The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Twelve Days of Christmas
Sung at King Pepin's Ball.

For Christmas

Version 1
Compare: The Twelve Days of Christmas   Version 2 (Sabine Baring Gould, 1889)
The Twelve Days of Christmas   Version 3 (Cecil J. Sharp, 1916, with notes)

See: Notes on the Twelve Days of Christmas

Traditional English, 18th Century
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer

Source: Mirth Without Mischief (London: Printed by J. Davenport, 6, George's Court, St. John's Gate, Clerkenwell, for C. Sheppard, nd, ca. 1780), pp. 5-16.

On the first day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me1
A partridge in a pear tree.

On the second day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me
Two turtle doves and
A partridge in a pear tree.

On the third day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves and
A partridge in a pear tree.

On the fourth day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me
Four colley birds,1a
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves and
A partridge in a pear tree.

On the fifth day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me
Five gold rings.
Four colley birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves and
A partridge in a pear tree.

On the sixth day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me
Six geese a laying,
Five gold rings.
Four colley birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves and
A partridge in a pear tree.

On the seventh day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me
Seven swans a swimming,
Six geese a laying,
Five gold rings.
Four colley birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves and
A partridge in a pear tree.

On the eighth day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me
Eight maids a milking,
Seven swans a swimming,
Six geese a laying,
Five gold rings.
Four colley birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves and
A partridge in a pear tree.

On the ninth day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me
Nine drummers drumming,2
Eight maids a milking,
Seven swans a swimming,
Six geese a laying,
Five gold rings.
Four colley birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves and
A partridge in a pear tree.

On the tenth day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me
Ten pipers piping,
Nine drummers drumming,
Eight maids a milking,
Seven swans a swimming,
Six geese a laying,
Five gold rings.
Four colley birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves and
A partridge in a pear tree.

On the eleventh day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me
Eleven ladies dancing,
Ten pipers piping,
Nine drummers drumming,  
Eight maids a milking,
Seven swans a swimming,
Six geese a laying,
Five gold rings.
Four colley birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves and
A partridge in a pear tree.

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me
Twelve lords a leaping,
Eleven ladies dancing,
Ten pipers piping,
Nine drummers drumming,
Eight maids a milking,
Seven swans a swimming,
Six geese a laying,
Five gold rings.
Four colley birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves and
A partridge in a pear tree.

1. In the version collected by John Jacob Niles, "... my true love gave to me." Niles did not state the source or date of his version, although much of what he collected was from Southern Appalachia in 1912 1913 and 1932-1934. The version reprinted by Lomax gives "my true love sent to me." Return

1a. Or: "four calling birds." Return

2. In the version collected by John Jacob Niles, it was nine pipers piping, ten ladies dancing, eleven lords a leaping, and twelve fiddlers fiddling. Lomax gives nine pipers piping, ten drummers drumming, eleven lords a leaping, and twelve ladies dancing. Other versions have a different sorting of personnel. Return

Sheet Music from Sabine Baring Gould, Folk Songs of the West (1889)

Sheet Music from J. Collingwood Bruce and John Stokoe, Northumbrian Minstrelsy: A Collection of the Ballads, Melodies, and Small pipe Tunes of Northumbria. (Published by the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle Upon Tyne, 1882), "The Twelve Days of Christmas," pp. 129 131.

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Sheet Music from Cecil J. Sharp, ed., One Hundred English Folksongs (Oliver Ditson Company, Boston, 1916), #96, pp, 224-225.

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Sheet Music from Cecil J. Sharp and Charles L. Marson, eds., Folk Songs from Somerset. Second Series. (London: Simpkin & Co., Ltd, et al., 1911), pp. 52-55.

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Version 1

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Version 2

Sheet music to five tunes from Cecil J. Sharp, et al., "Forfeit Songs," Journal of the Folk-Song Society, Vol. 5., No. 20 (1916), pp. 277-279.

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W. G. Whittaker, ed., North Countrie Ballads, Songs and Pipe-Tunes. Part I. (London: J. Curwen & Sons, Ltd., 1921), pp. 120-123.

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Note:

Identical lyrics are printed by James Orchard Halliwell, The Nursery Rhymes of England. Fifth Edition. (London and New York: Frederick Warne and Co., 1886), pp. 184-188, With Illustrations by W. B. Scott. The version published by William Henry Husk, Songs of the Nativity (London: John Camden Hotten, 1868) is substantially the same, differing only in the fifth day: Five golden rings.

However, the version in Halliwell's Second Edition (1843) is markedly different:

Twelve bells ringing,
Eleven ladies spinning,
Ten ships a sailing,
Nine lords a leaping,
Eight ladies dancing,
Seven swans a swimming,
Six geese a laying,
Five gold rings,
Four canary birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves, and
A partridge in a pear tree.

In the Second Edition, Halliwell notes:

Each child in succession repeats the gifts of the day, and forfeits for each mistake. This accumulative process is a favourite with children ; in early writers, such as Homer, the repetition of messages, &c. pleases on the same principle.

In the Second Edition, "The First Day of Christmas" was rhyme # CCLXXII, and was found on pp. 155-156. In the Fifth Edition, it was rhyme # CCCXLVI, on pages 184-188. I haven't seen any other edition.

 

The Twelve Days of Christmas:
La Dek Du Tagoj de Kristnasko
in Esperanto! by Gene Keyes

An Additional 6 Christmas Carols by Gene at Jula Karolaro

Plus 148 Christmas Carols in Esperanto at Kristnaskaj Kantoj

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