Saturday, 29 December 2018

winterval or five gold rings

Probably the most famous example of a cumulative song—The Barley Mow (Oh the company, the brewer, the drayer, the slavey, the daughter, the landlady, the landlord, the barrel, the half-barrel, the gallon, the half-gallon, the quart pot, pint pot, half a pint, gill pot, half a gill, quarter gill, nipperkin, and a round bowl
—Here's good luck, good luck, good luck to the barley mow) and Green Grow the Rushes O being other examples—the Twelve Days of Christmas enumerates a progression of increasingly grander, more ostentatious (generally of the avian variety) gifts exchanged during the interval between Christmas Day and the Feast of Magi.
The standard tune is sourced to a 1909 arrangement by baritone and composer Frederic Austin, prolonging the verse of the fifth iteration that is often rendered golden nowadays. While there has been much speculation without a definitive answer as to the symbolic meaning of the gifts, it is worth noting that there are a round three hundred and sixty-four gifts given all told—one for every day of the year minus Christmas—and the presents may represent a device for memorising the important things that go on in each month over the course of a year (the original French verse was something about ‘‘five rabbits a-running” and probably not a coded mnemonic for a Christian catechism—in which case the rings would represent the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, the expository ones.