Also called “The Riddle Song“.

I learnt this one a few months back, it’s a lovely little bouncing ditty that’s easy to memorise.  I originally found it here, along with numerous other sets of lyrics, which I shall probably get to sometime in the future.

I have a yong suster
Fer biyonde the see;
Many ben the drueries
That she sente me.

She sente me the chery
Wythouten ony ston,
And so she dide the dowve
Wythouten ony bone.

She sente me the brere
Wythouten ony rynde,
She bad me love my lemman
Wythouten longynge.

How sholde ony chery
Ben wythouten ston?
And how sholde ony dowve
Ben wyhtouten bon?

How shold any brere
Ben wythouten rynde?
How sholde I love my lemman
Wythouten longynge?

Whan the chery was a flour
Than hadde it non stone;
Whan the dowve was an ey,
Than hadde it non bon.

When the brere was unbred,
Than hadde it non rynde;
When the mayden hath that she loveth,
She is wythouten longynge.

Some notes on the meanings of various words here (Please note that I’ve utilised the glossary listed on Mudcat as I don’t think I could improve upon it.  My own understanding of these terms is derived directly from this list.):

brere: briar, thorny stem of rose
dowve: dove
drueries: tokens, gifts
ey: egg
fer: far
flour: flower
lemman: lover
longynge: longing
ony: any
rynde: bark, rind
see: sea
ston: stone
suster: sister
unbred: not yet sprouted, in seed
wythouten: without

This particular song dates back to C. 1430, and is listed in MS Sloane 2593, along with Adam Lay I-BowndenI syng of a mayden, I have a gentil cok, and others.

Every version of this I have heard has the same basic melody, and all include (basically) the same chorus, though I’ve not found it used in conjunction with the lyrics on any written source on the internet.  “Partum quartum pare dissentum, peri meri dictum domine” appears to be nonsensical pseudo-latin.  I have been unable so far to ascertain whether or not the tune and the chorus are attached to these lyrics in period.

You can find my rendition here:  I Have a Yong Suster.

As always, feel free to download this for your own usage.  Please don’t publish it elsewhere, direct people to this site instead.

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