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The Bonny Bunch of Roses (Anthony Power's Version)

Roud #664

The lyrics of this ballad take the form of a conversation between Napoleon Bonaparte’s widow and his son. She warns her son of the danger of challenging England, Ireland, and Scotland—the bonny bunch of roses—and the folly of attacking Russia.

Anthony’s version omits some of the lines that clarify the relationship of the characters, but the singer compensates by rearranging the order of the verses to create a coherent narrative. Most notably, the characters of Napoleon and his son are merged. Historically inaccurate, the song tells a tale of military expansion, of resistance met, and of the ultimate defeat of the invading forces by the opposing allies.

Listen to Anthony Power sing “The bonny bunch of roses,” view an annotated transcript, and download your own copy of the words.

The bonny bunch of roses / Anthony Power

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The bonny bunch of roses / Anthony Power

The bonny bunch of roses, song (I overheard a female talking …) The lyrics of this ballad take the form of a conversation between Napoleon Bonaparte’s widow and his son. She warns her son of the danger of challenging England, Ireland, and Scotland—the bonny bunch of roses—and the folly of attacking Russia.  Anthony’s version omits some of the lines that clarify the relationship of the characters, but the singer compensates by rearranging the order of the verses to create a coherent narrative. Most notably, the characters of Napoleon and his son are merged. Historically inaccurate, the song tells a tale of military expansion, of resistance met, and of the ultimate defeat of the invading forces by the opposing allies.


Anthony Power's version of “The bonny bunch of roses”

I overheard a female talking concerns to be with grief and woe,
Concerning[1] with young Bonaparte, concerning the bonny bunch of roses-o.

Oh up steps young Napoleon takes his mother by the hand,
Saying 'Mother dear have patience, until I'm able to command.
And I will take an army in tremendous danger I will go,
And I will conquer Moscow, so beware of the bonny bunch of roses-o.'

'Oh son don't speak tremendous, for England is the heart of oak,
There is England, Ireland, Scotland, their unity was never broke.'

Oh he took five hundred thousand, and kings likewise to bare his trade,
And he was so well provided he thought he'd sweep the world alone.
And when he came to Moscow he was overpowered by driven snow,
Saying Moscow was the blazing, so he lost his bonny bunch of roses-o.

'Oh mother dear I'm dying, and on my dying bed,
If I had a win I'd be clever, by now I will drop my youthful head.'

'Oh son, think on your father, in the Isle of St Helena his body lies low,'
And the deeds of the great Napoleon, will sting the bonny bunch of roses-o.
And as my bones are moldering, and the weeping billows[2] will o'er me flow,[3]
In the deeds of the great Napoleon, will sting the bonny bunch of roses-o.


[1] Editor's note: Conversing.
[2] Editor's note: Willows.
[3] Editor's note: Grow.