“I Gave My Love a Cherry”


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.


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. - RBW

Cross references


  • Pete Seeger, "The Riddle Song" (on PeteSeeger18)
  • Tony Wales, "Piri-iri-igdum" (on TWales1)


  1. Bronson (46), 18 versions given as an appendix to "Captain Wedderburn's Courtship"
  2. Randolph 123, "The Four Brothers" (1 text)
  3. 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)
  4. 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)
  5. 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}
  6. 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")
  7. Gardner/Chickering 188, "Gifts From Over the Sea" (1 text plus mention of 1 more, 1 tune) {Bronson's #13}
  8. SharpAp 144, "The Riddle Song" (3 texts, 3 tunes) {Bronson's #7, #6, #5}
  9. MHenry-Appalachians, p. 25, "I Gave My Love a Cherry" (1 text)
  10. Creighton/Senior, pp. 162-163, "I'll Give My Love an Apple" (1 text plus 1 fragment, 2 tunes) {Bronson's #2a,2b}
  11. Linscott, pp. 267-269, "Perrie, Merrie, Dixi, Domini" (1 text, 1 tune)
  12. Friedman, p. 137, "Captain Wedderburn's Courtship" (2 texts, but only the second belongs with this song)
  13. Fowke/Johnston, pp. 136-137, "I'll Give My Love an Apple" (1 text, 1 tune)
  14. 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)
  15. Scott-BoA, pp. 9-10, "I Will Give My Love an Apple" (1 text, 1 tune)
  16. Lomax-FSNA 11, "I'll Give My Love an Apple" (1 text, 1 tune)
  17. Sharp/Karpeles-80E 59, "The Riddle Song" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #7}
  18. Opie-Oxford2 478, "I have four sisters beyond the sea" (3 texts)
  19. Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #270, pp. 162-163, "(My true love lives far from me)"
  20. Montgomerie-ScottishNR 189, "(I had three little sisters across the sea)" (1 text)
  21. Arnett, p. 41, "The Riddle Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
  22. Chase, pp. 156-157, "The Riddle Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
  23. Stevick-100MEL 56, "(I Have a Yong Suster)" (1 text)
  24. Abrahams/Foss, pp. 55-56, "Peri Meri Dixie Dominie" (1 text, 1 tune)
  25. PSeeger-AFB, p. 72, "Riddle Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
  26. Silber-FSWB, p. 408, "Riddle Song" (1 text)
  28. 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)
  29. Brown/Robbins, _Index of Middle English Verse_, #1303
  30. Roud #36
  31. BI, R123


Alternate titles: “I Have a Young Sister”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: c. 1430 (British Museum -- Sloane MS. 2593, "I have a yong suster")
Found in: Britain(England(South),Scotland) Canada(Mar) US(Ap,MW,NE,SE,So)