A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from March 14, 2009
“Sugar is sweet and so are you” ("Roses are red…")

"Roses red, and violets blew” comes from Edmund Spenser’s epic poem, The Faerie Queene (1590). In the 1800s, the line “roses are red, violets are blue” was used at the start of several love poems. In the May 1854 issue of The Knickerbocker, or New-York Monthly Magazine was: “Roses is red violets blue sugar is sweet and so are you.” This “sugar is sweet” version has remained popular, especially on Valentine’s Day cards.

Bobby Vinton’s song “Roses Are Red” (1962) popularized this verse: “Roses are red, my love. Violets are blue. Sugar is sweet, my love, but not as sweet as you.”


Wikipedia: Roses are red
Roses are red can refer to a specific poem, or a class of doggerel poems inspired by that poem. The poem is:

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


The origins of the poem may be traced to the following lines written in 1590 by Sir Edmund Spenser from his epic The Faerie Queene (Book Three, Canto 6, Stanza 6):

It was upon a Sommers shynie day,
When Titan faire his beames did display,
In a fresh fountaine, farre from all mens vew,
She bath’d her brest, the boyling heat t’allay;
She bath’d with roses red, and violets blew,
And all the sweetest flowres, that in the forrest grew.


In common English this reads:

It was upon a summer’s shiny day,
When Titan fair his beams did display,
In a fresh fountain, far from all mens’ view,
She bathed her breast, the boiling heat to allay;
She bathed with roses red, and violets blue,
And all the sweetest flowers, that in the forest grew.


A nursery rhyme significantly closer to the modern cliché Valentine’s Day poem can be found in Gammer Gurton’s Garland, a 1783 collection of English nursery rhymes. It is a lyrical adaptation of the traditional English folk song “Lavender Blue”.

Roses are red, diddle, diddle
Lavender’s blue
If you will have me, diddle, diddle
I will have you.


Wikipedia: Roses Are Red
Roses Are Red was Bobby Vinton’s third studio album, released in 1962. After Vinton’s hit “Roses Are Red (My Love)” reached #1 (and saved Vinton from being fired from Epic Records), the eponymous album was released and made its way up to #5 on the Billboard Hot 200. Shortly after the success of the song and album, Epic renewed Vinton’s contract but changed his artist title from a bandleader to a solo artist.

Google Books
May 1854, The Knickerbocker Magazine, pg. 533:
“When this you see remember me—affectionate JACOB SKELTON. 
Roses is red violets blue sugar is sweet and so are you
JACOB SKELTON.”

Google Books
Day Dreams
By Joseph A. Nunes, U.S.A.
Philadelphia, PA: J. B. Lippincott & Co.
1863
Pg. 128:
“The rose is red, the violet’s blue,
Sugar’s sweet, and so is — molasses.”

Google Books
The Orpheus C. Kerr Papers
First Series
By Robert Henry Newell
New York, NY: Blakeman & Mason
1863
Pg. 243:
Are you ready to rose up as one man —
“‘The rose is red,
The wi’lets blue,
Sugar is sweet, and
Bully for you.’”

29 June 1869, Port Jervis (NY) Evening Gazette, pg. 2, col. 3:
The rose is red the violet is blue sugar is sweet and so are you.

Google Books
Ballou’s Monthly Magazine
Contributor Maturin Murray Ballou
Published by M. M. Ballou., 1871
Item notes: v. 33
Pg. 147:
“The rose is red, the violet blue, Sugar is sweet and so are you.”

Google Books
Kingsbury Sketches
By John H. Kingsbury
New York, NY: G. W. Carleton & Co.
1875
Pg. 180:
A SWEET SONG OF LOVE.
The rose is red,
The violet blue,
Sugar is sweet
And so be you.
[Slate Pencil Sketches.

Historic Missouri Newspaper Project
8 February 1879, Phelps County New Era:
The following gem of a love letter was picked up on Pine Street one day this week:

Jan. the 31st, 1879.
Rolla Mo., Phelps Co.: Mr. Charls Ray my Dear Felow, I seat my self with all my heart, to let you know that I love you better than any one else I ever saw. As shure as the gras gros around the stump, you are my sweet sugar lump, the roses is red and the violets is blue, sugar is sweet, but not like you. The world is wide the sea is deep, and in your arms I wish to sleep. I hope you will answer soon. I will close, good by dear fellow, from Victora Brown, to Charls Ray.

8 July 1881, Georgia Weekly Telegraph, “How Sugar is Adulterated in Various Ways” (Philadelphia Press), pg. 7:
“Sugar is sweet and so are you,” is not the most pleasant compliment you can pay a young lady if she be aware of the nauseous constituents so-called sugar too often represents.

Google Books
When I Was a Little Girl
And Other Stories

By Mrs. Frances A. Humphrey and others
Chicago, IL: The Interstate Publishing Company
1882
Pg. 96:
Now on this other side, mamma, will you please write this verse :

“‘The rose is pink,
The violet blue,
Sugar is sweet,
And so are you.”

14 July 1883, Texas Siftings, “The Horse Reporter” (Chicago Tribune), pg. 6:
“Tennyson and Longfellow and the balance of the free-for-all bards may be a trifle too high for me, but when it comes to simple little stanzas from Macoupin County, about the rose is red, the violet’s blue, sugar is sweet and so are you, I am wiser than a serpent.”

14 February 1894, Worcester (MA) Daily Spy, “St. Valentine’s Day,” pg. 4:
And yet it is very questionable whether a fancy basket of American Beauty roses means as much to the lady who receives it now as the simple message did half a century ago to the maiden, who read:

“The rose is red, the violet blue,
Sugar is sweet and so are you.”

28 July 1894, Galveston (TX) Daily News, pg. 5, col. 2:
How many times have we written to her and quoted these lines: “The rose is red, the violet blue, sugar is sweet and so are you.”

27 October 1902, Galveston (TX) Daily News, pg. 8, col. 5:
Schley said that as he met the people of Texas and became acquainted he was reminded of the happy saying:

Roses red
And violets blue;
Sugar is sweet and so are you.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (0) Comments • Saturday, March 14, 2009 • Permalink