As I was walking round Grosvenor Square
Not a chill to the winter
But a nip to the air
From the other direction
She was calling my eye
It could be an illusion
But I might as well try
Might as well try

She had rings on her fingers and
Bells on her shoes
And I knew without asking she was
Into the blues
She wore scarlet begonias
Tucked into her curls
I knew right away
She was not like other girls
Other girls

In the thick of the evening
When the dealing got rough
She was too pat to open
And too cool to bluff
As I picked up my matches and
Was closing the door
I had one of those flashes:
I’d been there before
Been there before

I ain’t often right
But I’ve never been wrong
It seldom turns out the way
It does in the song
Once in a while
You get shown the light
In the strangest of places
If you look at it right

Well, there ain’t nothing wrong
With the way she moves
Or scarlet begonias or a
Touch of the blues
And there’s nothing wrong with
The look that’s in her eye
I had to learn the hard way
To let her pass by
Let her pass by

The wind in the willows played tea for two
The sky was yellow and the sun was blue
Strangers stopping strangers
Just to shake their hand
Everybody’s playing
In the Heart of Gold Band
Heart of Gold Band


“Scarlet Begonias” is the stand-out masterpiece of 1974’s From the Mars Hotel. The song has a Caribbean feel that Garcia would later relate to Paul Simon’s “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.” An acoustic song done electronically, Hunter wrote the lyrics – which echo the British nursery rhyme “Ride a Cock Horse to Banbury Cross” – while living in England. Whether his references are meant to allude to Queen Elizabeth or Lady Godiva, the lady with the flowers was one of Hunter’s most exquisitely romantic objects of desire, a quest destined to fail.

Tahsin Ünlü

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