DESCRIPTION: If you like "lang kail" [see notes] cull the nettle early. Cull it low and soon, in June, before it blooms. Cull it by the wall, where the sun doesn't fall, at dawn. Cull it with an old toothless sickle and old leather-palmed gloves.
EARLIEST DATE: 1828 (Lyle-Crawfurd2)
KEYWORDS: food nonballad
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland(Aber,Bord))
REFERENCES (6 citations):
GreigDuncan8 1656, "Cowe, Cowe" (1 text)
Lyle-Crawfurd2 143, "Cow the Nettle Airlie" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Robert Chambers, The Popular Rhymes of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1870 ("Digitized by Google")), p. 34, "Cou' the Nettle Early"
"Sketches in Natural History: The Nettle Order of Plants," William and Robert Chambers, editors, Chambers's Edinburgh Journal (London, 1844 ("Digitized by Google")), No. 28, July 13, 1844, p. 26, "Gin Ye Be For Long Kail" (1 text)
Robert Chambers, The Popular Rhymes of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1870 ("Digitized by Google")), p. 34, "The Wee Wifie" (1 text)
Robert Ford, Children's Rhymes, Children's Games, Children's Songs, Children's Stories (Paisley, 1904 (2nd edition, "Digitized by Google")), pp. 138-139, "Cowe the Nettle Early"
cf. "Jenny Nettles" (tune, per GreigDuncan8)
NOTES: Chambers notes, "Broth is sometimes made from nettles by the Scottish poor." Since his note follows the line "Gin ye be for lang kail" -- that is cabbage boiled, strained, chopped and seasoned with butter -- I assume that that dish and the nettle broth go together. Ford says "Cowe the Nettle Early" is "another delectable song for children -- also of a subtly didactic character."
"An old Scotch rhyme says the Nettle must be pulled in June:
Ere it's in the blume
Pull it by the auld wa's,
Pull whar the sun n'er fa's,
Stoo it when the day daw's,
Pu' the nettle early."
(source: Mary Pamela Milne-Home, Stray Leaves from a Border Garden, (London, 1901 ("Digitized by Google")), p. 184). This rhyme is entirely distinct from "Cowe the Nettle Early."
Lyle-Crawfurd2 p. xli: "Crawfurd supplied songs and rhymes for Robert Chambers ... it appears that the versions of 143 'Cow the Nettle Airlie' and 144 'The Wee Wyfie' ...." Chambers 1870 notes these to be from "recitations in Fife and Ayrshire." Crawfurd's versions are from Ayrshire (p. xxxix). - BS
Last updated in version 2.6
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2016 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.