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ONE CATCH-ALL—ORANGES AND LEMONS 25
She never stuck a knife in till he came home at night, So next Monday morning is our wedding-day, The bells they shall ring, and the music shall play ! Oliver, Oliver, follow the King! (da capo). —Berrington (Burne's Shropshire Folk-lore, p. 508).
(b) The children form a ring and move round, singing the first two lines. Then they curtsey, or " douk down," all together; the one who is last has to tell her sweetheart's name. The other lines are then sung and the game is continued. The children's names are mentioned as each one names his or her sweetheart.
This is apparently the game of which " All the Boys," " Down in the Valley," and " Mary Mixed a Pudding up," are also portions.
The words " Cowardy, cowardy custard " are repeated by children playing at this game when they advance towards the one who is selected to catch them, and dare or provoke her to capture them. Ray, Localisms, gives Costard, the head; a kind of opprobrious word used by way of contempt. Bailey gives Costead-head, a blockhead; thus elucidating this exclamation which may be interpreted, " You cowardly blockhead, catch me if you dare" (Baker's Northamptonshire Glossary).
The words used were, as far as I remember,
Cowardy, cowardy custard, eat your father's mustard, Catch me if you can.
To compel a person to "eat" something disagreeable is a well-known form of expressing contempt. The rhyme was supposed to be very efficacious in rousing an indifferent or lazy player when playing M touch " (A. B. Gomme).
Oranges and Lemons