"Atisket, Atasket (or: I tisket, I tasket"), A green and yellow basket, I (wrote/sent) a letter to my love And on the way I dropped it." "A little puppy picked it up And put it in his pocket, It isn't you, it isn't you, But it is *you*."
Atisket, Atasket (I Sent a Letter to My Love) Complete text(s) *** A *** From Alice B. Gomme, The Traditional Games of England, Scotland, and Ireland, Volume I, p. 109. From Dorsetshire. I wrote a letter to my love; I carried water in my glove; And by the way I dropped it -- I dropped it, I dropped it, I dropped it, &c. *** B *** Also from Gomme, p. 110. From Leicestershire. Jack lost his supper last night, And the night before; if he does again to-night, He never will no more -- more -- more -- more. I wrote a letter to my love, And on the way I dropt it; Some of you have picked it up, And got it in your pocket -- pocket -- pocket -- pocket. I have a little dog, it won't bite you -- It won't bite you -- it won't bite you -- It *will* bite you. *** C *** Also from Gomme, p. 111. From Winterton or Lincoln. Wisket-a-waskit, A green leather basket; I wrote a letter to my love, And on the way I lost it; Some of you have picked it up, And put it in your pocket. I have a little dog at home, And it shan't bite you, Nor you, nor you, nor you, But it shall bite *you*. *** D *** From W. W. Newell, Games and Songs of American Children, item #117, p. 169, final text. From New York. Reproduced on p. 806 of B. A. Botkin, American Folklore. Itisket, Itaskit, A green and yellow basket. I sent a letter to my love, And on the way I dropped it.
There is confusion about the origin of this piece. Botkin links it to the playparty "Hunt the Squirrel." There is, however, no lyric similarity; the point of contact is that both are used with the English "drop glove" game. (For other "Drop Glove" verses, which actually mention gloves, see Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #647, p. 258, "(I've a glove in my hand).")
Fuld explicitly denies the English connection, pointing our that the earliest appearance was in Rosenwig's 1879 collection, where it was titled "I Sent a Letter to My Love." Even there, however, it is listed without an author. The Rosenwig text does not contain the "Atisket" words; these are first mentioned by Hofer in 1901.
It can be said that the two songs have cross-fertilized; see the "little dog at home" stanza, found in both "hunt the squirrel" and "Atisket."
The pop version of this song, of course, was recorded by Ella Fitzgerald. - RBW