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A Partridge in a Pear Tree

by Gavin Mayhew 2 months ago in song reviews · updated 2 months ago


The Orchard

A Partridge in a Pear Tree


Most songs have a modicum of truth attached to the lyrics, utilising the life’s experience of the writer who carefully chooses parts of his or her life to whom the hearing public can relate to. Words like love; marriage; friend; hate; mother; father etc, etc. Those words are then carefully moulded around a tune that is easily repeatable and which will hopefully get everyone singing along with them. The example I shall give is, what is known as a poetic form called “cumulative verse,” which is supposed to help you remember useless, mindless twoddle.

I will attempt to prove that the contents of the song are unbelievable and more a vision of someone’s creative imagination by analysing the words of the Christmas song, ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas.’ Take note, it is the words I will be studying and not the tune as this song has the most irritating and boring repetition that creates the ear worm that, once heard, keeps one awake for an eternity, or children amused on a never-ending car journey. It is akin to the 100 green bottles (or any number of green bottles depending on the length of the journey) that frustrated parents try to block out of their minds as their kids prattle on and on impregnating their mam and dad’s brains with the inane lyrics until they get to their destinations, hopefully without going bonkers.

It is either the 12 days of Christmas over the yuletide holidays or the crate loads of green bottles hanging on bloody walls during other journeys. Alternatively, it could be ‘spot the yellow car’ game where, if you see one you are allowed to punch the person sitting next to you in the shoulder, quite painful and sometimes dangerous. Which thoughtless berk invented that one? Anyway, any one of the pass-the-time games/songs usually prove to be useless - for the parents!

So, on the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree.

First, she would have to capture a partridge, a very difficult challenge as she would have to ensnare the bird, a bird with excellent reflexes, even though it is not the brightest of the feathery bunch. Also, a partridge has two things in which to escape from its pursuer – wings, wings which are used to flee from predators such as we humans. Granted, tasty morsels could have been placed on the ground to lure the bird into an escape proof box, held up at one end by a twig attached to a piece of string, and then yanked close once the prey is slap bang in its centre and correctly ensnared.

When the partridge is caught it would have to be tethered to one of the high branches in the afore mentioned Pear Tree. The tree would then have to be either cut or uprooted for transportation to her lover, no doubt with a label addressed to him/her, and probably be decorated with some festive tinsel and ribbon. I am not sure what the legal ramifications would be shipping livestock strapped to a tree.

And that is just the first line of the song.

It then goes from the sublime to the ridiculous. Then next few verses, as the days to Christmas are reduced one by one, she sends her love a startling array of birds. Reaching the 7th day, the menagerie consisted of seven swans a-swimming; six geese a-laying; five golden rings; four calling birds; three French hens; two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree. And the swans a swimming – in what? How on earth she managed to parcel them up for shipping is a minor miracle. They must have been posted sea-mail as opposed to airmail.

I am at a bit of a loss to know where the 5 golden rings came from but the next day gets totally weird. She sends Eight maids a-milking. I think in today’s terms that would be considered human trafficking. And then the following day, nine ladies dancing, though what they could be dancing about is anyone’s guess, especially strapped up in brown paper and parcel tape.

It gets worse….

How she persuaded 10 lords a leaping, to lower themselves to leap along to the lower ranks of her true love, at least shows off her persuasive talents.

So, we are now up to the eleventh day of Christmas and what does she send, eleven bloody pipers piping? They probably looked brilliant, and no doubt gave her some satisfaction as to what they wore under their sporrans. And as if that noise wasn’t enough to traumatise the Noise Abatement Society, on the twelfth day, she sent twelve drummers drumming. It must have been terrifying. The racket must have been something terrible – a cacophony of pipes and drums. Onlookers must have expected that they were all marching into battle. It may have been a white Christmas, but it certainly couldn’t have been a quiet Christmas.

Let’s review the whole unbelievable business.

Here is the monotonous song in all its gory… Don’t panic, I’ll jump to the last verse to save your mind from lapsing into a coma.

On the twelfth day of Christmas

My true love sent to me:

Twelve drummers drumming

Eleven pipers piping

Ten lords a-leaping (over what?)

Nine ladies dancing

Eight maids a-milking (were the cows included?)

Seven swans a-swimming

Six geese a-laying

Five golden rings

Four calling birds (who were they calling?)

Three French hens (do they squawk in French?)

Two turtle doves and

A partridge in a pear tree

Now, can you honestly believe that the writer of that song (sometime in the 1700’s) experienced every one of those lines, from the partridge in a pear tree, down to the band of noisy drummers and pipers, ten lords a-leaping; nine ladies dancing; eight maids a-milking and a wild collection of the feathered type, culminating in a partridge in a pear tree?

Who, in their right minds, would want a partridge in a pear tree anyway? What would you do with them if you received one via your courier? First, you would have to find a place to house the partridge, unless you kept it tied to the pear tree. That would be a bit awkward if you decided to keep it as a pet. I mean you would have to feed it regularly by climbing up and down every mealtime. You could, of course eat the damn thing. But then you would have to kill it, pluck it, stuff it then cook it. Not a nice thing to look forward to (especially the bird), apart from the ultimate eating bit. It would be a bit of a let-down if you were a vegetarian or worse, a vegan. As for the pear tree, you would have to re-plant it, then keep it pruned, watered, and lastly plucked - of pears. You may also have to contact a builder to sort out your garden, especially if it was slabbed, and that could prove to be quite costly. Then what about the rest of your loving gift, what with the dancing ladies, lords a leaping, not to mention the pipers and drummers? One massive headache, I would suspect.

Ok, lets get down to brass tacks, the result of our research.

The only parts of the whole song that I could safely say might be feasible to have had believable experiences, is the 5 golden rings, assuming that you have been married at least 5 times with 4 divorces behind you. Or you may be a pigeon fancier with a pigeon coop on an allotment site or in a garden, assuming that there is enough room what with a pear tree in the way, but surely you would have more than 2 of the animals in the bird house.

The rest, pure fiction – just like this story.


Word count 1319

song reviews

Gavin Mayhew

I am a retired artist who likes to dabble in a bit of writing, sometimes darkly humourous or sometimes with a social message - always quirky.

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