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My dad used to lead us in this song around the campfire! We'll likely do it a little slower than Nickel Creek's version and try a little modulation - it's good for you as Sue always says! Nickel Creek does the whole song in [A] so you can play along with the video to learn the song for the first few verses.
According to the 2006 Bluegrass Picker's Tune Book by Richard Matteson, the earliest version of this song appears to have been a Middle English poem, dating from the 15th century, found in the British Museum.The two earliest versions both date from the fifteenth century (c. 1500), and are written in Middle English.