From scoutsongs.com Oh, My Darling Clementine

In a cavern, In a canyon, Excavating for a mine,

Dwelt a miner, forty-niner, And his daughter Clementine.


Drove she ducklings to the water, Every morning just at nine;

Hit her foot against a splinter, Fell into the foaming brine.

[Clementine dies]

When the miner forty-niner, Soon began to peak and pine,

Thought he oughter "jine" his daughter, Now he's with his Clementine.

What is meant by "peak and pine"?

  • 2
    The miner (father of Clementine) is not the balladeer. The singer is Clementine's sweetheart, who moved on to her sister following his loss.
    – Andrew Leach
    Nov 13, 2014 at 10:37
  • 1
    Presumably peak just means feeling ill. As in "I feel a bit peaky today".
    – z7sg Ѫ
    Nov 13, 2014 at 10:39
  • Those wouldn't be the two words I would ask about. I wonder what he means to jine his daughter. That sounds pretty dirty to me. Nov 13, 2014 at 21:05
  • 2
    @JasonHutchinson I assumed "jine" was a particular pronunciation of "join" so that it rhymed with pine.
    – Celeritas
    Nov 14, 2014 at 1:57
  • 2
    @Jason: jine is a dialectical pronunciation of join. This was actually a common pronunciation among upper-class British English speakers when Alexander Pope wrote: "Good-nature and good-sense must ever join; // To err is human, to forgive, divine." I have no idea how common it was among 19th century California gold miners. Mar 18, 2022 at 20:14

3 Answers 3


'Peak' means 'decline in health and spirits, waste away'.

'Pine' means 'become ill or feeble through worry or longing'.

The 'I' of the chorus is Clementine's lover. It is not her father.

  • The lover's not the miner. The miner is her father, the lover is the one telling the story to the boy scouts.
    – skymningen
    Nov 13, 2014 at 10:44
  • @skymninge. Right. I have corrected that slip.
    – tunny
    Nov 13, 2014 at 10:48

According to the Wikipedia article on the song, Percy Montross wrote the lyrics "Oh My Darling, Clementine" in 1884. It seems extremely likely that Montross picked up the phrase "peak and pine" either directly or indirectly from Shakespeare, who uses it in The Tragedie of Macbeth (1606/1623):

1 [First Witch]. I my selfe haue all the other [winds], / And the very Ports they blow, / All the Quarters that they know, / I' th' Ship-mans Card. / Ile dreyne him [a sailor, whose wife had refused to give the witch some of her chestnuts] drie as Hay: / Sleepe shall neyther Night nor Day / Hang vpon his Pent-house Lid: / He shall liue a man forbid: / Wearie Seu'nights, nine times nine, / Shall he dwindle, peake, and pine: / Though his Barke cannot be lost, / Yet it shall be Tempest-tost.

Alexander Schmidt, Shakespeare Lexicon and Quotation Dictionary (1875) offers this entry for peak:

Peak, vb. ... to grow lean, to fall away: shall he dwindle, p. and pine, Mcb. I, 3, 23.

In the same lexicon, Schmidt identifies two meanings of pine as an intransitive verb in Shakespeare's works:

Pine, vb. 1) intr. a) to want food, to starve: [citations omitted] ... With for, = to hunger for: [citations omitted] b) to wear away, to languish: [citations omitted] With for, to languish for: [citations omitted].

Schmidt assigns definition 1(b) to pine as used in the "dwindle, peak, and pine" example from Macbeth, meaning that he views the phrase "peak and pine" there as meaning "grow lean or fall away and wear away or languish." Montross seems to have essentially the same meanings in mind in his lines "When the miner forty-niner, / Soon began to peak and pine" from "Oh My Darling, Clementine."

James Murray, A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles (1905) has this note related to "peak and pine" under a linger entry for peak as a verb:

peak v. {Found early in the 16th c., origin uncertain.} ... 4. ? To droop in health and spirits, waste away ; 'to look sickly' (J[ohnson]) or emaciated. Chiefly in peak and pine, a Shakespearean expression repeated by many later writers, chiefly as emphasizing pine. [Citations omitted.]

So it appears that numerous authors in the nineteenth century and earlier treated "peak and pine" as a set phrase conveying the idea of languishing or wasting away. In the United States today, however, at least in my experience, "peak and pine" is not in widespread idiomatic use.


This blogpost explains the connections of peaked to sickly.

From a german translation of the song I once read somewhere, peak and pine stands for languish or waste away

  • 4
    Links can rot, and when they do, they become obsolete and worthless. Could you provide a brief summary?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 13, 2014 at 10:47

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