> Folk Music > Songs > Ripest Apples / Madam, I Have Come to Court You / Twenty, Eighteen, …

Ripest Apples / Madam, I Have Come to Court You / Twenty, Eighteen, …

[ Roud 542 ; Master title: Ripest Apples ; G/D 8:1588 ; Ballad Index CrMa121 ; Wiltshire 886 ; DT VANDY2 ; Mudcat 162550 ; trad.]

George Townshend sang Twenty, Eighteen, … to Brian Matthews in Lewes, Sussex, on 7 February 1960. This recording was included in 2000 on his Musical Traditions anthology Come, Hand to Me the Glass. Brian Matthews and Rod Stradling noted in the album’s booklet:

George [Townshend] is joined by his 11-year-old granddaughter Angela for the two verses he sang of this song—it’s counting-song version of Oh, No John which Brian Matthews also recorded from Alfred Patching of Fulking, Sussex. It seems to be known all over England and in the USA, Canada, and even Tristan da Cunha! but Scotland has only produced one sighting. Frank Harte sings an almost identical version to George’s from Ireland.

Peggy Seeger sang Madam, I Have Come to Court You in 1962 on her Topic EP Early in the Spring. Angela Carter noted:

Peggy Seeger has based this comic courting song on I’m Going Away to Texas (Vance Randolph, Ozark Folk Songs, Vol. 3) with additional verses from other variants. The suitor is rejected very firmly several times until he mentions money.

Joe Jones sang Ripest Apples to Mike Yates in St Mary Cray, Kent, in 1972-75. This recording was included in 2003 on the Musical Traditions anthology of Gypsy songs and music from South-East England, Here’s Luck to a Man …. Mike Yates noted:

Cecil Sharp linked this fragmentary song with another, titled Twenty, Eighteen, that had been collected by Lucy Broadwood (English County Songs, 1893, p.90), and falls within the Oh, No John family. A version that I recorded from the late Mabs Hall of Sussex includes the Twenty, Eighteen verse (see the Veteran cassette Ripest Apples, VT107), and George Townshend (Sussex) also sings it on [Come, Hand to Me the Glass].

Paul Sartin sang Twenty, Eighteen on Belshazzar’s Feast’s WildGoose albums Drop the Reed (1998) and The Food of Love (2008). He noted:

A song from Norfolk, found in Lucy Broadwood and J.A. Fuller Maitland’s English County Songs. We’ve dropped the chorus, which is a fascinating list of numbers (hence the title). The man gets the last laugh, so it’s probably not based on a true story.

Dr Faustus sang The Disdainful Lady in 2005 on their Fellside CD Wager. They noted:

This was found by Benji [Kirkpatrick] in Shropshire Folk-Lore, edited by Charlotte S Burne. It was sung by Harriet Dowley of Edgmont, Shropshire. We conjured up an extra verse to extend the story for no apparent reason.

The Outside Track sang Madam, Madam in 2010 on their CD Curious Things Given Wings. They noted:

The melody and some verses of this song come from the singing of William Gilkie of Sambro, Nova Scotia, who sang it to Canadian folklorist, Helen Creighton in 1949. The song originally came from Ettrick Valley in Scotland. Lauren MacColl’s tune, The Dealer, sews the dialogue together between the unfortunate young man and the object of his affection (Alan and the poor mermaid).

The Unthanks sang Madam in 2015 on their CD Mount the Air.

Georgia Shackleton sang Twenty Eighteen on her 2023 CD Harry’s Seagull. She noted:

Collected by Lucy Broadwood in Attleborough, Norfolk. A song obviously collected by a woman, from the singing of a woman. A spirited song of rejection. The protagonist snubs the advances of a man who assumes he can seduce her with his riches. Most prolific song collectors of the past were male, collecting songs in male dominated spaces. Lucy Broadwood was one of few collectors approaching women in their home environments.


George Townshend sings Twenty, Eighteen, …

Oh yonder stands a most beauty creature,
who she is I do not know,
I will go and court her,
let her answer me yes or no.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
With me twenty, eighteen, sixteen, fourteen, twelve, ten, eight, six, four, two, none,
Nineteen, seventeen, fifteen, thirteen, ’leven, nine, sev’n, five, three and one.

Oh madam, I am come to court you,
If your favour I can win,
And if you use me kind and welcome,
I will surely come again.

Joe Jones sings Ripest Apples

“Pretty maiden, pretty maiden, I’ve come to court you,
It’s your favour I might gain.
Pretty maiden, pretty maiden, I’ve come to court you,
But if your answer’s yes or no.”

“Pretty maiden, pretty maiden, I have gold, I’ve silver.’”
“What cares I for your house and land?
For it’s what cares I for the world of pleasure?
But all I wants is an honest young man.’”

Spoken: Listen then …

“For it’s apples is ripe, but they soon gets rotten.
A young man’s love that soon grows cold.
For it’s what cares I for the world of pleasure?
But all I wants is an honest young man.”

The Outside Track sing Madam, Madam

“Oh Madam, madam, I came courting,
Your kind favour for to gain.
I will kindly entertain you
If you will not call me names.”

“So to me you came a-courting,
My kind favour for to gain.
It would give me greatest pleasure
If you would never call again.”

“Madam, I’ve got ships on the ocean,
Madam, I’ve got house and land.
Madam, I’ve a world of pleasure,
All will be at your command.”

“What care I for your ships on the ocean?
What care I for your houses and lands?
What care I for your gold and silver?
All I want is a handsome man.”

“Madam, you speak very boldly
When this young man comes to call.
When the nights are cold and frosty
In my loving arms you’d fall.”

“When the mountains turn to valley,
and the rivers turn to seas,
When my Polly stops a-milking
Come again and ask me please.”

Did you ever see the grass in the morning,
All bedecked with jewels rare?
Did you ever see a handsome lassie,
Diamonds sparkling in her hair?

Did you ever see a copper kettle,
Mended with an old tin can?
Did you ever see a handsome lassie
Married off to an ugly man?

Ripest apples are soonest rotten,
Hottest love is soonest cold.
Young men’s words are soon forgotten,
Pretty maid, don’t be too bold.

After cowslips there come roses,
After night-time there comes day.
After false love comes a true love,
So our time will pass away.

The Unthanks sing Madam

A maiden walking in her garden
But her name I do not know.
I’ll go and court her for her beauty,
Let the answer be yes or no.

“Madam, madam, I’ll come a-courting
That your favour I may gain.
Sit ye down, you’re kindly welcome
Then perhaps you may call again.

“Madam, I have gold and silver,
Madam, I have houses and land.
Madam, I have a world of pleasure
And leave it all at your command.”

“Don’t tell me of your gold and silver,
Don’t tell me of your house and land.
Don’t tell me of your world of pleasure,
All I want is a handsome man.”

Handsome men are out of fashion,
Maidens beauty soon decays.
You pick a flower off a bright summer morning
Before the evening will fade away.

First come the oxlip then the cruel,
Then the pink and then the may.
Then come a new love, then come a true love
Before the evening will fade away.

Once I lay on a young man’s pillow
Which I thought it was my own.
Now I do lay under the willow
Over the sake of a false young man.