Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafemuddy

Post to this Thread - Sort Descending - Printer Friendly - Home


Lay the bent to the bonnie broome? Meaning?

DigiTrad:
BONNIE BROOM (questions)
JENNIFER GENTLE
JENNIFER GENTLE (modern)
RIDDLES WISELY EXPOUNDED (2)
RIDDLES WISELY EXPOUNDED (CATHER BANKS)
RIDDLES WISELY EXPOUNDED 3
THE DEVIL'S NINE QUESTIONS


Related threads:
(origins) Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions (48)
LYR clarify -- Bent to the Bonnie Broom? (30)
The Tailors Bonnie? or Ninety Nine and N (11)


katlaughing 08 Feb 03 - 09:59 AM
Ed. 08 Feb 03 - 10:08 AM
harpgirl 08 Feb 03 - 10:14 AM
Ed. 08 Feb 03 - 10:18 AM
nutty 08 Feb 03 - 11:18 AM
leprechaun 08 Feb 03 - 11:22 AM
katlaughing 08 Feb 03 - 11:23 AM
Malcolm Douglas 08 Feb 03 - 11:35 AM
katlaughing 08 Feb 03 - 11:41 AM
GUEST 04 Nov 05 - 02:56 PM
GUEST,DB 04 Nov 05 - 05:03 PM
The Borchester Echo 04 Nov 05 - 06:19 PM
GUEST,Y. L. 03 Sep 09 - 06:23 PM
Bernard 03 Sep 09 - 07:46 PM
BobKnight 03 Sep 09 - 09:14 PM
GUEST 05 Feb 11 - 09:09 AM
GUEST,leeneia 05 Feb 11 - 02:38 PM
Little Robyn 06 Feb 11 - 02:04 PM
GUEST,leeneia 06 Feb 11 - 08:06 PM
GUEST,AliHarden 25 Jun 11 - 06:02 PM
stallion 26 Jun 11 - 06:14 AM
Brian Peters 26 Jun 11 - 06:27 AM
GUEST,Aliharden 30 Jun 11 - 04:26 PM
GUEST 13 Jun 14 - 11:46 AM
GUEST 21 Jun 16 - 12:12 PM
Jim Carroll 21 Jun 16 - 12:32 PM
MGM·Lion 21 Jun 16 - 02:41 PM
Share Thread
more
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:




Subject: Lay the bent to the bonnie broom? Meanin
From: katlaughing
Date: 08 Feb 03 - 09:59 AM

Moved over from another thread:

Subject: RE: Folk music questions I'm afraid to ask
From: Mockingbird MacGillickutty - PM
Date: 07 Feb 03 - 11:58 PM

I need to know what the expression "lay the bent to the bonny broome"
Broome is a weed or grass in Scotland-does one "lay the bent to" it by means of sexual activity? Help me out I need to explain it to the old folks. It has got to be fairly acurate. Unlike the Mojo thread. Doesn't any folkie ask about for such information while on Louisiana holiday?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lay the bent to the bonnie broome? Meaning?
From: Ed.
Date: 08 Feb 03 - 10:08 AM

Some attempts at explanation are detailed on this page (Scroll down)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lay the bent to the bonnie broome? Meaning?
From: harpgirl
Date: 08 Feb 03 - 10:14 AM

if bent = horn, then what does lay the "horn" to the bonny broome imply?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lay the bent to the bonnie broome? Meaning?
From: Ed.
Date: 08 Feb 03 - 10:18 AM

Sex


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lay the bent to the bonnie broome? Meaning?
From: nutty
Date: 08 Feb 03 - 11:18 AM

Bent's are a kind of grass that were used for floor covering and bedding.


Robert Herrick (16th Century) in 'Ceremonies for Candlemas Eve' says ...
"Green rushes then and sweetest bents
With cooler oaken boughs
Come in for comely ornaments
To re-adorn the house"


Indeed, laying them on top of cut branches of broom would make a superior kind of bed, so the meaning could well be sexual.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lay the bent to the bonnie broome? Meaning?
From: leprechaun
Date: 08 Feb 03 - 11:22 AM

Or it might have something to do with sleep.

I swear, you people have a one track mind.

Somebody should wash your bagpipes out with soap.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lay the bent to the bonnie broome? Meaning?
From: katlaughing
Date: 08 Feb 03 - 11:23 AM

So this would have nothing to do with housesweeping?**bg**


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lay the bent to the bonnie broome? Meaning?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 08 Feb 03 - 11:35 AM

Oh God, no, not another "What does lay the bent to the bonny broom" thread. We've had a heap of them, Kat, you ought to know that. I saw the question and hoped it might be overlooked until the search engine was working again and the bulk of the "repeat" requests from people who've tried looking for something and got no results had dried up...

Not your fault, MacGillickutty. Since we're here again, here are two links to earlier discussions.

LYR clarify -- Bent to the Bonnie Broom?

RE: 'twasisters' lay the bent to bonny broom

Read the discussion in the first link, in which romantic ideas about "magical herb lore" are gone over, then check the second, which contains a different (and more likely) explanation; together with a very long list of links to many other discussions and material here and elsewhere. They mostly relate to versions of The Cruel Sister, of course, which this refrain was never sung with in tradition; it was bolted on in the late 1960s, with the tune, from a 17th century English version of Riddles Wisely Expounded. That arrangement, by the band Pentangle, became very popular, and a lot of people sing it now believing it to be an authentic traditional form of the song.

One thing you need to bear in mind is that that version of Riddles was taken from the English musician and raconteur Thomas D'Urfey's book Pills to Purge Melancholy, which contained a whole raft of songs and verses traditional and modern (modern in the early 18th century, that is), a high proportion of which were comic or just plain dirty. Romantic folklorists of the 19th and early 20th centuries to the contrary, my money's on the more recent opinion.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lay the bent to the bonnie broome? Meaning?
From: katlaughing
Date: 08 Feb 03 - 11:41 AM

Oh, shoot, Malcolm, you are right, I should have known, but somewhere along the line I missed those ones. I'll get out the hair shirt, directly.

Thanks.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lay the bent to the bonnie broome? Meaning?
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Nov 05 - 02:56 PM

Here's my guess...jumping over a broom was a symbolic act in the Celtic marriage ceremony. Perhaps the phrase means that there will be a wedding. And perhaps it is a phrase to frame the age-old tradition of mothers trying to find suitable mates for their daughters.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lay the bent to the bonnie broome? Meaning?
From: GUEST,DB
Date: 04 Nov 05 - 05:03 PM

Oh right! It wos the celts wot done it! They did a lot they did!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lay the bent to the bonnie broome? Meaning?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 04 Nov 05 - 06:19 PM

jumping over a broom was a symbolic act in the Celtic marriage ceremony

But 'living over the brush' used to mean that no form of marriage ceremony had been entered into . . .


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lay the bent to the bonnie broome? Meaning?
From: GUEST,Y. L.
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 06:23 PM

this thread is that old but I looked for the meaning now for the song "cruel sister"

I think it could be a double-meaning, once the marriage (like mentioned above) and sleeping (sleeping egual to dying). The two things are important in the song.

PS: sorry for the bad English, I'm German


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lay the bent to the bonnie broome? Meaning?
From: Bernard
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 07:46 PM

Your bad English is far better than my attempts at German!!

;o)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lay the bent to the bonnie broome? Meaning?
From: BobKnight
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 09:14 PM

Broom is NOT a grass. It's a bush that grows to about 3-4 feet high, dark green foliage, with yellow blossom. It's inclined to grow in clumps, sometimes covering vast expanses of moorland. Not to be confused with "whins" or gorse, which grows in the same way, but is a thorn-bush, with yellow flowers.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lay the bent to the bonnie broome? Meaning?
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Feb 11 - 09:09 AM

The bent (weedy grass) lay (close) to the bonnie (nice) broom

it means that the bad grass grows near beatiful plants.
It is a metaphor for the two sister, one bad and the other nice.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lay the bent to the bonnie broome? Meaning?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 05 Feb 11 - 02:38 PM

My dictionary from 1934 says that bent can be grass, a grassy reed or Scotch heather.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lay the bent to the bonnie broome? Meaning?
From: Little Robyn
Date: 06 Feb 11 - 02:04 PM

Except, as Malcolm said in 2003
"...relate to versions of The Cruel Sister, of course, which this refrain was never sung with in tradition; it was bolted on in the late 1960s, with the tune, from a 17th century English version of Riddles Wisely Expounded. That arrangement, by the band Pentangle, became very popular, and a lot of people sing it now believing it to be an authentic traditional form of the song."

So while it's a very convenient metaphor, the bent and broom really had nothing to do with the sisters, good or bad.
Robyn


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lay the bent to the bonnie broome? Meaning?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 06 Feb 11 - 08:06 PM

Buy Robyn, it doesn't make any sense in the context of 'Riddles Wisely Expounded,' either.

I sing a lot. Some words and some songs just feel good in your mouth, and I think this phrase, with its bouncings B's, is one of them.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lay the bent to the bonnie broome? Meaning?
From: GUEST,AliHarden
Date: 25 Jun 11 - 06:02 PM

If the "bent" is a coarse grass then the laying close to "bonnie broom" would be a metaphor for the corrupting power of sexual desire, cf. "Let no man steal your thyme": "A woman is a branchy tree/And man's a clinging vine". Besides, "lay" is rarely used without a sexual connotation.

I don't see the grass being the wicked sister; in fact, one could argue that she is the broom which has been choked by the grass.

Sorry to be so "one-track", but all the old folksy songs were re-vamped in the 60s with a distinctly sexual flavour and full of menacing double-entendre (cf. Jack Orion: "He neither kissed her when he came/nor when from her he did go/and in and out/of her window..." etc.)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lay the bent to the bonnie broome? Meaning?
From: stallion
Date: 26 Jun 11 - 06:14 AM

mmmmmm don't think that because the song was re-assembled in the "sexy sixties" it changed it's meaning. The problem we have today is that we have lost the meanings and the symbolisms that would have been readily understood even a hundred years ago. Actually, songs have been tidied up a lot to be presented to the modern public, indeed a lot of things have been tidied up, probably Victoria RG's influence on society! We had a street in York that had it's name changed from Grope lane to Grape lane, that itself had been changed in 19th C from it's 18th century name
Grope c**t lane, famous for it's prostitutes! Not wishing to bang on but I have uncovered snippets of a version of Jolly Waggoner that makes the Waterson's version look like a Sunday school hymn. So get out of the Drawing room (withdrawing room if you like)take the black frock off and understand the underclass whose only real pleasures from labour were drinking, singing and sex.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lay the bent to the bonnie broome? Meaning?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 26 Jun 11 - 06:27 AM

"I don't see the grass being the wicked sister; in fact, one could argue that she is the broom which has been choked by the grass."

Please can we get this straight? 'Lay the Bent to the Bonny Broom' has NO known traditional association with the 'Cruel Sister' / 'Two Sisters' ballad. See Malcolm Douglas and Little Robyn, above.

'Two Sisters' was, however, collected with a variety of refrains including 'Binnorie', 'Bow Down / The bough shall bend to me', 'Hey ho my Nanny - O' and 'Jinny flower gen and rosemary'. Whether refrains like that added any content to the ballad is debatable. In their proper context of Child 1 ('Riddles') it's possible that the bent and the broom once carried sexual connotations relevant to the story, but the ballad was collected much more frequently without the bent / broom refrain. 'Ninety-nine and ninety', anyone?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lay the bent to the bonnie broome? Meaning?
From: GUEST,Aliharden
Date: 30 Jun 11 - 04:26 PM

Wow this was my first forum post ever, at what I thought was a dead thread. I'm glad there was some response.

@ Brian: I wasn't suggesting that song's mythical original writer (or whatever) associated either sister with bent or broom; just that mine is one interpretation of the lines of the Pentangle song (lets call a spade a spade here) which is in line with their re-presentation of other folk songs/ballads. (Though I do now see that I didn't actually mention Pentangle or BJ in my post.)

@ Stallion: haha, yes there is also a "grove street" here in Oxford with a similar heritage. Again, I was speaking in a purely Pentangle context: I know there wasn't necessarily a conscious sexing-up, and that those specific songs were chosen for revamping for their inherent dark and dirty charm.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lay the bent to the bonnie broome? Meaning?
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Jun 14 - 11:46 AM

dancing around a bush?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lay the bent to the bonnie broome? Meaning?
From: GUEST
Date: 21 Jun 16 - 12:12 PM


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lay the bent to the bonnie broome? Meaning?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Jun 16 - 12:32 PM

As I understand it, bent (the rough grass that grows near the sea and the broom both had magical properties attributed to them and a combination of the two was believed to be a powerful protection against evil.
Broom around here in the West of Ireland is referred to as The May Bush and was still being brought into homes on the 1st of May when we first visited the area.
The song most associated with the belief, "Riddles", is not a sexual song, but a battle of wits between a stranger and a family from the north (dodgy lot Northerners - remember that Outlandish Knight feller!!) with magical abilities associated with it, one feeling out the other with questions, so to speak.
The welcoming of the stranger is ritualistic, with the three daughters being given specific tasks - to let the stranger and seal the door (with a silver pin), to make the bed and the to pleasure him.
The questions take the form of a battle of wits as with the other ballads of this genre - False Knight on the Road and Captain Wedderburn, for instance.
Fascinating song.
Jim Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lay the bent to the bonnie broome? Meaning?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 21 Jun 16 - 02:41 PM

A-propos that last post of Jim's, I recently posted on the Mudcat Poetry Corner thread one of the limericks with which I won a Folk Review competition way back when, for limericks summarising ballads. My one for Child #1 'Riddles...', #4, 'Captain Wedderburn', &c &c, went:?

It's part of an ancient tradition
That persons of noble condition
Must faddle and fiddle
To answer a riddle
If they wish to indulge in coition

≈M≈


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
  Share Thread:
More...

Reply to Thread
Subject:  Help
From:
Preview   Automatic Linebreaks   Make a link ("blue clicky")


Mudcat time: 17 October 8:36 PM EDT

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.