Here we go round the mulberry bush

‘Here we go round the mulberry bush’ was first recorded in the mid-nineteenth century by James Orchard Halliwell. It was noted, as a great deal of nursery rhymes were, as a children’s game.

This song took many forms and the lines are often different depending on who is singing it. For example, lines like “This is the way we mend or shoes” and “This is the way ladies walk” are sometimes included. One might also find variations in which the days of the week are used in the last lines of ‘Here we go round the mulberry bush.’

When playing the game originally associated with the song, children would hold hands and spin in a circle. They break the circle to do different actions when the song indicated they do so.

Some interpretations of the song suggest that it was inspired by Britain’s efforts and struggles to produce silk. This connects to the use of the mulberry tree image.

Here we go round the mulberry bush nursery rhyme


Summary

‘Here we go round the mulberry bush’ is a simple and popular child’s nursery rhyme that describes various tasks performed on a cold morning.

The stanzas of ‘Here we go round the mulberry bush’ use a great deal of repetition and take the performers, and listeners, through several tasks. A group is getting ready in the morning. They brush their teeth, comb their hair, get dressed, and more. They also move around the mulberry bush in the first and last stanzas.

Detailed Analysis

Stanza One

Here we go round the mulberry bush,
The mulberry bush,
The mulberry bush.
Here we go round the mulberry bush
On a cold and frosty morning.

In the first stanza of ‘Here we go round the mulberry bush,’ the title line is used. It appears again in the fourth line of this stanza and in the final stanza. This use of repetition is not unusual. In fact, readers are going to find a great deal of repetition throughout the poem. The first stanza describes the children moving around a mulberry bush “On a cold and frosty morning.” This last line is used in every stanza of the poem. It is another good example of a refrain. It also helps with the rhythm and the song’s predictability.

Stanzas Two and Three

This is the way we wash our face,
Wash our face,
Wash our face.
This is the way we wash our face
On a cold and frosty morning.

This is the way we comb our hair,
Comb our hair,
Comb our hair.
This is the way we comb our hair
On a cold and frosty morning.

The second and third stanzas establish a form that’s used throughout the next few lines. The speakers describe washing their faces and combing their hair. They sing in tandem, using third-person pronouns and suggesting that they’re doing these actions together. When sung and performed as a game, the young singers may have engaged in each of these tasks, or at least mimed them, when they got to the appropriate verse. Again, readers should note the use of repetition.

Stanzas Four and Five

This is the way we brush our teeth,
Brush our teeth,
Brush our teeth.
This is the way we brush our teeth
On a cold and frosty morning.

This is the way we put on our clothes,
Put on our clothes,
Put on our clothes.
This is the way we put on our clothes
On a cold and frosty morning.

The fourth and fifth stanzas take the same form as the second and third. The pattern is firmly established and the singers should know the tone, rhythm, and everything else to expect from the stanzas. This time they discuss brushing their teeth and putting on their clothes. Each of these elements is part of their morning routine. These things have to do be done no matter how “cold and frosty” the morning is.

Stanza Six

Here we go round the mulberry bush,
The mulberry bush,
The mulberry bush.
Here we go round the mulberry bush
On a cold and frosty morning.

The final stanza is an exact repetition of the first stanza. Depending on the version of the song, this stanza, as well as the others, may vary. But, the use of repetition remains the same. This song depends heavily on the use of the same line structures and the repetition of entire passages.

Structure and Form

‘Here we go round the mulberry bush’ is a classic example of a nursery rhyme that takes a few different forms. The most commonly read/sung version is analyzed below. It is divided into six stanzas, each of which contains five lines, known as quintains. These quintains use a great deal of repetition and exact rhymes. This means that the same word/words end multiple lines. For example, “bush” in the first stanza and “face” in the second. The stanzas rhyme AAAB with the “B” end rhyme also using the same word in every stanza, “morning.”

Literary Devices

Despite its simple-seeming structure, there are several literary devices at work in ‘Here we go round the mulberry bush.’ These include but are not limited to:

  • Refrain: a line or phrase that’s repeated exactly in a poem or song. In this case, “Here we go round the mulberry bush” is used as the first line of the first and last stanzas.
  • Anaphora: can be seen when the poet repeats the same words at the beginning of lines. For example, “This is the way” which starts the first line of stanzas two through five.
  • Parallelism: occurs when the poet uses the same structure from one line to the text. This is the case within this nursery rhyme, as well as in many others. For example, the use of “This is the way we wash our face” and “This is the way we brush our teeth.” By using the same sentence structure, the poet creates repetition, an important part of parallelism.


FAQs

What is the meaning of ‘Here we go round the mulberry bush?’

Some believe that this song was written to address, or at least allude to Britain’s struggle to compete with Chinese silk production. Mulberry trees are home to silkworms, an integral part of the process.

Who is the speaker in ‘Here we go round the mulberry bush?’

A group acts as the speaker in this song. A specific original singer is unknown but due to the use of the third-person pronouns without the poem, it’s clear that the song is supposed to come from multiple people, perhaps children.

Who is the author of ‘Here we go round the mulberry bush?’

It’s unclear who the author of ‘Here we go round the mulberry bush’ is. This is often the case with nursery rhymes. They have their origins in obscure songs and with obscure writers. Plus, they often go through changes as the centuries progress. Meanings change and words change.

When was ‘Here we go round the mulberry bush’ written?

It’s unclear exactly when ‘Here we go round the mulberry bush’ was written. But, it dates back to the eighteenth century. Most nursery rhymes can be traced even farther, to the seventeenth century.

Is ‘Here we go round the mulberry bush’ a game?

Originally, scholars believed that this song was used as a children’s game. Today, there may still be some who sing the song and play different circle games. The original game included children holding hands in a circle, spinning, and then breaking into groups to perform the described actions.


Similar Poems

Readers who enjoyed ‘Here we go round the mulberry bush’ should also consider reading some related nursery rhymes. For example:

  • Pop Goes the Weasel– an English nursery rhyme and a singing game that is believed, like most nursery rhymes, to date back to the 18th century.
  • Hey, diddle diddle’ – an interesting nursery rhyme that may connect to constellations, such as Taurus and Canis Minor or that it describes the wives of King Henry VIII.
  • Humpty Dumpty’ – describes an egg-shaped character who falls off a wall and was first published in Juvenile Amusements in 1797.

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About
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.
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