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Origins: riddle song (I Gave My Love a Cherry)

DigiTrad:
CAPTAIN HANLEY AND SWEET MAZIE
CAPTAIN WEDDERBURN'S COURTSHIP
GO NO MORE A-RUSHING (Riddle Song)
I WILL GIVE MY LOVE AN APPLE
PERRY MERRY DICTUM, DOMINE (Riddle song)
PHYSICIST'S RIDDLE SONG
THE RIDDLE SONG
THE RIDDLE SONG (2: I HAVE A YOUNG SUSTER)
THREE DISHES AND SIX QUESTIONS


Related threads:
I gave my love a cherry - new thought? (15)
(origins) Origins: I Will Give My Love an Apple (4)
Lyr Req: The Riddle Song, help to understand (23)
Riddle Song - bird without a gall? (23) (closed)
(origins) Origin: I Gave My Love a Cherry (The Riddle Song) (2) (closed)


MAG (inactive) 11 Mar 99 - 03:08 PM
Bruce O. 11 Mar 99 - 03:20 PM
Dr John 11 Mar 99 - 03:46 PM
Bert 11 Mar 99 - 04:30 PM
Sandy Paton 11 Mar 99 - 05:33 PM
catspaw49 12 Mar 99 - 12:47 AM
catspaw49 12 Mar 99 - 12:49 AM
Maelgwyn (inactive) 12 Mar 99 - 01:06 AM
catspaw49 12 Mar 99 - 01:09 AM
Philippa 12 Mar 99 - 10:23 AM
j0_77 12 Mar 99 - 11:34 AM
Jerry Friedman 26 Mar 99 - 01:21 PM
Jerry Friedman 26 Mar 99 - 01:31 PM
Maelgwyn 22 Aug 99 - 05:41 PM
Frank Hamilton 22 Aug 99 - 06:07 PM
MAG (inactive) 22 Aug 99 - 06:58 PM
Margo 22 Aug 99 - 07:00 PM
Sandy Paton 22 Aug 99 - 07:06 PM
MAG (inactive) 22 Aug 99 - 08:07 PM
Pelrad 23 Aug 99 - 12:03 AM
Lorne Brown 23 Aug 99 - 07:57 AM
Susan of DT 23 Aug 99 - 08:00 AM
IanC 23 Aug 99 - 08:31 AM
Frank Hamilton 23 Aug 99 - 09:07 AM
Pelrad 23 Aug 99 - 01:29 PM
MAG (inactive) 23 Aug 99 - 03:03 PM
Bert 23 Aug 99 - 03:29 PM
Lorne Brown 23 Aug 99 - 04:37 PM
23 Aug 99 - 06:18 PM
CeltArctic 24 Aug 99 - 12:10 AM
DougR 24 Aug 99 - 05:42 PM
T in Oklahoma 24 Aug 99 - 07:41 PM
GUEST,Nathaniel 12 Aug 02 - 01:32 PM
Abby Sale 12 Aug 02 - 06:02 PM
GUEST,retaylo 09 Aug 03 - 02:38 PM
GUEST,Masato 09 Aug 03 - 08:08 PM
GUEST,Masato 09 Aug 03 - 09:37 PM
Nigel Parsons 10 Aug 03 - 02:32 PM
Willa 10 Aug 03 - 04:09 PM
Nigel Parsons 10 Aug 03 - 04:22 PM
GUEST 10 Aug 03 - 05:45 PM
GUEST,bgeorge@tel,usplanet.net 28 Feb 04 - 12:09 PM
Joe Offer 12 Jul 04 - 01:09 AM
Roberto 12 Jul 04 - 01:18 AM
GUEST 20 Feb 06 - 08:46 AM
Uncle_DaveO 20 Feb 06 - 10:37 AM
GUEST,88er 05 Sep 07 - 04:01 PM
Richie 28 Dec 11 - 12:48 PM
GUEST,leeneia 28 Dec 11 - 05:39 PM
GUEST 24 Dec 15 - 12:49 AM
Bev and Jerry 24 Dec 15 - 02:21 PM
Joe_F 24 Dec 15 - 04:13 PM
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Subject: riddle song
From: MAG (inactive)
Date: 11 Mar 99 - 03:08 PM

The Data Base has the classic (and to me boring) riddle song in it -- no flames please; I just think it's boring -- and it mentions an earlier version in a 15th century manuscript.

I brought this song up on another list I belong to, as my old friend T.C. in Chicago had what he claimed was an ur-verse of the riddle answers which actually had the song making sense; namely:

A lassie has a cherry without no stone
A laddie has a cock without no bone
dee dumm dee dum dee dee dee (sex or marriage; take your pick)
A baby nine months young, has no cryin'.

Does this make sense to people? that the answer to the riddle is actually woman-man-sex-baby? and we got the bowdlerized version as impressionable youth? Is this the mss version referred to in the DB?

or did everybody else in the world justknow this but me? Mary Ann
^^


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: Bruce O.
Date: 11 Mar 99 - 03:20 PM

A facsimile of the song in BL MS Sloan 2593, c 1430, is Plate XVI, a (p. 463), 2nd ed. 1997 (and in the 1951 edition) of the Opie's 'The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes'


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: Dr John
Date: 11 Mar 99 - 03:46 PM

I've heard the verse "A baby in the making has no crying" rather than sleeping.


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: Bert
Date: 11 Mar 99 - 04:30 PM

Mary Ann,

That makes a LOT MORE SENSE. I had always thought of it as a particularly stupid song but your version clears up a lot of questions.

All I can say is; If you are not correct then you bloody well ought to be.

Bert.


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 11 Mar 99 - 05:33 PM

I think it was "Pop" Maynard who sang the rollicking "Never go a-Rushing, maids, I say" version in an English pub in the 1950s, but it may have been another singer. Anyway, the final verse included the line "A baby when it's making, there's no crying!" I always thought that made pretty good sense.

Sandy


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: catspaw49
Date: 12 Mar 99 - 12:47 AM

Just to keep this thread at a highly educational level, I'd like all of you to have the full advantage of my fine liberal arts colllege education. Bert already knows this as it came up in another thread.

Remove all extraneous worry from your mind as this song is indeed about humans and not 'possums. As you correctly point out Mary Ann, a laddies' cock is boneless. Were the song written about 'possums, this could not be said as they have an "Ospenis" (read:Bony Peter).

Just wanted to help out.

catspaw, Resident Wise-Ass


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: catspaw49
Date: 12 Mar 99 - 12:49 AM

Oh Yeah...really STUPID freakin' song!!!!!!!!

catspaw


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: Maelgwyn (inactive)
Date: 12 Mar 99 - 01:06 AM

I found a version of this somewhere with only the first verse, but instead of a ring it was a story. So, how can there be a story without an end?


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: catspaw49
Date: 12 Mar 99 - 01:09 AM

Did you read the "Condom Thread," Parts 1 & 2...be happy to pull it back up and continue along. ***GRIN***

catspaw


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: Philippa
Date: 12 Mar 99 - 10:23 AM

You're no romantic, Maelgwyn; the words are "the story of our love it has no end"
thanks to everyone else for improving on "a baby when it's sleeping", the line which is most problematic since babies can't always be sleeping


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: j0_77
Date: 12 Mar 99 - 11:34 AM

I heard this song from a travelling Fiddler in England. A travelling person is a gypsie. The first line of it as I reacall is 'I gave my kove a cherry that has no stone'


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: Jerry Friedman
Date: 26 Mar 99 - 01:21 PM

I was surprised to see in the Oxford English Dictionary that the first recorded use of "cherry" in the sexual sense dates only to the early 1900s. As Bruce pointed out, the "Riddle Song" is centuries older. So T.C.'s version very probably is fairly recent.

I tend to think that taboo versions are the "real" ones, which somebody later cleaned up. I easily forget that love, riddles, and trying to get the baby to sleep are as basic to human nature as ribald jokes are.


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: Jerry Friedman
Date: 26 Mar 99 - 01:31 PM

Incidentally, Jo77, this thread seems to suggest that a travel(l)ing person isn't the same as a gypsy. However, I believe the word "cove" (for man, fellow) comes from Romany--or was it a typo for "love"?


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: Maelgwyn
Date: 22 Aug 99 - 05:41 PM

Hi all, my boss and I were listening to a recording of the riddle song at work the other day and he says that he's heard it as 'I gave my love a river that has no end'. Anyone know anything about that?


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: Frank Hamilton
Date: 22 Aug 99 - 06:07 PM

I remember being at a local "hoot" one night and a demure young lady (Baezish) was singing this and forgot the lines. She sang, "I gave my love a baby that had no end." Some smart aleck yelled out, "That's the only way to have 'em!"

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: MAG (inactive)
Date: 22 Aug 99 - 06:58 PM

Thanksfor bringing this thread up again, Maelgwyn.

The discussion has helped me clarify my original question, which was, Why does this song seem so stupid and the riddles not connected?

A cherry is a ripe fruit (like a newborn baby) that started with an unfertilized flower.

A chick starting to hatch (ripe, not quite born) is "pipping,"

The story of I love you/this ring of gold I give you/the story that we'll marry, etc.,

same thing

A baby just conceived, not conceived, or almost born, doesn't cry.

So only the final riddle was actually bowdlerized, and the rest of it does in fact hang together.

Ta Da! I love research.

M.


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: Margo
Date: 22 Aug 99 - 07:00 PM

I love it! A baby with no end, and NO diapers! I was under the impression that "Captain Wedderburn's Courtship" was the early version of this song, except his prize for answering the questions was to take her to bed and she'd sleep next to the wall. In that song, the impossible riddles are posed by the young lady and meant to keep him from his goal, since she didn't think he could answer the riddles. He does.

Margarita


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 22 Aug 99 - 07:06 PM

I always thought "the story of 'I love you' it has no end" was a romantic rewrite of recent construction. Josh White used to sing it that way, I remember. He may not have made the change himself, but I suspect that someone of his generation did. The traditional versions I've seen usually make the third gift a ring, and the concluding verse suggests that "a ring when it's rolling it has no end." (Then there's the English "I gave my love an apple," which I never cared for and which plays hell with the delightful sex-symbolism theory with which this thread began.) Shucks, I'm romantic enough to have adopted Josh White's text when I sing that Appalachian version of the song. I follow it with "Pop" Maynard's rollicking Sussex version, though, which retains the rolling ring and the baby-making line.

Sandy


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: MAG (inactive)
Date: 22 Aug 99 - 08:07 PM

Oh, the whole thing is more clearly revealed as sexual --

It has a BIRD and fruit which requires a pollinating BEE.

A pipping chick DOES have bones, however.


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: Pelrad
Date: 23 Aug 99 - 12:03 AM

Ah, a song obviously from before the days of Perdue, when boneless chicken was a miracle. lol

A pipping chick is almost entirely bones, actually. That line never made sense to me. And my baby cries in his sleep. So that line is wrecked for me, too.


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: Lorne Brown
Date: 23 Aug 99 - 07:57 AM

I feel impelled to jump into this discussion. As a storyteller and singer of ballads, I LOVE riddles. I often include them in my programs. Modern riddles invariably get a laugh (Why did King Arthur write "King Arthur loves Mary" on the walls of Camelot? He couldn't spell Guinevere.) But the old riddles get the most interest, like this one from "Mother Goose": "White bird featherless/Flew from Paradise/Pitched on the castle wall/Along came Lord Landless/Took it up handless/And rode away horseless/To the King's white hall." (I'll let you figure it out.)

Riddles and riddling are ancient. I think that back when the world was young, riddles made their appearance just after storytelling and just before singing. They appear in Greek mythology, the Bible, and the Norse Edda, to mention just three works of obvious antiquity.

In the Child canon of ballads, they appear as Number One (that says a lot) "Riddles Wisely Expounded" and in #46 "Captain Wedderburn's Courtship". #1 are very old riddles of the "What is higher than a tree, deeper than the sea" variety, and #45 are the cherry without a stone, chicken without a bone variety - equally old.

Riddles have long been associated with courting, and in the context of the ballads mentioned are used as such. In #1 the suitor is actually the devil in disguise. The maiden saves herself from a fate worse than death by answering the last riddle with the devil's name, which defeats him. The power of a person's name is well-known in folklore. In #46, there is no supernatural aspect, and the suitor is a mere mortal. The ballad ends happily for the Captain, and, one would hope, for the maiden as well.

The riddles in #1 sometimes "bleed" over to #3 "The False Knight on the Road", and the riddles from #46 "bleed" over to #47 "Proud Lady Margaret" where the suitor is actually the proud lady's dead brother, returned as a revenant to take the haughty lady down a peg.

I get goosebumps every time I sing these ancient riddle ballads. Their very antiquity is what does it for me. I feel rooted.

How can these riddles be considered boring? True, I know the answers, but I also know how "Hamlet" turns out, but that doesn't stop me from attending a production. I know that Mimi dies at the end of "La Boheme" but that doesn't stop me from crying every time I hear/see it.

Is a medieval cathedral boring because it's not made of steel and glass? Is Chaucer boring because he uses language not heard on the streets today? Is an old woman boring because she's not a nubile 20-year old?

Alice Kane, mentor to so many Canadian storytellers, once said, "That story you told is five hundred years old." She paused. "You," she said, "will never be five hundred years old."

Amen.

Lorne Brown


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: Susan of DT
Date: 23 Aug 99 - 08:00 AM

The Riddle Song is DT #847, which has 5 versions, so search for #847. Look at the last one: I had a young suster. It is from the 1400s and is not terribly different (except spelling) from what we sing today. The cherry and the bird are there along with a briar without a rind and love without longing.


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: IanC
Date: 23 Aug 99 - 08:31 AM

Just looked at the "riddle songs" in DT. I agree, they look pretty abysmal versions by comparison with what's going around in singing sessions etc.

My favourite, which is very direct, is Cyril Tawney's version of "I will give my love an apple" on his LP "I will give my love ..." (Argo ZFB87 - 1973).

The lines

"I will give my love a baby with no crying ..."

and

"When a baby's in the making, there's seldom crying"

seem pretty straightforward.


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: Frank Hamilton
Date: 23 Aug 99 - 09:07 AM

One of my favorite variants of this song is the yiddish "Tumbalalaika" in which the young man asks of the maiden he wants to marry,

"What can grow without rain? What can burn for years? What can break and cry without tears?"

Answer: A stone, love, and a heart.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: Pelrad
Date: 23 Aug 99 - 01:29 PM

Lorne, for me it's not that the riddles are boring; I learned the riddle song being discussed because I love the beautiful language. It's just that the answers to these riddles (particularly the chicken that's pipping) don't seem to make sense...

On a side note (creep creep), when I first tried to decipher the words off of an old recording, I thought it was "a chicken when it's bitten has no bones." I had this image of some young lover regurgitating mouthfuls of chickens as part of his courting ritual. I realized after a few more listens that the chicken was pipping, but, having seen bony new-hatched chicks, that presented a whole new dilemma.

It makes sense to me that some riddle answers have been bowdlerized.


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: MAG (inactive)
Date: 23 Aug 99 - 03:03 PM

Lorne, fallen snow melted by the sun. Count on anotherstoryteller on the thread! Alice Kane is a saint and you are blessed to have her.

Mary Ann

PS: The only scene in "Animal House" I liked was the one involving the riddle song ...


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: Bert
Date: 23 Aug 99 - 03:29 PM

Jerry,
I guess there are no folksingers working for The Oxford English Dictionary or they would have heard of "Strawberry Fair"

"Kind Sir, pray pick of my basket" she said
Singing, singing, buttercups and daisies.
"My cherries ripe or my roses red"
Fol de dee!

Which is fairly explicit to all but the most naive.

Bert.


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: Lorne Brown
Date: 23 Aug 99 - 04:37 PM

Note to pelrad: I agree that some answers have been bowlderized. Most of the early versions of Child #46 omit the story without end and the baby without crying. They often substitute much more explicit questions about winter fruit and mantles without threads. I suspect the ring without an end preceded the story wwithout an end - although since all rings have no ends or beginnings (that's why they make good wedding tokens) it seemed to me superfluous to say a ring "when it's rolling has no end". The story question, of course, is answered "when it's telling", which neatly parallels the baby "when it's making". "The story that I love you has no end" is a lovely line; I've sung it at weddings, but I don't think for a moment it's traditional; it doesn't sound right to me.

Note to MAG: Yes, Alice Kane is a saint (she would bridle at that description) and we are fortunate to have her. Unfortunately, she is not really with us, having a long, slow departure from this earth. But what an influence she has had on so many! Among other things, she taught me to honour the story, the tradition. It applies to singing a song, too. It fits in with Rick's thread on fancy pickers. A good storyteller doesn't get in between the story and the listener; neither should a good ballad singer, or folk song singer. Which is more important, the song or the singer? Alice knew the answer to that one long ago.

Lorne Brown


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From:
Date: 23 Aug 99 - 06:18 PM

I haue a 3ong suster
    fer be3ondyn þe se,
many be þe dowryis
    þat che sente me.

che sente me þe cherye
    with-outyn ony ston,
& so che ded þe dowe
    with-outyn ony bon.

sche sente me þe brer
    with-outyn ony rynde,
sche bad me loue my lemman
    with-oute longgyng.

How xuld ony cherye
    be with-oute ston?
& how xuld only dowe
    ben with-oute bon?

how xuld ony brer
    ben with-oute rynde?
how xuld y loue myn lemman
    with-out longyng?

Quan þe cherye was a flour
    þan hadde it non ston.
quan þe dowe was an ey,
    þan hadde it non bon.

Quan þe brer was on-bred,
    þan hadde it non rynd.
quan þe mayden ha3t þat che louit,
    che is with-out longing.


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: CeltArctic
Date: 24 Aug 99 - 12:10 AM

What is the difference, in essence really, between these ancient riddle songs (which were, for the most part, wonderful entertainment)and modern TV game shows involving questions and answers?

How can there be a book that no man can read? How can there be a blanket without any thread?

ANSWER: When the book's in the press, no man can it read. When the blanket's in the fleece, it has no thread.

Moira Yellowknife, NT.


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: DougR
Date: 24 Aug 99 - 05:42 PM

I sang my kids to sleep with Burl Ive's arrangement of the Riddle Song many a night. I guess I never thought much about whether the words made sense or not. I just know that they liked it. If it bothered them, it didn't do so enough to keep them awake.

I still like it.

DougR


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: T in Oklahoma
Date: 24 Aug 99 - 07:41 PM

I don't see how we can be certain that the explicitly ribald version is the earliest of all the versions related to it. Parodies can move in the direction of the more violent, more ribald, or less respectful as easily as they can move in the direction of Bowdlerization. Just think of "mine eyes have seen the glory of the burning of the school" and "jingle bells, Batman smells."


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: GUEST,Nathaniel
Date: 12 Aug 02 - 01:32 PM

I'm not positive, but I think that a "cherry without no stone" is a cherry blossom (because a cherry blossom would not have a seed in it), a "cock without no bone" is a chicken egg (because a chicken egg would not have a bone in it, unless the egg was fertilized), and "a baby nine months young, has no cryin" is an unborn baby (because a baby would not cry if it wasn't born yet).

-Nathaniel


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: Abby Sale
Date: 12 Aug 02 - 06:02 PM

Oh, I heard it a little different -- when I was an infant my mother sang:

A cherry in a Manhattan, it has no stone,
A chicken ala King, it has no bone,
A modern novel, it has no end,
A baby when it's dead has no cryen.


----


Yep, that's it.


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: GUEST,retaylo
Date: 09 Aug 03 - 02:38 PM

You're all being stupid. Here are the Lyrics:
    I gave my love a cherry that has no stone.
    I gave my love a chicken that has no bone.
    I gave my love a read that has no end.
    I gave my love a baby that's no cryen.

    The answers:
    A cherry when it's bloomen, it has no stone.
    A chicken when it's pippen, it has no bone.
    A read when its readen, it has no end.
    A baby when its sleepen, its no cryen.

A cherry on a cherry tree has no stone. An unborn chicken has no bone. When you're reading a story, it has no end. A sleeping baby doesn't cry.


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Subject: Lyr Add: I HAVE A YONG SYSTER
From: GUEST,Masato
Date: 09 Aug 03 - 08:08 PM

Spellings modified:
I HAVE A YONG SYSTER

I haue a yong syster
Fer beyonde the see,
Many be the drueries          [love-tokens]
That she sente me.

She sente me the cherry
Withouten any ston;
And so she did the dove
Withouten any bon.

She sente me te brere          [rose-briar]
Withouten any rinde,          [bark]
She bad me love my lemman    [lover]
Withouten longginge.

How should any cherry
Be withouten ston?
And how should any dove
Be withouten bon?

How should any brere
Be withoute rinde?
How should I love my lemman
Withouten longinge?

Whan the cherry was a flour,
Than hadde it no ston.
Whan the dove was an ey,    [egg]
Than hadde it no bon.

Whan the brere was unbred   [unborn]
Than hadde it no rinde.
Whan the maid hath that she loveth
She is without longinge.
SOURCE: James J. Wilhelm, Medieval Song: An Anthology of Hymns and Lyrics (George Allen & Unwin, 1971, pp. 359-60)


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: GUEST,Masato
Date: 09 Aug 03 - 09:37 PM

A Scottish version is quoted in William Dauney's Ancient Scot[t]ish Melodies (1838; AMS, 1973, pp. 180-81, footnote b; without music):
A friend of ours mentions the following fragment of a song which used to be sung to a very aged relative of his when a child:--
"I have a true love beyond the sea,
Para mee dicksa do mee nee;
And mony a love-token he sends to me,
   With a rattum, pattum,
   Para mee dicksa do mee nee."
The "para me, dixi, Domine," is an obvious adaptation of a part of the service; and we have no doubt that other relics of the same sort could be pointed out.


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Subject: Lyr Add: PERRY MERRY DIXIE (from The Spinners)
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 10 Aug 03 - 02:32 PM

Unfortunately my 'music centre' (complete with turntable) has just gone to the dump, else I could give more detail to the above. The Spinners (on "Everybody Loves Saturday Night" MFP50339) sing "PERRY MERRY DIXIE", which, from memory starts

"I had four brothers, over the sea,
Perry Merry Dixie Domini,
Presents four they sent to me,
Perry Merry Dixie Domini,
Pitrum, partrum, paradisi tempore,
Perry Merry Dixie Domini,

The first sent a cherry which had no stone,
Perry Merry Dixie Domini,
The second sent a chicken which had no bone,
Perry Merry Dixie Domini,
The third sent a blanket which had no thread,
Perry Merry Dixie Domini,
The fourth sent a book which no man had read
Perry Merry Dixie Domini,
Pitrum, partrum, paradisi tempore,
Perry Merry Dixie Domini,

How can there be a cherry which has no stone?
Perry Merry Dixie Domini,
How...........etc

The cherry when it's blooming, it has no stone,
Perry Merry Dixie Domini,
The chicken when it's in the egg it has no bone
Perry Merry Dixie Domini,
The blanket on the sheep's back it has no thread
Perry Merry Dixie Domini,
The book, when it's in the press, no man has read
Perry Merry Dixie Domini,
Pitrum, partrum, paradisi tempore,
Perry Merry Dixie Domini,


Apologies for lapses in memory, and the lack of any attempt to correctly spell the Latin section
Nigel


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: Willa
Date: 10 Aug 03 - 04:09 PM

Thanks, Nigel. Since I read Masato's post I've been trying to recall the rest of the words. Your memory serves you well. This site gives almost exactly the same words. http://nurseryrhymesandsongs.homestead.com/HAD_FOUR_BROTHERS.html


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 10 Aug 03 - 04:22 PM

Willa: a quick scan of their version shows a lack of rhyme.
They rhyme 'Read' (Reeed) with 'Thread' (Thred)
This is because they use "No man can read" (present tense) rather than "No man has read" (past tense)

I'll take my memory over their site (on this occaision)

CHEERS
Nigel


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Subject: RE: riddle song
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Aug 03 - 05:45 PM

I find it fascinating that the idea of asking pretty meaningless questions of potential mates has survived into this century with the British television programme 'Blind Date'. Don't know if there's an American version (for all I know it could be imported from anywhere) but the idea is that someone asks three people of the opposite sex three stupid questions and then picks one to go on holiday with - with a view to a deeper relationship- from the answers. I think there is a direct connection with Captain Wedderburn.


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Subject: RE: Origins: riddle song
From: GUEST,bgeorge@tel,usplanet.net
Date: 28 Feb 04 - 12:09 PM

The country artist who sang a song with line in it Been a long time since I've seen my home place.


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Subject: RE: Origins: riddle song
From: Joe Offer
Date: 12 Jul 04 - 01:09 AM

There's a fairly lengthy entry at the Traditional Ballad Index:

I Gave My Love a Cherry

DESCRIPTION: The singer gave his love "a cherry without a stone... a chicken without a bone," etc. He is asked how these things are possible. The reply: "A cherry when it's blooming, it has no stone," etc.
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: c. 1430 (British Museum -- Sloane MS. 2593, "I have a yong suster")
KEYWORDS: riddle nonballad love gift
FOUND IN: Britain(England(South,West),Scotland) Canada(Mar) US(Ap,MW,NE,SE,So)
REFERENCES (31 citations):
Bronson (46), 18 versions given as an appendix to "Captain Wedderburn's Courtship"
Randolph 123, "The Four Brothers" (1 text)
BrownII 12, "Captain Wedderburn's Courtship" (1 text plus mention of another, but it is nothing but riddles and not to be connected with Child #46)
Boswell/Wolfe 16 pp. 30-31, "I Gave My Love a Cherry (Captain Wedderburn's Courtship)" (1 text, 1 tune, which despite the second title consists solely of the riddles)
Scarborough-SongCatcher, pp. 230-231, "Captain Wedderburn's Courtship" (1 text with no listed local title; it is nothing but riddles and not to be connected with Child #46)
Eddy 8, "Captain Wedderburn's Courtship" (1 text, 1 tune, with little except the riddles and no sign that it was ever part of the longer ballad) {Bronson's #15}
Flanders-Ancient1, pp. 299-315, "Captain Wedderburn's Courtship" (3 texts plus two fragments, 5 tunes; the "I" and II" texts and tunes are "I Gave My Love a Cherry")
Gardner/Chickering 188, "Gifts From Over the Sea" (1 text plus mention of 1 more, 1 tune) {Bronson's #13}
SharpAp 144, "The Riddle Song" (3 texts, 3 tunes) {Bronson's #7, #6, #5}
MHenry-Appalachians, p. 25, "I Gave My Love a Cherry" (1 text)
Creighton/Senior, pp. 162-163, "I'll Give My Love an Apple" (1 text plus 1 fragment, 2 tunes) {Bronson's #2a,2b}
Linscott, pp. 267-269, "Perrie, Merrie, Dixi, Domini" (1 text, 1 tune)
Friedman, p. 137, "Captain Wedderburn's Courtship" (2 texts, but only the second belongs with this song)
Fowke/Johnston, pp. 136-137, "I'll Give My Love an Apple" (1 text, 1 tune)
Niles 1, "Riddles Wisely Expounded" (3 texts, 3 tunes, of which the second, "The Riddle Song," and the third, "Piri-miri-dictum Domini," go with this piece)
Scott-BoA, pp. 9-10, "I Will Give My Love an Apple" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-FSNA 11, "I'll Give My Love an Apple" (1 text, 1 tune)
Sharp/Karpeles-80E 59, "The Riddle Song" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #7}
Reeves-Sharp 73, "Pery Mery Winkle Domine" (1 text)
Opie-Oxford2 478, "I have four sisters beyond the sea" (3 texts plus a photo facing p. 388 of the text in the Sloane MS)
Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #270, pp. 162-163, "(My true love lives far from me)"
Montgomerie-ScottishNR 189, "(I had three little sisters across the sea)" (1 text)
Arnett, p. 41, "The Riddle Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
Chase, pp. 156-157, "The Riddle Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
Stevick-100MEL 56, "(I Have a Yong Suster)" (1 text)
Abrahams/Foss, pp. 55-56, "Peri Meri Dixie Dominie" (1 text, 1 tune)
PSeeger-AFB, p. 72, "Riddle Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber-FSWB, p. 408, "Riddle Song" (1 text)
DT, RIDDLSNG RDDLSNG3* (GONORUSH*) PERIMERI*
ADDITIONAL: Walter de la Mare, _Come Hither_, revised edition, 1928; #65, "I Have a Young Sister" (1 text); notes to #258 ("I have three presents from over the sea") (1 excerpt)
Brown/Robbins, _Index of Middle English Verse_, #1303

Roud #36
RECORDINGS:
Pete Seeger, "The Riddle Song" (on PeteSeeger18)
Tony Wales, "Piri-iri-igdum" (on TWales1)

CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "Captain Wedderburn's Courtship" [Child 46]
cf. "Riddles Wisely Expounded" [Child 1]
ALTERNATE TITLES:
I Have a Young Sister
Perri Merri Dictum, Domine
NOTES: Certain scholars have seen this as a worn-down form of "Captain Wedderburn's Courtship" [Child 46]. Since, however, it goes back at least to 1430, the dependency is if anything in the other direction. But there is no real reason to believe they are related in any but a casual way; riddle songs were popular for a long time. Still, because many scholars list versions of this song under "Captain Wedderburn," one should check both songs for complete references
"Go No More A-Rushing" (DT GONORUSH) appears to be an Elizabethan prologue tacked on to the old song.
In modern English and in far eastern folklore, cherries are associated with sex. Whether that has any significance here I do not know.
Various scholars have tried to wring meaning out of the nonsense "Piri-miri-dictum Domini" refrain. The third and fourth words can become Latin (dictum=word and Domine of course is the word for "Lord"). I've not seen a convincing Latin explanation for "piri" and "miri," however. RBW
Last updated in version 2.6
File: R123

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Bibliography
Go to the Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2011 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


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Subject: Lyr Add: RIDDLES WISELY EXPOUNDED etc.
From: Roberto
Date: 12 Jul 04 - 01:18 AM

5 recordings of Child #1 and one of Child #46

a) RIDDLES WISELY EXPOUNDED
Ewan MacColl, The Long Harvest, Record Two, Argo (Z)DA 67

There was a lady in the North Countree
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
And she had lovely daughters three
Fa la la la la la la la la

There was a knight of noble worth
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
Who also lived in the North
Fa la la la la la la la la

One evening when it was full late
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
This he knocked at the lady's gate
Fa la la la la la la la la

The eldest sister she let him in
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
And pinned the door with a silver pin
Fa la la la la la la la la

The second sister made his bed
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
And Holland sheets so fine did spread
Fa la la la la la la la la

The youngest sister fair and bright
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
Did lie abed with this valiant knight
Fa la la la la la la la la

All through the night they did sport and play
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
And in the morning she did say
Fa la la la la la la la la

Now you have lain with me all night
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
Will you make me your wedded wife?
Fa la la la la la la la la

If you will answer me questions three
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
Then, fair maid, I will marry thee
Fa la la la la la la la la

O what is louder than the horn?
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
And what is sharper than the thorn?
Fa la la la la la la la la

O what is longer than the way?
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
And what is deeper than the sea?
Fa la la la la la la la la

And what is greener than the grass?
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
And what more wicked than woman e'er was?
Fa la la la la la la la la

O thunder is louder than the horn
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
And hunger is sharper than the thorn
Fa la la la la la la la la

O love is longer than the way
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
And hell is deeper than the sea
Fa la la la la la la la la

O envy is greener than the grass
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
And the devil more wicked than woman e'er was
Fa la la la la la la la la

When she these questions answered had
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
The knight he was exceeding glad
Fa la la la la la la la la

And having tried her for her wit
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
He much commended her for it
Fa la la la la la la la la

Now you have answered these questions three
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
And now, fair maid, I will wed with thee
Fa la la la la la la la la



b) Riddles Wisely Expounded
Jean Redpath, Lowlands, Philo CD PH 1066, 1994

A lady lived in the North countree
Lay the bent tae the bonny broom
And she had lovely dochters three
Fa la la la la la la la la la

There was a Knight of noble worth
Lay the bent tae the bonny broom
Who also lived intae the North
Fa la la la la la la la la la

Ae nicht when it was cauld and late
Lay the bent tae the bonny broom
This Knight cam' tae the lady's gate
Fa la la la la la la la la la

The eldest dochter she lat him in
Lay the bent tae the bonny broom
She's pinned the door wi' a siller pin
Fa la la la la la la la la la

The second dochter she's made his bed
Lay the bent tae the bonny broom
And Holland sheets sae fine she spread
Fa la la la la la la la la la

The youngest dochter sae fair and bricht
Lay the bent tae the bonny broom
She lay abed wi' this noble Knight
Fa la la la la la la la la la

If you will answer me questions three
Lay the bent tae the bonny broom
It's then fair maid, I will mairry thee
Fa la la la la la la la la la

O, what is louder than a horn
Lay the bent tae the bonny broom
And what is sharper than a thorn?
Fa la la la la la la la la la

And what is longer than the way
Lay the bent tae the bonny broom
And what is deeper than the sea?
Fa la la la la la la la la la

And what is greener than the grass?
Lay the bent tae the bonny broom
And what more wicked than woman ere was?
Fa la la la la la la la la la

O, thunder's louder than a horn
Lay the bent tae the bonny broom
And hunger sharper than a thorn
Fa la la la la la la la la la

Love is longer than the way
Lay the bent tae the bonny broom
And hell is deeper than the sea
Fa la la la la la la la la la

Envy's greener than the grass
Lay the bent tae the bonny broom
And the Devil more wicked than a woman ere was
Fa la la la la la la la la la

As soon as she the fiend did name
Lay the bent tae the bonny broom
He flew awa' in a blazin' flame
Fa la la la la la la la la la



c) Lay the Bent to the Bonny Broom
Brian Peters, Sharper Than The Thorn, PUGCDD002, 1996

There was a lady in the West
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
She had three daughters of the best
Fa la la la la la la la la

A stranger knight came to the gate
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
He knocked loud and he knocked late
Fa la la la la la la la la

The eldest sister she let him in
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
And pinned the door with a silver pin
Fa la la la la la la la la

The second sister she made his bed
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
Laid soft pillows under his head
Fa la la la la la la la la

The youngest sister was bold and bright
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
She went to bed to the stranger knight
Fa la la la la la la la la

Young woman – says – You'll lay with me
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
I'll ask you questions three times three
Fa la la la la la la la la

Answer me these questions nine
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
Or else you surely shall be mine
Fa la la la la la la la la

What is higher than the tree?
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
What is deeper than the sea?
Fa la la la la la la la la

What is sharper than the thorn?
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
What is louder than the horn?
Fa la la la la la la la la

What is whiter than the milk?
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
What is softer than the silk?
Fa la la la la la la la la

What is greener than the grass?
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
What is worse than woman e'er was?
Fa la la la la la la la la

What is rounder than the ring?
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
Now to me your answers bring
Fa la la la la la la la la

Heaven's higher than the tree
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
Hell is deeper than the sea
Fa la la la la la la la la

Hunger's sharper than the thorn
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
Thunder's louder than the horn
Fa la la la la la la la la

Snow is whiter than the milk
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
Love is softer than the silk
Fa la la la la la la la la

Poison's greener than the grass
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
The Devil is worse than woman was
Fa la la la la la la la la

The world is rounder than the ring
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
Thus to you my answers bring
Fa la la la la la la la la

Now I have answered your questions nine
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
So I never shall be thine
Fa la la la la la la la la

He clapped his wings and aloud did cry
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
In a blazing fire away did fly
Fa la la la la la la la la



d) The Three Sisters
Cyril Tawney, The Outlandish Knight, Folk Songs from Devon And Cornwall, Polydor 236 577, 1969; Child B text.

There were three sisters fair and bright
Jennifer gentle and rosemaree
And they three loved one valiant knight
As the dew flies over the mulberry tree

The eldest sister let him in
Jennifer gentle and rosemaree
And barred the door with a silver pin
As the dew flies over the mulberry tree

The second sister made his bed
Jennifer gentle and rosemaree
And placed soft pillows under his head
As the dew flies over the mulberry tree

The youngest sister, fair and bright
Jennifer gentle and rosemaree
Was resolved for to wed with this valiant knight
As the dew flies over the mulberry tree

And if you can answer questions three
Jennifer gentle and rosemaree
O then, fair maid, I will marry with thee
As the dew flies over the mulberry tree

What is louder than an horn
Jennifer gentle and rosemaree
And what is sharper than a thorn?
As the dew flies over the mulberry tree

Thunder is louder than an horn
Jennifer gentle and rosemaree
And hunger is sharper than a thorn
As the dew flies over the mulberry tree

What is broader than the way
Jennifer gentle and rosemaree
And what is deeper than the sea?
As the dew flies over the mulberry tree

Love is broader than the way
Jennifer gentle and rosemaree
And hell is deeper than the sea
As the dew flies over the mulberry tree

You have answered well my questions three
Jennifer gentle and rosemaree
And now, fair maid, I will marry with thee
As the dew flies over the mulberry tree



e) The Devil's Nine Questions
Texas Gladden, on Texas Gladden, Ballad Legacy, The Alan Lomax Collection, Portraits, Rounder CD 11661-1800-2

Oh, you must answer my questions nine
Sing ninety-nine and ninety
Or you're not God's, you're one of mine
And you are the weaver's bonny

What is whiter than the milk?
Sing ninety-nine and ninety
And what is softer than the silk?
And you are the weaver's bonny

Snow is whiter than the milk
Sing ninety-nine and ninety
And down is softer than the silk
And you are the weaver's bonny

Oh, what is higher than a tree?
Sing ninety-nine and ninety
And what is deeper than the sea?
And you are the weaver's bonny

Heaven's higher than a tree
Sing ninety-nine and ninety
And Hell is deeper than the sea
And you are the weaver's bonny

What is louder than a horn?
Sing ninety-nine and ninety
And what is sharper than a thorn?
And you are the weaver's bonny

Thunder's louder than a horn
Sing ninety-nine and ninety
And death is sharper than a thron
And you are the weaver's bonny

What's more innocent than a lamb?
Sing ninety-nine and ninety
And what is meaner than womankind?
And you are the weaver's bonny

A babe's more innocent than a lamb
Sing ninety-nine and ninety
And the devil is meaner than womankind
And you are the weaver's bonny

Oh, you have answered my questions nine
Sing ninety-nine and ninety
And you are God's, you're none of mine
And you are the weaver's bonny


***


Captain Wedderburn
Gordeanna McCulloch, Sheath and Knife, Fellside FECD117 (original lp release, Topic 12TS370, 1978)

The Laird o Rosslyn's daughter walked through the wids her lane
When by cam Captain Wedderburn, a servant tae the King
He says untae his servant man – Were it no agin the law
I'd tak her tae my ain bed and lay her neist the waa

I'm walkin here alane –she says- beneath my faither's trees
And ye maun let me walk alane, kind sir, noo if ye please
The supper bell it will be rung and I'll be missed awa
Sae I canna lie in yer bed at either stock or waa

He says – Ma pretty lady, I pray lend me yer haun
An' ye'll hae drums an trumpets always at your command
And fifty men tae guard ye as lang's this sword can draw
An we'll baith lie in yae bed, an' ye'll lay neist the waa

Oh – says the pretty lady- I pray tell me yer name –
Ma name is Captain Wedderburn, a servant tae the King
Though yer faither were here wi aa his men, I wad tak ye frae them aa
I'd tak ye tae my ain bed and lay ye neist the waa

He jumpit aff his milk-white steed and set this lady on
An aa the way he walked on foot and held her by the haun
He held her by the middle jimp for fear that she should faa
Till he took her tae his ain bed and laid her neist the waa

He took her tae a ludgin-hoose, the landlady looked ben
Says – Mony's the pretty lady in Edinbro I hae seen
But sic a pretty weel-faured face in it I never saw
Sae ye'll mak her doon a down bed and lay her neist the waa

Oh – says the pretty lady – afore ye dae gain me
It's ye maun dress me dishes yet, and that be dishes three
Aye dishes three ye'll dress tae me, though I should eat them aa
Afore I lie in yer bed at either stock or waa

An ye sall get tae my supper a cherry wi oot a stane
An ye sall get tae my supper a chicken wi oot a bane
An ye sall get tae my supper a bird wi oot a gaa
Afore I lie in yer bed at either stock or waa

The cherry when it is in bloom, I'm sure it has nae stane
And when the chicken is in the egg, I'm sure it has nae bane
The dove it is a gentle bird, an flies wi oot a gaa
Sae we'll baith lie in yae bed, an' ye'll lay neist the waa

Oh, little did this young girl think that mornin when she rase
That it wad be the very last o aa her maiden days
And in the parish where they lived, there wis no a blither twa
And they baith lie in yae bed, an she lies neist the waa


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Subject: RE: Origins: riddle song (I Gave My Love a Cherry)
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Feb 06 - 08:46 AM


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Subject: RE: Origins: riddle song (I Gave My Love a Cherry)
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 20 Feb 06 - 10:37 AM

I've always liked "Capt. Wedderburn's Courtship" -- BUT!

In some of answers to her riddles are decidedly unsatisfactory.

"You will gie to me fruits that in December grew," she demands.

And he replies, "My father had plums that in December grew."

He didn't "give her" what she demanded. He merely claims that such a thing happened, without any proof.

"You will gie to me a goon that weft was ne'er caught through." (That is, a textile that was not woven.)

"My mither had an Indian goon that weft was ne'er got through."

Again, an unsupported claim rather than a response to her demand.

Neither of these instances fits the riddle pattern of challenge and intellectual discovery, and are unsatisfactory in a riddle-song context. Even the promised immediate production of a priest unborn doesn't fit a riddle pattern.

I love the song, but it seems that the original author ran out of imagination.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Origins: riddle song (I Gave My Love a Cherry)
From: GUEST,88er
Date: 05 Sep 07 - 04:01 PM

Actually, some believe that the cherry with no stone refers to the hymen.

The line in the explanation part goes "A cherry when it's blooming, it has no stone," meaning a young lass before puberty.


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Subject: RE: Origins: riddle song (I Gave My Love a Cherry)
From: Richie
Date: 28 Dec 11 - 12:48 PM

Hi,


Made a recording of this song with dulcimer- it's an old 3 string made by Nathan Hicks in the 1930s- Hicks was Frank Proffitt's father-in-law. My neice and nephew played/sang with me.


I Gave my Love A Cherry: (Click on link to listen) http://bluegrassmessengers.com/i-gave-my-love-a-cherry--wilcox-ky-1934-matteson.aspx


Collected by Maurice Matteson from Mollye Wilcox of Berea, KY circa 1934. Published in Appalachian Folk Songs for Piano and Voice in 1996 by Mel Bay. Performed by Richard L. Matteson Jr. on Nathan Hicks' dulcimer made in early 1930s. Performers: Richard L. Matteson Jr. -dulcimer, with Kara Pleasants- vocal, and Zach Matteson- fiddle. Recorded by Bob Hitchcock Dec. 2011.

Richie


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Subject: RE: Origins: riddle song (I Gave My Love a Cherry)
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 28 Dec 11 - 05:39 PM

Thanks for the link, Richie. YOur old dulcimer has an interesting sound.

I have a book of medieval English poems which has a poem on this theme.   It starts

I have a younge suster (sister)
far across the sea.
many be the druries (gifts)
that she gave me.

Re: the cherry being the hymen, that's nuts. When a cherry tree blooms, a thick body is right behind the flower petals. If the blossom is pollinated, it will be fertilized, a stone (seed) will form, and the cherry will mature. Same applies to other fruit.


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Subject: RE: Origins: riddle song (I Gave My Love a Cherry)
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Dec 15 - 12:49 AM

Can anyone help me? I have a version of Wedderburn's Courtship that ends with:

"...A sparrow's horn, a priest unborn to join us both in twa, before you and I in one bed lie at either stock or wall.

...A sparrow's horn is easy got for there's one on every claw, and Damocles is a priest unborn, he'll join us both in twa."

Can anyone tell me what Damocles has to do with being a priest unborn? Or what it might have mistakenly been put in the place of? I know the story of Damocles and the sword, and I see no connection to a priest. Maybe if the lady in the song had asked for a king unborn...?


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Subject: RE: Origins: riddle song (I Gave My Love a Cherry)
From: Bev and Jerry
Date: 24 Dec 15 - 02:21 PM

We've heard Melchizedek instead of Damocles.

According to Wikipedia, in Heb. 7:3 , Melchizedek is described as an extraordinary person in ways that are unique in the biblical narrative. In Heb. 7:3, Melchizedek is depicted as being "Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life"; thus giving him an almost godlike status.

Bev and Jerry


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Subject: RE: Origins: riddle song (I Gave My Love a Cherry)
From: Joe_F
Date: 24 Dec 15 - 04:13 PM

A version of the last answer that IMO has some charm is "A baby when it's getting [= being conceived], there's no crying".

A smoother version of Abby Sale's vulgarization is

    A maraschino cherry, it has no stone.
    Chicken a la king, it has no bone.
    The story of stupidity, it has no end.
    A baby when it's strangled, there's no crying.


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