest in the bough,
The bough in the branch, the branch in the tree,
The tree in the bog and the bog down in yon valley,
A curious tree and a handsome tree,
And the bog down in yon valley.

Now it’s in this egg there was a bird,
A curious bird and a handsome bird;
Bird in the egg, the egg in the feather,
And the feather in the bird,
And the bird in the egg,
And the egg in the nest,
And the nest in the bough.

Pat breaks down laughing at end of song: “I can’t!”


"This cumulative song, sometimes called 'The Everlasting Circle', occasionally continues beyond where Pat’s leaves off, adding a feather on the bird, a bed from the feathers, a lad on the bed, a maid with the lad, a baby from the maid, a boy grown from the baby, an acorn planted by the boy, a tree from the acorn, and so the circle is completed and the cycle starts again. The complete ‘circle’ is not found in print very often, perhaps due to the fact that many of the early collectors found it too dubious a subject; the Reverend Sabine Baring Gould, for instance, omitted it from the second edition of ‘Songs and Ballads of the West’. It has been suggested that the song is connected to ritual, but there is no firm evidence for this, rather it is more likely to be part of a singing game. Ann Gilchrist in the 'Journal of the Folk Song Society', 1909, mentions variations on the theme having been found in Wales, Brittany, Denmark, Switzerland and France; William Wells Newell suggested that it originally went to America from France, via the children of émigrés, though the text he gives from Savannah, Georgia is very similar to the British and Irish ones."

Reference:
The Everlasting Circle James Reeves, London 1960
Games And Songs of American Children William Wells Newell, U.S., 1899

Jim Carroll


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