“The Broken-Hearted Gardener”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1933 (Sam Henry collection)
Keywords: love abandonment flowers suicide
Found in: Ireland

Description

"I'm a broken-hearted gardener and don't know what to do, My love she is inconstant and a fickle jade too." The singer calls her his myrtle, geranium, and other flowers. He botanically describes his misery, but rejects suicide because she wants him dead

Notes

This resembles "The Gardener" (Child #219) in its use of flowers to describe emotions, but doesn't use the same sort of emotional symbolism. To this singer, the girl is the flower; in "The Gardener," the flowers describe their relationship.

The fullest description of flower symbolism I've found is from a piece in Norman Ault, _Elizabethan Lyrics From the Original Texts_, pp. 69-73, "A Nosegay Always Sweet, for Lovers to Send for Tokens of Loave at New Year's Tide, Or for Fairings," which was printed 1584. It offers this list:

"Lavender is for lovers true....

"Rosemary is for remembrance....

"Sage is for sustenance....

"Fennel is for flatterers....

"Violet is for faithfulness....

"Thyme is to try me [the usual meaning is of course virginity]....

"Roses is to rule me....

"Gillyflowers is for gentleness....

"Carnations is for graciousness....

"Marigolds is for marriage....

"Pennyroyal is to print your love So deep within my heart....

Cowslips is for counsel...."

It will be noted that many of the gardener's flowers aren't in this list.

Cross references

References

  1. SHenry H499, pp. 387-388, "The Broken-Hearted Gardener" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Roud #7966
  3. BI, HHH499