Garners Gay (Rue; The Sprig of Thyme)

DESCRIPTION: Of a girl who has lost her thyme and her love. She uses other symbols to describe her sad state: With her thyme gone, her life is "spread all over with rue"; a woman is a "branching tree"; a man, a wind blowing through the branches and taking what he can
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1891 (Kidson-TraditionalTunes)
KEYWORDS: loneliness seduction virginity
FOUND IN: Britain(England(All)) US(Ap)
REFERENCES (13 citations):
Silber/Silber-FolksingersWordbook, p. 163, "Rue" (1 text)
Stokoe/Reay-SongsAndBalladsOfNorthernEngland, pp. 80-81, "The Willow Tree, or, Rue and Thyme" (1 text, 1 tune)
Broadwood/Maitland-EnglishCountySongs, pp. 58-59, "The Sprig of Thyme" (1 text, 1 tune)
Reeves-TheEverlastingCircle 116A, "Sprig of Thyme" (1 text)
Kidson-TraditionalTunes, p. 69, "The Sprig of Thyme" (1 text, 1 tune)
OShaughnessy/Grainger-TwentyOneLincolnshireFolkSongs 21, "The Sprig of Thyme" (1 text, 1 tune)
Cologne/Morrison-WiltshireFolkSongs, pp. 34-35, "The Sprig of Thyme" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hamer-GarnersGay, pp. 4-5, "Come All You Garners Gay" (1 text, 1 tune)
Roud/Bishop-NewPenguinBookOfEnglishFolkSongs #53, "The Sprig of Thyme" (1 text, 1 tune)
Browne-FolkSongsOfOldHampshire, pp. 101-103, "Sprig of Thyme" (1 text, 1 tune)
Ritchie-FolkSongsOfTheSouthernAppalachians, p. 56, "Keep Your Garden Clean" (1 text, 1 tune)
Thomas-DevilsDitties, pp. 102-103, "Keep Your Garden Clean" (1 text, 1 tune)

Roud #3
Sara Cleveland, "The Maiden's Lament" (on SCleveland01)
Debra Cowan, "Keep Your Garden Clean" (on HCargillFamily)

Murray, Mu23-y1:104, "The Wheel of Fortune," James Lindsay (Glasgow), 19C [an incredible mixture, with the "Wheel of Fortune" verse, though the rest seems an amalgam of thyme songs -- here spelled "time"; I file it here in desperation]; also Mu23-y1:105, "The Wheel of Fortune," James Lindsay (Glasgow), 19C [even more mixed, with the "Wheel of Fortune" verse, a thyme stanza, a bit of "Fair and Tender Ladies," a "Queen of Heart" verse, and more]
cf. "The Rue and the Thyme (The Rose and the Thyme)" (theme, symbols, lyrics)
NOTES [307 words]: In flower symbolism, thyme stood for virginity. For a catalog of some of the sundry flower symbols, see the notes to "The Broken-Hearted Gardener."
Thyme songs are almost impossible to tell apart, because of course the plot (someone seduces the girl) and the burden (let no man steal your thyme) are always identical. For the same reasons, verses float freely between them. So fragmentary versions are almost impossible to classify. Steve Roud seems to lump all of them.
The Digital Tradition has a version, "Rue and Thyme" (not to be confused with the Ballad Index entry with that title) which seems to have almost all the common elements. Whether it is the ancestor of the various thyme songs, or a gathering together of separate pieces, is not clear to me.
This is one of the more lyric versions of the piece, usually with almost no information about the actual seduction. The mention of multiple herbs, especially rue, seems characteristic.
To show how difficult all this is, Randolph and Ritchie have texts of this called "Keep Your Garden Clean" which are pretty much the same except for the first verse. On the basis of that distinction, I filed Randolph' with "In My Garden Grew Plenty of Thyme" and Ritchie's with "Garners Gay (Rue; The Sprig of Thyme)."
Jean Ritchie calls this a version of "The Seeds of Love," and Randolph calls his a "Seeds of Love" variant also, and Roud's classification seems to agree. I don't, though I rather wish I could, given the difficulty of distinguishing.
The Hattie Mae Tyler Cargill version uses this first verse, and a few other odds and ends, but the middle seems to have been created out of whole cloth. It's much more explicit than most versions (and I'd call it less effective as a result), but while it is arguably a distinct song, I'm filing it here until and unless I find other versions. - RBW
Last updated in version 5.3
File: FSWB163

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 2022 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.