Cuckoo Cherrytree - English Children's Songs - England - Mama Lisa's World: Children's Songs and Rhymes from Around the World  - Intro Image


Andrew Lang called this "A Game at ball" in The Nursery Rhyme Book, edited by Andrew Lang and illustrated by L. Leslie Brooke (1897).

Here's a different rhyme called Cuckoo Cherrytree from The Sleeping Beauty Picture Book, illustrated by Walter Crane:

Cuckoo, cherry tree
Come down & tell me
How many years
I have to live!

According to the entry in Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1905) regarding Cherry Trees and the Cuckoo: "The cherry tree is strangely mixed up with the cuckoo in many cuckoo stories because of the tradition that the cuckoo must eat three good meals of cherries before he is allowed to cease singing." Here's the version of this rhyme they give:

Cuckoo cuckoo, cherry-tree,
Good bird prithee tell to me,
How many years I am to see?

The entry continues: "The answer is made by the cuckoo repeating its cry the prophetic number of times."


Here are more variations from "The Traditional Games of England, Scotland, and Ireland (Vol I of II) with Tunes, Singing-Rhymes and Methods of Playing" (1894), collected and annotated by Alice Bertha Gomme:


A child hides and cries "Cuckoo."
The seekers respond--
"Cuckoo cherry-tree,
Catch a bird and bring it me."

""Burne's Shropshire Folk-lore, p. 222.

Halliwell [a 19th c. collector of rhymes] calls this a game at ball, and the rhyme runs--

Cuckoo cherry tree,
Catch a bird and bring it me;
Let the tree be high or low,
Let it hail, rain or snow.



The first 2 lines of this rhyme are an old English children's rhyme that can be found in Charlotte Sophia Burne's Shropshire Folk-Lore (printed in London around 1883-6). The whole rhyme with all four lines can be found in Young Canada's Nursery Rhymes (an e-book). If anyone from Great Britain or Canada grew up saying this rhyme, please email me to let us know. It'd be interesting to know if it's still recited.

Thanks and Acknowledgements

The illustration comes from The Sleeping Beauty Picture Book, illustrated by Walter Crane.