"The mirror was a window..."

The Annotated "Rosemary"

An installment in The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics.
By David Dodd
Research Associate, Music Dept., University of California, Santa Cruz
Copyright notice
Words by Robert Hunter; music by Jerry Garcia
Copyright Ice Nine Publishing; used by permission.


Boots were of leather
A breath of cologne
Her mirror was a window
She sat quite alone

All around her
the garden grew
scarlet and purple
and crimson and blue

She came and she went
and at last went away
The garden was sealed
when the flowers decayed

On the wall of the garden
a legend did say:
No one may come here
since no one may stay


Recorded on AOXOMOXOA.

Appeared for ages never to have been played live. But there is news of a December 7, 1968 performance at Bellarmine College, Louisville, KY. Details, anyone?

This note from a reader:

Date: Wed, 12 Apr 2006 15:53:58 -0700
From: Brian Hartnett
Subject: Rosemary Live Performance

Hi David,
Big fan of the site, and after seeing how no one was certain of the only live performance of Rosemary I feel as if I am compelled to clear it up.
12-07-68 Bellarmine College, Louisville, Ky. (Sat)
1: Dark Star> St. Stephen, Death Don't, Cryptical> Other One> Cryptical> New Potato Caboose
2: Unknown*, He Was A Friend, Hurts Me Too, Morning Dew> We Bid You Goodnight
Originally listed as Unknown, it is the only time Rosemary was ever performed.
If any of the viewers of this site would like to listen to the concerts recording it is available at this link: http://www.archive.org/audio/etree-details-db.php?id=15753
It is a little choppy at times, but as far as the value of hearing the only time played , it is quite special.
Thanks and keep up the great work!!!!
Brian Hartnett
Sherman Oaks, Ca 91403
email: bhartnett@nu.edu
Thanks, Brian!

A reader sends this note:

Subject: Rosemary
Date: Thu, 23 Nov 2000 14:32:22 EST
From: Zulujines@aol.com

Hi there....
I love the GD site, I visit it all the time...
I hope you're still updating it, because it is truly exceptional.
"Rosemary" is one of my favorite songs, even though it's quite short and...odd.
I came across this poem, and it's strikingly similar to the lyrics of "Rosemary"----

by Nancy Byrd Turner

Death is only an old door
Set in a garden wall;
On gentle hinges it gives, at dusk
When the thrushes call.

Along the lintel are green leaves,
Beyond the light lies still;
Very willing and weary feet
Go over that still

There is nothing to trouble any heart;
Nothing to hurt at all.
Death is only a quiet door
In an old wall.

Interesting similarity, no?

All the best--

And this amazing mini-essay on resemblances of the song to a Nathaniel Hawthorne story:

Subject: Rappaccini and Rosemary
Date: Wed, 29 Aug 2001 03:45:29 -0500
From: "Susie Sociopath"

Mr. Dodd, I'm not exactly sure how to begin this email, as I'm not even sure if I'm mailing the right address. To make a long story short, I stumbled across your Grateful Dead site, and immediately put an old cd in the player. When the song Rosemary came on, I noticed something about the lyrics. Granted, I've heard the song many times, but this time the song really seemed similar to a story I read once, in high school. Maybe I'm imagining things, or reading too far into it. Hell, maybe it's the cough syrup I've been downing because of this awful cold. All the same, I thought I'd point out the similarities, if you'll hear them.

Perhaps you've read the story Rappaccini's Daughter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Well, I grabbed an old copy, and sat down to compare it to the lyrics. Though you've probably read it, I'll give a very hasty storyline. Giovanni, a student new to Padua, takes up residence in an old house overlooking a beautiful garden. Upon inquiry, he learns that the garden belongs to a famous doctor by the name of Rappaccini, and that no one is allowed in the garden, other than the doctor, and his daughter. Giovanni occupies his time by looking out of his window at the garden, and thinks it the finest he's ever seen. He always manages to notice "one shrub in particular, that bore a profusion of purple blossoms..." One day, while looking in the garden, he notices Rappaccini working. Giovanni finds it odd that Rappaccini wears a mask and gloves, while working in the garden, as though he's taking care not to inhale the odor of the plants. Rappaccini suddenly stops working, and call out to a window above him.

"'Beatrice! Beatrice'
'Here I am, my father, what would you?'
cried a rich and youthful voice from the window of the opposite house-a voice as rich as a tropical sunset, and which made Giovanni, though he knew not why, think of hues of deep purple, or crimson, and of perfumes heavily delectable."
Giovanni thinks of her incessantly, and watches her from his window. One day, while watching her, he calls out to her from the window, and tosses her a bouquet of flowers. Two two exchange brief words, and before she takes her leave, he notices the bouquet beginning to wither in her hands. Some time later, a servant informs him of a secret entrance into the garden, and he investigates. Upon entering the garden, he studies the plants, and is soon met with the figure of Beatrice, appearing from a sculptured portal. The two exchange words and take a strong liking to each other. He starts to notice something odd about her breath, a perfumed quality. When she touches his hands, she leaves purple prints that burn his hands, the color of the odd shrub that he noticed prior. He ushers these thoughts to the back of his mind, and the two schedule similar meetings. They manage to keep a physical distance, despite their attraction to one another.

Here, I'm going to butcher a remarkable story, and skip straight to the ending. Giovanni, while walking in the garden with Beatrice, notices the odd shrub again. he asks her when the shrub was planted. She replies that her father created it, that it sprung up out of the soil the very day she was born. She then tells him that she's been so lonely, as she wasn't allowed company, and that heaven must have sent Giovanni to her. Giovanni, after putting two and two together, realizes that Beatrice is a sister to the poisonous plant, and that she, too, is deadly. Her breath is poisonous, and her touch kills. Giovanni, after his anger, produces a vial to cure them both of the poison that her father instilled in her. Eagerly, she grabs the bottle to drink it, and upon doing so, Rappaccini enters. He instructs Beatrice to pick one of the deadly flowers and pin it on Giovanni, he has been watching them, and devised a way for them to be together. The flower will not harm him now, and the two can live together peacefully. But, it was too late. As poison was all that Beatrice had known, the antidote was the cause of her death.

Now, as I said before, I might be reading too much into it, be I find these similarities at least oddly coincidental.

"A breath of cologne
Her mirror was a window
She sat quite alone"
A breath of cologne referring to her perfumed, poisoned breath, possibly?

She was quite lonely before she met Giovanni. The first time he saw her was through a window, and the first time she saw him was through a window. Maybe that's the mirror?

All around her
the garden grew
scarlet and purple
and crimson and blue

That one is pretty self explanatory, of course, the references to the colors of the flowers is nice. Almost the exact same colors.

"She came and she went
and at last went away
The garden was sealed
when the flowers decayed"

They met repeatedly, until she died. My guess is that since the plant was her "sister,"the plant died, too. Perhaps Rappaccini sealed the garden and stopped his experiments after the death of his daughter.

"On the wall of the garden
a legend did say:
No one may come here
since no one may stay"

Probably my favorite line, as no one was allowed in the garden walls other than Rappaccini and Beatrice, because the poison would eventually kill anyone not immune to it.

Well, I'm sure I've typed way too much, and read far too into it, but it gave me something to do while I couldn't sleep, anyway. Take care, happy listening.

Carmen Fulford


Rosmarinus officinalis. Alice Coats calls Rosemary the "herb of herbs: beloved above all, associated with innumberable legends and traditions, and put to a hundred uses." (p. 298) Among these innumberable legends and traditions is that of "rosemary for remembrance," and "therefore to friendship," according to Sir Thomas More. To quote from Coats:
"It seems to have been almost universally used in funeral ceremonies... The custom of throwing sprigs of rosemary into the grave persisted in England till the nineteenth century. ... It was even more essential for weddings, being carried or tied to the arms of both bridesmaids and groomsmen; sometimes it was gilded, or dipped in scented water. [Cologne!] The bride wore a garland of it, to signify that she carried to the new home loving memories of the old." (p. 299)
"The name, Ros marinus, dew of the sea, was given to it because it was supposed to thrive best within sound of the ocean. ...Where rosemary flourishes, so goes the tradition, the mistress rules." (p. 301)
Gabriele Tergit also has quite a bit to say about rosemary:
"To wake the Sleeping Beauty, she had to be touched by rosemary, a plant of many legends and ancient beliefs, and of many uses-- curative, ornamental, culinary, as a love potion and a symbol of mourning." (p. 48)
"During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries rosemary became also the flower of mourning.
I dreamed this night a dismal dream / Rosemary grew in my garden..."
says a German folksong. `There's rosemary, that's for remembrance,' said Ophelia, and it may be surmised that rosemary was placed on her grave." (p. 194)

P.S. Also the name of my wonderful daughter.


Again, to cite Gabriele Tergit:
"Eau de Cologne is probably the most popular toilet water of the world. It seems likely that it was invented at Cologne in 1709 by Johann Maria Farina, an Italian immigrant. Others say that is was invented by a Paul de Feminis who imported the process of its manufacture from Milan in 1690. Many people named Farina have since come to Cologne, bringing with them the right to use the authentic name. ... The ingredients were strictly secret." (p. 220)

garden was sealed

This note from a reader:
Subject: rosemary
Date: Mon, 4 Oct 1999 22:19:14 -0500
From: "Thomas J. Fischer"

I just thought that the part in "Rosemary" about the garden being sealed is very much like the book The Secret Garden [by Francis Hodgson Burnett, 1849-1924] in which the garden in the book is sealed because cildren no longer play in it and it falls into decay because of it.

Thanks for the awesome site-

Andy Fischer

First posted: February, 1995.
Last revised: April 15, 2006