Milking Pails (China Doll)
DESCRIPTION: The child begs, "Mama, buy me a china doll." The mother asks where the money will come from. The child proposes selling Papa's bed. Mama asks where Papa will sleep. The child keeps proposing ideas, each more impractical. Finally Mama ends the discussion
EARLIEST DATE: 1810 (Gammer Gurton's Garland)
KEYWORDS: commerce children family mother playparty dialog
FOUND IN: US(Ap,MA,So) Britain(England)
REFERENCES (11 citations):
Randolph 356, "Buy Me a China Doll" (1 text, 1 tune)
Randolph/Cohen, pp. 291-293, "Buy Me a China Doll" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 356)
AbrahamsRiddle, pp. 47-49, "China Doll" (1 text, 1 tune)
Browne 166, "Buy Me a Rocking Chair" (1 text, 1 tune)
Opie-Game 63, "Milking Pails" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Montgomerie-ScottishNR 192, "(Buy me a milking pail)" (1 text)
Newell, #114, "Milking-pails" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: May Ovington, "A Dance-Rhyme of Children in Brooklyn, N.Y." in The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. XXXI, No. 120 (Apr 1918 (available online by JSTOR)), pp. 293-294 ("Mamma bought me a pincushion, pincushion, pincushion") (1 text)
Mrs. H.G. Richardson, "'Buy Me a Milking-Pail' and Songs of the Civil War" in The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. XXXI, No. 120 (Apr 1918 (available online by JSTOR)), pp. 275-276 "Buy Me a Milking-Pail" (1 text) [No inference here that "Buy Me a Milking-Pail" is a Civil War song.]
Walter de la Mare, _Come Hither_, revised edition, 1928; #75, "Milking Pails" (1 text)
ST R356 (Full)
cf. "Mama Bought Me a Pincushion" (cumulative theme)
NOTES [250 words]: Randolph's informant claims to have learned this in Oklahoma. I know of only three verified American collections, though: Browne's (where it starts with a rocking chair), Randolph's, and Almeda Riddle's "Chiney Doll.". Thus American texts, and the "China Doll" wish, may be confined to the Ozarks and Deep South.
On the other hand, Newell's text, "Milking-Pails" (from England) is so close in form (if not in the object of desire) that the song must be considered ancient, and Gomme has more than a dozen British texts. The British version is a singing game, though the American texts seem to have lost this trait.
Jim Dixon pointed out to me the earliest known version, in Ritson's edition of Gammer Gurton's Garland. It is not immediately obvious that it is a version of this song, because the opening seems like a milking song:
Betty's gone a milking, mother, mother;
Betty's gone a milking, dainty fine mother of mine:
Then you may go after, daughter, daughter;
Then you may go after, dainty fine daughter of mine.
But then we get into the dialog so typical of this piece (though the ending is rather ugly):
Buy me a pair of milk pails, mother....
Where's the money to come from, daughter...?
And so forth, until we reach these final verses:
Where are the pigs to lay? daughter....
Lay them at the stair-foot, mother....
There they will be trod to death, daughter....
Lay them by the water-side, mother....
There they will be drowned, daughter....
Then take a rope and hang yourself, mother.... - RBW
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