Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
History Quarterly Digital Archives

Source: April 1988 Volume 26 Number 2, Pages 55–68

Roses are Red / Violets are Blue : A "Sampler" from Friendship Albums'

Page 55

One of the better known quatrains in American verse goes

Roses are red, / Violets are blue,
Sugar is sweet, / And so are you.

It appeared at least as early as 1805 in Songs for the Nursery, and a variation of it appeared on valentines as early as 1784. (It may, in fact, trace its lineage as far back as 1590. In that year Edmund Spenser wrote in The Faerie Queen, "Roses red and violets blue, / and all the sweetest flowers that in the forest grew," [Book III, Canto 6, Stanza 6].)

In any event, during the past 150 years or so these four lines have been inscribed thousands upon thousands of times in autograph or "friendship" albums. Since the second quarter of the nineteenth century, it has been a custom for school students to accumulate the signatures of their classmates and teachers (and sometimes of other friends and relatives) in small albums, usually about 41/2" by 41/2" in size, though some of the earlier ones were larger, as mementoes of their school days.

Usually a verse, or "sentiment", accompanied the autograph. In the early decades these were generally quite serious and moral or religious in their tone, frequently then-popular and now-forgotten poems several stanzas long. By the latter part of the century and since then, however, the inscriptions were frequently less solemn and more frivolous in nature.

The same verses or rhymes have appeared over and over again in albums in various parts of the country, and rhymes inscribed in albums in the 1880s can be found in those of fifty or more years later. Nor is it uncommon to find the same verse inscribed several times in the same album.

Page 56

On the first page of a number of albums it was requested

If you're a friend of mine
Drop in this book a pleasant line.

Here is a "sampler" of the verses, rhymes, and other sentiments that were inscribed in friendship albums in response to these requests. They come for the most part from albums still owned by several of our club members, with a few from albums in the Chester County Historical Society.

There were comments about the invitation to "drop a pleasant line" itself. This first one dates back to the 1840s.

Like one who, fruitlessly perchance,
Engraves his name upon a tree
In hope to win a casual glance And woo remembrance still when he
A distant wanderer may be;
Thus have I claimed a page of thine; Be it but reckon'd worthy of thee
And I shall proudly own it mine.

In later years it was usually put more briefly, as in these examples, from late nineteenth and twentieth century albums.

I do not like the task of writing
In a book for the public eye.
But for a friend that I delight in,
Anything to please, I'll try.

You ask me to write in your album,
I scarcely know where to begin;
For there's nothing original in me
Excepting original sin.

If scribbling in albums / Remembrance insures,
With the greatest of pleasure / I'll scribble in yours.

But even though it was "the greatest pleasure," it was also frequently noted

It tickles me, / It makes me laugh,
To think that you want my autograph.

I thought, I thought, / I thought in vain;
I thought, at last, /I'd write my name.

Page 57

My pen is poor, / My ink is pale,
And my hand shakes / Like a puppy dog's tail.

Here are two other often-used comments on writing in the album

Read see that me
up shall I love
and you love you
down and you if

Remember the boy in the city,
Remember the boy in the town,
Remember the boy who ruined
This album by writing upside down!!!

And, on a more flowery note, is this simile.

If you call this book Garden Plot,
I'll simply sign, Forget-me-not.

Your album is a garden plot
Where your friends may sow
Their little seed forget-me-not
And hope that it may grow.

Another popular subject for inscriptions was the meaning of friendship

True friends, like ivy and the wall;
Both stand together, or together they fall.

Forget me not
That true and bright eyed
Floweret of the brook,
Hope's sweet gentle gem, the sweet
Forget me not.

Friendship is like French china,
Beautiful, costly and rare.
When broken it can be mended,
But the scar is always there.

Friends are like melons. / Shall I tell you why?
To find a good one / You must a hundred try.

Page 58

Friends are not like pebbles, found in every path,
but pearls, rare as they are beautiful.

Friends are like diamonds,
Precious, rich and rare.
False friends are like autumn leaves,
Found everywhere.
(Consider me a diamond.)

This description of friendship, in the poem "Absence", is again from an older album of the 1840s.


A weary time thou 's been away --
And yet I see thee, hear thee still;
Thy form is with me night and day And thoughts of thee my bosom fill;
Thine image is to me like air,
For it surrounds me every where.

I hear thee in the whisp'ring breeze,
And in the song of forest birds;
And nature's richest melodies
Have learn 'd the music of thy words;
The waters, earth and heaven agree
In speaking with thy voice to me.

Occasionally a passage from the Scripture was inscribed on an album's pages, usually by a teacher or by a parent, aunt or uncle. Thus this verse from the Book of John was used to describe friendship.

"Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for a friend."
John 15:13

The hope that the friendships of school days would be long-lasting was also a frequent theme of these inscriptions.

Yours 'til Niagara Falls.
Yours 'til the kitchen sinks.
Yours 'til the board walks.
Yours 'til the butter flies.
Yours 'til Ivory Soap sinks.
Yours 'til hair pins get tired riding permanent waves.

Page 59

Here are some other examples.

May our wing of friendship
never lose a feather.

When the golden sun is setting
And your life from care is free,
When of others you are thinking,
May you sometimes think of me.

Tho' far to other lands I go,
To seek more joys, more friends to find;
But oft shall memory linger here
& dwell on all I've left behind.

When you get old and cannot see,
Just put on your specs and think of me.

This is another expression of hope for a lifelong remembrance

Let me on this unsullied page,
Some offering leave with thee,
Which shall perchance [in] bygone years
Remind you still of me.

Thy dearest friends will leave you here
Their names with friendships true,
And with them all, may I not be
Remember'd still by you?

While in the sunny morn of youth,
From care and sorrow free,
May rosy light thy path illume,
But then remember me.

When with age and life's cares oppress'd,
I oft will think of thee,
And joys which we in youth have shared,
Oh! then, remember me.

Others, however, hoped for an even longer, eternal friendship.

Remember me now, / Remember me ever,
'Til yonder sun is set forever.

I met you as a stranger, / I loved you as a friend.
I hope we meet in heaven, / Where friendships never end

Remember me in Friendship, / Remember me in Love,
Remember me, Dear Libby, / When we both meet up above.

Page 60

Adieu, dear Libby, the time draws near
When you and I must part.
But distance ne'er can break the ties
That bind you to my heart.

But if it chance to be our lot
On earth to meet no more,
Oh! may we meet upon that spot,
That sweet celestial shore.

But still others apparently were less confident in their expectations

Remember me you can, you must,
As long as you can bite a crust;
And when you can no longer bite,
Forget me, and it'll be all right.

Nothing more, / Nothing less,
Just a friend / From T. E. H. S.

And, finally,

To meet, to love, and then to part
Is the sad, sad fate of a school girl's heart,

"Remember me" was the theme of other inscriptions.

There are few friends in this wide world
Whose love is fond and true;
But when you count yours o'er
Please place me among the few.

Do not think of me
In hours of glee,
But when you think of a friend sincere,
Oh then, remember me.

Though hills and vales divide us,
And your life from care is free,
When of others you are thinking,
Will you sometimes think of me?

Here I would write a line for thee
That thou might just remember me.
Never lose, or want, a friend --
Have a long life and a happy end.

When you twine a wreath of friendship,
Twine therein a bud for me.

Page 61

When twilight draws a curtain
And fastens it with a star,
Remember that you have a friend, Though we may wander far.

Drink your tea, / Think of me.
Drink it hot, / Forget me not.

Forget the moon, / Forget the stars,
Forget to ride in trolley cars,
Forget your husband's / socks to mend,
But don't forget your dear old friend.

Before 1850 or so this plea to "remember me" was often requested by the addition of a couplet or triplet to a popular and familiar verse of the time.

Seize, mortals! Seize the transient hour,
Improve each moment as it flies,
Life's a short summer --man a flower;
He dies --Alas! how soon he dies!
When this you see
Remember me.

'Tis education forms the common mind,
Just as the twig is bent the tree's inclined.
When these lines you see,
Where 'er you be,
You will think of me.

How sweet and useful is the place
With Christ within the doors,
Where everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stars!
When this you see
Remember me.

In much the same vein were pledges that "I'll remember you". Here are a few of this type.

Leaves may wither, / Flowers may die;
Friends may forget you, /But never shall I.

Many to you have written,
Many to you may write,
But no one loves you better
Than the one who writes to-night.

Page 62

Days may pass, and years may fly,
And every hope decay and die;
I'll bless the hour when first we met,
For you I never can forget.

And there were those expressing good wishes in one form or another

May your joys be as deep as the sea
And your sorrows as light as the foam.

May your life be full of sunshine, with few shadows.

May your troubles be like Aunt Jemima's teeth -
Few and far between.

May each new page / Of life for you
Be bright with joy / And dreams come true.

May wisdom direct / And virtue attend,
May you always remember / Your Berwyn friend.

May your life be like a piano --
grand - upright - square.

May your life be like arithmetic
Your pages added,
Your sorrows subtracted,
Your pleasures multiplied,
And your cares divided.

May your life be like a pack of cards
When you're in love, it's hearts,
When you're engaged, it's diamonds,
When you're married, it's clubs,
When you're dead, it's spades.

May the Lord meet you at the gate
Of Heaven and with a crown of roses.

Some friends may wish Thee happiness,
Some others will wish Thee wealth,
My wish for Thee is better far -
Contentment blest with health.

I wish you health, / I wish you wealth,
I wish you at a "Golden Shore".
I wish you "Heaven at thy death",
I could not wish you more.

Page 63

There were, especially in the earlier albums, also many inscriptions with advice or admonitions for the young school girl or school boy.

Strive to keep the "Golden Rule",
And learn your lessons well at School.

Count that day lost / Whose low descending sun
Sees from thy hand / No worthy action done.

Do not look for wrong and evil,
You will find them if you do.
As you measure for your neighbor
He will measure back to you.

Speak gently! It is better far
To rule by love than fear.
Speak gently! let not harsh words mar
The good we might do here.

Upon all subjects presented for your consideration,
Reason well before you speak or act;
This, with a kind word and smile for all
will lighten your burdens through life.

Never hurt a heart that loves you,
Never give it sudden pain,
For a heart is like a flower,
It may never bloom again.

Those who hasten to restrain
Rising wrath, in Paradise shall reign.

Be a good daughter, / Be a good wife,
And mind your business / The rest of your life.

Don't be what you isn't, / Just be what you is
Cause when you is what you isn't,
Then you isn't what you is.

More of a note of caution were

Be ever often guarded in the choice of companions. For often in the highest flowers there lurks a deadly poison.

Love many, trust few
And always paddle your own canoe.

Never trouble trouble 'til trouble troubles you.

Page 64

Others, again, included passages from the Scripture or were of a religious nature.

"Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest,
whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure,
whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of
good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any
praise, think on these things."
Phillippians 4:8

A few of the inscriptions, particularly in the nineteenth century, were words of inspiration. For example,

Every cloud has a silver lining.

Never give up, or sit down in despair,
Saying, "'Tis no use to try."
It's not so dark but there will be
Sunshine and light by-and-by.

Lives of great men all remind us,
We may make our lives sublime;
And departing, leave behind us, Footprints on the sands of time.

Let the Storm Come!

Let the storm come! thou are not left
Without a buckler and a shield;
Though weary, worn, of hope bereft,
Despair may tempt thee oft to yield.
Let the storm come! Heaven's arm will bear
Thy heart up through the billow deep,
Though rushing winds, though troubled air,
O'er the dark waves in terror sweep.

Rest on that power, whose sleepless eye
Pierces through every maze of wrong,
And He will hear thy loneliest cry
And save thee, though He linger long.
Let the storm come! there's a light afar
To guide the wandering spirit on,
And seraphs watch from every star
On him who trusts in God above.

Or. as it was put more succinctly forty years later, in the 1880s,

Let us never forget, God will give us strength
sufficient for our day.

Remember the Creator when life and hope are new,
Then if these are dissipated, He will remember you.

Page 65

There were personal remarks. Here are a couple of variations of the old "Roses are red" quatrain.

Roses are red, / Violets are blue.
Honey is sweet, / And so are you.

Roses are red, / Violets are blue,
But never was a friend, / as true as you.

But not all of them were so complimentary. In other variations the last two lines were

Vinegar is sweet, / Compared to you.
I pity the person, / Who marries you.

or, since the Second World War,

And you look like / A B-22!

This one obviously dates from the "flapper age" of the 1920s, but has been many times since then.

Twinkle, twinkle little star,
Powder puff and cold cream jar,
Eyebrow pencil, lipstick too,
Will make a sweetie out of you.

Or again on a more flattering note,

To aunty you're a darling,
To dad a great expense,
To teacher you're a devil,
Ain't got a bit of sense.
To preacher you're a devil,
But the boys will all agree
You're an angel sent from heaven,
And more than that to me.

Policeman! Policeman! / Do your duty,
Here comes Betty Jane, / An American Beauty

But by far the most popular themes in this century have been boy friends or girl friends, falling in love, and marriage.

To knit, to sew, to spin,
Was once a girl's employment;
But now to flirt and catch a beau
Is what they call enjoyment.

You may fall from a house top,
You may fall from above,
But the greatest fall you'll ever have,
Is when you fall in love.

Page 66

Betty now, / Betty ever,
Wieder now, / But not forever.

Anna is your name, / Single is your station;
Happy be the little man / Who makes the alteration

Remember this and bear in mind;
A handsome fellow is hard to find.
But when you find him bright and gay
Hang to his coattail night and day.

As we pass along life, / We all need an umbrella;
May yours be upheld / By a handsome young fellow.

Many a ship's been lost at sea,
Some how or another.
And many a girl has lost her beau
By flirting with another.

Violets are blue, / Sunflowers are yellow;
And yon are the girl / That stole my fellow.

I wish you a husband both gallant and true,
Proud of himself and moreso of you.

Butter is butter, cheese is cheese,
But what's a kiss / Without a squeeze?

A kiss without a squeeze
Is like apple pie without cheese.

The higher the mountain, / The cooler the breeze.
The younger the couple, / The tighter they squeeze

Don't make love at the garden gate,
Love is blind, but the neighbors ain't.

When you're engaged and full of love
and act just like a turtle dove,
Remember me for Friendship's Sake
and send me a slice of Wedding Cake.

I wish you luck, I wish you joy,
I wish you have a baby boy;
And when its hair begins to curl,
I wish you have a baby girl.

When you get married, / And your husband gets cross,
Come down to my house, / And we'll make applesauce.

This is just one of several rhymes that begin "When you get married" or "When you are married". Here are some more of them.

Page 67

When you get married and your husband gets cross,
Pick up a broomstick and say, "I'm the boss".

When you 're married and live in a flat,
Don't forget to feed the cat.

When you get married and live up stairs,
Don't forget to say your prayers.

When you get married and have twins,
Don't come to me for safety pins.

Perhaps it can all be summed up this way:

If all little girls / lived across the sea,
What good swimmers / The little boys would be.

But, on the other hand, it was also noted in these friendship albums that

You may fall from a window,
You may fall from above,
But for pity's sake
Don't fall in love.

When the fox preaches, / Let the geese beware.
When the girls flatter, / Let the boys take care.

Love is a humbug, / All things show it.
Once I thought so, / But now I know it.

The first sigh of Love is the last sigh of wisdom.

The proper study of mankind is man;
The most perplexing one, no doubt, is woman.

And, finally,

When you are young / You have your fun.
But when you're married / Your fun is done.

Another group of inscriptions can probably be best described simply as nonsense doggerel. A number of them, for some reason or another, seem to feature animals.

Love me little, / Love me big,
Love me like / A little pig.

The night was dark I And the clouds were big,
The lightning struck / And killed a pig.

Page 68

A dog stood on the burning deck,
The flames were roaring 'round his neck

When you see a monkey / In a tree,
Pull his tail / And think of me.

I wish I were a bunny / That had a tail of fluff,
I'd climb up on your bureau / And be your powder puff.

Here are two others that fall into this group.

Take a little tin can, / Take a little board,
Nail them both together, / And you'll have a little Ford.

If you want to be an angel, / And like an angel fly,
Just step off the curbstone / When the cars are passing by.

We've finally come to the end of the "sampler" - and we'll conclude it in the same manner that many of the albums were concluded.

Way back here and out of sight,
I'll write my name, just for spite.

Way back hear out of site,
I'll write and spell wrong, / Just for spite.

Your pages are all / And my time is short,
I will sign my name here / Just for sport.

By hook or by crook,
I'll be the last in this book.

You '11 want room for your friends,
You'll want room for your lovers,
So to be different
I'll write on the cover.

Material for this "sampler" was contributed by Betty Haney, Libby Weaver, Claire Etherton, Peggy Egertson, Aileen Collins, Bill Wheeler, Bob Goshorn


Page last updated: 2009-12-04 at 15:30 EST
Copyright © 2006-2009 Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society. All rights reserved.
Permission is given to make copies for personal use only.
All other uses require written permission of the Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society.