The Netflix miniseries Alias Grace takes an unflinching look at what it means to be a woman in 1800s North America. In her young life, Grace Marks encounters death, abuse, and cruelty — and that's before she gets sentenced to life in prison for murder, of which it's not clear she actually committed. It's a haunting tale, and each episode ends with a similarly haunting song — a sole vocal performance with no instruments that sounds more like a hymn than a theme song for a television show. The end credits song from Alias Grace may not make it onto your workout playlist, but the song is a perfect match for the haunting series.
The tune used is an old English folk song known by many titles, but the version used goes by the name "Let No Man Steal Your Thyme." Other popular titles for the song include "Sprig o' Thyme," "The Seeds of Love," and "Maiden's Lament." The track certainly feels like the lamentations of Grace Marks, who has seemingly been beaten down by a cruel world filled with unkind men. The version heard at the end of each episode of Alias Grace is performed by English singer Anne Briggs and echoes a warning to women not to let men take their "thyme" away from them. Needless to say, she's not talking about herbs.
Alias Grace, based on the novel by Margaret Atwood, shows multiple women having their lives ruined for the sake of making a man's life more convenient, and Let No Man Steal Your Thyme rings out like a warning from beyond the graves of the women that Grace Marks watched die (or possible helped kill).
Come, all you fair and tender girls
That flourish in your prime
Beware, beware, keep your garden fair
Let no man steal your thyme
The first verse sounds like a plea for virginity, encouraging women to "keep their garden fair." The lyrics then go on to "warn" that giving your "thyme" to a man isn't a guarantee that he will care about you anyway.
For when your thyme it is past and gone
He'll care no more for you
And every place where your time was waste
Will all spread all over with rue
Most of the men in Grace's life, including her father, her employer, and the seemingly kind man who impregnated her best friend Mary, become disinterested in women once they got what they wanted or were finished "needing" the women. The father of Mary's child abandons her and calls her a slut. Thomas Kinnear keeps his affair with Nancy Montgomery secret and would likely drop the affair should he be found out. One man even offers Grace an escape, but when he refuses to marry her — she rejects his advances, having learned from those around her not to trust a man who isn't willing to commit to her.
It's no mistake that "Thyme" and "Time" sound identical, as the metaphor of "Let No Man Steal Your Thyme" runs deeper than just a garden. Many of the women that Grace encounters during her life watch their lives crumble at the hands of men they trusted. Mary died trying to terminate the pregnancy that the father was unwilling to see through, Grace's mother suffered years of abuse at the hands of her father, and Grace herself was abused by her father and incriminated by the testimony of men that she trusted.
The women of Alias Grace all have time (among other things) stolen from them — including Grace, who spent nearly three decades in prison. While the truth about whether or not Grace Marks was innocent or guilty is never fully answered in Alias Grace — just as it wasn't in real life — it's hard to deny that the influence and actions of various men lined her path to prison. "Let No Man Steal Your Thyme" is a lament, a women's warning, and a fittingly haunting end to every Alias Grace episode.
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