Mary Mary Quite Contrary

March 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

Mary, mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.

Mistress Mary, Quite Contrary by WW Denslow - Project Gutenberg etext 18546

This amazing illustration by W W Denslow quite accurately depicts the bizarreness of this little ditty, note the cheeky smiles on the bells and cockle shells. I have been singing it in the context of a theme of growing things, the kids like the idea of little people popping up in their garden!

Historically there are possible religious implications and a possible connection with Mary Queen of Scots, but it is only conjecture, as the first print version of this is in the mid 1700s, some 200 years after Mary Queen of Scots, and also the religious upheavals of the Stuart era.

Mary Queen of Scots, head portrait after Francis Clouet


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