Broom of the Cowdenknowes

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"Broom of the Cowdenknowes" is a traditional Scottish love ballad, Child #217. It is traceable back to the seventeenth century, but the exact origin is unknown. The title of the song references the Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius) flower, a vibrant yellow flower found throughout Scotland, including in Cowdenknowes, in Berwickshire. The original and extended ballad was the story of a young shepherdess who falls in love with a stranger on horseback, who rides by her pasture every day. The song became popular across Scotland and England towards the end of the reign of James l & VI, and the earliest publication date found is 1651.[1] The melody was also published as a dance tune, during the same year, in John Playford's first edition of The English Dancing Master.[2]

Throughout the many versions of the popular folksong, there are many lyrical variations, but the plot remain consistent. The shepardess and stranger fall in love and have an affair. When she becomes pregnant, she is banished from her country. She seeks out her lover, finding him to now be a wealthy lord. They marry, but she is never truly happy away from her own country, and she pines for "the bonnie bonnie broom".

Traditionally, the song is sung from the perspective of the shepherdess. The broom, a tall shrub which blooms with spikes of small golden flowers, once grew abundantly on hillsides of the Scottish Borders.

Cowdenknowes is a Scottish barony east of the Leader Water river, 32 miles southeast of Edinburgh.[3]


  1. ^ "Broom of the Cowdenknowes"
  2. ^ Playford, John. The English Dancing Master, 81. London, 1651
  3. ^ The Barony of Cowdenknowes