This subject came up recently because of Sue Barnard’s poem based on the cumulative song, The Twelve Days of Christmas, about which Wikipedia says:

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” is a cumulative song, meaning that each verse is built on top of the previous verses.

I had heard this song before, but I think I need to know more about it in order to understand Sue’s poem.

Nevertheless, it got me thinking about all the cumulative songs I know.

These are the ones I remember:

  • Green Leaves Grew All Around
  • Green Grow the Rushes, O
  • There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly

And two songs we sing at the Passover seder:

  • Chad Gadya, a song in Aramaic that tells the story of one little goat.
  • Echad Mi Yodea, which, like Green Grow the Rushes, O, allocates an object to each number.

Apparently cumulative songs are popular with choirs because the words are easy to remember. I certainly remember the words of those Passover songs.

Do you have any favourite cumulative songs?

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