Green Grow the Rushes, O

From Wikipedia:

Green Grow the Rushes, O (alternatively “Ho” or “Oh”) (also known as “The Twelve Prophets”, “The Carol of the Twelve Numbers”, “The Teaching Song”, “The Dilly Song”, or “The Ten Commandments”), is an English folk song (Roud #133) popular across the English-speaking world. It is sometimes sung as a Christmas carol. It often takes the form of antiphon, where one voice calls and is answered by a chorus.

It is cumulative in structure, with each verse built up from the previous one by appending a new stanza.

The song occurs in many variants, collected by musicologists including Sabine Baring-Gould and Cecil Sharp from the West of England at the start of the twentieth century. The stanzas are clearly much corrupted and often obscure, but the references are generally agreed to be both biblical and astronomical.

The twelve stanzas may be interpreted as follows:

“Twelve for the twelve Apostles”

This refers to the twelve Apostles of Jesus,

“Eleven for the eleven who went to heaven”

These are the eleven Apostles who remained faithful (minus Judas Iscariot)

“Ten for the ten commandments”

This refers to the ten commandments given to Moses.

“Nine for the nine bright shiners”

The nine may be an astronomical reference: the Sun, Moon and five planets known before 1781 yields seven and to this may be added the sphere of the fixed stars and the Empyrean

“Eight for the April Rainers”

The April rainers refer to the Hyades star cluster, called the “rainy Hyades” in classical times, and rising with the sun in April; the Greeks thought of the Hyades as inaugurating the April rains.

“Seven for the seven stars in the sky”

The seven are probably the Seven Sisters, the Pleiades star cluster.

“Six for the six proud walkers”

This may be a corruption of ‘six proud waters’, a reference to the six jars of water that Jesus turned into wine at the wedding feast at Cana of Galilee, (John 2:6).

“Five for the symbols at your door”

The symbols above the door could mean the mezuzah which contains a section of the Torah and is inscribed with symbols…

“Four for the Gospel makers”

This refers to the four Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

“Three, three, the rivals”

‘Rivals’ may be a corruption of “Riders”, “Arrivals”, or “Wisers”, referring to the three Magi of the Nativity.

“Two, two, the lily-white boys””Clothed all in green, Ho”

Many traditions hold that John the Baptist, like Jesus, was born without original sin, making them “the lily-white boys”. “the infant [John the Baptist] leaped in her [Elizabeth’s] womb” (Luke 1:41).

“One is one and all alone” (sometimes “One is one and one alone” or “One is one and stands alone”)

This appears to refer to God.”

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