The Twelve Days – Postscript 1 – gifts lyrics historical variations

During the course of the Twelve Days postings, several astute commenters remarked on other phrasings used for some of the gifts in versions of the song, as well as some gifts entirely replaced rather than just worded differently. Here is a historical summary of some of those variations, in the form of a table.

This is a large HTML table (long and wide). So it may not display well. I hope on the platforms where this would help that it gets embedded in a scrollable insert box, perhaps. If you have trouble with it here, please just go to the Wikipedia original where you may have more luck, as well as finding more extensive notes than have been quoted here.

From the Wikipedia article on the Twelve Days song.

For ease of comparison with Austin's 1909 version given above:
(a) differences in wording, ignoring capitalisation and punctuation, are indicated in italics (including permutations, where for example the 10th day of Austin's version becomes the 9th day here);
(b) items that do not appear at all in Austin's version are indicated in bold italics.
Source Giver 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Mirth without
Mischief, 1780[5]
My true love sent to me Partridge in a pear-tree Turtle doves French hens Colly birds Gold rings Geese a laying Swans a swimming Maids a milking Drummers drumming Pipers piping Ladies dancing Lords a leaping
Angus, 1774–1825[10] My true love sent to me Partridge in a pear tree Turtle doves French hens Colly birds Gold rings Geese a laying Swans a swimming Maids a milking Drummers drumming Pipers piping Ladies dancing Lords a leaping
Halliwell, 1842[11] My mother sent to me Partridge in a pear-tree Turtle doves French hens Canary birds Gold rings Geese a laying Swans a swimming Ladies dancing Lords a leaping Ships a sailing Ladies spinning Bells ringing
Rimbault, c. 1846[12] My mother sent to me Parteridge in a pear tree Turtle doves French hens Canary birds Gold rings Geese a laying Swans a swimming Ladies dancing Lords a leaping Ships a sailing Ladies spinning Bells ringing
Halliwell, 1853[13] My true love sent to me Partridge in a pear tree Turtle doves French hens Colly birds Gold rings Geese a laying Swans a swimming Maids a milking Drummers drumming Pipers piping Ladies dancing Lords a leaping
Salmon, 1855[14] My true love sent to me Partridge upon a pear-tree Turtle-doves French hens Collie birds Gold rings Geese a-laying Swans a-swimming Maids a-milking Drummers drumming Pipers piping Ladies dancing Lords a-leaping


Caledonian, 1858[15] My true love sent to me Partridge upon a pear-tree Turtle-doves French hens Collie birds Gold rings Geese a-laying Swans a-swimming Maids a-milking Drummers drumming Fifers fifing Ladies dancing Lords a-leaping


Husk, 1864[16] My true love sent to me Partridge in a pear-tree Turtle doves French hens Colley birds Gold rings Geese a-laying Swans a-swimming Maids a-milking Drummers drumming Pipers piping Ladies dancing Lords a-leaping


Hughes, 1864[17] My true love sent to me Partridge and a pear tree Turtle-doves Fat hens Ducks quacking Hares running “and so on”
Cliftonian, 1867[18] My true-love sent to me Partridge in a pear-tree Turtle-doves French hens Colley birds Gold rings Ducks a-laying Swans swimming Hares a-running Ladies dancing Lords a-leaping Badgers baiting Bells a-ringing
Clark, 1875[19] My true love sent to me Partridge in a pear tree Turtle doves French hens Colour’d birds Gold rings Geese laying Swans swimming Maids milking Drummers drumming Pipers piping Ladies dancing Lords leaping
Kittredge, 1877 (1917)[20] My true love sent to me Some part of a juniper tree/And some part of a juniper tree French hens Turtle doves Colly birds Gold rings Geese a-laying Swans a-swimming [forgotten by the singer] Lambs a-bleating Ladies dancing Lords a-leading Bells a-ringing
Henderson, 1879[21] My true love sent to me Partridge upon a pear tree Turtle doves French hens Curley birds Gold rings Geese laying Swans swimming Maids milking Drummers drumming Pipers piping
Barnes, 1882[22] My true love sent to me The sprig of a juniper tree Turtle doves French hens Coloured birds Gold rings Geese a-laying Swans a-swimming Hares a-running Bulls a-roaring Men a-mowing Dancers a-dancing Fiddlers a-fiddling
Stokoe, 1888[23] My true love sent to me Partridge on a pear tree Turtle doves French hens Colly birds Gold rings Geese a-laying Swans a-swimming Maids a-milking Drummers drumming Pipers piping Ladies dancing Lords a leaping
Kidson, 1891[24] My true love sent to me Merry partridge on a pear tree Turtle doves French hens Colley birds Gold rings Geese a-laying Swans a-swimming Maids a-milking Drummers drumming Pipers piping Ladies dancing Lords a leaping
Scott, 1892[25] My true love brought to me Very pretty peacock upon a pear tree Turtle-doves French hens Corley birds Gold rings Geese a-laying Swans a-swimming Maids a-milking Pipers playing Drummers drumming Lads a-louping Ladies dancing
Cole, 1900[26] My true love sent to me Parteridge upon a pear tree Turtle doves French hens Colly birds Gold rings Geese a laying Squabs a swimming Hounds a running Bears a beating Cocks a crowing Lords a leaping Ladies a dancing
Sharp, 1905[27] My true love sent to me Goldie ring, and the part of a June apple tree Turtle doves, and the part of a mistletoe bough French hens Colley birds Goldie rings Geese a-laying Swans a-swimming Boys a-singing Ladies dancing Asses racing Bulls a-beating Bells a-ringing
Leicester Daily Post, 1907[28] My true love sent to me A partridge upon a pear-tree Turtle doves French hens Collie dogs Gold rings Geese a-laying Swans a-swimming Maids a milking Drummers drumming Pipers playing Ladies dancing Lords a-leaping
Austin, 1909[4] My true love sent to me Partridge in a pear tree Turtle doves French hens Calling birds Gold rings Geese a-laying Swans a-swimming Maids a-milking Ladies dancing Lords a-leaping Pipers piping Drummers drumming
Swortzell, 1966[6] My true love gave to me Partridge in a pear tree Turtle doves French hens Collie birds Golden rings Geese a-laying Swans a-swimming Maids a-milking Pipers piping Drummers drumming Lords a-leaping Ladies dancing

The Twelve Days – All Twelve

And on the Twelfth Day (05 January) — A day of drumming!

Cynthia Yeh, Principal Percussionist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, announcing the end of the world on the bass drums in a performance of the “Dies Irae” section from Verdi’s “Messa da Requiem”.

Striking the mighty hammer-blows in Mahler’s Symphony No. 6.

Jazz percussionist Max Roach as “Max”, leader of the house band at Billy Pastor’s Café in the film “Carmen Jones”. The band inserts a jazz break and drum solo into Pearl Bailey’s musical number “Beat Out Dat Rhythm On A Drum”, Oscar Hammerstein’s adaptation of the Act II Gypsy Dance “Les tringles des sistres tintaient” from Bizet’s “Carmen”.

Peter Edward “Ginger” Baker (19 August 1939 – 6 October 2019) was an English drummer and a co-founder of the rock band Cream.

Maureen “Moe” Tucker of the Velvet Underground. From the performance of “Heroin” in the video of the MCMXCIII reunion concert.

Watch VU MCMXCIII Heroin at YouTube . And watch Moe Tucker create the overwhelming pacing.


Timpanist Wieland Welzel of the Berliner Philharmoniker finishes off the Symphony No. 5 of Dmitri Shostakovich
Still at the Berliner Philharmoniker, it takes *two* timpanists at eight kettles to finish off the 112 minute performance of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 in D minor, at a concert 29 Feb 2020 under batonless direction of wunderkind Lorenzo Viotti.

For those into timpani, here is Part 1 of 3 of a tutorial on changing and tuning TIMpani heads, by TIM Genis of the Boston Symphony. A little inTIMidating as he starts off with saying it is simple, and showing the ten products you will need. Fun as this is, it isn’t the one I was looking for — let me know if you find one about the excitement of receiving the delivery of the new “skins” and the start of the installation, from a big-name orchestra percussion section.


Djembe circle class

Djembe class recital, Old Town School of Folk Music 2013. This one brings ten drummers!


Third Coast Percussion — they do have drums, just not too evident in this picture!

Drumline is much more than drums in a line!


And how could “Little Drummer Girl” have been an instantly comprehended title had there not been the song “Little Drummer Boy”.

But maybe not everybody loves that boy:

And from the Eleventh Day


And a bonus on the plumber == piper theme!

And from the Tenth Day

And from the Ninth Day

Detail of Feiffer’s “Dance to Spring”

Ist das die richtige Anzahl tanzender Damen? NEIN!

And from the Eighth Day

And from the Seventh Day

And you can have a listen!

And from the Sixth Day


And a bonus of six more geese laying — or at least being encouraged to do so.

And from the Fifth Day

And from the Fourth Day

And from the Third Day

Sarah Willis and other members of the horn section of the Berliner Philharmoniker

And from the Second Day

And still around from the First Day

Spacer with multicolor segments

Credits, Addenda, and complete series

Comics and other images were contributed by Rob S., Andréa, Kilby, and other readers.
The Liz Climo panel for Six Geese was picked up from a discussion on Arnold Zwicky’s blog, which takes an interest in analyzing the language of comics.


Twelve-days series from familiar comics

“Mother Goose and Grimm” has more than once run thru the twelve days, with different levels of punning. Usually they run these *before* Christmas Day, as a sort of countdown; and skip weekends. (We at CIDU have followed the traditional pattern of starting on Christmas Day and counting forwards until 06 January.) The 2012 series of MG&G, for interest, started with the first day on Wednesday, 12 December 2012, here. The “two hurtled gloves” was used here in draft (until the tee-shirt with the hybrids showed up) and was from the 2011 series, which started on Monday, 19 December 2011, with a “Partridge Family” joke., and did not go on for all twelve.

“Off the Mark” similarly had full or partial series around 2002, 2003, and a one-shot in 2004. These also took a pre-Christmas Day quasi-countdown approach. This strip also gives a nice example of a one-shot panel or strip referencing several of the Twelve Days gifts via some gag like the store returns window seen here — with variations seen pretty often. Our 11 plumbers plumbing came from one of these OTM series. This very recent “Argyle Sweater” also puts a long (but not total!) list of the items into one transaction, in this case a purchase rather than returns (and for eating!).

“New Adventures of Queen Victoria” has had a series, with jokes about the accumulation of gifts. (As faithful reader Deety let us know, back on the First Day!😀 ) It seems to be used for reruns; the 2020 version started with the First Day just on 21 December. A GoComics comment for the Second Day entry answers one of the usual math questions (below) and nicely shows their work for each kind of gift. The 2006 run may have been the original (the dates in the drawings match the publication dates), but it runs for a five-weekdays-plus-Saturday span only, jumping from a nervous Fifth Day to a sudden escape with a Twelfth Day intervention.

After completion of this thread on 05 January, we will make a new post, as a postscript, to sample or present some of those partial or full twelve-day series from familiar comics.


Other kinds of presentation, and Math

The featured image at the top of the post puts all twelve days together in a grid of boxes, with a representative for each kind of gift in the day’s box. That one is straightforwardly traditional and plain representations, but there are good examples of satiric or political-editorial intent in that format, such as this Ted Rall. After completion of this thread on 05 January, we will make a new post, as a postscript, to present a few of these 12-icon layouts.

For a detailed account of the history of the song and variations in the gifts accumulated in the lyrics, see the Wikipedia article. After completion of this thread on 05 January, we will make a new post, as a postscript, to present the table of historical lyric variations from that Wikipedia article.

Maybe someone can find and link the math-problem treatment of summing the total number of each kind of gift, on the assumption that the gifts mentioned in different “daily” run-thrus do accumulate — so that, for example there are 5 gold rings for day 5, another 5 gold rings for day 6, etc., for a total of 40. Which item has the highest total count? Which the lowest? What is the total of gifts for all kinds? Do the partridge and its pear tree count separately? If you don’t care to do the work yourself right now, here is how a goComics commenter summarized it for Queen Victoria readers. Now tell us, what is that series {12, 22, 30, 36, 40, 42, 42, 40, 36, 30, 22, 12} related to? It’s not quite a binomial expansion, or a diagonal of Pascal’s triangle …
Note from Second Day: There is a nice exposition from CIDU faithful reader Woozy on some math questions for the Twelve Days!.

And here is an interesting graphic account of some of the numbering questions:


Parodies, stories, and radio plays



Also there is an epistolary story parody similarly based in an assumption of accumulating quantities, in which the fair lady receiving the gifts gets increasingly annoyed in each letter, up to the cease-and-desist order. Please do find and link!
Update: Many thanks to faithful reader Shrug for finding and sharing this publication of a transcript exactly that story! And in turn, the collector who runs that blog has provided a link to an MP3 audio file of what seems to be the original radio presentation of this story.
Further: Actually, it is listed on the Wikipedia article in the Parodies and Other Versions section. If only we had been reading closer, sooner.

(And how charming that the lady in the skit turns out to be named Cynthia – pleasing for a reason you will see on Twelfth Day!)


The Music

We have been concentrating on the lyrics so intently, we mustn’t lose sight of the music itself!

(Answers start around 6:30)












(Top graphic credit: Xavier Romero-Frias, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
Little Drummer Boy phono single cover art: for usage see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Single_Harry_Simeone_Chorale-The_Little_Drummer_Boy_cover.gif#filelinks