Cyril Tawney >
I Will Give My Love an Apple
> Tim Hart and Friends > Songs > The Riddle Song
Perry Merry Dixi Domini / I Gave My Love a Cherry / The Riddle Song
; Ballad Index
; MusTrad DB27
; VWML HAM/4/24/11
; Mudcat 9589
The Jeffersons sang I Gave My Love a Cherry in 1958 on their Topic EP Round and Round With the Jeffersons.
Sandy and Caroline Paton sang Perry Merry Dixi Domini in 1960 on their Topic EP of American songs and ballads sung as lullabies, Hush Little Baby. The liner notes commented:
This song has grown out of The Devil’s Nine Questions […]. The Nine Questions (of which a text is preserved in the Bodleian Library in a manuscript written in a hand of about 1450) tells of an encounter between a girl and the Devil. The Devil puts nine questions to her. Unless she can answer them all, she is damned. But she contrives to solve the riddles. Later, this moralising situation was changed into an amorous one. A knight meets a girl in a wood. Unless she answers his riddles, she must yield to him. Later still, the riddle section became detached from the ballad to lead its own life as a lyrical song, usually called I Gave My Love a Cherry. Perry Merry Dixi Domini may represent a form of the riddle song just before it became I Gave My Love a Cherry. The mock-Latin refrain recalls the macaronic carols popular in the 15th and 16th centuries, with their mixture of Latin and English text. The present version is reported from Taunton, Massachusetts.
Roy and Val Bailey sang Peri Meri Dixi in 1968 on their album of children’s songs with Leon Rosselson, Oats & Beans & Kangaroos.
Cyril Tawney sang I Will Give My Love an Apple as the title track of his 1973 Argo album of traditional love songs from South West England, I Will Give My Love. His version is from Dorset.
Tim Hart and Maddy Prior sang The Riddle Song in 1983 on Tim Hart and Friends’ album Drunken Sailor and Other Kids Songs. This track was later included on their compilation CD Favourite Nursery Rhymes and Other Children’s Songs.
Elle Osborne sang the Riddle Song in 1999 on her CD Testimony.
Keith Kendrick and Sylvia Needham sang The Riddle Song on their 2012 WildGoose album Well Dressed.
Megson sang The Riddle Song in 2002 on their album of children’s folk songs, When I Was a Lad….
Hannah Sanders sang I Gave My Love a Cherry in 2015 on her CD Charms Against Sorrow.
Alden Patterson and Dashwood sang The Riddle Song on their 2015 CD Call Me Home.
Nick Dow sang The Riddle Song on his 2020 album of love songs from the British Tradition, In a Garden Grove. He noted:
The singer Jim Burrows sang this at the Gravel Pits in Sherborne Dorset in 1906 [VWML HAM/4/24/11] . It seems to be based upon the broadside issued at the beginning of the nineteenth century which combined verses from The Boys of Kilkenny subtitled “A favourite Irish song”, with another song called The Riddle. Mr Burrows learned it “from an Irishman”, who was probably an inmate of the workhouse. The Gravel Pits stopped producing gravel in the eighteenth century and became the courtyard of the workhouse. It is now an upmarket housing estate. The pairing of the two songs is quite successful. Various art musicians have separated the two, and sang the song operatically. I shall stick with Mr Burrows version.
It is more than likely Jim Burrows and his Irish friend, were receiving ‘out’ relief, from the Parish. This involved a ten hour day slaving in the Workhouse to earn a small amount of food to eat at home. Not much to sing about! However they managed to our advantage.
Lynne Heraud and Pat Turner sang I Will Give My Love an Apple in 2019 on their WildGoose CD Watching for Winkles. They noted:
A version of The Riddle Song, this one was collected in Essex in the early 1900’s.
Cyril Tawney sings I Will Give My Love an Apple
I will give my love an apple without e’er a core
I will give my love a house without e’er a door
I will give my love a palace wherein she may be
And she may unlock it without e’er a key.
My head is the apple without e’er a core
My mind is the house without e’er a door
My heart is the palace wherein she may be
And she may unlock it without e’er a key.
I will give my love an cherry without e’er a stone
I will give my love a chick without e’er a bone
I will give my love a ring not a rent to be seen
I will give my love children without any crying
When the cherry’s in blossom there’s never no stone
When the chick’s in the womb there’s never no bone
And when they’re running running not a rent to be seen
And when they’re child-making they’re seldom crying
Tim Hart and Maddy Prior sing The Riddle Song
I gave my love a cherry that had no stone
I gave my love a chicken that had no bone
I gave my love a story that had no end
I gave my love a baby with no crying
How can there be a cherry that has no stone?
How can there be a chicken that has no bone?
How can there be a story that has no end?
And ow can there be a baby with no crying?
A cherry when in blossom, it has no stone
A chicken when it’s in the egg, it has no bone
The story of “I love you”, it has no end
A baby when it’s sleeping, has no crying