The earliest known copy of this particular folk song is found in a manuscript dated 1583 (the Dallis lute book, held in the library of Trinity College, Dublin). The words may be even older than the melody itself, most likely being derived from an old ballad, and the lyric was adapted by Shakespeare in Othello.

It has since been set by such composers as Arthur Sullivan ('The Willow Song'), Sir Hubert Parry ('Willow, Willow, Willow'), Erich Korngold ('Desdemona's Song'), Ralph Vaughan Williams ('The Willow Song'), and in German by Wilhelm Petersen. Also of note is the sublime arrangement for violin and 'cello by contemporary artist Emilie Autumn.


The poor soul sat sighing by a sicamore tree;
Sing willow, willow, willow!
With his hand on his bosom, and his head upon his knee;
Oh, willow, willow, willow! my garland shall be.

Sing all a green willow, willow, willow, willow.
Ah me! the green willow my garland must be.

The cold streams ran by him, his eyes wept apace;
Sing willow, willow, willow!
The salt tears fell from him, which drownèd his face;
Oh, willow, willow, willow! my garland shall be.

Sing all a green willow, willow, willow, willow.
Ah me! the green willow my garland must be.

The mute birds sat by him, made tame by his moans;
Sing willow, willow, willow!
The salt tears fell from him, which softened the stones;
Oh, willow, willow, willow! my garland shall be.

Sing all a green willow, willow, willow, willow.
Ah me! the green willow my garland must be.

Let nobody blame me, her scorns I do prove;
Sing willow, willow, willow!
She was born to be fair, I to die for her love:
Oh, willow, willow, willow! my garland shall be.

Sing all a green willow, willow, willow, willow.
Ah me! the green willow my garland must be.


Surprisingly, traditional songs such as this often encourage other artistic pursuits: the early 20th-century artist Maxwell Armfield was inspired to produce the oil canvas Oh! Willo! Willo! Willo!, currently held in the Tate Gallery, London.

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