I Had a Little Nut Tree

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"I Had a Little Nut Tree"
Nursery rhyme
Published 1789
Songwriter(s) Unknown

'I Had a Little Nut Tree' is an English language nursery rhyme. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 3749.

Lyrics[edit]

The most common modern version is:

I had a little nut tree,
Nothing would it bear,
But a silver nutmeg
And a golden pear;

The King of Spain's daughter
Came to visit me,
And all for the sake
Of my little nut tree.

Her dress was made of crimson,
Jet black was her hair,
She asked me for my nutmeg
And my golden pear.

I said, "So fair a princess
Never did I see,
I'll give you all the fruit
From my little nut tree."[1]

Origins and meaning[edit]

The first recorded instance of the rhyme is in Newest Christmas Box, printed in London in 1797. James Orchard Halliwell suggested that it was much older and commemorated Juana of Castile who visited the court of Henry VII in 1506, but did not provide any additional evidence to support the theory.[1] In the absence of earlier attestations of or references to the song, or any internal evidence by which it could be dated, it is likely to remain a matter for speculation.

Additional verse[edit]

Occasionally an extra verse is added:

"I danced o'er the water,
I danced o'er the sea,
And all the birds in the air,
Couldn't catch me"


It is thought by some that the "nut tree" refers to the cashew tree, which has fruit resembling a "golden pear" and that the cashew nut is the "silver nutmeg" referred to in the rhyme. The visit by the "King of Spain's daughter" could be commemorating that made by Juana of Castile, who visited the court of Henry VII of England in 1506; alternatively, it could be a reference to Juana's sister Catherine of Aragon, later Queen to King Henry VIII of England. Both women were the daughters of Ferdinand II, King of Sicily, Aragon, Castile, Naples and Navarre, and it may have been he who was referred to as the "King of Spain" in the rhyme.

Parody[edit]

It was parodied by Roald Dahl in his poetry book Rhyme Stew (1989).

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd edn., 1997), pp. 330-1.