"Lavender Blue," also called "Lavender's Blue," is an English folk song and nursery rhyme dating to the seventeenth century, which has been recorded in various forms since the twentieth century. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 3483. Burl Ives's version was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
Although there are as many as thirty verses to the song, and many variations of each verse, most modern versions take this form:
- Lavender's blue, dilly dilly, lavender's green,
- When I am king, dilly, dilly, you shall be queen.
- Who told you so, dilly, dilly, who told you so?
- 'Twas my own heart, dilly, dilly, that told me so.
- Call up your men, dilly, dilly, set them to work
- Some to the plough, dilly, dilly, some to the fork,
- Some to make hay, dilly, dilly, some to cut corn,
- While you and I, dilly, dilly, keep ourselves warm.
- Lavender's green, dilly, dilly, Lavender's blue,
- If you love me, dilly, dilly, I will love you.
- Let the birds sing, dilly, dilly, And the lambs play;
- We shall be safe, dilly, dilly, out of harm's way.
- I love to dance, dilly, dilly, I love to sing;
- When I am queen, dilly, dilly, You'll be my king.
- Who told me so, dilly, dilly, Who told me so?
- I told myself, dilly, dilly, I told me so.
The earliest surviving version of the song is in a broadside printed in England between 1672 and 1685, under the name Diddle Diddle, Or The Kind Country Lovers. The broadside indicates it is to be sung to the tune "Lavenders Green", implying that a tune by that name was already in existence. The lyrics printed in the broadside are fairly bawdy, celebrating sex and drinking. According to the Traditional Ballad Index, "The singer tells his lady that she must love him because he loves her. He tells of a vale where young man and maid have lain together, and suggests that they might do the same, and that she might love him (and also his dog)." Here is the first of ten verses:
Lavender's green, diddle, diddle,
You must love me, diddle, diddle,
cause I love you,
I heard one say, diddle, diddle,
since I came hither,
That you and I, diddle, diddle,
must lie together.
It emerged as a children's song in Songs for the Nursery in 1805 in the form:
- Lavender blue and Rosemary green,
- When I am king you shall be queen;
- Call up my maids at four o'clock,
- Some to the wheel and some to the rock;
- Some to make hay and some to shear corn,
- And you and I will keep the bed warm.
Similar versions appeared in collections of rhymes throughout the nineteenth century.
A hit version of the song, sung by Burl Ives, was featured in the Walt Disney movie, So Dear to My Heart (1948) and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. It was Ives' first hit song and renewed the song's popularity in the twentieth century. Other hit versions of the song were recorded by Sammy Kaye and Dinah Shore.
This song became popular again during the 1950s rock and roll era when it was sung by Solomon Burke. While he did change some of the words, the lyrics are generally the same. Sammy Turner released it in 1959 and it hit number 14 on the U.S. R&B chart and number 3 on the Pop chart. There was also a British single by gravel-voiced singer Tommy Bruce in 1963 which was not a hit. The Fleetwoods also recorded a version of the song.
The song was interpreted by Leon & Mary Russell for their 1975 "Wedding Album". The song was entitled Lavender Blue (Dilly Dilly).
On their 1985 UK Number One album Misplaced Childhood, the British neo-progressive rock band Marillion recorded a song called "Lavender", which had lyrics derived from the folk song and became a Number 5 hit on the UK singles chart.
In an episode of U.S. sitcom "The Ghost and Mrs Muir" aired in 1969, British child star Mark Lester, playing a visiting English schoolboy (Mark Helmore) sings this song to regular cast member, schoolgirl, Candy, in a dream sequence.
- It also appears in the horror novel Walkers by Graham Masterton.
- The song is sung by the two children, Miles and Flora, in Benjamin Britten's 1954 opera, The Turn of The Screw.
- I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd edn., 1997), pp. 265-7.
- "Marillion: Misplaced Childhood". Dutch Progressive Rock Page. Retrieved June 18, 2013.
- David Roberts British Hit Singles and Albums, Guinness World Records Limited
- <rThe Ghost & Mrs. Muir at the Internet Movie Databaseef>
- Halliwell, James (1849) "Popular Rhymes & Nursery Tales" Chapter10, p.237.