John Speller's Web Pages The magpie sat on the pear-tree top

John Speller's Web Pages - English Christmas Carols

The magpie sat on the pear-tree top

In his Customs and Tales (1898), p. 63, Fletcher Moss records this as being a slightly sinister carol:

"Another old carol that has many versions was a great favourite when we were young, but never until lately did I notice that it began with exorcising the demon or spirit of evil as personified in the old folk tales in a magpie [...] Pear-trees are often the tallest trees near to country houses, and I have a distinct recollection of seeing on a Christmas morning long ago a magpie on top of the lofty "Tom Moss" pear-tree that still stands near our lodge. We all defied her, and spat, and carolled, and fetched her down quickly."

The tune is the same as "I saw three ships on Christmas Day."

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"The Magpie" by Claude Monet (1840-1926)
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