A lady’s lament: why not 5 gold rings?

This is the recently-discovered original or “ur” text of the famous “Twelve Days of Christmas” carol. Given that these rather peevish lyrics date back to medieval times, scholars are puzzled by the modernity of the language. Happily, later versions of the song have given it a more “Christmassy” feel and make it a lot easier to sing.

Twelve Days of Christmas: the original text

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: a partridge in a pear tree.

Fine in theory. Messy in fact.
On the second day of Christmas, the partridge crapped in the pear tree and all over the fresh rushes I’d just laid on the floor.

On the third day of Christmas, I tried to return the partridge but the gamekeeper wouldn’t take it back.

On the fourth day of Christmas, I had to cover the floor with fresh rushes.

On the fifth day of Christmas, the partridge fainted from hunger. The gamekeeper said I should have been feeding it barley, oats, corn, wheat, rye – almost anything, in fact, but pears.

Daedalus was a right old roof-tosser.

On the sixth day of Christmas, the gamekeeper, who often borrows books from the squire’s library, told me that according to Greek legend, the first partridge appeared after Daedalus threw his nephew off a roof in a fit of jealous rage.

On the seventh day of Christmas, I asked my true love why he’d given me a gift associated with rage, jealousy, murder, and long-dead Greeks. I also gave him the gamekeeper’s bill for one sack of barley.

On the eighth day of Christmas, in a heated conversation, my true love used the words “lovely poetic gesture,” “spurned,” “sad lack of imagination,” and “possible animal cruelty.”

Pear tree by Van Gogh. Good Xmas gift.
On the ninth day of Christmas, the pear tree died.

On the tenth day of Christmas, I had to lay more rushes.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, the partridge died.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, I mailed the dead partridge to my true love, threw the pear tree off my roof, and moved in with the gamekeeper.


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