Juniper, Gentle And Rosemary


Jon calls this “Another lovely song learnt from Magpie Lane. They may have got it from Pete Coe, not sure. I’ve mentioned Magpie Lane a few times so thought it might be nice to put some of their stuff up on AFSAD. They have kindly agreed to let us put their version of this track up (from Six for Gold). Marvellous!”

We’re back into Child #1 or #2 territory again and also Scarborough Fair and Captain Wedderburn. As the observant amongst you will doubtless have recognised, I mentioned the daughters in my write up of that. Juniper and Jennifer are the same thing and Gentle is another name for Hawthorn. This version is Pete Coe’s, or at least from the same source, following the version transcribed at Mainly Norfolk.  It’s another curious ballad, with one sister letting the valiant knight in, one making his bed and the third answering the questions to gain his hand – if only life generally followed such an orderly procession. There’s a distinctly faulty bit of maths involved too, as I count six questions. Mind you there are versions of this involving the Devil asking as many as nine questions and I wonder whether there might be a touch of numerology involved. I found this Mudcat thread entertaining and you may agree or rate it a complete waste of time, as the debate about the magical significance of the plant combination rages. I can see a certain logic to it in the context of the supernatural question setter in other versions, but have grown more cautious of accepting such theories as factual. Besides the knight here seems merely mortal and there’s a somewhat different refrain under debate anyway, with “lay the bent to the bonny broom” possibly having the erotic inference that Phil was suggesting in his comments for Scarborough Fair. In that case I wonder at the “dew flies over the mulberry tree”!!! (Or should that be lies?) As compensation for the scholarly stuff,  there are some other good riddle/impossible songs in the thread to distract you, with a couple of very interesting, comic and somewhat surreal examples. I’m going to have to make notes on all of these riddle permutations, as you never know when a crib-sheet could come in handy. Mind you, knowing my luck it’s more likely to involve Old Nick than any fair young maidens . Anyway, I hope you enjoy the bonus too as it’s lovely stuff.

Bonus track by Magpie Lane




13 Responses to “Juniper, Gentle And Rosemary”

  1. Roberto says:

    It seems the source for this version is The Three Sisters, as sung by Gilbert, transcribed in 1823, of Cornish tradition. It can be found in A Garland of Country Song – English Folk Songs with their traditional melodies, collected and arranged by S. Baring Gould and H. Fleetwood Sheppard, 1895; also in B. H. BronsonThe Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads, 1959, where it is the version number 4 of Child #1. Cyril Tawney recorded it in The Outlandish Knight, Folk Songs from Devon And Cornwall, 1969.

  2. John Burton says:

    Nice one Jon, it is hard to keep the interest going in such a long song but you did, even after I listened to theMagpie Lane version. And thanks muchly to the silent elves who sneak around in the dark of night fixing links.

  3. Rachel says:

    Thank you for putting up All Hail a Brighter Day! 😀

    Still missing Ye Mariners All though….

  4. Vivien says:

    Loved both Jon’s and Magpie Lane’s versions. Havent been onto this site for a while and cant imagine why I lapsed on listening. Have some catching up to do.

  5. Pippa says:

    ‘Jennifer Juniper’ 1968 Donovan

  6. Diana says:

    What an interesting story or stories as there appears to be many variations on a theme. Enjoyed it very much.

  7. Muzza (N.W.Surrey-UK) says:

    Two differnt interpretations……….one thoughtful…….one jolly…..
    I needed cheering up having just been round to put all the clocks/watches/time switches et al forward an hour to welcome the Summer!

  8. Old Muzza(N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    three sisters………….a lithesome threesome…………oh to be young again!

  9. old Muzza(N.W.Surrey.UK) says:


  10. old Muzza(N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    Theresa. Angela and Nicola……..still sorting out and talking in riddles..
    .Huzzah for Article 50
    Yes…I’ am a hedonistic old Git (for goodness sake keep politics out of AFSAD daft old Muzza)

  11. Old Muzza (NW Surrey-UK) says:

    Oh for a crystal ball ref the EU…..someone will write a RIDDLE song about this fiasco one day

  12. Sarah HEAD says:

    I first heard this song on Finbarr and Eddie Furey’s album, the Dawning of the Day, back in the 1970s. The words are different but the chorus the same. Really pleased to hear this version and learn its history, especially when it includes a new word for hawthorn!

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