"Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush" (also titled "Mulberry Bush" or "This is the Way") is an English language nursery rhyme and singing game. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 7882. The same tune is also used for "Lazy Mary, Will You Get Up" and a variant is used for The Wheels on the Bus.
The most common modern version of the rhyme is:
The rhyme was first recorded by James Orchard Halliwell as an English children's game in the mid-19th century. He noted that there was a similar game with the lyrics 'Here we go round the bramble bush'. The bramble bush may be an earlier version, possibly changed because of the difficulty of the alliteration, since mulberries do not grow on bushes.
Halliwell said subsequent verses included: 'This is the way we wash our clothes', 'This is the way we dry our clothes', 'This is the way we mend our shoes', 'This is the way the gentlemen walk' and 'This is the way the ladies walk'.
The song and associated game is traditional, and has parallels in Scandinavia and in the Netherlands (the bush is a juniper in Scandinavia).
Local historian R. S. Duncan suggests that the song originated with female prisoners at HMP Wakefield. A sprig was taken from Hatfield Hall (Normanton Golf Club) in Stanley, Wakefield, and grew into a fully mature mulberry tree around which prisoners exercised in the moonlight. However, there is no evidence to support his theory.
The Christmas carol, 'As I Sat on a Sunny Bank', collected by Cecil Sharp in Worcestershire, has a very similar melody; as does the related "I Saw Three Ships."
Another possible interpretation of the rhyme is that it references Britain's struggles to produce silk, mulberry trees being a key habitat for the cultivation of silkworms. As Bill Bryson explains, Britain in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries tried to emulate the success of the Chinese in silk production but the industry was held back by periodic harsh winters and mulberry trees proved too sensitive to frost to thrive. The traditional lyrics 'Here we go round the mulberry bush / On a cold and frosty morning' may therefore be a joke about the problems faced by the industry.
The simple game involves holding hands in a circle and moving around to the first verse, which is alternated with the specific verse, where the players break up to imitate various appropriate actions.
A variant of this rhyme is "Nuts in May", sharing the same tune as well as the traditional closing line "On a cold and frosty morning".
In 1938, a song called "Stop Beatin' Round the Mulberry Bush", with lyrics by Bickley Reichner and music by Clay Boland, was popular with recordings by bands such as Count Basie, Jack Hylton, Nat Gonella, and Joe Loss. That version became popular again in 1953, when it was recorded by Bill Haley & His Comets.
The Merry-Go-Round is a song with the same tune as "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush", but some notes are removed. The song tells the story of several children on a merry-go-round that—in a sadistic twist—collapses because so many children are riding it. The circle game that accompanies it is similar to the one for Ring Around the Rosie, as described below.
The verse is usually repeated for a second time.
The circle singing game that accompanies these verses also changes by region, but the most common form consists of participants standing in a circle and holding hands, followed by skipping in one direction as they sing the tune that accompanies these verses. As the word collapsed in the second verse is sung, the group usually falls down into a heap.