Like a garden full of weeds

umbelliferae-1341786_1280At secondary school I had a teacher who was fond of quoting these wise words:

A man of words and not of deeds
Is like a garden full of weeds
And when the weeds begin to grow
It’s like a garden full of snow.


I always understood this rhyme to be a longer way of saying “deeds not words” and hadn’t realised until recently that there was more to the rhyme than these four lines.


The origin of the poem is credited to John Fletcher (1579 – 1625), an obscure playwright and contemporary of Shakespeare.

The poem was mentioned in 1899 by Percy B. Green in his ‘History of Nursery Rhymes’. Green states that the rhyme can be found in a document in the British Museum dated 1680 written as a Puritan satire on the changeability of the  character of the restored king, Charles II. Not sure where that leaves Mr Fletcher….

Green quotes another rhyme from the time of the Restoration (1660) for context:

Come Jack, let’s drink a pot of ale
And I shall tell thee such a tale
Will make thine ears to ring.
My coin is spent, my time is lost
And I this only fruit can boast
That once I saw my king.

Green’s History of Nursery Rhymes is available as a free download from
in a variety of formats for different types of e-readers including Kindle.

However, the formatting is very poor and the book is difficult to read; I don’t suppose Mr Green ever thought his history would be available across the globe.

A man of words and not of deeds 
Is like a garden full of weeds
And when the weeds begin to grow 
It’s like a garden full of snow 
And when the snow begins to fall 
It’s like a bird upon the wall 
And when the bird away does fly 
It’s like an eagle in the sky 
And when the sky begins to roar 
It’s like a lion at the door 
And when the door begins to crack 
It’s like a stick across your back 
And when your back begins to smart
It’s like a penknife in your heart 
And when your heart begins to bleed 
You’re dead, and dead, and dead indeed.


Thanks for reading my blog today.

You might also like Cabbage and Semolina – my memories of a 1950s Childhood.

Hope you’re having a good day.

I shall have to start deciding soon which weeds to remove from my garden and which to allow to grow!




One thought on “Like a garden full of weeds

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