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Perry-erry Igden

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Alternative title: The Riddle Song

Performer: Chidlaw, Richard
Place Collected: Cheltenham
Date collected: 1980 (Oct)
Collector: Davies, Gwilym
Roud Number: 330

This really is one of our oldest folksongs with versions going back to the 1430 ballad
“I have a yong suster”, as follows:

I have a yong suster
Fer biyonde the see;
Manye be the durries [‘gifts’]
That she sente me.
She sente me the cherye
Withouten any stoon,
And so she dide the dove
Withouten any boon.
She sente me the brere [‘briar’]
Withouten any rinde;
She bad me love my lemman
Withoute longinge.
How sholde any cherye
Be withoute stoon?
And how sholde any dove
Be withoute boon?
How sholde any brere
Be withoute rinde?
How sholde I love my lemman
Withoute longinge?
Whan the cherye was a flowr,
Thanne hadde it no stoon;
Whan the dove was an ey, [‘egg’]
Thanne hadde it no boon.
Whan the brere was unbred,
Thanne hadde it no rinde;
Whan the maiden hath that she loveth,
She is withoute longinge.

As “The Riddle Song” or “I Gave my Love a Cherry”, the song continued in oral tradition for many centuries, spreading over to the other side of the Atlantic where it became very popular. Cecil Sharp found it many times in the Appalachian Mountains.

Richard Chidlaw learnt the song from a Cornishman, Peter Bunt, who in turn had learnt it from his wife, Margaret.  Margaret had learnt it from her aunt from Nailsworth.  Research carried out by Margaret Bunt states that it was sung by Lizzie (nee Roberts) Dance, born in Nailsworth in the 1860s.

Notes by Gwilym Davies 30 May 2015