: Popular Rhymes And Nursery Tales

Cook a ball, cherry-tree;

Good ball, tell me

How many years I shall be

Before my true love I do see?

One and two, and that makes three;

Thank'ee, good ball for telling of me.

Cook is to toss, or throw, a provincialism common in the Midland

counties. The ball is thrown against a wall, and the divination is

taken from the number of rebounds it makes. A
other version is--

Cuckoo, cherry-tree,[47]

Good ball, tell me

How many years I shall be

Before I get married?

[Footnote 47: The following lines reached me

without an explanation. They seem to be analogous

to the above:

Cuckoo, cherry-tree,

Lay an egg, give it me;

Lay another,

Give it my brother!]

And this is probably correct, for we appear to have formed this method

of divination in some indirect manner from a custom still prevalent in

Germany of addressing the cuckoo, when he is first heard, with a view of

ascertaining the duration of life, by counting the number of times it

repeats its note. The lines used on this occasion are given by Grimm:

Kukuk, Beckerknecht!

Sag mir recht,

Wie viel jahr Ich leben soll?

An old story is told of a man who was on his road towards a monastery,

which he was desirous of entering as a monk for the salvation of his

soul, and hearing the cuckoo, stopped to count the number of notes. They

were twenty-two. "Oh!" said he, "since I shall be sure to live

twenty-two years, what is the use of mortifying myself in a monastery

all that time? I'll e'en go and live merrily for twenty years, and it

will be all in good time to betake me to a monastery for the other two."

See Wright's Essays, i. 257; and Latin Stories, p. 42, de cuculo; p. 74,

de muliere in extremis quae dixit kuckuc. Both these tales curiously

illustrate the extent to which faith in the divination extended.

If a maid desires to attach the affections of her lover unalterably to

her, she must wait till she finds him asleep with his clothes on. She

must then take away one of his garters without his perceiving it, and

tie it to her own in a true-love knot, saying--

Three times this knot

I tie secure;

Firm is the knot,

Firm his love endure.

In many parts of the country, it is considered extremely unlucky to give

a person anything that is sharp, as a knife, razor, &c., but the bad

fortune may be averted if the receiver gives something, however

trifling, in return, and exclaims--

If you love me as I love you,

No knife shall cut our love in two!

In counting the buttons of the waistcoat upwards, the last found

corresponding to one of the following names indicates the destiny of the


My belief,--

A captain, a colonel, a cow-boy, a thief.