“The Elfin Knight”

Alternate titles: “The Devil's Courtship”; “Rosemary and Thyme”; “The Wind Hath Blown My Plaid Away”; “My Father Gave Me an Acre of Ground”; “The Parsley Vine”; “The Shirt of Lace”; “Redio-Tedio”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1673 (broadside)
Keywords: courting magic bargaining dialog paradox tasks
Found in: Britain(England(All),Scotland(Aber)) US(Ap,MA,MW,NE,SE,So,SW) Canada(Newf,West) Ireland

Description

A man (sometimes an "Elfin" knight) and a woman exchange tasks. He offers to marry her if she performs his (impossible) tasks; she shows how she feels by making equally unperformable requests

Notes

The song "My Father Had an Acre of Land" is sometimes listed as a variant of this, but falsely. The basic point of Child #2 is the dialog making impossible demands; in "My Father Had an Acre of Land," the song simply boasts of impossible deeds

The now well-known refrain "Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme" does not appear original to the song, but has been associated with it at least since 1784, when a version appeared in Gammer Gurton's Garland. - RBW

Cross references

Recordings

References

  1. Child 2, "The Elfin Knight" (13 texts)
  2. Bronson 2, "The Elfin Knight" (56 versions plus 6 in addenda)
  3. BarryEckstormSmyth pp. 3-11, "The Elfin Knight" (4 texts plus a fragment, 2 tunes) {Bronson's #3, #23}
  4. Flanders-Ancient1, pp. 51-78, "The Elfin Knight" (12 texts plus 3 fragments, not all from New England; 8 tunes; the "N" text appears to be "My Father Had an Acre of Land") {A=Bronson's #47C=Bronson's #6; F=Bronson's #45}
  5. Belden, pp. 1-3, "The Elfin Kinght" (3 texts)
  6. Randolph 1, "The Cambric Shirt" (2 texts, 1 tune) {Bronson's #40}
  7. Randolph/Cohen, pp. 13-15, "The Cambric Shirt" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 1A) {Bronson's #40}
  8. Eddy 1, "The Elfin Knight" (2 texts, 2 tunes) {Bronson's #39, #43}
  9. Gardner/Chickering 47, "A True Lover of Mine" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #38}
  10. Davis-More 2, pp. 8-13, "The Elfin Knight" (3 texts, all short, one reconstructed)
  11. BrownII 1, "The Elfin Knight" (1 text plus an edited excerpt and a fragment)
  12. Chappell-FSRA 1, "The Cambric Shirt" (1 fragment)
  13. Brewster 1, "The Elfin Knight" (4 texts plus a fragment, though the "D" text is not a conversation but a series of requests from the singer to his mother; it may be a related song)
  14. Flanders/Brown, pp. 194-196, "Scarborough Fair" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #6}
  15. Linscott, pp. 169-171, "Blow, Ye Winds, Blow or The Elfin Knight" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #2}
  16. Leach, pp. 51-53, ""The Elfin Knight" (2 texts)
  17. Peacock, pp. 6-7, "The Cambric Shirt" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  18. Friedman, p. 7, "The Elfin Knight" (2 texts)
  19. Fowke/Johnston, pp. 138-139, "A True Lover of Mine" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #32}
  20. FSCatskills 40, "Petticoat Lane" (1 text, 1 tune)
  21. PBB 15, "The Elfin Knight" (1 text)
  22. SharpAp 1 "The Elfin Knight" (2 texts, 2 tunes) {Bronson's #30, #48}
  23. Sharp-100E 74, "Scarborough Fair" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #21}
  24. Sharp/Karpeles-80E1, "The Lovers' Tasks (The Elfin Knight)" (1 slightly edited text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #30}
  25. Niles 2, "The Elfin Knight" (3 texts, 3 tunes, all rather degenerate)
  26. Lomax-FSNA 7, "Strawberry Lane" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #23, with some modifications}
  27. Chase, pp. 112-113, "The Cambric Shirt" (1 text, 1 tune)
  28. Hodgart, p. 26 ,"The Elfin Knight" (1 text)
  29. DBuchan 41, "The Elfin Knight" (1 text)
  30. MacSeegTrav 1, "The Elfin Knight" (1 text, 1 tune)
  31. Stokoe/Reay, pp. 54-55, "Whittingham Fair" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #22, with key changed}
  32. OLochlainn-More 99, "Rosemary Fair" (1 text, 1 tune)
  33. Opie-Oxford2 86, "Can you make me a cambric shirt" (2 texts)
  34. Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #70, p. 79-80, "(Can you make me a cambric shirt)"
  35. Darling-NAS, pp. 19-23, "The Elfin Knight," "The Elfin Knight," "Every Rose Grows Merry in Time," "Flim-A-Lim-A-Lee" (4 texts)
  36. Silber-FSWB, p. 151, "Scarborough Fair" (1 text); p. 152, "Cambric Shirt" (1 text)
  37. BBI, ZN821, "The elfin knight sits on yon hill"
  38. DT 2, SCARFAIR*
  39. ADDITIONAL: Walter de la Mare, _Come Hither_, revised edition, 1928; #312, "My Plaid Away" (1 excerpt)
  40. Roud #12
  41. BI, C002