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BELIEVE IT OR NOT FACTS / MEANINGS OF NURSERY RHYMES;-

 
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2007 7:52 pm    Post subject: BELIEVE IT OR NOT FACTS / MEANINGS OF NURSERY RHYMES;-  Reply with quote

BELIEVE IT OR NOT FACTS / MEANINGS OF NURSERY RHYMES;- did you know that many of the nursery rhymes we parents sing to our young child hold tales of horror, death, sex, superstition and maybe even murder      

HI EVERYONE, I KNOW THAT THE MEANING OF NURSERY RHYMES DOE'S NOT FALL INTO THE  NORMAL REALMS OF A GHOST AND SUPERNATURAL FORUM, BUT AFTER A CHAT AND BEING ASKED ABOUT A MEANING BEHIND A NURSERY RHYME, I LEARNED THAT MANY OF THEM HOLD DARK
HORRIBLE MEANINGS, THUS LEADING TO THIS NEW FORUM SECTION BEING FORMED, SO WE CAN SHARE THESE MEANINGS WITH ONE AND OTHER  

HAVE FUN AND THINK TWICE ABOUT THE MEANING TO THAT NURSEY RHYME, NEXT TIME YOU SING IT TO YOUR YOUNG ONES !!!!!!!    

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Last edited by admin Madmart on Thu Dec 20, 2007 6:18 pm; edited 3 times in total
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2007 8:18 pm    Post subject: nursery rhyme meanings :- Reply with quote

Humpty Dumpty

The imagery of Humpty Dumpty
Humpty Dumpty was a colloquial term used in fifteenth century England describing someone who was obese. This has given rise to various, but inaccurate, theories surrounding the identity of Humpty Dumpty. The image of Humpty Dumpty was made famous by the illustrations included in the 'Alice through the looking glass' novel by Lewis Carroll. However, Humpty Dumpty was not a person pilloried in the famous rhyme!

The History and Origins of the Rhyme
Humpty Dumpty was in fact believed to be a large cannon!  It was used during the English Civil War ( 1642 - 1649) in the Siege of Colchester (13 Jun 1648 - 27 Aug 1648). Colchester was strongly fortified by the Royalists and was laid to siege by the Parliamentarians (Roundheads). In 1648 the town of Colchester  was a walled town with a castle and several churches and was protected by the city wall. Standing immediately adjacent the city wall, was St Mary's Church. A huge cannon, colloquially called Humpty Dumpty, was strategically placed on the wall next to St Mary's Church. The historical events detailing the siege of Colchester are well documented - references to the cannon ( Humpty Dumpty) are as follows:

June 15th 1648 - St Mary's Church is fortified and a large cannon is placed on the roof which was fired by ‘One-Eyed Jack Thompson'

July 14th / July 15th 1648 - The Royalist fort within the walls at St Mary's church is blown to pieces and their main cannon battery  ( Humpty Dumpty) is destroyed.

August 28th 1648 - The Royalists lay down their arms, open the gates of Colchester and surrender to the Parliamentarians

A shot from a Parliamentary cannon succeeded in damaging the wall beneath Humpty Dumpty which caused the cannon to tumble to the ground. The Royalists, or Cavaliers, 'all the King's men' attempted to raise Humpty Dumpty on to another part of the wall. However, because the cannon , or Humpty Dumpty, was so heavy ' All the King's horses and all the King's men couldn't put Humpty together again!' This had a drastic consequence for the Royalists as the strategically important town of Colchester fell to the Parliamentarians after a siege lasting eleven weeks. Earliest traceable publication 1810.



A Picture of  typical Cavalier who would have fought for the Royalists during the English Civil War

A Roundhead ( Parliamentarian) was so called from the close-cropped hair of the Puritans

The word Cavalier is derived from the French word Chevalier meaning a military man serving on horseback - a knight.

Humpty Dumpty poem

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King's horses, And all the King's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again!

Alternative Words...

Humpty dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty dumpty had a great fall;
Threescore men and threescore more,
Could not place Humpty as he was before.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------

Hot Cross Buns Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme & History

Religious meaning of Hot Cross Buns
Hot cross buns are a small, spicey fruit cake decorated with a white cross as shown in the picture of our Hot Cross Buns . Generally Hot Cross Buns are served with a butter spread. Hot cross buns were hawked by streetsellers to the cry of "Hot cross buns!" around the the nineteenth century. This particular way of selling wares is demonstrated in the movie "Oliver!" based on the novel by Charles Dickens. Hot Cross Buns are generally sold at Easter to celebrate the religious significance of the resurrection of Christ following his death on the cross in the Easter Christian festival.

Hot Cross Buns nursery rhyme

Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!
One a penny two a penny - Hot cross buns
If you have no daughters, give them to your sons
One a penny two a penny - Hot cross buns
   --------------------------------------------------------------

Horsey Horsey Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme & History

Rhyme using onomatopoeia in the lyrics of Horsey Horsey
The lyrics of  Horsey Horsey introduce a child to onomatopoeia ( a word that sounds like its meaning) The words in Horsey Horsey include 'swish' and 'clippetty clop' when pronounced convey the sounds a horse might make! This technique is used in various children's books  and Television programmes! The most famous example of a TV program which uses  onomatopoeia is Batman and Robin cartoon and tv film programme of the 1970's with a liberal scattering of words such as 'Zap', 'Whoosh' and Pow' etc. In Horsey Horsey the words 'Giddy up' are included. This is a term long used by horse riders from way back in English history and has been adopted in many other parts of the world.

Horsey Horsey rhyme

Horsey horsey don't you stop
Just let your feet go clippetty clop
The tail goes swish and the wheels go round
Giddy up, we're homeward bound.
        -------------------------------------------------------------

Three Little Kittens Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme & History

Words of the Three Little Kittens Nursery Rhyme
A cautionary tale with words directed toward to a mother and child and the common occurrence of losing an article, then finding it and finally being rewarded!  The word "meeow" shows effective use of onomatopoeia where a word sounds like the action. The mother cat was correct in her view that she could "smell a rat!" This Nursery Rhyme first appeared in the " Only True Mother Goose Melodies" in 1843.

Three Little Kittens poem

Three little kittens they lost their mittens, and they began to cry,
"Oh mother dear, we sadly fear that we have lost our mittens."
"What! Lost your mittens, you naughty kittens!
Then you shall have no pie."
"Meeow, meeow, meeow, now we shall have no pie."
The three little kittens they found their mittens,
And they began to cry,
"Oh mother dear, see here, see here
For we have found our mittens."
"Put on your mittens, you silly kittens
And you shall have some pie"
"Meeow, meeow, meeow,
Now let us have some pie."
The three little kittens put on their mittens
And soon ate up the pie,
"Oh mother dear, we greatly fear
That we have soiled our mittens."
"What! soiled you mittens, you naughty kittens!"
Then they began to cry, "Meeow, meeow, meeow"
Then they began to sigh.
The three little kittens they washed their mittens
And hung them out to dry,
"Oh mother dear, do you not hear
That we have washed our mittens."
"What! washed your mittens, you are good kittens."
But I smell a rat close by,
"Meeow, meeow, meeow" we smell a rat close by...
  ----------------------------------------------------------------------

Jack and Jill Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme & History

Jack and Jill story - The French (history) connection!
The roots of the story, or poem,  of Jack and Jill  are in France. Jack and Jill referred to are said to be King Louis XVI - Jack -who was beheaded (lost his crown) followed by his Queen Marie Antoinette - Jill - (who came tumbling after). The words and lyrics to the Jack and Jill  poem were made more acceptable as a story for children by providing a happy ending! The actual beheadings occurred in during the Reign of Terror in 1793. The first publication date for the lyrics of Jack and Jill  rhyme is 1795 - which ties-in with the history and origins. The Jack and Jill poem is also known as Jack and Gill - the mis-spelling of Gill is not uncommon in nursery rhymes as they are usually passed from generation to generation by word of mouth.
Death by Beheading!
On the gruesome subject of beheading it was the custom that following execution the severed head was held up by the hair by the executioner. This was not, as many people think, to show the crowd the head but in fact to show the head the crowd and it's own body! Consciousness remains for at least eight seconds after beheading until lack of oxygen causes unconsciousness and eventually death. The guillotine is associated with the French but the English were the first to use this device as described in our section containing  Mary Mary Quite Contrary Rhyme.

Jack and Jill poem and story  


A picture of a French Revolution execution Scene during the Reign of Terror


Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down and broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling after.
Up got Jack, and home did trot
As fast as he could caper
He went to bed and bound his head
With vinegar and brown paper.
 -------------------------------------------------------------------

Mary Mary Quite Contrary: origin
Nursery Rhyme Origins & History

The origins are steeped in history... Bloody Mary!
The Mary alluded to in this traditional English nursery rhyme is reputed to be Mary Tudor, or Bloody Mary, who was the daughter of King Henry VIII. Queen Mary was a staunch Catholic and the garden referred to is an allusion to graveyards which were increasing in size with those who dared to continue to adhere to the Protestant faith - Protestant martyrs.

Instruments of Torture!
The silver bells and cockle shells referred to in the Nursery Rhyme were colloquialisms for instruments of torture. The 'silver bells' were thumbscrews which crushed the thumb between two hard surfaces by the tightening of a screw. The 'cockleshells' were believed to be instruments of torture which were attached to the genitals!

The " Maids" or Maiden was the original guillotine!
The 'maids' were a device to behead people called the Maiden. Beheading a victim was fraught with problems. It could take up to 11 blows to actually sever the head, the victim often resisted and had to be chased around the scaffold. Margaret Pole (1473 - 1541), Countess of Salisbury did not go willingly to her death and had to be chased and hacked at by the Executioner. These problems led to the invention of a mechanical instrument (now known as the guillotine) called the Maiden - shortened to Maids in the Mary Mary Nursery Rhyme. The Maiden had long been in use in England before Lord Morton, regent of Scotland during the minority of James VI, had a copy constructed from the Maiden which had been used in Halifax in Yorkshire. Ironically, Lord Morton fell from favour and was the first to experience the Maiden in Scotland!

Executions!
Another form of execution during Mary's reign was being burnt at the stake - a terrible punishment much used during the Spanish Inquisition. The English hated the Spanish and dreaded the idea of an English Inquisition. The executions during the reign of Bloody Mary were therefore viewed with a greater fear of the Spanish than the executions themselves - it is interesting to note that executions during her reign totalled less than 300 an insignificant amount compared to the executions ordered by her father King Henry VIII  which are believed to have numbered tens of thousands!  

Mary Mary quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row.
       ------------------------------------------------------------------

Old King Cole Rhyme

Nursery Rhyme & History

Who was Old King Cole?
The origins of the Nursery rhyme lyrics of Old King Cole are based in history dating back to 3rd century. There is considerable confusion regarding the origins of Old King Cole as there are three possible contenders who were Celtic Kings of Britain, all who share the name Coel (which is the Celtic word for the English word Cole). Historia Regum Britanniae ( History of the Kings of Britain) by Geoffrey of Monmouth (1110-1155) refers to a King Cole as a king of the Britons. Our research details the contenders as follows:
Coel Godhebog (Cole the Magnificent  - b.220 Decurion of Rome)
Coel Godhebog was the Lord of Colchester ( the word Colchester means " Cole's Castle"). The Romans had conquered Britain during this period and Coel Godhebog was a Decurion meaning member of the municipal Senate in Ancient Rome who ran a local government. Gaius Flavius Valerius Constantius (250–306) was an Emperor of the Western Roman Empire (305-306). According to the Historia Regum Britanniae Constantius was sent to Britain in 296AD. where his liaison with Helena, apparently the daughter of Coel Godhebog, produced a son who became Constantine the Great.
Coel Hen  ( Coel the Old c.350 - c.420 )
Coel Hen, called Coel the Old due to his longevity, was also the Lord of Colchester and a Decurion. This was the time of the Decline of the Roman Empire and the Romans officials abandoned Britain and returned to Italy which was under attack by the Goths. Coel Hen was therefore believed to be the last Decurion. This man is probably the main contender as 'Old King Cole' due to the name he was given - Coel the Old.
St. Ceneu ap Coel ( Born c382 )
St. Ceneu ap Coel  was the son of Coel Hen. Ceneu appears to have been made a Saint because he upheld the old Christian ways against pagan invaders. He used Saxon mercenaries to help with this quest. He was named in the Historia Regum Britanniae as attending the coronation of King Arthur who became the 'One King' of the Britons.
The Origins
The History of the Ancient Britons is being reflected in the origins of Old King Cole encompassing the times of the Celts, the Romans, the Saxons and King Arthur. The Tudor dynasty, starting with King Henry VII, claimed to descend from Old King Cole's royal lineage in attempt to further  legitimise the Royal House of Tudor's claim to the English throne. One of the main sources of information regarding the Ancient Britons is taken from the works by Geoffrey of Monmouth. But Geoffrey lived many years later in the 1100's and much of his history on the pre-Saxon kings of Britain is based on Celtic legends - thus adding to the confusion regarding the origins of Old King Cole!

Old King Cole poem

Old King Cole was a merry old soul, and a merry old soul was he;
He called for his pipe in the middle of the night
And he called for his fiddlers three.
Every fiddler had a fine fiddle, and a very fine fiddle had he;
Oh there's none so rare as can compare
With King Cole and his fiddlers three.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------

Little Tommy Tucker
Nursery Rhyme & History

Who, or what, was a Little Tommy Tucker?
Little 'Tommy Tucker' referred to in the words  of this nursery rhyme was a colloquial term that was commonly used to describe orphans - Little Tommy Tucker . The orphans were often reduced to begging or 'singing for their supper'. The reference to Little Tommy Tucker marrying and the lack of a wife reflects the difficulty of any orphan being able to marry due to their exceptionally low standing within the community. The first publication date for Little Tommy Tucker was 1829.

Little Tommy Tucker rhyme

Little Tommy Tucker sings for his supper,
What shall we give him? Brown bread and butter.
How shall he cut it without a knife?
How shall he marry without a wife?
     ---------------------------------------------------------------

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Last edited by admin Madmart on Thu Dec 20, 2007 6:16 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2007 9:37 pm    Post subject: Nursery rhyme meanings Reply with quote

Nursery rhyme meanings ;-

London Bells  "Oranges and Lemons" Nursery Rhyme
Alternative lyrics to the Oranges and Lemon rhyme

The Bells of London Nursery Rhyme evolves into Oranges and Lemons!
The Oranges and Lemons Nursery Rhymes refers to many of the Churches and Institutions found near, or within the City of London. The alternative lyrics to Oranges and Lemons rhyme is the London Bells Nursery Rhyme which is the original version of Oranges and Lemons!
The Children's Choice!
Over the course of time the original lyrics have been forgotten - the cut-down version is much easier for children to remember. The section at the end of the Oranges and Lemons rhyme "Here comes the candle..." was added at a much later date, enabling children to play the party game.
Our Heritage is conveyed in Nursery Rhymes!
The words of the London Bells rhyme accurately reflect the history of London and maintains our heritage - the traditions and customs practised in London's bygone days.
The Bells of London are telling us Stories!
The stories relating to the Bells of London reflect the history of the city and the people who lived there. At first glance the 'Bells of London' and the newer version of 'Oranges and Lemons' Nursery Rhymes look to be interesting poems which include the most famous bells and churches of London. But the rhyme is actually very clever for the words the bells are saying, such as " Oranges and Lemons", "Bullseyes and Targets" and "Pokers and Tongs", reveal  the many long-gone trades practised and wares sold by the people who lived in the great city of London. They also reveal the history of life in London!
Lord Mayors, Torturers, Executioners and  Money Lenders!
Lord Mayors, Torturers, Executioners and Money Lenders are all referred to in the words of the bells! The secret history and origins of the Bells of London Nursery Rhyme are revealed - once again a seemingly innocent Nursery Rhyme for children hides sinister undertones!



Picture of the Tower of London
"Bells of St Johns" in St John's Chapel in the White Tower

Gay go up and gay go down
To Ring the Bells of London Town
"Oranges and Lemons" say the Bells of St. Clements
"Bullseyes and Targets" say the Bells of St. Margaret's
"Brickbats and Tiles" say the Bells of St. Giles
"Halfpence and Farthings" say the Bells of St. Martin's
"Pancakes and Fritters" say the Bells of St. Peter's
"Two Sticks and an Apple" say the Bells of Whitechapel
"Maids in white aprons" say the Bells at St. Katherine's
"Pokers and Tongs" say the Bells of St. John's
"Kettles and Pans" say the Bells of St. Anne's
"Old Father Baldpate" say the slow Bells of Aldgate
"You owe me Ten Shillings" say the Bells of St. Helen's
"When will you Pay me?" say the Bells of Old Bailey
"When I grow Rich" say the Bells of Shoreditch
"Pray when will that be?" say the Bells of Stepney
"I do not know" say the Great Bell of Bow
Gay go up and gay go down
To Ring the Bells of London Town

Origins and History of the London Bells Nursery Rhyme!
Each of the fifteen 'Bells of London' referred to in the rhyme have been fully researched and can be accessed below;-

Church Location Life in London
St. Clements Clements Lane and King William Street, Eastcheap Citrus Fruit unloaded at the nearby wharves
St. Margarets Lothbury (a street name) Archery practise
St. Giles Cripplegate, Barbican Builders
St. Martin's Martin Lane, Eastcheap  Money lending
St Katherine Cree Leadenhall Street Leadenhall Market
St. Peter's Cornhill Bakers & Fast Food !
St. John's Tower of London Torturers
St. Ann's & St Agnes Gresham Street Coppersmiths
St. Helen's Bishopsgate Lord Mayor, Money Lender

The above Churches are featured in the London Bells Nursery Rhyme


The Bells of St Clements
St Clements is a small church situated in St. Clements Lane, Eastcheap. There have been three Churches on the site starting with the first in the 11th Century when the church is mentioned in a confirmation of grants to Westminster Abbey in 1067. The original old Church was rebuilt in the 15th Century.  The second church was destroyed in 1666 during the Great Fire of London The existing church was rebuilt in 1687 by Sir Christopher Wren (the great architect of St Paul's Cathedral). The "Oranges and lemons" refer to the citrus fruits unloaded at the nearby wharves.


The Bells of St. Margarets
St. Margarets was founded in 1197 but the original church burned down in 1440. It was rebuilt at the expense of Robert Large who was Lord Mayor of London at the time of the disaster. The second church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London of 1666 but rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren in 1690.
The "Bullseyes and Targets" refer to archery which was practised in the nearby fields. In 1363 King Edward III had commanded the obligatory practice of archery on Sundays and holidays. This tradition continued, thus ensuring the safety of the Realm, until Bows were replaced with guns.

The Bells of St. Giles
In 1090 a Norman church stood on this site but was rebuilt in 1394 during the reign of King Richard II. The church escaped the Great Fire of London in 1666 but was badly burnt in the Cripplegate Fire of 1897 and was hit by a bomb during World War II. Oliver Cromwell was married in the church on 22nd August 1620. The "Brickbats and Tiles" refers to the bricks and tiles used by nearby builders. The reference to bricks is interesting as bricks were introduced to London by Judge Popham, who resided over the trial of Guy Fawkes immortalised in the Nursery Rhyme Remember, Remember the 5th November


The Bells of St. Martins
The Bells of St. Martin's
St Martin Ongar church, situated in Martin Lane was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. Only the bell tower, complete with the original bell, has survived in the rectory of St Clements. "You owe me five farthings" relates to the moneylenders who traded nearby.
The Great Fire of London - destruction of the London Churches
Many of the old London churches were destroyed in the Great Fire of London. The fire started in Pudding Lane in the house and shop of Thomas Farynor who was baker to King Charles II. The King was aware of the risk of fire in Baker's shops and ensured that this task was conducted away from the palaces. In the London of 1666 the medieval houses were half timbered, with pitch, and most had thatched roofs - the recipe for disaster in terms of fire risks! The old St Paul's cathedral was destroyed in the fire together with 87 .churches. A total of 13,200 houses were also destroyed but amazingly only 6 were known to have died! Sir Christopher Wren, the great architect, was tasked with the reconstruction of London and built 49 new churches together with the great cathedral of St. Paul's over a period of 35 years! The city was not subject to re-planning and houses were replaced on exactly the sites of the buildings which were destroyed. To this day the City of London has the same structure which dates back to medieval times! A final note on the Great Fire! A year before, in 1665, the City was decimated by the Great Plague of London which killed 16% of the inhabitants (17,500 out of the population of 93,000) - The Great Fire whilst destroying most of London also purged it of the Plague! We recommend the following site for comprehensive information regarding the Bubonic Plague and the Black Death
http://www.william-shakespeare.in...-black-plague-elizabethan-era.htm

The Bells of St. Peter's
St Peter upon Cornhill stands on one of the most historic Christian sites in London. It dates back to AD179 when it was the site of the Roman basilica built by Lucius, the first Christian ruler of Britain. The name Cornhill derives from the Corn Market which was situated there and dated back to Roman times. An earlier church is mentioned in records dating back to 1552 - its bell was faulty and Robert Mott, Master Founder of the Aldgate Foundry, was casting a new bell. It was hung in the steeple but shortly after the church was destroyed in the
Great Fire of London and subsequently rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren in 1687. The reference to "Pancakes and Fritters" alludes to the wares which were sold to the local workers - the 'fast food' of old London!


The Bells of Whitechapel
The bells of Whitechapel do not refer to a church but to the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. The foundry was established in 1570 and famous for making the Liberty Bell which was shipped to America in 1752 and for making the 'Clock Bells' of St Paul's cathedral in 1709. The Great Clock of Westminster - known as 'Big Ben' is the most famous bell ever cast at Whitechapel. The best bells were made 'at the sign of the three bells' in Whitechapel. We are unable to trace the origins of "Two Sticks and an Apple" however the foundry produced hand bells - similar in shape to toffee apples - could be a connection. We also know that the transportation of bells to other parts of London drew great crowds and the atmosphere was similar to that of a fair where of course toffee apples were traditionally eaten

The Bells of St. Katherine's
The site of St Katherine Cree dates back to 1108 when it was served by the Augustan Priory of Holy Trinity (Christ Church). The church of St Katharine Cree was established as a separate church in the 1200's. It took its name from the original priory as the word 'Cree' is an abbreviation of "Christ Church". The body of the church was rebuilt in 1631 during the years preceding the Civil War, and is one of only eight churches in the City to survive the Great Fire of London. St Katherine Cree is located near Leadenhall market. The market was so called as it was located, in the 14th century, around a great house which boasted a lead roof. "Maids in white aprons" refers to the costume of the women of the early 1600's who sold the wares which included meat, game, poultry and fish. In 1666 the market was partially destroyed in the Great Fire of London.


The Bells of St. John's
The Chapel of St John is the oldest church in London and situated in the Tower of London on the second floor of the White Tower. The Tower of London was built in 1077 - 97 by William the Conqueror. A door from the Great Chamber on the second floor leads to the north aisle of the Chapel of St John the Evangelist. A gruesome discovery was made under the stairs leading to the chapel. The remains of the bodies of the two Little Princes, Edward V and his younger brother Richard, Duke of York were found who were reputedly killed on the orders of their uncle the Duke of Gloucester, afterwards Richard III ( although some scholars name Henry VII as the culprit). The Tower of London was used as a prison for many years and the "Pokers and Tongs" refer to the instruments of torture which were used there! We recommend castles.me.uk for fully comprehensive details regarding the Tower of London

The Bells of St. Anne's
The joint dedication of St Anne's and St Agnes church was mentioned in a grant given by Westminster Abbey in 1467. The original church was devastated during the Great Fire of London in 1666 and was the eleventh church built by Sir Christopher Wren and finished in 1680 (he built 49 churches and the new St Paul's Cathedral!) The church was hit by a bomb during World War II and required extensive reconstruction. The "Kettles and Pans" refer to the utensils sold by the coppersmiths who worked nearby.

The Bells of Aldgate - Church of St. Botolph's
The bells of Aldgate do not refer to principally to a church but to the Aldgate Bell foundry. A Master Founder, called Robert Chamberlain, can be traced back through records dated 1420. In 1588 another Master Founder called Robert Mott, who worked for the Aldgate Foundry from 1574 to1606, recast  one of the bells of the Church of St. Botolph's in Aldgate. The Church of St. Botolph's is mentioned in records dating back to 1125. St. Botolph was a pious Saxon Abbot who had built a monastery in Lincolnshire in 654AD. Saint Botolph is the Patron Saint of Boston, Massachusetts. The name was taken as a derivative of "Botolph's town" which became known "Boston". The current church was erected between 1725 and 1740 and dedicated to the Patron Saint of Travellers and Itinerants. The Church of St. Botolph's was known as the 'Prostitutes' church' because the ladies would solicit  their trade in this area. Catherine Eddowes, a victim of the notorious Jack the Ripper was seen drunk in the vicinity of the church on the night of her murder on 30th September 1888. The reference to "Old Father Bald Pate" relates to Saint Botolph. A bald pate was a colloquialism used to describe a bald-headed person.

saint botolph


botolph church

The Bells of St. Helen's
A Benedictine nunnery originally formed part of the church which dates back to 1210. In 1538 the nunnery was surrendered to King Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The convent buildings and land was acquired in 1543 by the Leathersellers' Company. The church was frequented by many rich merchants who lived in the area. These included a Mercer (cloth trader) called Sir John "Rich" Spencer. He became Lord Mayor of London in 1594 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. As his nickname indicates he was extremely wealthy as well as being very mean. He also operated as a money lender and explains the reference "You owe me Ten Shillings" in the rhyme. William Shakespeare attended this church ( the Bard was also involved in money lending and in 1570 his father John Shakespeare, also a leather seller, was accused in the Exchequer Court of Usury for lending money at the rate of 20% and 25% Interest)



The Bells of Old Bailey - St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate Church
The Old Bailey did not have its own bell - it refers to the bells of St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate church and the bell of Newgate prison! St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate is the largest church in the City of London and was sited opposite London's courthouse and the infamous Newgate prison which housed both criminals and debtors. The bell of St. Sepulchre marked the time ( death knell ) of imminent executions until Newgate prison acquired its own bell. A church has stood on this site since 1137. It was originally called St Edmund-King-and-Martyr but the name was changed during the Crusades to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The church was a useful meeting point for the Knights embarking on a crusade as it was positioned just outside a city gate. The church was destroyed by the Great Fire of London and rebuilt by Wren in 1671. The medieval courthouse of London was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 and was replaced by London's Central Criminal Court which was used during 1673 -1834. The local name for the court was the 'Old Bailey' which was so-called after the street in which it was located Bailey Street) which was right next to Newgate Prison. The phrase "When will you pay me?" refers to the Debtors housed in Newgate Prison and those tried at the Old Bailey.


The Bells of Shoreditch - St Leonard's Church, Shoreditch
The Bells of Shoreditch refer to those housed in St Leonard's Church, on Kingsland Road in Shoreditch - now part of the London Borough of Hackney. There has been a Church on the site of St. Leonards since 12th Century. St Leonards was often frequented by Elizabethan actors as it was located near to the first purpose built theatre called 'The Theatre' and also in close proximity to the 'Curtain Theatre'. The current church, was built rebuilt in 1740 but its churchyard still holds earlier graves including those of many actors including William Shakespeare's friend and builder of the Curtain Theatre, Richard Burbage. The area was considered a very poor district of London. In 1774, the Shoreditch Vestry levied a special poor rate for the purpose of setting up a workhouse for the parish of St Leonard's which illustrates the level of poverty in the area. The hopeful phrase " When I grow rich" must have been echoed by many of the inhabitants of Shoreditch.

The Bells of Stepney - St Dunstan's Church, Stepney
St Dunstan's Church is located on Stepney High Street. A church has stood on the site prior to 952AD, when a stone church was erected, replacing the previous wooden structure. The existing building is the third church to be built on this site and was erected in 1580. There are ten bells in the belfry, dating back to 1385, some which were made at the local Whitechapel Bell Foundry. St Dunstan's has a long traditional link with the sea and it was once known as the 'Church of the High Seas'. Many sailors were buried in the churchyard. The phrase "When will that be?" could possibly refer to wives waiting for sailors to return from voyages with their fortunes, when their 'boat came in'. This was particularly relevant during the 16th and 17th centuries when many sailors were employed on Voyages of Discovery to the New Worlds - their wives would have to wait for their return to receive any wages, but they never knew how long the voyages might be - a two year wait was not uncommon!

The Bells of Bow - Church of St Mary-le-Bow
St Mary-le-Bow is a historic church in the City of London, off Cheapside. There has been a church on this site dating back to before the arrival of the Normans in 1066. In 1469 the first reference to Bow bells were made in relation to the building of the steeple. In 1631 the poet and Minister John Donne (1572-1631) died and left a bequest for the upkeep of Bow bell. John Donne wrote the famous poem 'For whom the bell tolls' (No man is an island)! The current building was built by Sir Christopher Wren between 1670 and 1680, after the Great Fire of London destroyed the previous church.

Dick Whittington - Lord Mayor of London!
Dick Whittington, who the famous children's story and pantomime is based on, was a real person (1350 - 1423). He was a Mercer (a dealer in cloth) and was elected Lord Mayor of London four times. In the children's story Dick Whittington leaves London with his cat but is called back by the sound of the ringing of Bow bells.

Cockneys!
The Bow bells are important to the traditions of London and it is said that to be a true cockney you must be born within hearing distance of the sound Bow bells. Based on this fact there were no Cockneys born between 11th May 1941 (when the bells were destroyed in a World War II German air raid) and  21st December 1961 (when the Bells rung for the first time after 20 years of restoration work). The BBC used the peal of the bells of Bow at the start of each broadcast to occupied Europe during World War II.


Church of St Mary-le-Bow

   -------------------------------------------------------------------------

Doctor Foster Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme Origins & History

The Origins of the words from "Doctor Foster"
The origins and history of the poem "Doctor Foster"  are in England, this is made clear with the reference to the English county of Gloucestershire (Doctor Foster went to Gloucester...). This was a warning to children in bygone days, prior to modern roads, that what may appear to be a shallow puddle could in fact be much deeper!

"Doctor Foster" History
The origins of "Doctor Foster" are reputedly  lie in English history dating back to the Plantagenet  monarchy of the 13th century when King Edward 1 ("Doctor Foster") was thought to have visited Gloucester and fell from his horse into a large muddy puddle! He is said to have been so humiliated by this experience that he refused to ever visit Gloucester again! King Edward 1 (June 17, 1239 – July 7, 1307) was a powerful man, over six foot tall - hence his nickname of Longshanks. Edward built many castle - fortresses in Wales as part of his strategy to conquer the Welsh who were led by Llywelyn ap Gruffydd - Edward succeeded and Llywelyn became the last independent Prince of Wales.

Doctor Foster poem

Doctor Foster
Went to Gloucester
In a shower of rain.
He stepped in a puddle
Right up to his middle
And never went there again!
      -----------------------------------------------------------

Hickory, Dickory Dock
Nursery Rhyme & History

Action Rhyme reflected in the words of "Hickory, Dickory Dock"
A nonsense poem which uses alliteration where children mimic the sound of a clock chiming at the relevant point in the song. Hickory, dickory dock is intended to introduce children to the fundamentals of telling the time. Hickory, dickory dock is also known by another title "Hickory, dickory doc" inevitable perhaps due to the nonsensical nature of the words of Hickory, dickory dock! The first publication date for the "Hickory, dickory dock" rhyme is 1744. Investigation into the meanings of the words used in the rhyme led us to believe that it has its origins in America.
The Origins of Hickory
Hickory is a derived from the North American Indian word 'pawcohiccora' which is an oily milk-like liquor that is pressed from pounded hickory nuts. The word `Pohickory'' was contained in a list of Virginia trees published in 1653. The word ' Pohickory' was subsequently shortened to `hickory.'
The Origins of Dock
Dock is a species of plant which has the Latin name of Rumex crispus. A well-known weed which has a long taproot making it difficult to exterminate. The Dock plant can be used as an astringent or tonic and many of us would have experienced the healing properties of the Dock leaf after being stung by a stinging nettle!
Hickory Dickory Dock rhyme

Hickory dickory dock
The mouse ran up the clock
The clock struck one
The mouse ran down
Hickory dickory dock

      --------------------------------------------------------------

The Queen of Hearts Nursery Rhyme

Alice in Wonderland
This rhyme first appeared in print in 1782. But the term and famous reference to the 'Queen of Hearts' can be found in the work of Lewis G. Carroll in his book entitled 'Alice in Wonderland' which was first published in 1805. The Queen of Hearts in the story was famous for the saying "Off with their heads!" when she was annoyed with her servants.
The Queen of Hearts Playing Card
Decks of cards depicting illustrations of of Kings and Queens can be traced back to France in 1650. These French cards portrayed the Queen of Hearts as Judith from the Bible. This depiction of Judith was to convey the attribute of courage. In the Bible Judith killed the Assyrian General Holofernes.
Princess Diana
In more recent history the term the Queen of Hearts was used by Princess Diana during her famous interview with Martin Bashir. Princess Diana stated  her preference to the title the Queen of Hearts to that of Queen of England. Princess Diana is now lovingly referred to as the Queen of Hearts

The Queen of Hearts poem

The Queen of Hearts she made some tarts all on a summer's day;
The Knave of Hearts he stole the tarts and took them clean away.
The King of Hearts called for the tarts and beat the Knave full sore
The Knave of Hearts brought back the tarts and
vowed he'd steal no more.

          ----------------------------------------------------------

Three Blind Mice Rhyme

Nursery Rhyme & History

The origin of the 'tale' of Three blind mice!
The origin of the words to the Three blind mice rhyme are based in English history. The 'farmer's wife' refers to the daughter of King Henry VIII, Queen Mary I. Mary was a staunch Catholic and her violent persecution of Protestants led to the nickname of 'Bloody Mary'. The reference to 'farmer's wife' in Three blind mice refers to the massive estates which she, and her husband King Philip of Spain, possessed. The 'three blind mice' were three noblemen who adhered to the Protestant faith who were convicted of plotting against the Queen - she did not have them dismembered and blinded as inferred in Three blind mice - but she did have them burnt at the stake! Another Nursery Rhyme which features 'Bloody Mary' can be found as follows: Mary Mary Quite Contrary Nursery Rhyme

Three Blind Mice rhyme poem

Three blind mice, three blind mice,
See how they run, see how they run,
They all ran after the farmer's wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a thing in your life,
As three blind mice?


Queen Mary 1
  --------------------------------------------------------------------

Old Mother Hubbard
Nursery Rhyme & History

Origins of Old Mother Hubbard lyrics in British history
The Old Mother Hubbard referred to in this rhyme's words allude to the famous Cardinal Wolsey. Cardinal Thomas Wolsey was the most important statesman and churchman of the Tudor history period in 16th century England. Cardinal Wolsey  proved to be a faithful servant but displeased the King, Henry VIII, by failing to facilitate the King's divorce from Queen Katherine of Aragon who had been his queen of many years. The reason for seeking the divorce and hence the creation of the Old Mother Hubbard poem was to  enable him to marry Anne Boleyn with whom he was passionately in love. In the Old Mother Hubbard song King Henry was the "doggie" and the "bone" refers to the divorce (and not money as many believe) The cupboard relates to the Catholic Church although the subsequent divorce arranged by Thomas Cramner resulted in the break with Rome and the formation of the English Protestant church and the demise of Old Mother Hubbard - Cardinal Wolsey. Another rhyme reputedly relates to Cardinal Wolsey Little Boy Blue

Old Mother Hubbard poem

Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard
To get her poor doggie a bone,
When she got there
The cupboard was bare
So the poor little doggie had none.
     -----------------------------------------------------------------

Mary had a Little Lamb Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme & History

Mary had a little lamb -  use of language
The words of the American nursery rhyme Mary had a little lamb would appeal to a small children and introduces imagery of similes (white as snow) as part of use of the English language. The words also convey the hopeful adage that love is reciprocated! No specific historical connection can be traced to the words of
Mary had a little lamb but it can be confirmed that the song Mary had a little lamb is American as the words were written by Sarah Hale, of Boston, in 1830. An interesting historical note about this rhyme - the words of Mary had a Little Lamb were the first ever recorded by Thomas Edison, on tin foil, on his phonograph.  

Mary had a little lamb

Mary had a little lamb its fleece was white as snow;
And everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go.
It followed her to school one day, which was against the rule;
It made the children laugh and play, to see a lamb at school.
And so the teacher turned it out, but still it lingered near,
And waited patiently about till Mary did appear.
"Why does the lamb love Mary so?" the eager children cry;
"Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know" the teacher did reply.
   -------------------------------------------------------------------

Little Boy Blue Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme & History

Origins of the Little Boy Blue story - A Connection with Tudor History?
The words and story of Little Boy Blue cannot be positively connected to any historical figure in history but there is, however, a theory that 'Little Boy Blue' refers to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (1475-1530) dating back to English Tudor history and the reign of King Henry VIII. Wolsey was an extremely rich and arrogant self-made man with many enemies at court and was unpopular with the people of England. He was called the "Boy Bachelor" after obtaining his degree from Oxford at the unusually early age of fifteen. The expression "Blowing one's own horn" meaning to brag was certainly practised by Cardinal Wolsey. Between 1514 and 1525 he transformed a medieval manor into the magnificent Hampton Court Palace. It was an ostentatious display of his wealth and his power giving rise to the rhyme uttered by his enemies:

"Come ye to court? Which Court?
The King's Court or Hampton Court?"

The anti-Wolsey propaganda worked and in 1529 Henry declared all of Wolsey's lands and possessions forfeit and they became the property of the Crown. At this time England was a prosperous nation largely through the wool trade and the export taxes on wool had augmented both Henry's treasury and Wolsey's assets. The words "where's the boy who looks after the sheep?" could refer to Wolsey's concern with lining his own coffers as opposed to that of the country. The cardinal's robes were scarlet but Wolsey's Blazon of Arms included the blue faces of four leopards - perhaps this was why the title of the rhyme is Little Boy Blue?  The Little Boy Blue rhyme may have been a secret message of dissent concerning the greed of the statesman prior to his downfall. Open criticism of the Cardinal would have led to imprisonment, confiscation of property or even death . Another rhyme reputedly relating to Cardinal Wolsey is Old Mother Hubbard

The Nursery Rhyme Boy Blue

Little Boy Blue come blow your horn,
The sheep's in the meadow the cow's in the corn.
But where's the boy who looks after the sheep?
He's under a haystack fast asleep.
Will you wake him? No, not I - for if I do, he's sure to cry
        ----------------------------------------------------------------

Ladybug Ladybug Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme & History

Traditional Nursery Rhyme
"Ladybug, ladybug" is chanted by children when a  ladybug insect lands on their person. If the ladybug doesn't fly away of its own accord the child would gently blow it away chanting "Ladybug Ladybug fly away home". This insect is found every summer in the gardens of Britain - the most common colour is red with black spots, less common are the yellow variety. In Britain ladybugs are referred to as 'ladybirds'.
Ladybird History Connection - Gunpowder Plot Conspirators?
Farmers knew of the Ladybird's value in reducing the level of pests in their crops and it was traditional for them to cry out the rhyme before they burnt their fields following harvests ( this reduced the level of insects and pests) in deference to the helpful ladybird:

"Ladybird, ladybird fly away home,
Your house in on fire and your children are gone"

The English word ladybird is a derivative of the Catholic term " Our Lady". The tradition of calling this rhyme was believed to have been used as a seemingly innocent warning cry to Catholic (recusants) who refused to attend Protestant services as required by the Act of Uniformity (1559 & 1662). This law forbade priests to say Mass and forbade communicants to attend it. Consequently Mass was held secretly in the open fields. Laymen were subject to jail and heavy fines and priests to execution. Many priests were executed by the terrible death of being burnt alive at the stake or, even worse, being hung, drawn and quartered. The most famous English recusants were Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot Conspirators.
The American Version of the Lyrics
It is possible that the word Ladybird was exchanged for Ladybug, in the American version of the nursery rhyme, due the word association with Firebug meaning an arsonist or pyromaniac.  The first publication date was 1865 and the word ladybird was used as opposed to ladybug. There has been some speculation that this Nursery Rhyme originates from the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666


The picture above is of the 'Gunpowder Plot' conspirators
Starting with Thomas Bates, Robert Wintour, Christopher Wright, John Wright, Thomas Percy, Guy Fawkes, Robert Catesby and Thomas Wintour

Ladybug Ladybug aka Ladybird Ladybird rhyme

Ladybug ladybug fly away home,
Your house in on fire and your children are gone,
All except one and that's little Ann,
For she crept under the frying pan.

_________________
The supernatural & paranormal is out there.

(ADMIN) madmart
http://Believe.myfreeforum.org
http://Supernaturalearth.myfreeforum.org


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2007 10:18 pm    Post subject: MEANINGS OF NURSERY RHYMES Reply with quote

MEANINGS OF NURSERY RHYMES;-

London bridge is falling down
Nursery Rhyme

Nursery Rhyme History

The Wooden Bridge
The 'London Bridge is falling down' Nursery Rhyme is based on the one of the most famous landmarks in London. It's history can be traced to the Roman occupation of England in the first century. The first London Bridge was made of wood and clay and was fortified or re-built with the various materials mentioned in the children's nursery rhyme. Many disasters struck the bridges - Viking invaders destroyed the bridge in the 1000's which led to a fortified design, complete with a drawbridge. Building materials changed due to the many fires that broke out on the bridge.
The Stone Bridge
The first stone bridge was designed by Peter de Colechurch and built in 1176 and took 33 years to build and featured twenty arches the dimensions of which were sixty feet high and thirty feet wide and was complete with tower and gates. The flow of the Thames under the bridge was used to turn water wheels below the arches for grinding grain. By the 1300's the bridge contained 140 shops, some of which were more than three stories high. ( The reference to Silver and Gold in the rhyme relates to the trading which was conducted on the bridge). London Bridge survived the Great Fire of London in 1666 but its arches and foundations were weakened. (Buildings with thatched roofs were banned in London following the Great Fire of 1666 and this ban was only lifted with the construction of the New Globe Theater in 1994 - the following website is highly recommended for further details of the Globe william-shakespeare.info
The Modern Re-builds!
In the 1820s a new London Bridge was built on another site, north of the old one. This new bridge opened in 1831 and the old bridge was demolished. In the 1960s yet another London Bridge was built. The London Bridge of 1831 was transported, stone by stone, to Lake Havasu in Arizona, USA.
NB ;- There is another Nursery Rhyme called 'London bridge is broken down' - its origins relate to Queen Anne Boleyn - fascinating! And for other surprising revelations about Executions, Torturers and Lord Mayors check out London Bells a Nursery Rhyme containing the original lyrics to Oranges and Lemons!


A Picture of London Bridge, complete with houses, gatehouse and church

London bridge is falling down - Nursery Rhyme

London Bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down,
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair Lady.

Build it up with wood and clay,
Wood and clay, wood and clay,
Build it up with wood and clay,
My fair Lady.

Wood and clay will wash away,
Wash away, wash away,
Wood and clay will wash away,
My fair Lady.

Build it up with bricks and mortar,
Bricks and mortar, bricks and mortar,
Build it up with bricks and mortar,
My fair Lady.


Bricks and mortar will not stay,
Will not stay, will not stay,
Bricks and mortar will not stay,
My fair Lady.

Build it up with iron and steel,
Iron and steel, iron and steel,
Build it up with iron and steel,
My fair Lady.

Iron and steel will bend and bow,
Bend and bow, bend and bow,
Iron and steel will bend and bow,
My fair Lady.

Build it up with silver and gold,
Silver and gold, silver and gold,
Build it up with silver and gold,
My fair Lady.

Silver and gold will be stolen away,
Stolen away, stolen away,
Silver and gold will be stolen away,
My fair Lady.

Set a man to watch all nigh,
Watch all night, watch all night,
Set a man to watch all night,
My fair Lady.

Suppose the man should fall asleep,
Fall asleep, fall asleep,
Suppose the man should fall asleep?
My fair Lady.

Give him a pipe to smoke all night,
Smoke all night, smoke all night,
Give him a pipe to smoke all night,
My fair Lady
 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ding Dong Bell Rhyme
"Ding Dong Bell" Nursery Rhyme & History

"Ding Dong Bell" a poem with a moral theme
The origins of this nursery rhyme date back to the 16th century and the era of Shakespeare who used the phrase "Ding Dong Bell" in several plays. The original lyrics of "Ding Dong Bell"  actually ended with the cat being left to drown!  These words were modified and the cat was saved by 'Little Tommy Stout' to encourage children to understand that it was unacceptable and cruel to harm any animal 'who ne'er did any harm'. The latter version taught  morality at an early age. "Ding Dong Bell" also introduces a child to onomatopoeia ( a word that sounds like its meaning) In this nursery rhyme the lyrics and words "ding dong"  when pronounced convey the actual sounds!

The Shakespeare Connection!
The phrase " Ding Dong Bell" was used by William Shakespeare - but given the original drafts of Shakespeare plays were in Quarto text and the majority were not published until 1623 in the First Folio (7 years after his death) could the phrase actually be the writer's original instructions for sound effects?

The Tempest, Act I, Scene II:
"Sea nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark! Now I hear them - Ding, dong, bell."

The Merchant of Venice, Act III, Scene II:
"Let us all ring fancy's bell;
I'll begin it - Ding, dong, bell."

For a comprehensive Shakespeare website we recommend a visit to
william-shakespeare.info

Ding dong bell poem

Ding dong bell
Pussy's in the well
Who put her in?
Little Johnny Flynn
Who pulled her out?
Little Tommy Stout
What a naughty boy was that
Try to drown poor Pussycat,
Who ne'er did any harm
But killed all the mice
In the Farmer's barn!
     --------------------------------------------------------------------------

Goosey Goosey Gander Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme & History

Zealous Protestants & Secret Priest Holes
Goosey, Goosey Gander is a Rhyme with Historical undertones - an attention grabber for a nursery rhyme which uses alliteration in the lyrics designed to intrigue any child. The 'lady's chamber' was a room that once upon a time a high born lady would have her own chamber, (also referred to as a solar). The origins of the nursery rhyme are believed to date back to the 16th century and refer to necessity for Catholic priests to hide in 'Priest Holes' ( very small secret rooms once found in many great houses in England) to avoid persecution from zealous Protestants who were totally against the old Catholic religion. If caught both the priest and members of any family found harbouring them were executed. The moral in Goosey Goosey Gander's lyrics imply that something unpleasant would surely happen to anyone failing to say their prayers correctly - meaning the Protestant Prayers, said in English as opposed to Catholic prayers which were said in Latin!

Goosey Goosey Gander poem

Goosey Goosey Gander where shall I wander,
Upstairs, downstairs and in my lady's chamber
There I met an old man who wouldn't say his prayers,
I took him by the left leg and threw him down the stairs.
  ------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Grand old Duke of York Rhyme
"The grand old Duke of York" Nursery Rhyme & History

The Wars of the Roses
The origin to the words of  "The grand old Duke of York" are believed to date back to the Plantagenet dynasty in the 15th century and refer mockingly to the defeat of Richard, "The grand old Duke of York"  in the Wars of the Roses (1455). This war was between the house of York (whose symbol was a white rose) and the house of Lancaster (whose symbol was a red rose). The Wars of the Roses lasted for over thirty years and were equivalent to a Civil War.

Origins of the Rhyme
The words of the Nursery rhyme are believed to refer to Richard, Duke of York, claimant to the English throne and Protector of England and the Battle of Wakefield on December 30, 1460.  The Duke of York and his army marched to his castle at Sandal where Richard took up a defensive position against the Lancastrian army. Sandal Castle was built on top of the site of an old Norman motte and bailey fortress. Its massive earthworks stood 33 feet (10m) above the original ground level ("he marched them up to the top of the hill"). In a moment of madness he left his stronghold in the castle and went down to make a direct attack on the Lancastrians " he marched them down again". His army was overwhelmed and Richard the Duke of York was killed. A similar Nursery rhyme is The King of France went up the hill


Picture of  Motte and Bailey castle fortress

The Grand old Duke of York poem

The Grand old Duke of York he had ten thousand men
He marched them up to the top of the hill
And he marched them down again.
When they were up, they were up
And when they were down, they were down
And when they were only halfway up
They were neither up nor down.
   ------------------------------------------------------------------

Polly Put the Kettle on
Nursery Rhyme & History

The lyrics to "Polly put the kettle on" Nursery rhyme
"Polly put the kettle on" was published in 1797. The origin of "Polly put the kettle on"  was based on the author having five children - two boys and three girls. There were constant arguments as the boys wanted to play soldiers and the girls wanted to play house! When the girls wanted to play without their brothers they would pretend to start a game of tea party "Polly put the kettle on" and the daughter, called Polly, would put the toy kettle on! As soon as the brothers left Sukey (or Susan) would take it off again! Their father was so amused by this ploy that he set it to words and added the music which were subsequently published.

Polly Put the Kettle on poem

Polly put the kettle on,
Polly put the kettle on,
Polly put the kettle on,
We'll all have tea.
Sukey take it off again,
Sukey take it off again,
Sukey take it off again,
They've all gone away.
  ----------------------------------------------------------------------

London bridge is broken down

Nursery Rhyme

Nursery Rhyme & History

Who was Lady Lee?
The origins of this nursery rhyme are truly fascinating and have roots in the extraordinary events surrounding King Henry VIII of England (1491–1547) and his second, tragic, wife Anne Boleyn. The 'Lady Lee'  referred to in the Nursery Rhyme was, in fact, Lady Margaret Wyatt, the sister of Thomas Wyatt the poet. She  married Sir Anthony Lee of Quarrendon and thus became Lady Lee. The Wyatts were neighbours of the Boleyn family and Anne and Margaret were childhood friends.
Anne Boleyn
As Anne rose in power Margaret accompanied her and become a trusted lady-in-waiting. When Anne was accused of bigamy Thomas Wyatt was accused with her, but he was later released. Margaret, Lady Lee, stayed with Anne Boleyn until her execution and attended the ill-fated queen on the scaffold. The nursery rhyme 'London bridge is broken down' can be described as an allegory - a description of one thing under the image of another. The words of the nursery rhyme are believed to describe the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn (the gay ladye) and the lyrics use the name of Lady Lee to clearly identify the central character, Anne Boleyn. The Hidden Secrets in Nursery Rhymes
Many nursery rhymes have secret, hidden, meanings and allude to people and events in history. Anne Boleyn was hated by the common people of England, due to her haughty manner and the common folk's strong allegiance to Henry VIII's first wife, Katherine of Aragon. Open criticism of Anne was approved and encouraged during the reigns of Henry VIII and his eldest daughter Mary (Bloody Mary - Henry and Katherine's daughter). But when Queen Elizabeth I ascended to the throne all such approval and criticism stopped - the new Queen was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. The words and lyrics of 'London bridge is broken down' are thus explained. Click the following link for more information about the execution of Anne Boleyn
http://www.love-poems.me.uk/biography_boleyn_anne.htm
The gruesome practice of execution by beheading is revealed in the nursery rhyme Jack and Jill

The most famous Nursery Rhyme on this subject is 'London bridge is falling down' - details of the history and origins are available here ABOVE - fascinating! And for surprising revelations about Executioners, Torturers and Lord Mayors check out ;-
London Bells the Nursery Rhyme which contains the original lyrics to
Oranges and Lemons!

London bridge is broken down Nursery Rhyme

London bridge is broken down,
Dance over my Lady Lee,
London bridge is broken down,
With a gay ladye.

How shall we build it up again?
Dance over my Lady Lee,
How shall we build it up again?
With a gay ladye.

We'll build it up with gravel and stone,
Dance over my Lady Lee,
We'll build it up with gravel and stone,
With a gay ladye.

Gravel and stone will be washed away,
Dance over my Lady Lee,
Gravel and stone will be washed away,
With a gay ladye.

We'll build it up with iron and steel,
Dance over my Lady Lee,
We'll build it up with iron and steel,
With a gay ladye.

Iron and steel will bend and break,
Dance over my Lady Lee,
Iron and steel will bend and break,
With a gay ladye.

We'll build it up with silver and gold,
Dance over my Lady Lee,
We'll build it up with silver and gold,
With a gay ladye.

Silver and gold will be stolen away,
Dance over my Lady Lee,
Silver and gold will be stolen away,
With a gay ladye.

We'll set a man to watch it then,
Dance over my Lady Lee,
We'll set a man to watch it then,
With a gay ladye.

Suppose the man should fall asleep,
Dance over my Lady Lee,
Suppose the man should fall asleep,
With a gay ladye.

We'll put a pipe into his mouth,
Dance over my Lady Lee,
We'll put a pipe into his mouth,
With a gay ladye.
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One two buckle my shoe
Nursery Rhyme & History

Origins of the lyrics to "one two buckle my shoe" rhyme
These nursery rhyme lyrics have no traceable connection with any events in history. There is no historical or political association to one two buckle my shoe. Devised as a pleasurable and fun way to teach children how to count using one two buckle my shoe and its different imagery to fire a child's imagination. The rhyming used in one two buckle my shoe helps aid knowledge retention.

One two buckle my shoe ;-- aka "1 2 buckle my shoe"

One two buckle my shoe
Three, four, knock at the door
Five, six, pick up sticks
Seven, eight, lay them straight
Nine, ten, a big fat hen
Eleven, twelve, dig and delve
Thirteen, fourteen, maids a-courting
Fifteen, sixteen, maids in the kitchen
Seventeen, eighteen, maids in waiting
Nineteen, twenty, my plate's empty
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Pat a cake Pat a cake Rhyme

The origins and lyrics of Pat a cake

The origins of the Pat a cake poem are unknown, but the tradition of decorating cakes with the name or initial of a child is still adhered to today! The song Pat a cake is always accompanied by a clapping game - much loved by children everywhere. The actions which accompany Pat a cake probably account for the ritual of passing this particular song from one generation to the next.
Earliest traceable publication 1698.

Historical Note:
The Bakers of London

The Picture depicts fire-fighting in London. The Great Fire of London of 1666 was started in a Baker's shop, in Pudding Lane and ravaged the City. Bakeries were always viewed as Fire Risks and the premises of the baker to King Charles I was also situated in Pudding Lane so the below poem could POSSIBLY HAVE LINKS to the great fire of london.

Pat a cake Pat a cake poem

Pat a cake, Pat a cake, baker's man
Bake me a cake as fast as you can;
Pat it and prick it and mark it with a 'B',
And put it in the oven for Baby and me.  
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Pussycat Pussycat Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme & History

The origins of the nursery rhyme "Pussycat pussycat"!
The origins of the "Pussycat pussycat" rhyme dates back to the history of 16th century Tudor England. One of the waiting ladies of Queen Elizabeth Ist had an old cat which roamed throughout Windsor castle. On one particular occasion the cat ran beneath the throne where its tail brushed against the Queen's foot, startling her. Luckily 'Good Queen Bess' had a sense of humour and decreed that the cat could wander about the throne room, on condition it kept it free of mice!

Pussycat Pussycat poem

"Pussycat pussycat, where have you been?"
"I've been up to London to visit the Queen."
"Pussycat pussycat, what did you dare?"
"I frightened a little mouse under her chair"
"MEOWW!"
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Remember Remember
the Fifth of November

Nursery Rhyme & History

Guy Fawkes & the Gunpowder Plot
Words of "Remember Remember" refer to Guy Fawkes with origins in 17th century English history. On the 5th November 1605 Guy Fawkes was caught in the cellars of the Houses of Parliament with several dozen barrels of gunpowder. Guy Fawkes was subsequently tried as a traitor with his co-conspirators for plotting against the government. He was tried by Judge Popham who came to London specifically for the trial from his country manor Littlecote House in Hungerford, Gloucestershire. Fawkes was sentenced to death and the  form of the execution was one of the most horrendous ever practised (hung ,drawn and quartered) which reflected the serious nature of the crime of treason.

The Tradition begins...
The following year in 1606 it became an annual custom for the King and Parliament to commission a sermon to commemorate the event. Lancelot Andrewes delivered the first of many Gunpowder Plot Sermons. This practice, together with the nursery rhyme, ensured that this crime would never be forgotten! Hence the words " Remember , remember the 5th of November" The poem is sometimes referred to as 'Please to remember the fifth of November'. It serves as a warning to each new generation that treason will never be forgotten. In England the 5th of November is still commemorated each year with fireworks and bonfires culminating with the burning of effigies of Guy Fawkes (the guy). The 'guys' are made by children by filling old clothes with crumpled newspapers to look like a man. Tradition allows British children to display their 'guys' to passers-by and asking for " A penny for the guy".

Remember Remember poem

Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot...
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Ride a Cock Horse to Banbury Cross
Banbury Cross - English Nursery Rhyme Origin & History

The words of the Banbury Cross nursery rhyme are often attributed to Queen Elizabeth I of England (the fine lady) who travelled to Banbury to see a huge stone cross which had just been erected. The words 'With rings on her fingers' obviously relates to the fine jewellery which would be worn by a Queen. The words 'And bells on her toes' refer to the fashion of attaching bells to the end of the pointed toes of each shoe - this fashion actually originates from the Plantagenet era of English history but was associated with the nobility for some time! Banbury was situated at the top of a steep hill and in order to help carriages up the steep incline a white cock horse (a large stallion) was made available by the town's council to help with this task. When the Queen's carriage attempted to go up the hill a wheel broke and the Queen chose to mount the cock horse and ride to the Banbury cross. The people of the town had  decorated the cock horse with ribbons and bells and provided minstrels to accompany her - "she shall have music wherever she goes". The massive stone cross at Banbury was unfortunately later destroyed by anti - Catholics who opposed the notion of pilgrimages.

Ride a Cock Horse to Banbury Cross
Nursery Rhyme poem

Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross
To see a fine lady upon a white horse
With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes
She shall have music wherever she goes

Alternative meaning to the Banbury Cross English Nursery Rhyme ;-

"The woman in question was in fact Lady Katherine Banbury, wife of Lord Jonathan Banbury. Miss Amy Banbury, sub matron of Auckland hospital, New Zealand (my grandfather's cousin) recalled after World War I her grandfather, Squire of Burford near Banbury in Oxfordshire, telling her that he distinctly recalled the white horse on which the "fine lady" used to ride. Among Lady Banbury's jewels were many very beautiful rings of which she was very fond. The bells were the tiny bells often used in those days to trim the edges of a lady's velvet saddle cloth. Miss Amy Banbury had a copy of the music written for the rhyme by a well known musician of the day, along with fine oak furniture from Banbury Castle. These matters were reported in the New Zealand Herald some years after the end of World War I "
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Seesaw Marjorie Daw Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme & History

History in a game for children in "Seesaw Margery Daw"
The seesaw is the oldest 'ride' for children , easily constructed from logs of different  sizes. The words of "Seesaw Marjorie Daw" reflect children playing on a see-saw and singing this rhyme to accompany their game. There was no such person that we can identify who had the name Marjorie Daw and we therefore make the assumption that this was purely used to rhyme with the words 'seesaw' i.e "Seesaw Marjory Daw". The last three lines of "Seesaw Margery Daw" appear to reflect the use of child labour in work houses where those with nowhere else to live would be forced to work for a pittance (a penny a day) on piece work (because he can't work any faster). The words of "Seesaw Margery Daw" might be used by a spiteful child to taunt another implying his family were destined for the workhouse.

Seesaw Margery Daw poem

Seesaw Margery Daw
Johnny shall have a new master
He shall earn but a penny a day
Because he can't work any faster
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Pease Pudding Hot Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme & History

Pease pudding hot - the origins of the words are based on a traditional British dish
The pease pudding hot referred to in the words of this poem is a dish which is still enjoyed in Britain today. It is a smooth, thick sauce, (referred to as a pudding in the rhyme for the sake of alliteration) which has a dark yellow colour. Pease pudding is a hot dish made from dried peas - it can be re-heated as often as required (Pease pudding in the pot - nine days old). Pease pudding is traditionally served hot with boiled bacon or a form of sausage called a saveloy.

Pease pudding rhyme poem

Pease pudding hot, Pease pudding cold,
Pease pudding in the pot - nine days old.
Some like it hot, some like it cold,
Some like it in the pot  - nine days old.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2007 10:50 pm    Post subject: MEANINGS OF NURSERY RHYMES Reply with quote

MEANINGS OF NURSERY RHYMES ;-

Lucy Lockett
Rhyme & History

Lucy Locket lost her pocket,
Kitty Fisher found it;
Not a penny was there in it,
Only ribbon round it.

The words of the Nursery Rhyme, 'Lucy Lockett' were based on people and places in London during the 1700's. Lucy Lockett was believed to be a barmaid at the Cock public House in Fleet Street, London. This pub, or alehouse was first established in 1554 and rebuilt in 1888. Samuel Pepys mentioned the Cock Alehouse in his diary which stated:

April 23 1668
"To the Cock Alehouse and drank and eat a lobster, and sang..."

Kitty Fisher was a famous courtesan - Catherine Maria ('Kitty') Fisher (died 1767). Her lifestyle was described as follows:

"She lives in the greatest possible splendor, spends twelve thousand pounds a year, and she is the first of her social class to employ liveried servants..."

The Pocket referred to was the old Middle English word for a pouch or a small bag. The implication is that poor Lucy Lockett made very little money as opposed to the similarly employed Kitty who was envied for her great beauty and vast wealth!
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One Two Three Four Five (1 2 3 4 5)
Nursery Rhyme & History

The lyrics of "one two three four five (1 2 3 4 5)" rhyme
The lyrics of the poem "one two three four five (1 2 3 4 5)" are not based on any events in history. "One two three four five (1 2 3 4 5)" is an educational rhyme with the words devised with the specific intention of teaching children to count thus increasing their numeric powers. Strangely enough the title of "one two three four five (1 2 3 4 5)" is often changed to "Once I caught a fish alive". The earliest traceable publication is 1888.

One two three four five 1 2 3 4 5 : poem
AKA - Once I caught a fish alive

One, two, three, four, five.
Once I caught a fish alive,
Six, seven, eight, nine ,ten,
Then I let it go again.
Why did you let it go?
Because it bit my finger so.
Which finger did it bite?
This little finger on the right.
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Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme & History

American origins in "Peter Peter pumpkin eater"
The lyrics of the "Peter Peter pumpkin eater" rhyme (unlike most) originate not in Europe, but in America. This rhyme is has become known to British children only in recent years as for most British children it has only just become clear exactly what a pumpkin is! As it is not indigenous to the British shores the vast majority of the British population have never eaten pumpkin! The American tradition of dressing up for Halloween (and the subsequent use of the pumpkin for making lanterns) together with 'Trick or Treat' has only reached our shores a few years ago.

Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater poem

Peter Peter pumpkin eater,
Had a wife and couldn't keep her!
He put her in a pumpkin shell,
And there he kept her very well!
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Ring Around the Rosy Rhyme
Origins of "Ring around the rosy" in English History

Connections to the Bubonic Plague (Black Death)?
The words to the Ring around the rosy children's ring game have their origin in English history . The historical period dates back to the Great Plague of London in 1665 (bubonic plague) or even before when the first outbreak of the Plague hit England in the 1300's. The symptoms of the plague included a rosy red rash in the shape of a ring on the skin (Ring around the rosy). Pockets and pouches were filled with sweet smelling herbs ( or posies) which were carried due to the belief that the disease was transmitted by bad smells. The term "Ashes Ashes" refers to the cremation of the dead bodies! The death rate was over 60% and the plague was only halted by the Great Fire of London in 1666 which killed the rats which carried the disease which was transmitting via water sources. The English version of "Ring around the rosy" replaces Ashes with (A-tishoo, A-tishoo) as violent sneezing was another symptom of the disease. We recommend the following site for comprehensive information regarding the Bubonic Plague.
http://www.william-shakespeare.in...-black-plague-elizabethan-era.htm

Views of the Sceptics
The connection between this Rhyme was made by James Leasor in 1961 in his non-fiction book ' The Plague and the Fire. Some people are sceptical of the plague interpretations of this rhyme, many stating that words in the rhyme cannot be found in Middle English. The sceptics must be referring to the later version of the rhyme, possibly with American origins, the English version is "Ring a ring o' rosies" using the Middle English "o" as a shortening of the word "of". The written word " posies" is first mentioned in a poem called 'Prothalamion or A Spousal Verse' by Edmund Spenser (1552-1599). We believe that this addresses the views of the sceptics.



Picture of a Plague Physician
of the 17th Century

Ring around the rosy
AKA as Ring a ring o' rosies

Ring around the rosy
A pocketful of posies
"Ashes, Ashes"
We all fall down!

Ring-a-Ring o'Rosies
A Pocket full of Posies
"A-tishoo! A-tishoo!"
We all fall Down!
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Simple Simon
Nursery Rhyme & History

Origin of the lyrics to "Simple Simon"
In the days before fast food and convenience stores were invented food was sold from street sellers from trays of food. A fair was an extremely popular place to sell 'your ware' The tradition and history of fairs dates back to Medieval England. The term 'Adieu' meaning 'Goodbye' is no longer used  in the English language but will never be lost forever due to rhymes such as Simple Simon! The modern day version of Simple Simon can be found in the song and a game where children have to do exactly what "Simple Simon" says!

Simple Simon poem

Simple Simon met a pieman going to the fair;
Said Simple Simon to the pieman "Let me taste your ware"
Said the pieman to Simple Simon "Show me first your penny"
Said Simple Simon to the pieman "Sir, I have not any!"

Simple Simon went a-fishing for to catch a whale;
All the water he had got was in his mother's pail.
Simple Simon went to look if plums grew on a thistle;
He pricked his fingers very much which made poor Simon whistle.
He went for water in a sieve but soon it all fell through;
And now poor Simple Simon bids you all "Adieu"
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Rock a Bye Baby Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme - American & English History

Origins of words to "Rock a bye baby" in American history
The words and lyrics to the "Rock a bye baby" rhyme are reputed to reflect the observations of a young pilgrim boy in America who had seen Native Indian mothers suspend a birch bark cradle from the branches of a tree. Thus enabling the wind to rock the cradle and the child to sleep!  This rhyme is also known as "Hush a bye baby" which is the correct title. The confusion regarding these lyrics occurred due to the popularity of the old Al Jolson classic song "Rock a bye my baby with a Dixie melody!".
 
Origins of words to "Rock a bye baby" in English history
dating back to the 1700's

The story of the Nursery Rhyme relates to a family who lived in a tree house which was formed within a massive Yew tree. The Yew Tree concerned was believed to be nearly 2000 years old. The family were charcoal burners who lived in Shining Cliff Woods, Ambergate, Derbyshire in the 1700's. The ancient occupation of Charcoal Burning would be conducted by people who actually lived in the woods. Just like like this family. Their names were Kate and Luke Kennyon and they lived in what was locally called the 'Betty Kenny Tree' - a colloquialism for Kate Kenyon. The Kenyons had 8 children and a tree bough was hollowed out to act as a cradle for their children! Shining Cliff Woods was owned at the time by the Hurt family. The Kenyons were favoured by the Hurts who commissioned the artist James Ward of the Royal Academy to paint their portraits. The Yew tree still exists but was severely fire damaged by vandals in the 1930s. More information may be located on the Amber Valley Borough Council website.

Rock a bye baby song
AKA Hush a bye baby

Rock a bye baby on the tree top,
When the wind blows the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.
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Sing a Song of Sixpence
(Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie)
Nursery Rhyme & History

Action words to the poem " Sing a song of sixpence" Rhyme with some history!
Lovely words to this children's action nursery rhyme which is often referred to as blackbirds baked in a pie probably because the image that blackbirds baked in a pie would create in a child's mind . The rye ( a pocketful of rye) was purchased to feed birds. Blackbirds, and other song birds, were actually eaten as a delicacy! However a court jester may well have suggested to the court cook to bake a pie pastry crust and place this over some live blackbirds to surprise and amuse the King! It would not be unreasonable for the blackbirds to look for revenge hence "When down came a blackbird and pecked off her nose!" It is interesting to note that the references to the counting house and eating honey were the common man's  perception of what a King and Queen spent their time doing. The nursery rhyme Sing a song of sixpence or blackbirds baked in a pie always end with the tweaking of a child's nose!

Sing a song of sixpence
AKA blackbirds in a pie

Sing a song of sixpence a pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened the birds began to sing,
Oh wasn't that a dainty dish to set before the king?
The king was in his counting house counting out his money,
The queen was in the parlour eating bread and honey
The maid was in the garden hanging out the clothes,
When down came a blackbird and pecked off her nose!

Additional Information about the Sing a Song of Sixpence Nursery Rhyme History

additional information:
"During the Medieval times, there were occasions when the cook in the house of a wealthy knight did indeed put live birds (often pigeons, but I'm sure it could just as easily have been blackbirds) inside a huge pastry crust, on his own initiative. This was seen as a great joke and the cook would usually have a real pie waiting to bring in when the birds had been released."
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Wee Willie Winkie
The origin of the Wee Willie Winkie rhyme

The explanation of the words to Wee Willie Winkie was to teach children to associate every day tasks with their own lives. Before the days of the wireless, television and the Internet great reliance was put upon the Town Crier to pass on the latest news and information. 'Wee Willie Winkie' was the children's version of the Town Crier! The author of the poem was William Miller (1810 - 1872) and the first publication date of the words to Wee Willie Winkie was in 1841.

Wee Willie Winkie rhyme poem

Wee Willie Winkie runs through the town,
Upstairs and downstairs in his nightgown,
Tapping at the window and crying through the lock,
Are all the children in their beds, it's past eight o'clock?

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Location: USA

PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2007 11:15 pm    Post subject: MEANINGS OF NURSERY RHYMES Reply with quote

MEANINGS OF NURSERY RHYMES;-

Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty: the lyrics

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King's horses, And all the King's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again!

Who was Humpty Dumpty?
Humpty Dumpty was a colloquial term used in 15th century England to describe someone who was fat or obese - giving rise to lots of theories pertaining to the identity of Humpty Dumpty. However, in this case the question should be not Who was Humpty Dumpty but What was Humpty Dumpty? Humpty Dumpty was in fact an unusually large canon which was mounted on the protective wall of "St. Mary's Wall Church" in Colchester, England. It was intended to protect the Parliamentarian stronghold of Colchester which was in the temporarily in control of the Royalists during the period of English history, described as the English Civil War ( 1642 - 1649). A shot from a Parliamentary canon succeeded in damaging the wall underneath Humpty Dumpty causing the canon to fall to the ground. The Royalists 'all the King's men' attempted to raise Humpty Dumpty on to another part of the wall but even with the help of ' all the King's horses' failed in their task and Colchester fell to the Parliamentarians after a siege lasting eleven weeks.
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Jack and Jill: lyrics

Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down and broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling after.
Up got Jack, and home did trot As fast as he could caper
He went to bed and bound his head
With vinegar and brown paper.

French (history) connection!
The roots of this child's nursery rhyme is in France and the Jack and Jill referred to are Louis XVI who was beheaded (lost his crown) followed by his Queen Marie Antoinette (who came tumbling after). The words and lyrics were made more palatable for the nursery by giving it a happy ending and has further been altered by the passage of time - the actual beheadings occurred in 1793. The first publication date for the lyrics of this nursery rhyme is 1795 which tie-in
with the history and origins
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Little Miss Muffet: lyrics

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet
Eating her curds and whey,
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away

Origins and history of the Nursery Rhyme
Little Miss Muffet was a small girl whose first name was Patience. Her father, Dr. Muffet, was an entomologist (someone who studies insects). Whilst eating her breakfast one day she was frightened by one of his spiders and ran away! This particular Nursery Rhyme reputedly dates back to the late 16th century! Unlikely story    
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Little Boy Blue: lyrics


Little Boy Blue come blow your horn,
The sheep's in the meadow the cow's in the corn.
But where is the boy who looks after the sheep?
He's under a haystack fast asleep.
Will you wake him? No, not I - for if I do, he's sure to cry

Origins of the story
Unlike other Nursery Rhymes the words and lyrics cannot be closely connected to any historical figure in European history. There is, however, a doubtful theory that 'Little Boy Blue' could refer to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey dating back to English Tudor history (although the origins and lyrics cannot be connected to any events in his life). Neither does the rhyme have a moral objective or used to demonstrates any specific use of the English language. The most common belief is that the origins of this nursery are not based on actual events or people in history but  is merely a reflection of peaceful country life which would appeal to the imagination of a young child
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Jack Sprat: Lyrics

Jack Sprat could eat no fat
His wife could eat no lean
And so betwixt the two of them
They licked the platter clean.

Origin can be found in British History
The Jack alluded to is in fact reputed to be Charles I and Henrietta Maria, his Queen. Apparently, when King Charles declared war on Spain,  parliament refused to finance him (leaving him lean!) So his wife imposed an illegal war tax (to get some fat!) after the angered King dissolved Parliament. The first publication date for the lyrics of this nursery rhyme can be traced to 1639.
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This little piggy: lyrics

This little piggy went to market,
This little piggy stayed at home,
This little piggy had roast beef,
This little piggy had none.
And this little piggy went...
"Wee wee wee" all the way home...

Action nursery rhyme for baby or young children
The lyrics for this particular nursery rhyme include action based words where the little piggy is each one of the child's toes! The last line is used to accompany the child being tickled by the teller of the rhyme! This is a typical rhyme which will be passed down from one generation to another - it has no origins in history! The lyrics for this nursery rhyme were first published in 1728.
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There was an old woman: lyrics

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe,
She had so many children she didn't know what to do!
So she gave them some broth without any bread,
And she whipped them all soundly and sent them to bed!

Origins of the nursery rhyme
At first glance this would appear to be a purely nonsense rhyme but in fact it has origins in history! There are two choices of  origin ! The first relates to Queen Caroline (the old woman) wife of George II who had eight children. The shoe refers to the British Isles. The second version refers to King George who began the fashion of wearing white powdered wigs and was consequently referred to as the old woman! The children were the members of parliament and the bed was the Houses of Parliament which he required them to have sessions in - even today the term 'whip' is used in the English Parliament to describe a member of Parliament who is tasked to ensure that all members 'toe the party line'.
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The Owl and the Pussycat: lyrics

The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
"O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are, you are, you are,
What a beautiful Pussy you are."
Pussy said to the Owl "You elegant fowl,
How charmingly sweet you sing.
O let us be married, too long we have tarried;
But what shall we do for a ring?"
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows,
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose, his nose, his nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.
"Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling your ring?"
Said the Piggy, "I will"
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon.
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand.
They danced by the light of the moon, the moon, the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

What is a Runcible Spoon?
A traditional childrens poem , or folksong, as the lyrics have  been set to music on several occasions. The author was Edward Lear (1812 - 1888) and the first publication date was 1806. Some wonderful illustrated graphics have also been set to the words and lyrics of this poem helping to fire the imagination of a child! The burning question remains, however, what exactly is a runcible spoon? The most agreed upon definition of this term is that a runcible spoon is a kind of fork with three broad prongs or tines, one having a sharp edge, curved like a
spoon, used with pickles, etc.
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Who killed Cock Robin: lyrics


"Who killed Cock Robin?" "I," said the Sparrow,
"With my bow and arrow, I killed Cock Robin."
"Who saw him die?" "I," said the Fly,
"With my little eye, I saw him die."
"Who caught his blood?" "I," said the Fish,
"With my little dish, I caught his blood."
"Who'll make the shroud?" "I," said the Beetle,
"With my thread and needle, I'll make the shroud."
"Who'll dig his grave?" "I," said the Owl,
"With my pick and shovel, I'll dig his grave."
"Who'll be the parson?" "I," said the Rook,
"With my little book, I'll be the parson."
"Who'll be the clerk?" "I," said the Lark,
"If it's not in the dark, I'll be the clerk."
"Who'll carry the link?" "I," said the Linnet,
"I'll fetch it in a minute, I'll carry the link."
"Who'll be chief mourner?" "I," said the Dove,
"I mourn for my love, I'll be chief mourner."
"Who'll carry the coffin?" "I," said the Kite,
"If it's not through the night, I'll carry the coffin."
"Who'll bear the pall? "We," said the Wren,
"Both the cock and the hen, we'll bear the pall."
"Who'll sing a psalm?" "I," said the Thrush,
"As she sat on a bush, I'll sing a psalm."
"Who'll toll the bell?" "I," said the bull,
"Because I can pull, I'll toll the bell."
All the birds of the air fell a-sighing and a-sobbing,
When they heard the bell toll for poor Cock Robin.

The origins and history of the lyrics
'Who killed cock robin?' is better described as a British folksong rather than a nursery rhyme.  The Death of Cock Robin is frequently taken as a Robin Hood analogue and the ready offers of help following this event, as described in the lyrics, reflect the high esteem that the legendary figure of Robin Hood was, and is, still held.
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Twinkle twinkle little star: lyrics


Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are?
Up above the world so high , like a diamond in the sky
When the blazing sun is gone, when he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light, twinkle, twinkle all the night.
Then the traveller in the dark, thanks you for your tiny spark,
He could not see which way to go, if you did not twinkle so.
In the dark blue sky you keep, and often through my curtains peep,
For you never shut your eye, 'till the sun is in the sky.
As your bright and tiny spark lights the traveller in the dark,
Though I know not what you are - twinkle, twinkle little star.

Nursery rhyme imagery
The words and lyrics of this beautiful nursery rhyme is more like a poem and as such makes good use of the simile ' like a diamond in the sky' . The authors were sisters Ann and Jane Taylor. The first publication date was 1806. The lyrics  draw a comparison of the twinkling of the star to the shutting or blinking of the eye providing a perfect illustration of clever imagery and excellent use of the English language.
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There was an old lady: lyrics

There was an old lady who swallowed a fly
I don't know why she swallowed a fly - perhaps she'll die!
There was an old lady who swallowed a spider,
That wriggled and wiggled and tiggled inside her;
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly;
I don't know why she swallowed a fly - Perhaps she'll die!
There was an old lady who swallowed a bird;
How absurd to swallow a bird.
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly;
I don't know why she swallowed a fly - Perhaps she'll die!
There was an old lady who swallowed a cat;
Fancy that  to swallow a cat!
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly;
I don't know why  she swallowed a fly - Perhaps she'll die!
There was an old lady that swallowed a dog;
What a hog, to swallow a dog;
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat,
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly;
I don't know why she swallowed a fly - Perhaps she'll die!
There was an old lady who swallowed a cow,
I don't know how she swallowed a cow;
She swallowed the cow to catch the dog,
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat,
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly;
I don't know why she swallowed a fly - Perhaps she'll die!
There was an old lady who swallowed a horse...
She's dead, of course!

Nonsense nursery rhyme which aids memory retention
A favourite nonsense nursery rhyme amongst most children whose famous lyrics aid memory retention and whose origins have no basis in history! Just look at a child's face the first time the rhyme is repeated to them! Sheer delight in what is happening - the imagery paints a very strong picture which stimulates the imagination whilst clarifying the relative size and order of all of the animals mentioned. The words become more incredulous as they progress and there is almost a sense of relief and also astonishment at the abrupt ending of the tale! There is no basis for the words and lyrics in history -it is perhaps better described as a traditional folksong, the lyrics of which have been set to music and recorded by many various artists.
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massetXA



Joined: 08 Dec 2006
Posts: 61


Location: USA

PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2007 6:45 pm    Post subject: NURSERY RHYME MEANINGS Reply with quote

NURSERY RHYME MEANINGS

Mary had a little lamb

Mary had a little lamb,
little lamb, little lamb,
Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow.
And everywhere that Mary went,
Mary went, Mary went,
and everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go.

It followed her to school one day
school one day, school one day,
It followed her to school one day, which was against the rules.
It made the children laugh and play,
laugh and play, laugh and play,
it made the children laugh and play to see a lamb at school.

And so the teacher turned it out,
turned it out, turned it out,
And so the teacher turned it out, but still it lingered near,
And waited patiently about,
patiently about, patiently about,
And waited patiently about till Mary did appear.

"Why does the lamb love Mary so?"
Love Mary so? Love Mary so?
"Why does the lamb love Mary so," the eager children cry.
"Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know."
The lamb, you know, the lamb, you know,
"Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know," the teacher did reply.

History:

The four lines:
Mary had a little lamb
It's fleece was white as snow
And everywhere that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go.

were the first four lines of recorded speech. They are the words uttered by Thomas Edison into his new invention -- the phonograph.

The rhyme itself was written by Sarah Josepha in 1830 based upon a real incedent that happened at a schoolhouse.
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A wise old owl, the lyrics

A wise old owl lived in an oak
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard.
Why can't we all be like that wise old bird?

The origins and history of 'A wise old owl'
The origins and history of this nursery rhyme is vague but its meaning
is not, it basically would be told to a child in an attempt
to instil the wisdom of observing and keeping quiet! The association of the lyrics of this nursery rhyme derive from the saying 'a wise old owl' based on an owl's behaviour of watching and patiently waiting when hunting its prey
"Children should be seen and not heard!"
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As I was going to St. Ives, its lyrics

As I was going to St. Ives I met a man with seven wives,
Each wife had seven sacks, each sack had seven cats,
Each cat had seven kits: kits, cats, sacks and wives,
How many were going to St. Ives?

The riddle and origins of the nursery rhyme!
The only answer that can safely be assumed is that one person was definitely going to St. Ives - dependant on the direction of the people he encountered on the way! The origins and history of this nursery rhyme was to improve the logic and deductive skills of the child. (St. Ives is an old village in Cornwall, England)
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Baa baa black sheep: the lyrics

Baa baa black sheep, have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full!
One for the master, one for the dame,
And one for the little boy who lives down the lane.

Educational reasons of the nursery rhyme lyrics
The reason to the words and history to this song were to associate wool and wool products with the animal that produces it, not to mention the sound that a sheep would make! The first grasp of language for a child or baby is to imitate the sounds or noises that animals make onomatopoeia (words sound like their meaning e.g. baa baa). The first publication date for the lyrics to this famous nursery rhyme can be dated back to 1744.
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Hey diddle diddle: Nonsense lyrics?

Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed to see such fun
And the dish ran away with the spoon!

Fantasy Nursery Rhyme! Origins and history
The first known date of publication for the lyrics of this nursery rhyme is 1765.
Completely nonsensical rhyme whose sole aim is to fire the imagination of a child with impossible actions which are, however, very easy and amusing for a child to envision! Walt Disney uses this type of imagery in animated films to great effect! The term 'Hey diddle diddle' was a colloquialism used in much the same vein as
"hey nonny no" which can be found in traditional British folk songs. The original title was known as 'High Diddle Diddle' but has been changed to
'Hey Diddle Diddle' during the course of time.
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Hush a bye baby: lyrics

Hush a bye baby, on the tree top,
When the wind blows the cradle will rock;
When the bow breaks, the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.

Nursery Rhyme or lullaby?
The lyrics to this famous nursery rhyme were first published in 1765.
The words and lyrics to this song are often crooned to a baby in an effort to rock them to sleep. When repeating this song children often make a rocking motion with their hands and arms. The imagery conveyed appeals to a child's imagination! The origins and history of this nursery rhyme are said to originate from America and the habit of some Native Americans of placing a baby in the low branches of a tree allowing the young child or baby to be rocked to sleep.
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Three blind mice: lyrics

Three blind mice, three blind mice,
See how they run, see how they run,
They all ran after the farmer's wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a thing in your life,
As three blind mice?

The origins of the 'tale'!
The origins of the lyrics to this nursery rhyme are in English history. The 'farmer's wife' refers to Queen Mary I, otherwise known as 'Bloody Mary' the reference to 'farmer's wife' alludes to the massive farming estates which she possessed and those of her husband, Philip of Spain. The 'three blind mice' were three noblemen who were plotting against the Queen - she did not have them dismembered and blinded as inferred in the rhyme - but she did have them burnt at the stake!
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Mary Mary quite contrary: origin

Mary Mary quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row.

The origins are steeped in history...
The Mary alluded to in this traditional English nursery rhyme is Mary Tudor, or Bloody Mary, who was the daughter of King Henry VIII. Queen Mary was a staunch Catholic and the garden referred to is an allusion to graveyards which were increasing in size with those who dared to continue to adhere to the Protestant faith. The silver bells and cockle shells were colloquialisms for instruments of torture. The 'maids' were a device to behead people similar to the guillotine.
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Ride a cock horse: lyrics

Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross
To see a fine lady upon a white horse
With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes
She shall have music wherever she goes

Ride a cock horse - English history origins
The lyrics of this nursery rhyme relate to Queen Elizabeth I of England (the fine lady) who travelled to Banbury (a town in England) to see the new huge stone cross which had just been erected. The lyrics 'With rings on her fingers' obviously relates to the fine jewellery which would adorn a Queen. The words 'And bells on her toes' refers to the fashion of attaching bells to the end of the pointed toes of each shoe! Banbury was situated at the top of a steep hill and in order to help carriages up the steep incline a white cock horse (a large stallion) was made available to help with this task. When the Queen's carriage attempted to go up the hill a wheel broke and the Queen chose to mount the cock horse to reach the Banbury cross. Her visit was so important that the people of the town had  decorated the cock horse with ribbons and bells and provided minstrels to accompany her - "she shall have music wherever she goes". The big cross at Banbury was later destroyed by anti - Catholics.
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What are little boys made of: lyrics

What are little boys made of?
Snips and snails, and puppy dogs tails
That's what little boys are made of !"
What are little girls made of?
"Sugar and spice and all things nice
That's what little girls are made of!"

The lyrics!
The origins and history of this nursery rhyme date back to the early nineteenth century - the battle of the sexes was raging even then! The lyrics obviously reflect this, but what is the meaning of 'snips and snails'? Many meanings have been suggested but the one that has the most credibility is that the original words were in fact 'snips of snails' snips meaning 'little bits of' No redemption there for describing what little boys are made of' !
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Mary had a little lamb: the lyrics

Mary had a little lamb its fleece was white as snow;
And everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go.
It followed her to school one day, which was against the rule;
It made the children laugh and play, to see a lamb at school.
And so the teacher turned it out, but still it lingered near,
And waited patiently about till Mary did appear.
"Why does the lamb love Mary so?" the eager children cry;
"Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know" the teacher did reply.

Increasing use of language
The words and lyrics of this  American nursery rhyme would appeal to a young child and introduces imagery and the use of similes (white as snow) as part of use of the English language. The words also convey the morale that love is reciprocated! We can find no specific connection in history for the origins of this nursery rhyme but the origins are American as the lyrics were written by Sarah Hale, of Boston, in 1830.
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Posts: 782


Location: HALIFAX ~ west yorkshire

PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2007 7:23 pm    Post subject: NURSERY RHYME MEANINGS Reply with quote

NURSERY RHYME MEANINGS;-

As I was going to St. Ives Rhyme
The riddle of the poem "As I was going to St. Ives"

Only one assumption can be made in the Nursery Rhyme "As I was going to St. Ives" and that  is that one person was definitely going there - or was it? It , of course would depend on the direction of the people that were encountered on the way! This type of conundrum is now referred to as a logic problem in lateral thinking designed to improve the logic and deductive skills of children, and indeed, adults! (As I was going to St. Ives refers to the name of a quaint old village in
Cornwall, England) Earliest traceable publication date is 1730.

The Answer to the Riddle
Only one man was going to St.Ives!
He met the following who were
going the other way:
A man (1) with 7 wives
7 x 7 (49) sacks
7x7x7 (343) cats
7x7x7x7 (2,401) kits
A Total of  2,801 wives, sacks
cats and kits!

Poem - As I was going to St. Ives

As I was going to St. Ives I met a man with seven wives,
Each wife had seven sacks, each sack had seven cats,
Each cat had seven kits: kits, cats, sacks and wives,
How many were going to St. Ives?  
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Hey Diddle Diddle Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme & History

Imaginative words to the Hey diddle diddle rhyme!
Hey diddle diddle is a fantasy rhyme designed to delight children with impossible images such "the Cow jumped over the Moon"! Walt Disney's team of animators use this type of imagery in animated films to great effect! The term ' Hey diddle diddle'  can be found in the works of Shakespeare and was a colloquialism used in much the same vein as  "hey nonny no" which can be found in traditional English folk ballads. The original title was  'High Diddle Diddle' but this has been altered to 'Hey Diddle Diddle' over the years with changes to the English language. The first known date of publication for the words of the Hey diddle diddle rhyme is 1765. For a comprehensive Shakespeare website we recommend a visit to william-shakespeare.info

Hey diddle diddle rhyme

Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed to see such fun
And the dish ran away with the spoon!
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Georgie Porgie Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme & History

Naughty "Georgie Porgie"of the Stuart era!
The origins of the lyrics to "Georgie Porgie" are English and refer to the courtier George Villiers, 1st duke of  Duke of Buckingham (1592–1628). King James I took Villiers as his lover and nicknamed him "Steenie" (a reference to St. Stephen whom in the Bible describes as having the "face of an angel"). Villier's good looks also appealed to the ladies and his highly suspect morals were much in question!

Affair with the married lady - the Queen of France!
Villiers most notorious affair was with his liaison with Anne of Austria, (1601–1666) who was the Queen of France and married to the French King Louis XIII badly injured both of their reputations. This, however, was overlooked due to his great friendship with the English King, James I (1586 - 1625). He was disliked by both courtiers and commoners, not least for helping to arrange the marriage of King James' son to the French Catholic princess Henrietta Maria (1609-1669) -  he later became King Charles I (1600-1649). George Villiers ( Georgie Porgie )exercised great influence over the King who allowed him many liberties. Villiers private liaisons and political scheming were questioned and Parliament who finally lost patience and stopped the King intervening on behalf of "Georgie Porgie".  The romantic elements of of George Villiers and Anne of Austria are featured in the novel 'The Three Musketeers' by Alexander Dumas.


Picture of George Villiers
Duke of Buckingham
(Georgie Porgie)

Georgie Porgie  

Georgie Porgie pudding and pie,
Kissed the girls and made them cry
When the boys came out to play,
Georgie Porgie ran away
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Jack Sprat Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme & History

Origin to words of Jack Sprat can be found in British History!
The Jack Sprat alluded to in this English poem is reputed to be King Charles I (1625-1649) and Henrietta Maria, his Queen (1609-1669). Apparently, when King Charles (Jack Sprat) declared war on Spain,  parliament refused to finance him (leaving him lean!) So his wife imposed an illegal war tax (to get some fat!) after the angered King (Jack Sprat) dissolved Parliament.

The Robin Hood Legend!
Another interpretation of the Jack Sprat Nursery rhyme relates to the story of Richard I (Richard the Lionheart 1157 - 1199) and his younger brother King John (1166 - 1216). Both of whom feature strongly in the traditional legend of Robin Hood.
Prince John, Richard the Lionheart and the Ransom!
In 1189 John (Jack Sprat) married Joan , the ambitious and greedy daughter and heiress of the Earl of Gloucester ("Joan ate all the fat"). When King Richard went on Crusade, from 1190 to 1194, John attempted to take the crown of England - a ruthless and treacherous usurper). On his return from the Crusades King Richard was taken hostage by Duke Leopold demanding a ransom of 150,000 marks. John reluctantly had to raise the ransom, leaving the country destitute for years and reducing John's inheritance ("They picked it clean"). The ransom was paid and Richard was released. John was crowned King of England following the death of Richard in 1199. He had his marriage to Joan annulled, she was never acknowledged as queen . She then married again to Geoffrey de Mandeville and her third husband was Hubert de Burgh .


The picture is of King Charles I whose constant disputes with the Parliamentarians led to the English Civil War and his execution

Jack Sprat rhyme aka - Jack Spratt

Jack Sprat could eat no fat
His wife could eat no lean
And so betwixt the two of them
They licked the platter clean

Jack ate all the lean,
Joan ate all the fat.
The bone they picked it clean,
Then gave it to the cat

Jack Sprat was wheeling,
His wife by the ditch.
The barrow turned over,
And in she did pitch.

Says Jack, "She'll be drowned!"
But Joan did reply,
"I don't think I shall,
For the ditch is quite dry.".
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UPDATE ON Little Miss Muffet Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme & History

Story of the Little Miss Muffet Rhyme
Little Miss Muffet was a small girl whose name was Patience Muffet. Her stepfather, Dr. Muffet (1553-1604) was a famous entomologist who wrote the first scientific catalogue of British Insects. Whilst eating her breakfast of curds and whey Little Miss Muffet was frightened by one of his spiders and ran away! This particular Nursery Rhyme of Little Miss Muffet reputedly dates back to the late 16th century as indicated by the birth date of Dr Muffet! Unlikely story about Patience Muffet!

Little Miss Muffet  

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet
Eating her curds and whey,
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away
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Mondays Child Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme & History

Traditional poem - Mondays child
The words and lyrics of Mondays child poem are used to associate children with the pattern and different names to the days of week. Mondays child is a very popular poem but the actual words of Mondays child are not well known! We have all learnt the days of the week as Mondays child intended but we cannot seem to remember the qualities of being being born on individual days! Sunday was traditionally referred to as the 'Sabbath day' so there is no specific reference to Sundays child.
"Mondays child is fair of face"

Mondays child poem

Mondays child is fair of face,
Tuesdays child is full of grace,
Wednesdays child is full of woe,
Thursdays child has far to go,
Fridays child is loving and giving,
Saturdays child works hard for his living,
And the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.
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Little Jack Horner Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme & History

16th Century History origin of the Little Jack Horner story?
Little Jack Horner was reputed to have been the Steward to Richard Whiting (1461 - 1539) the Bishop of Glastonbury.  The Steward had an important role and was responsible for managing the household, collecting taxes and keeping accounts.

The Church, the King and the Gold
Glastonbury was the largest and wealthiest Abbey in England and this Benedictine Monastery owned extensive lands and manors in the county of Somerset. Between 1536 and 1540, after breaking away from the Catholic Church, King Henry VIII and his chief minister Thomas Cromwell set about the systematic Dissolution of all of the Monasteries in England. The reason for was to loot the monasteries of their gold and silver and seize the monastic lands. By 1539 Glastonbury was the only religious house left in Somerset and it was only at matter of time before Glastonbury Abbey was also seized.

The Bribe
It is rumoured that the Bishop tried to bribe the King. He sent his Steward, Richard Whiting, with a gift of twelve title deeds to various English manorial estates. The deeds were said to have been secreted in a pie (valuables were often hidden in this bizarre fashion to thwart thieves). Whiting ( Little Jack Horner) realised that the bribe would do no good and was said to have stolen the deeds to the manor of Mells (it being the real 'plum' of the twelve manors).

The Traitor and the Execution
The remaining eleven manors were given to the crown but to no avail. The old Bishop was  convicted of treason for remaining loyal to Rome. The jury included his treacherous steward Horner who found Bishop Whiting guilty and sent the old man to a terrible death of being hung, drawn and quartered on Glastonbury Tor. The Abbey was destroyed. Following the destruction of the abbey the steward, Horner moved into the Manor of Mells.  Whether Horner actually stole the deeds to the Manor or was rewarded with them for helping to convict the Bishop of Glastonbury is not known but the Manor of Mells became the property of the Horner family who lived there until the 20th century.
The first publication date for the lyrics to the Little Jack Horner rhyme is 1725.

Little Jack Horner rhyme

Little Jack Horner sat in the corner
Eating his Christmas pie,
He put in his thumb and pulled out a plum
And said "What a good boy am I!"
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This Little Piggy
Finger or toe rhyme for "This little piggy"!

The words for "This little piggy" nursery rhyme are used to point out each one of the child's toes! The last line in "This little piggy" is used to accompany the child being tickled by the narrator of the poem! This rhyme is extremely popular which ensures that it will be passed from generation to generation. The first publication date for the words and lyrics for this nursery rhyme was in 1728.

This Little Piggy poem

This little piggy went to market,
This little piggy stayed at home,
This little piggy had roast beef,
This little piggy had none.
And this little piggy went...
"Wee wee wee" all the way home...

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2007 9:05 pm    Post subject: NURSERY RHYME MEANINGS Reply with quote

NURSERY RHYME MEANINGS;-

Red Sky at Night Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme & History

A practical nursery rhyme about the weather - "Red Sky at night"
Practical origins for this English nursery rhyme are based on weather predictions and how a red sky at night would indicate fair weather on the following day. In England the words refer to a shepherd who would say that a red sky in the morning was suggesting inclement weather to follow. In America the words relate to a sailor. It should be remembered that there were no weather forecasts, as such, in days gone by and one had to make one's own weather predictions. Those with the most knowledge and experience, such as Sailors and Shepherds, whose lives were dependant on the weather and were fully conversant with changing weather patterns indicated by a "Red Sky at night".

The original origins of this Nursery Rhyme can be traced to the Bible:
Matthew 16:2-3

2 - He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.
3 - And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?
Our grateful thanks go to Rilla for providing us with this reference

Red Sky at Night poem

Red sky at night,
Sailor's delight;
Red sky at morning,
Sailor's warning.
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Oranges and Lemons Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme & History

The  origin of the words to "Oranges and lemons" - strange & sinister!
The exact date of origin is unknown but there was a Square Dance called 'Oranges and Lemons' dating back to 1665, unfortunately there are no known record of the lyrics which accompanied the dance but is likely that the words were similar to that of the nursery rhyme. The words to "Oranges and lemons" have been much loved by numerous generations of children. The neighbourhood names relate to some of the many churches of London and the tune that accompanies the lyrics emulates the sound of the  ringing of the individual church bells.

The Tyburn Gallows
The words of the nursery rhyme are chanted by children as they play the game of 'Oranges and lemons' the end of which culminates in a child being caught between the joined arms of two others, emulating the act of chopping off their head! The reason for the sinister last three lines of the lyrics of "Oranges and lemons" are easily explained, they were added to the original rhyme, probably by children! This addition dates to some time before 1783 when the infamous public execution gallows (the Tyburn-tree) was moved from Tyburn-gate (Marble Arch) to Newgate, a notorious prison for both criminals and debtors hence "When will you pay me"?". This move was necessary  to reduce problems caused by the crowds, often exceeding 100,000, gathered along the execution procession route. This stretched along a three mile route from Newgate Prison to Tyburn and around the Tyburn tree itself.

Newgate Prison
The 'Bells of Old Bailey', or more accurately the tenor bell of St Sepulchre, had been utilised prior to 1783 to time the executions but after the gallows had been moved, Newgate prison (now the site of the Old Bailey) obtained its own bell. As the words to the poem "Oranges and lemons" indicate the unfortunate victim would await execution on 'Death Row' and would be informed by the Bellman of St. Sepulchre by candle light 'here comes the candle to light you to bed', at midnight outside their cell , the Sunday night prior to their imminent fate, by the ringing of the 'Execution Bell' (a large hand bell)  and the recitation of the following :

All you that in the condemned hole do lie,
Prepare you for tomorrow you shall die;
Watch all and pray: the hour is drawing near
That you before the Almighty must appear;
Examine well yourselves in time repent,
That you may not to eternal flames be sent.
And when St. Sepulchre's Bell in the morning tolls
The Lord above have mercy on your soul.

The executions commenced at nine o'clock Monday morning  following the first toll of the tenor bell. Who would have thought that "Oranges and lemons" a childrens rhyme could have such a sinister historical connotation?


Picture of Execution Procession at Tyburn, London

Origin of the saying "On the Wagon" - meaning a person has stopped drinking alcohol! Prisoners were transported to Tyburn Gallows on a wagon and were allowed one last drink in a pub on the way to their execution. If offered a second drink by a sympathiser the guard would reply,  "No, they're going on the Wagon!"

Oranges and Lemons Poem

"Oranges and lemons" say the Bells of St. Clement's
"You owe me five farthings" say the Bells of St. Martin's
"When will you pay me?" say the Bells of Old Bailey
"When I grow rich" say the Bells of Shoreditch
"When will that be?" say the Bells of Stepney
"I do not know" say the Great Bells of Bow
"Here comes a Candle to light you to Bed
Here comes a Chopper to Chop off your Head
Chip chop chip chop - the Last Man's Dead."

Origins and History of the Oranges and Lemons Nursery Rhyme!
Each of the fifteen 'Bells of London' referred to in the rhyme have been fully researched and can be read about above in this section.

** ALSO Read more about the where the Bells and Churches are in London and discover some additional information about the strange and sinister meanings  behind  the Oranges and Lemons Nursery Rhyme!**
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The North Wind doth Blow Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme & History

The Robin' or 'The North Wind doth blow'?
This nursery rhyme is referred to as either the North Wind doth blow or The Robin.  'The North Wind doth blow' is British in its origins and believed to have originated in the 16th century history. 'The North Wind doth blow' uses the olde English word 'doth'. The purpose of the words to 'The North Wind doth blow' is to ensure that a child associates security with home whilst empathising with the plight of the robin. This therefore accounts for the confusion as to whether the poem should be called 'The North Wind doth blow' or the Robin.

The North wind doth blow poem

The North wind doth blow and we shall have snow,
And what will poor robin do then, poor thing?
He'll sit in a barn and keep himself warm
and hide his head under his wing, poor thing.
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The Owl and the Pussycat Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme & Origin of the Poem

The lyrics to "the owl and the pussycat" - What is a Runcible Spoon?
A traditional childrens poem , or folksong, as the lyrics to the owl and the pussycat have  been set to music and recorded by several artisits. The author of the owl and the pussycat was of course Edward Lear (1812 - 1888) and the first publication date of the owl and the pussycat was 1871. Wonderful illustrated graphics have also been set to the words  of the owl and the pussycat poem helping to fire the imagination of a child! The burning question remains, however, what exactly is the runcible spoon referred to in the words of the owl and the pussycat poem? The probable definition of this term is that a runcible spoon is a small fork with three prongs, one having a sharp edge, and curved like a spoon. This spoon is used to eat  pickles, etc.


Picture of Edward Lear

The Owl and the Pussycat poem

The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
"O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are, you are, you are,
What a beautiful Pussy you are."
Pussy said to the Owl "You elegant fowl,
How charmingly sweet you sing.
O let us be married, too long we have tarried;
But what shall we do for a ring?"
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows,
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose, his nose, his nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.
"Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling your ring?"
Said the Piggy, "I will"
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon.
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand.
They danced by the light of the moon, the moon, the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.
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There was a Crooked Man
Nursery Rhyme & History

The origin of the Nursery rhyme "There was a crooked man" is in British history
The content  of "There was a crooked man" poem have  a basis in history. The origin of this poem originates from the English Stuart history of King Charles 1. The crooked man is reputed to be the Scottish General Sir Alexander Leslie. The General  signed a Covenant securing religious and political freedom for Scotland. The 'crooked stile' referred to in "There was a crooked man" being the border between England and Scotland. 'They all lived together in a little crooked house' refers to the fact that the English and Scots had at last come to an agreement. The words reflect the times when there was great animosity between the English and the Scots. The word crooked is pronounced as 'crookED' the emphasis being placed upon the 'ED' in the word. This was  common in olde England and many references can be found in this type of pronunciation in the
works of William Shakespeare (1564-1616).

There was a Crooked Man poem

There was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile.
He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse.
And they all lived together in a little crooked house
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There was an Old Lady Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme Origin

Nonsense rhyme which aids memory retention.
A favourite Nursery rhyme amongst children whose famous lyrics of "There was an old lady" aid memory retention. The poem is a relatively modern rhyme and therefore has no origin in history! The imagery of "There was an old lady" paints a very strong picture which stimulates the imagination whilst emphasising the relative sizes and order of the creatures mentioned. The lyrics to "There was an old lady" become more incredulous as they progress and there is almost a sense of relief and also astonishment at the startling ending of the story! "There was an old lady" is perhaps better described as a traditional folksong, the words of which have been set to music and recorded by many various artists.

There was an Old Lady song

There was an old lady who swallowed a fly
I don't know why she swallowed a fly - perhaps she'll die!
There was an old lady who swallowed a spider,
That wriggled and wiggled and tiggled inside her;
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly;
I don't know why she swallowed a fly - Perhaps she'll die!
There was an old lady who swallowed a bird;
How absurd to swallow a bird.
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly;
I don't know why she swallowed a fly - Perhaps she'll die!
There was an old lady who swallowed a cat;
Fancy that  to swallow a cat!
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly;
I don't know why  she swallowed a fly - Perhaps she'll die!
There was an old lady that swallowed a dog;
What a hog, to swallow a dog;
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat,
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly;
I don't know why she swallowed a fly - Perhaps she'll die!
There was an old lady who swallowed a cow,
I don't know how she swallowed a cow;
She swallowed the cow to catch the dog,
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat,
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly;
I don't know why she swallowed a fly - Perhaps she'll die!
There was an old lady who swallowed a horse...
She's dead, of course
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There was an Old Woman Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme & History

Origins of the Rhyme "There was an old woman" in Regency England?
At first glance the words to "There was an old woman" would appear to be  nonsense but in fact it is believed to have origins in English  history!
There are two choices of  origin!
The first relates to Queen Caroline (There was an old woman) wife of King George II who had eight children. The second version refers to King George who began the men's fashion for wearing white powdered wigs. He was consequently referred to as the old woman! The children were the members of parliament and the bed was the Houses of Parliament  - even today the term 'whip' is used in the English Parliament to describe a member of Parliament who is tasked to ensure that all members 'toe the party line'. As a point of historical interest the wigs worn by women of the period were so large and unhygienic that it became necessary to include mousetraps in their construction!

There was an Old Woman rhyme:

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe,
She had so many children she didn't know what to do!
So she gave them some broth without any bread,
And she whipped them all soundly and sent them to bed!
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Thirty Days hath September Rhyme
Rhyme "Thirty days hath September"- Aide Memoire!

The words  to "Thirty days hath September" are still used by many adults to prompt them into recalling how many days there are in each month! It's therefore often referred to as the Days of the Month Rhyme! The origin  of the lyrics to "Thirty days hath September" are obscure but use of olde English can date this poem back to at least the 16th century. When was the last time that you found yourself muttering the words of the "Thirty days hath September" poem?

Thirty Days hath September poem

Thirty days hath September,
April, June and November;
February has twenty eight alone
All the rest have thirty-one
Except in Leap Year, that's the time
When February's Days are twenty-nine

alternative lyrics to this famous Nursery Rhyme

30 days hath September,
April, June and November,
All the rest have 31,
Excepting February alone.
Which only has but 28 days clear
And 29 in each leap year
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This is the House that Jack built
Origins of 'This is the house that Jack built!' Nursery Rhyme

The origin of the lyrics to 'This is the house that Jack built' cannot be traced to specific people or historical events but merely reflect the everyday characters and lifestyle which could have been found in rural England and date back to the sixteenth century. The phrase 'This is the house that Jack built' is often used as a derisory term in describing a badly constructed building!

This is the House that Jack built poem

This is the house that Jack built!
This is the malt that lay in the house that Jack built.
This is the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the cat that killed the rat
That ate the malt that lay in the house that Jack built.
This is the dog that worried the cat
That killed the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the cow with the crumpled horn
That tossed the dog that worried the cat
That killed the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the maiden all forlorn
That milked the cow with the crumpled horn
That tossed the dog that worried the cat
That killed the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the man all tattered and torn
That kissed the maiden all forlorn
That milked the cow with the crumpled horn
That tossed the dog that worried the cat
That killed the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the priest all shaven and shorn
That married the man all tattered and torn
That kissed the maiden all forlorn
That milked the cow with the crumpled horn
That tossed the dog that worried the cat
That killed the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the cock that crowed in the morn
That waked the priest all shaven and shorn
That married the man all tattered and torn
That kissed the maiden all forlorn
That milked the cow with the crumpled horn
That tossed the dog that worried the cat
That killed the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the farmer sowing his corn
That kept the cock that crowed in the morn
That waked the priest all shaven and shorn
That married the man all tattered and torn
That kissed the maiden all forlorn
That milked the cow with the crumpled horn
That tossed the dog that worried the cat
That killed the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built!
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Diddle Diddle Dumpling Rhyme
The words of the Diddle Diddle Dumpling Nursery Rhyme

A mother's words to a typical boy child in this poem Diddle Diddle Dumpling!
No origins in history can be found for Diddle Diddle Dumpling - it is merely a nonsense rhyme probably made popular and handed down from generation to generation owing to the popularity of the name John (Diddle Diddle Dumpling my son John). It is an interesting fact that this is the only old rhyme that uses the name John - all of the older poems use the colloquialism for John i.e. Jack.  


John of Gaunt
Picture of a famous 'John' from English history. A Plantagenet prince, the rich and powerful John of Gaunt (1340 - 1399 ). His liaison with a commoner called Katherine Swynford produced four illegitimate children who were given the name Beaufort
( He married Katherine in 1396 and their children, by this time adults, were legitimised).Their son John was the Great-Great Grandfather of King Henry VIII of England

Poem - Diddle Diddle Dumpling

Diddle, diddle, dumpling, my son John,
Went to bed with his trousers on;
One shoe off, and one shoe on,
Diddle, diddle, dumpling, my son John!
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Rain Rain go Away
Nursery Rhyme & History

History of "Rain rain go away" poem
The origin of the lyrics to "Rain rain go away"  are said to date back to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603), one of the English Tudor monarchs. During this period of  English history there was constant rivalry between Spain and England culminating in the launch of the Spanish Armada in 1588. The Spanish Armada consisted of many Spanish galleons and was sent to invade England.  The Armada was led by Duke of Medina Sedonia and the the fleet numbered over 130 ships. The English fleet, under Admiral Lord Howard, totalled 34 small Navy vessels and 163 armed merchant ships. But the great Spanish Armada was defeated. Only 65 Spanish galleons and just 10,000 men returned to Spain. The attempt failed, not only because of the swift nature of the smaller English ships but also by the stormy weather which scattered the Armada fleet. Hence the origin of the "Rain rain go away" Nursery rhyme!

Rain Rain go Away poem

Rain rain go away,
Come again another day.
Little Johnny wants to play;
Rain, rain, go to Spain,
Never show your face again!
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A Wise Old Owl Rhyme
'A Wise Old Owl Nursery Rhyme & History'

The origins and history of 'A wise old owl' are vague, however its meaning isn't, basically it would be told to children in an attempt to to teach the child the virtue of being quiet! The lyrics of 'A wise old owl' poem are derived from the saying 'a wise old owl' based on an owl's behaviour of watching and patiently waiting when hunting its prey. Legends concerning the owl are recorded in Greek, Celtic, Native American and Aborigine mythology. The owl is is especially associated with wisdom in Greek mythology being linked with Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom. Athens is named from the Goddess Athena and its emblem  is the owl . The owl was, for many years, viewed as a sinister bird only hunting at night when only evil spirits and witches were abroad - hence the connection with as a Witches Familiar! A wise old owl - "Children should be seen and not heard!"

A wise old owl nursery rhyme / poem

A wise old owl lived in an oak
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard.
Why can't we all be like that wise old bird?
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Starlight Star Bright Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme & History

Nursery rhyme of "Starlight star bright" with American history
The lyrics to the "Starlight star bright" rhyme are believed to be of late 19th century American origin and the words allude to the fantasy that you can wish upon a star. This "Starlight star bright" poem has no doubt been used on many occasions to quieten a child or children ready for bedtime as they look out of the window waiting  to see "Starlight star bright" - the very first starlight!

Starlight star bright poem

Star Light Star bright,
The first star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.
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Twinkle Twinkle Little Star Rhyme
Imagery used in Twinkle twinkle little star

The beautiful words of Twinkle twinkle little star have been immortalised in the poem and music has been added thus increasing its popularity. The simile ' like a diamond in the sky' teaches children how words can be used to paint a picture in the imagination. The words create a comparison between the twinkling of the star to a sparkling diamond thus providing a perfect illustration of clever imagery and excellent use of the English language. The joint authors of Twinkle twinkle little star were two sisters called Ann Taylor (1782-1866) and Jane Taylor (1783-1824).
The first publication date was 1806.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star poem

Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are?
Up above the world so high , like a diamond in the sky
When the blazing sun is gone, when he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light, twinkle, twinkle all the night.
Then the traveller in the dark, thanks you for your tiny spark,
He could not see which way to go, if you did not twinkle so.
In the dark blue sky you keep, and often through my curtains peep,
For you never shut your eye, 'till the sun is in the sky.
As your bright and tiny spark lights the traveller in the dark,
Though I know not what you are - twinkle, twinkle little star.
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Here's the Church
Nursery Rhyme & History

Finger rhyme of "Here's the church". Visual impact!
Children love "Here's the church" rhyme as it combines words with actions expressed by using their hands. This provides the opportunity to increase the manual dexterity and coordination of a child whilst encouraging them to use their  imagination. A favourite finger rhyme starting with the hands clasped together
( Here's the church) and ending with the hands joined together as if in Christian prayer!

Churches Dominated Life
The architecture of British and European churches and steeples dominated the skyline of all major towns and cities. The Nursery Rhyme London Bells, the original version of Oranges and Lemons, details many famous London Churches together with the people who lived in the area including Lord Mayors, Torturers, Executioners and Money Lenders!  

Here's the church - finger rhyme

Here's the church, and here's the steeple
Open the door and see all the people.
Here's the parson going upstairs,
And here he is saying his prayers
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Hush a Bye Baby Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme & History

Is "Hush a bye baby" a Nursery Rhyme or lullaby?
The words and origin of the "Hush a bye baby" rhyme are said to have originated from America. It was the practice of some Native Americans to place a baby in the branches of a tree allowing the wind to gently rock the child to sleep "Hush a bye baby on the treetop". The meaning to the words of the song "Hush a bye baby" seem to match this explanation. The words to the "Hush a bye baby" song have the intention of making a child sleep it can therefore be correctly described as both a nursery rhyme and a lullaby! The words to the "Hush a bye baby" song were first published in 1765.

Hush a Bye Baby poem

Hush a bye baby, on the tree top,
When the wind blows the cradle will rock;
When the bow breaks, the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.
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Itsy Bitsy Spider Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme & History

The lyric to the song "Itsy Bitsy Spider " create a finger rhyme for children. All children love trying to mimic the actions of Itsy Bitsy Spider song. The movements and actions of Itsy Bitsy Spider help children to improve their manual dexterity whilst repeating the words of the song. The name of the spider seems to vary but 'Itsy Bitsy spider' is believed to be the most popular version although in England Itsy Bitsy Spider is known as Incy Wincy spider! The history and origin of the Itsy Bitsy spider rhyme cannot be traced, it is believed just to be a fun finger rhyme that has survived the test of time.

Itsy Bitsy Spider song : lyric, Also known as Incy Wincy Spider!

Itsy Bitsy spider climbing up the spout
Down came the rain and washed the spider out
Out came the sun and dried up all the rain
Now Itsy Bitsy spider went up the spout again!
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Jack be Nimble Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme & History

Origin and History to the words of Jack be nimble
The most commonly agreed origin for the Jack be nimble rhyme is the connection to Black Jack, an English pirate who was notorious for escaping from the authorities in the late 16th century hence Jack be nimble... The words of the Jack be nimble rhyme cannot be further analysed due to the brevity of the text of the lyrics but could be associated with the old tradition and sport of 'candle leaping' which used to be practised at some English fairs.

Lace Makers and Candle Leaping?
The tradition of candle-leaping originated from an old game of jumping over fires. This dangerous game was banned and replaced by the far less dangerous sport of Candle leaping. In Wendover there were lace-making schools ( a good excuse for using children as slave labour). Here it was traditional to dance around the lace-makers great candlestick and this led to jumping over the candlestick. Due to the cost of candles some employers only allowed the use of candles during the darkest months of the year and centred around Candlemas Day, known as the candle season. It is interesting to note that Jack be nimble is now being referred to as Jack b nimble - the influence of the modern day practise of texting! The first publication date for Jack be nimble is 1798.

Jack be Nimble (aka Jack b Nimble)

Jack be nimble
Jack be quick
Jack jump over
The candlestick.
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When Adam delved and Eve span Rhyme Lyrics, Origins and History

"When Adam delved, and Eve span
Who was then a gentleman?"

Rhyme & History

Medieval Rhyme
This rhyme is one of the oldest known English Rhymes and can be dated to the English Peasant Revolt of 1381. At this time the English had suffered horrifically due to the deadly Black Death ( Bubonic Plague) during which as many as the third of the population had died. The peasants realised that they were now important in society. This seemingly innocent Rhyme was uttered and muttered by the peasants of the land. Like many political rhymes this was easy to remember and makes use of the simple riddle. The seeds of an English Revolution had been sown. The peasants felt oppressed and called for the abolition of feudal obligations - serfdom. They wanted freedom from from servitude, controlled wages, and unfair taxes.

The Rulers!
During this period England was ruled by the young Plantagenet King Richard II who gained the throne, 4 years before in 1377. The peasants were loyal to the King and their hatred was centred on his uncle, the rich and powerful John of Gaunt.

The Rebels!
The Kentish leaders of the Revolt were Robert Cave, Abel Ker, Jack Straw, Thomas Farringdon, and Wat Tyler and the rebellion soon spread to Essex and London. A priest called John Ball stirred the flame of revolution even higher by preaching to the peasants and encouraging them to call for justice.

The Story!
The peasants marched on London whilst the boy-King Richard II and his Court including the Earl of Derby (the future Henry IV), John of Gaunt's son, Sir Thomas Percy (admiral), and Sir Thomas Walworth (Lord Mayor of London) had fled to the Tower of London for safety. King Richard met the rebels at Blackheath and agreed to their demands - many of the peasants peacefully returned to their homes. The remaining peasants led by Wat Tyler met with the King again at Smithfield. Wat Tyler was wounded and captured - he was later beheaded by Mayor Walworth and his men. John Ball met an even more horrific fate and was Hung, drawn and quartered. The King had won the day and the rebellion was crushed. But the rhyme which sparked the 'English Revolution' is still remembered today!

When Adam delved and Eve span
Rhyme lyrics,

"When Adam delved, and Eve span
Who was then a gentleman?"


Picture of John of Gaunt
Picture of a famous 'John' from English history. A Plantagenet prince, the rich and powerful John of Gaunt (1340 - 1399 )

His liaison with a commoner called Katherine Swynford produced four illegitimate children
( He married Katherine in 1396 and their children (the Beauforts), by this time adults, were legitimised) Their son John was the Great-Great Grandfather of King Henry VIII of England

"Of Peasant Stock mighty
Kings are born."
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The Elephant Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme & Poem

The Elephant Rhyme is also known as The Blind Men and the Elephant. The Elephant Rhyme was written by the American poet John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)The Elephant Rhyme is a poem with a morale reflecting on people who express their views on subjects that they have no experience of, or as in the Elephant Rhyme that they have never seen. The morale of the Elephant Rhyme is similar to that expressed by the Scarecrow in the wonderful Children's film - The Wizard Of Oz. The screen play / script of the Wizard of Oz movie was written by Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allen Woolf.  The similarity comes when Dorothy asks the Scarecrow, "How can you talk if you haven't got a brain?" To which the Scarecrow replies, "I don't know. But some people without brains do an awful lot of talking, don't they?" See below for the words and morale of the Elephant Rhyme.

The Elephant Rhyme

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”


The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, “Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”


The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”


The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
“ ‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”


The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”


The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”


And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

The Moral of the Elephant Rhyme:

So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!!
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There was a Little Guinea Pig
Nursery Rhyme

Nursery Rhyme & History

Secret Meaning!
The origins and lyrics of 'There was a little guinea-pig' like many old nursery rhymes have secret, hidden, meanings and allude to people and events in history. The references in 'There was a little guinea-pig' are believed to refer to the people in the Plantagenet court of King Richard 111 of England (Immortalised by William Shakespeare in the play Richard III.) To understand the meanings of this Nursery Rhyme we need to refer to the famous satirical rhyme by Colyngbourne:

"The Cat, the Rat and Lovell our Dog,
Rule all England under a Hog"

The Cat was Sir Thomas Catesby. The Rat was Sir William Ratcliffe of Ordsall Hall. The Dog was Thomas, Lord Lovell ( Lovell's emblem was a talbot, a now-extinct breed of hunting hound). The Hog was Richard III ( his emblem was a white boar). The couplet refers to the fact that this hated trio of men enjoyed enormous power and influence in the reign of the equally disliked King Richard III. William Shakespeare discredited King Richard even further in his famous play. The nursery rhyme 'There was a little guinea-pig' provides an even more obscure reference to these men. For the most comprehensive information on  Shakespeare and his Complete Works search on the internet: William Shakespeare info


Picture of King Richard III

There was a Little Guinea Pig Nursery Rhyme lyrics,

There was a little guinea-pig,
Who, being little, was not big;
He always walked upon his feet,
And never fasted when he eat.

When from a place he run away,
He never at the place did stay;
And while he run, as I am told,
He ne'er stood still for young or old.

He often squeaked, and sometimes violent,
And when he squeaked he ne'er was silent.
Though ne'er instructed by a cat,
He knew a mouse was not a rat.

One day, as I am certified,
He took a whim and fairly died;
And as I am told by men of sense,
He never has been living since.
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The Lion and the Unicorn Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme & History

Origins of "The lion and the unicorn" in British history
The Lion and the Unicorn lyrics date from 1603 when King James VI of Scotland became James I of England unifying the Scottish and English kingdoms . The 'Virgin Queen' Elizabeth 1 named the son of Mary Queen of Scots, James, as her heir. The union of the two countries required a new royal coat of arms combining those of England which featured two lions, and Scotland  whose coat of arms featured two Unicorns hence "The lion and the unicorn". A compromise was made thus the British coat of arms has one Lion and one Unicorn and the poem about hence "The Lion and the Unicorn" was created.


The picture depicts the Lion ( with the crown) and the Unicorn Coat of Arms. The centre of the Arms depicts the lions of England in the first and fourth quarters, the lion of Scotland in the second and the Harp of Ireland in the third quarter. The motto around the centre means:
" Evil to him who evil thinks" which relates to the Order of the Garter.
The motto at the bottom means:
" God and my Right "

The Lion and the Unicorn poem

The lion and the unicorn were fighting for the crown
The lion beat the unicorn all around the town.
Some gave them white bread, and some gave them brown;
Some gave them plum cake and drummed them out of town
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Little Hen Rhyme
Meaning of the Little hen rhyme & lyrics

'Little Hen' is a term of endearment used in Scotland and therefore implies a rhyme with Scottish origins. 'Little Hen' would often be used when referring to the daughter of the house. The imagination of children, however, take the meaning of all words  literally,  thus any illustrations of this story always depict a little hen!

Little Hen rhyme

I had a little hen, the prettiest ever seen,
She washed up the dishes and kept the house clean.
She went to the mill to fetch us some flour,
And always got home in less than an hour.
She baked me my bread, she brewed me my ale,
She sat by the fire and told a fine tale!
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Hark Hark the Dogs do Bark Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme & History

A Sinister Tale
The "Hark, hark the dogs do bark" rhyme dates back to 13th century England. The origin of "Hark, hark the dogs do bark", reflected in the words, is seeped in history. Wandering minstrels or troubadours and beggars went from city to town singing their songs (some in rags and some in tags and one in a velvet gown) Messages of dissent to the common people were often found in secret meanings to the words of their ballads. In this way the propaganda of the day was safely passed from one community to another.  These secret messages could led to plots and uprisings against the royalty, clergy and politicians of the day. Even further back in time, in Saxon England, professional storytellers, called 'scops', would also travel around the country telling stories for their living. During outbreaks of the Bubonic Plague strangers were looked upon with horror! Dogs barking alerted the townspeople to strangers in their area, hence the words
"Hark, hark the dogs do bark ..."  

Hark hark the dogs do bark
The beggars are coming to town
Some in rags and some in jags*
And one in a velvet gown.

* Jags - A slash or slit in a garment exposing material of a different color (especially popular during the Tudor period.)

Additional Information regarding the history & origin of this rhyme
Out thanks go to Yasmin Mazur for submitting the following possibilities for
'Hark, Hark the dogs do bark'

It refers to the Dissolution of the Monasteries (1536 - 1540) perpetrated by King Henry VIII and his chief minister Thomas Cromwell, when England broke from the Catholic religion. Their objective was to loot the monasteries and seize the monastic lands (which they promptly sold) thus increasing the wealth in the coffers of England. This resulted in monks begging in the streets and reflected in the lyrics of 'Hark, Hark the dogs do bark'

or

In 1688 William of Orange brought his Dutch followers to England - it is suggested that the person referred do as being 'one in a velvet gown' was William himself and the beggars referred to his Dutch associates



The pictures is of King Henry VIII who
broke with the Catholic Church and
dissolved the English Monasteries

Hark hark the dogs do bark rhyme;-

Hark hark the dogs do bark
The beggars are coming to town
Some in rags and some in jags*
And one in a velvet gown.
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The Big Ship Sails

Rhyme & History

THE BIG SHIP SAILS ON THE ALLY-ALLY-OH

The big ship sails on the ally-ally-oh
The ally-ally-oh, the ally-ally-oh
Oh, the big ship sails on the ally-ally-oh
On the last day of September.

The captain said it will never, never do
Never, never do, never, never do
The captain said it will never, never do
On the last day of September.

The big ship sank to the bottom of the sea
The bottom of the sea, the bottom of the sea
The big ship sank to the bottom of the sea
On the last day of September.

We all dip our heads in the deep blue sea
The deep blue sea, the deep blue sea
We all dip our heads in the deep blue sea
On the last day of September.

The words of the Nursery Rhyme and children's song, 'The big ship sails... ' have only been suggestedto have the following meaning. Little is known about the origins of the song, but we have speculated on possible origins

Nursery Rhyme Origins

The rhyme and song was often sang by children playing skipping games, the lyrics suited the ritual chants for children 'jumping in' the skipping ropes. Perhaps the term 'big ships' provide a clue to the origins.  The Manchester Ship canal was opened in 1894 and is the eighth-longest ship canal in the world, being only slightly shorter than the Panama Canal in Central America. The MSC was built for ocean-going ships - there were only six ships in the world too big to use the Ship Canal. These big ships started their journeys on the canal which led to the sea.  The Manchester Ship Canal connected Manchester, W England, with the Mersey estuary at Eastham, Birkenhead. Perhaps this is the origin of the song...  
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An Apple a Day
An Apple a Day Nursery Rhyme / Poem

The simple meaning behind the sentiment expressed in 'An apple a day' poem is one to encourage the child to eat healthily and wisely that is An apple a day! Although perhaps 'Doctor' could be replaced with 'Dentist' in a modern day version of this poem of "An apple a day" - delicious! The author of the poem "An apple a day" is unknown and the first publication date has been untraceable.

Poem - An apple a day keeps the Doctor away

An apple a day keeps the doctor away
Apple in the morning - Doctor's warning
Roast apple at night - starves the doctor outright
Eat an apple going to bed - knock the doctor on the head
Three each day, seven days a week - ruddy apple, ruddy cheek
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Cry Baby Bunting Rhyme
The origins - lullaby lyrics for this poem "Cry Baby Bunting"

The lyrics of the poem "Cry Baby Bunting" were not intended to be important - it was the sound of the music to accompany it! The song "Cry Baby Bunting" would be sung softly to a young child as a lullaby. Perhaps to explain the disappearance of Father to a crying child! Earliest traceable publication 1784. There is however a version of this lullaby which clearly has American roots - please see lyrics below.

Poem - Cry Baby Bunting

Cry Baby Bunting
Daddy's gone a-hunting
Gone to fetch a rabbit skin
To wrap the Baby Bunting in
Cry Baby Bunting

Alternative Lyrics

Bye, baby bumpkin
Where’s Tony Lumpkin
My lady’s on her death-bed,
For eating half a pumpkin
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The Sandman

Rhyme & History

The Sandman's coming in his train of cars
With moonbeam windows and with wheels of stars
So hush you little ones and have no fear
The man-in-the-moon he is the engineer

The railroad track tis a moonbeam bright
That leads right up into the starry night

So put on you 'jamas and say your prayers

The words of the Nursery Rhyme, 'The Sandman ' have been kindly provided by a friend of mine. He believes that they are incomplete, so if anyone can provide any additional words, please let us know! The 'wheel of stars' referred to in the rhyme might refer to Ezekiel's Wheels which were used to highlight the forgotten method of finding the sun's position at night and thus keeping the time, the missing method was by gearing two great imaginary spinning wheels of stars.    
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Christmas is Coming Rhyme
Nursery Rhyme & History

The charitable lyrics of "Christmas is coming" poem!
The lyrics of the poem "Christmas is coming" associate the Christmas feast with geese which are eaten in traditional English Christmas feasts. The meaning that is conveyed to a child in "Christmas is coming" is that the festive period is where each should give to charity, according to their means... even if all they could give was their blessing (If you haven't got a penny...)

History of the Penny!
The history of the English penny is not commonly known but is a vital part of our history and heritage! The first documented reference to the penny is dated 790 AD when the first British penny was minted in silver. The design of the penny frequently changed depicting the images of various rulers. The first Anglo-Saxon pennies depicted a cross on the reverse of the coin as a symbol of Christianity. These crosses were used as guidelines to cut the penny into halves and quarters - "cut coinage". The halfpenny (worth half the value of a penny) and farthing (worth a quarter, or a fourth, of the value of a penny) were then minted. The word farthing was derived from 'fourthing'. The penny changed from silver to copper in 1797 ( hence the colloquialism 'coppers') then changed to bronze in 1860 and copper plated steel in 1992. The Nursery Rhyme "Christmas is coming" can claim to be instrumental in maintaining our heritage in relation to the coinage of both the UK and the USA which also used the humble penny.

Poem - Christmas is coming rhyme

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat
Please to put a penny in the old man's hat;
If you haven't got a penny, a ha'penny will do,
If you haven't got a ha'penny then God bless you!
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For want of a Nail Rhyme
"For want of a nail" Nursery Rhyme & History

A clever set of lyrics in "For want of a nail" encouraging children to apply logical progression to the consequences of their actions. "For want of a nail" is often used to gently chastise a child whilst explaining the possible events that may follow a thoughtless act.

The History of Obligatory Archery Practise!
The references to horses, riders, kingdoms and battles in "For want of a nail" indicate the English origins of the rhyme. One of the English Kings did not leave anything to chance! In 1363, to ensure the continued safety of the realm, King Edward III commanded the obligatory practice of archery on Sundays and holidays! The earliest known written version of the rhyme is in John Gower's " Confesio Amantis dated approximately 1390.

"For want of a nail" American usage
Benjamin Franklin included a version of the rhyme in his Poor Richard's Almanack when America and England were on opposite sides.

During World War II, this verse was framed and hung on the wall of the Anglo-American Supply Headquarters in London, England.

For want of a nail - rhyme

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail
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Aiken Drum
Rhyme Lyrics,

Aiken Drum
There was a man lived in the moon,
Lived in the moon, lived in the moon
There was a man lived in the moon,
And his name was Aiken Drum.

Chorus
And he played upon a ladle,
a ladle, a ladle
And he played upon a ladle,
and his name was Aiken Drum.

And his hat was made of good cream cheese,
of good cream cheese, of good cream cheese,
And his hat was made of good cream cheese
And his name was Aiken Drum.

Chorus

And his coat was made of good roast beef,
of good roast beef, of good roast beef,
And his coat was made of good roast beef,
And his name was Aiken Drum.

Chorus

And his buttons made of penny loaves,
of penny loaves, of penny loaves,
And his buttons made of penny loaves,
And his name was Aiken Drum.

Chorus

And his breeches made of haggis bags
of haggis bags, of haggis bags
And his breeches made of haggis bags,
and his name was Aiken Drum.

The words of the Nursery Rhyme and children's song, 'Aiken Drum ' have been suggested by Helena.  This tune first appeared as a nursery rhyme in Percy Society's Early English Poetry, Ballads, and Popular Literature of the Middle Ages (1841).

Aiken Drum Nursery Rhyme Origins

The rhyme originates from Scotland and possibly dates back to the 1715 Jacobite Rising. But who was Aiken Drum? He was possibly a mythical creature called a Brownie, who was generally benevolent but sometimes mischievous. A Brownie is a legendary kind of elf or fairy popular in folklore around Scotland and Northern England. In Scotland the most well-known individual brownie, was described in the poem "The Brounie o Blednoch" by William Nicholson, who goes by the name of Aiken Drum!
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John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt
Rhyme Lyrics,

John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt,
His name is my name too.

Whenever we go out,
The people always shout,
There goes John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt.

Dah dah dah dah, dah dah dah

The words of the Nursery Rhyme, 'John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt ' originate in the USA and possibly reflect the enormous numbers of German immigrants at various points in American history. The surname Schmidt and the surname suffix -heimer are of Germanic origin. It is a favorite rhyme of children and often referred to as a 'Bus Song'. The pseudo-German word 'Jingleheimer' was probably used to mock the longer names often found in this language.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2007 9:16 pm    Post subject: The Chapbooks and the Nursery Rhyme Reply with quote

The Chapbooks and the Nursery Rhyme


A Picture of a Chapbook page dated 1820
The House that Jack Built Nursery Rhyme

Chapbooks
The Nursery Rhyme began to be printed in England as early as 1570! The Nursery Rhyme, which up to this point been passed to different generations verbally, started to be passed on via the written form. Printing allowed the production of books and cheap pamphlets, or Chapbooks. A chapbook is "a small book or pamphlet containing poems, ballads, stories, or religious tracts". More people during this time were learning to read but the chapbooks were also popular with people who could not read as they contained pictures, in the printed form of crude wood engravings. The Chapbook was a Middle Age equivalent of a Children's comic - documenting funny rhymes and Folklore!


The Chapmen!
Chapbooks were sold by 'Chapmen' or peddlers who sold, amongst other wares, the popular penny Chapbooks at local fairs! The Chapmen sold various wares that were easy to transport from one village or fair to the next. They attracted attention by dancing and singing the old familiar Rhymes! The word 'Chap' originates in Middle English, from the Old English 'capman' meaning 'trade' add this to the word 'cheap' to provide a full definition of a Chapman. ( You now know the origin and meaning of the name Chapman!) These old Chap books, sold by the Chapmen, have given us most of our old Nursery Rhymes! English Ballads, Folklore and old legends were also documented in Chapbooks and sung by wandering minstrels which helped to continue the spread of the old Nursery Rhymes and Legends.

The Chapbooks
The Chapbook was a cheap, small book, containing 24 pages or less without a hard cover. Chapbooks were usually anonymous and undated. The popularity of Chapbooks increased during the 1600's, 1700's and 1800's but only a few of the early copies have survived. The contents were committed from memory which accounts for some variations in the lyrics and words of some Nursery Rhymes.  

The Chapbook Printers and Publishers
The leading chapbook printers including John Marshall, published , printed and sold in Aldermary Churchyard, next to the Church of St Mary Aldermary, Bow Lane in 1780. Aldermary Churchyard was situated East and south of St. Mary Aldermary Church, from Budge Row to Bow Lane. It is also of interest to note that Newbery Publishing House, who published "Mother Goose's Melody - or Sonnets for the Cradle", was originally set up in St. Paul’s churchyard.

Nursery Rhymes, Fairy Tales & Children's stories in Chapbooks
The content and material of the Chapbooks expanded in the 1700's to include children's stories like Robinson Crusoe  and various versions of Perrault’s Fairy Tales.

The Chapbooks and History
The Chapbooks provide some excellent information and material for those interested in tracing the origins of the Nursery Rhyme - all of which help us to maintain our history and heritage through the words and lyrics of the humble Nursery Rhyme.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2007 9:31 pm    Post subject: Nursery Rhymes;-The Inner Meaning Reply with quote

Nursery Rhymes

The Inner Meaning

THE ONCE-POPULAR BELIEF in Telluria that fairy tales are mere nonsensical fancies for children is losing ground. Among educated people it is generally accepted that they were not originally intended for children (although the fact that children, on their own level, can appreciate them bespeaks their universality), and that they contain depths of meaning far beyond what appears on the surface. Yet despite this rehabilitation of fairy tales (which, in itself, usually implies only the scantiest understanding of their true meaning, and often takes the form of outright misinterpretations based upon the errors of Jung and Freud) there has been but little tendency to see in nursery rhymes anything more than pleasant childish nonsense.

The scope of the nursery rhyme is much broader than that of the fairy tale, ranging from lullabies and baby-games to some quite sophisticated story-verses. In Aristasia we find a wide range of verses, some of which are simply a child’s first introduction to certain aspects of life, and familiar figures of the natural and human realms; others are proverbs concerning good conduct — but none of this is merely ‘secular’ in the modern sense, since the traditional way of life and view of life is being taught both in the verses themselves and in the explanations of them given by grown-ups; a view of life in which all earthly things are reflections of the Absolute. The obedience, grace, courtesy and uprightness taught by the proverbs are the very foundation-stones of the life of thamë — life within the harmony of Dia’s earthly family and of Her divine Law.

Nevertheless, many of the rhymes have a far more detailed and specific inner meaning. As with fairy tales, many of them have direct equivalents in Telluria. Here is one which is known by both peoples and has long been treasured for Its beautiful, haunting quality:

How many miles to Abolan?
Three score and ten.
Can I get there by candle-light?
Yes, and back again.
If thy heels be fleet and light
You’Il be there by candle—light.
(Open the gates as wide as you may
And let the Rayin’s horses pass through on their way.)


In many Tellurian versions, the Holy City of Abolan appears as the somewhat-assonant Babylon (though in other versions It is Edinburgh or some other city). This use of the Wicked City is a rather ironic, since it obscures the whole point of the rhyme. In Aristasia Abolan was the capital of the old Western Empire (Abolrai), and the name is related to Avala, the Western paradise or Isles of the Blest. Abolan is a type of the Holy City, and as such, the Heart, Centre and Temple of the surrounding land. The Journey to Abolan is, therefore, maid’s spiritual pilgrimage to the true Centre. Three score and ten, of course, is not a number picked at random, but is a symbolic length in folk-tradition for a human life.

Many of the critical junctures of life occur at the multiples of seven years: the attainment of reason at seven temple-entry in the East at fourteen, adulthood at twenty-one, the Grand Climacteric at 49 etc. 7x10 links human life to the historical cycle (symbolised by 10). The light of a candle is a traditional image of a single human life. Thus the road to Abolan is the spiritual journey of a maid’s earthly life; a life lived in thamë, whose every activity, however apparently ‘worldly’ is related to the Centre, and whose reward is a coming-to-the-Centre. It is not, however, a reward won lightly, for she must exercise skill and speed in order to attain the Goal.

This idea brings us to the final two lines. They are placed in brackets because they are used only when ‘Abolan’ is played as a game. The Rayin (queen) represents the human soul, and her horses are the various powers and tendencies of the soul which must be disciplined and harnessed in order to attain the Goal, Two players (they may or may not be children) choose the names of ‘opposites’ such as gold and silver, day and night, and then hold up their hands to form a gate. The other players form a ‘crocodile’ (the Rayin’s entourage) in front of the gate, and the rhyme is recited as an exchange between them and the gates. At the end the gates open and they pass through, but the gates come down in an attempt to trap the last player. This is the “perilous passage” motif so common in the fairy tales: the need to pass through all the dualities and oppositions of the world in order to attain the Absolute, the Oneness, which lies beyond them.*

The necessity of swiftness represents spiritual skill; if the player is too slow, she will be caught, and even if she succeeds her tail may be docked by the gates (often the soul is represented by a hare or a bird). The rest of the game reinforces the concept of the conflict of opposites which creates the flux of the material world and of the perilous passage: each child, as she is caught, must choose in whispers one of the two secret names, and, having chosen, lines up behind the gate to which it belongs. When all the players have been caught there is a tug-of-war between the two sides, and sometimes the losers must run the gauntlet between the winners, who attempt to whip their legs with long grasses or thin sally (willow) switches aa they pass through.

The riddle-rhyme:

Old Mother Granya hath but one eye
And a long tail which she does let fly;
And every time she doth jump through a gap
She leaveth a part of her tail in a trap.


refers obviously to the perilous passage motif. The answer, of course, is a needle, and it is connected also with the solar symbolism of sewing and the stritvatë or thread-Spirit. The ‘one eye’, as well as its obvious reference, is the ‘single eye’ which sees only the One Spirit and not the pairs of opposites. Of similar import are such rhyme-games as “Thread My Grandam’s Needle” and “Through the Needle-Eye”, both of which have actions related to that of “Abolan”.

A different type of game is the acting-game of which “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” is the best-known example. Here one player stands in the centre while the others form a ring around her. During the choruses they dance round her like the planets about the sun, while in each verse she chooses and leads the action (this is the way we clap our hands, sow the corn etc.). In some versions she is a bramble-bush, but both the bramble and the mulberry are associated with forms of Dia**, and is a minor representative of the World Tree. In each case she represents the still Point at the centre of manifestation, the solar Spirit Herself, by Whom all the forms of manifestation are expressed in their perfect Essence and are reflected upon the rim of the wheel of being, (in the realm of movement and multiplicity)

. There are many rhyme-games of this sort. Strictly (because of the perfect “obedience” of the ring) this one represents not the relation of hub to the rim of the wheel, but of the axle-point to the hub that is to say, of God Herself to the Angelic or Archetypal realm of unfallen creation. Competitive versions which turn upon the mistakes made by the players represent the relation of the hub to the rim the fallen world of matter, which mirrors the Spirit, yet is ‘a broken and imperfect reflection’ of Her.

Finally, let us consider a very different, though related, rhyme:

I had a little nut tree,
Nothing would it bear
But a silver nutmeg
And a golden pear.
The High PrIncess of Caire
Came to visit me,
And all for the sake
Of my little nut tree.
I skipped over the water,
I danced over the sea,
And all the birds of the air
Couldn’t catch me.


In Tellurian versions the High Princess of Caire is usually represented by The King of Spain’s Daughter — a topical reference to the visit of Joanna of Castile to the English court in 1506 grafted onto an older rhyme. The tree, as is often the case, refers to the Axis Mundi, the central pillar of being, and the possession of it indicates oneness with the central or primordial human state.

A maid in such a state is said to be “in possession of her heart”. The golden and silver fruits are respectively the Spirit and the soul which meet in the heart and the two faculties of the heart: pure Intelligence and pure Love (as opposed to their lesser material reflections, reason and emotion), for the Pear is ruled by Sai Sushuri (Venus) and the nutmeg by Sai Mati (Mercury). The subtle interplay of these two ‘cordials’, explained earlier in relation to the symbolism of Wine and of the Chalice [the reference is to another essay which we hope to reprint here — editress] is inherent in the specific fruits used, showing them to be far more than mere random choices, for the scent of the pear has a certain airy, Matic quality (strongly apparent in pear-drops) as opposed to the more obvious choice, the apple, which is the Sushuric fruit par excellence. The scent of nutmeg, for its part, bears a resemblance to the highly Sushuric musk, as its name indicates (from nut + Old French muge = musk).

That the tree will bear nothing else indicates the same singleness of purpose as Mother Granya’s one eye. The realisation of the Primordial State places maid in a situation more central even than the great ritual Centres of the sacred world; thus the High Princess of Caire (the Holy City of the ancient Celestial Empire of the East) herself the ritual representative of primordial Centrality, makes pilgrimage to she who has actualised the true Centre within herself.

The last two lines show her as a liberated soul, a mover-at­will. Her speed again represents spiritual skill; dancing or walking on water is a sign of spiritual perfection in Aristasian scriptures, as it is in those of the Buddhists and Christians in Telluria. It represents , among other things, the ability to cross at will between the hither and nether shores; between this world and the world beyond; between earth and Heaven, without need of the ritual ‘bridges’ used by the rest of (normal traditional) humanity.

Of course, the full doctrines which lie enfolded In the nursery rhymes are far too complicated for a young child to understand. As with the fairy tales, she begins by feeling only a sense of special magic about them. As she grows older, at least in the East and in the more traditional families of the West, she is slowly led deeper into the real source of this feeling — the inner mystery of the rhymes. Her childhood experience is not simply denied and written off as “childish” but confirmed, deepened and explained. This is a part of the bringing-up of all normal, traditional children, as opposed to the bringing-down which the abnormal Tellurian society inflicts upon its offspring — the systematic denial of all that is deep and true in their natural perceptions until, when they finally come of age after years of perverse “education”, they, quite literally, have not the sense they were born with.

        --------------------------------------------------------------

* The "active door" or "narrow gate" motif, comprised of two facing dangers, is probably best known in Telluria from the Homeric Scylla and Charibdis, but for numerous Tellurian examples from many cultures, together with a traditional exegesis, see Ananda Coomaraswamy's "Symplegades".

** Here again, there are Tellurian parallels - for example, in the Iliad the goddess Hera decorates her pierced ears with mulberry clusters and the mulberry is also sacred to Minerva; the bramble was sacred to St Bridget of Ireland (originally the goddess Brighde); the Chinese goddess Ma-Ku took land from the sea and planted it with mulberry trees.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2007 9:40 pm    Post subject: The nursery rhyme 'Sing a Song of Sixpence' Reply with quote

The nursery rhyme 'Sing a Song of Sixpence'

Claim:   The nursery rhyme 'Sing a Song of Sixpence' originated as a coded message used to recruit crew members for pirate ships.

Status:   True.

Origins:   Many of us fondly recall the rhyming ditties we learned as children, such as "Jack Be Nimble" and "The Farmer in the Dell." But how many of us realize that several of our most fondly-recalled nursery rhymes (e.g., "A Tisket, A Tasket" and "Little Jack Horner") were not mere nonsense songs, but actually originated as coded references to such dark events as plagues and religious persecution? Such was the case with another childhood favorite, "Sing a Song of Sixpence."

For those unfamiliar with this ditty, let's start by offering its lyrics:


Sing a song of sixpence
A pocket full of rye
Four and twenty blackbirds
Baked in a pie  When the pie was opened
The birds began to sing
Was that not a tasty dish
To set before a king?  
The King was in his counting house
Counting out his money
The Queen was in the parlor
Eating bread and honey  The Maid was in the garden
Hanging out the clothes
When down came a blackbird
And snapped off her nose!  

The surprising truth is that this innocent little rhyme, which dates from the early 1700s, actually represents a coded message used to recruit crew members for pirate vessels!

Pirates (or corsairs, privateers whose activities were sanctioned by letters of marque from a sovereign) did not  
spend all their time at sea: they cruised the waters in areas such as the Mediterranean, the Spanish Main, or the Atlantic coast of North America, looking for prizes, and they returned to port when the need for supplies or repairs demanded it. Upon reaching port, the ship's captain paid off the crew (primarily by dividing the spoils of whatever they had captured), and the crew members then dispersed ashore (usually to spend all their pay on alcohol and prostitutes as quickly as possible). Some crewmen tended to stay in the vicinity, but others left for other regions, caught on with other ships, died, were killed, or simply disappeared. Thus, much like the captains of naval vessels and merchant traders, the captains of pirate ships needed to recruit new crew members whenever they embarked on yet another venture. Since piracy (as opposed to privateering) was against the law, pirates devised codes that could be used to advertise for crew members without openly revealing their illegal affiliations.

The nursery rhyme "Six a Song of Sixpence" was a coded message that evolved over several years' times and was used by confederates of the notorious pirate Blackbeard to recruit crew members for his prize-hunting expeditions. Like many other messages passed down to us over hundreds of years by oral tradition, there is no one "official" version, nor is there a "correct" interpretation for any particular variant. In general, however, the most common form of this rhyme bore these veiled meanings:


Sing a song of sixpence / A pocket full of rye
Blackbeard's standard payment of sixpence a day was considered good money in the 1700s, especially since most pirate vessels did not pay a salary: the crew only received a share of the spoils if they were successful in capturing prizes (and many a pirate ship had to return to port empty-handed after spending several fruitless months at sea). As well, his crew was promised a pocket (a leather bag somewhat like an early canteen which held about a liter) full of rye (whiskey) per day. Not bad, considering that alcohol was the average sailor's raison d'etre.


Four and twenty blackbirds / Baked in a pie
As Henry Betts points out in his book on the origins and history of nursery rhymes, "It was a favourite trick in the sixteenth century to conceal all sorts of surprises in a pie." Buccaneers, too, were fond of surprises, and one of Blackbeard's favorite ruses to lure a ship within boarding range was to make his own vessel (or crew) appear to be in distress, typically by pretending to have been dismasted in a storm or to have sprung a leak below the waterline. Passing ships — both honest sailors wanting to help and other pirates looking for an easy catch — would sail in close to offer assistance, whereupon a crew of two dozen heavily-armed seamen dressed in black would board the other vessel (via a boat in darkness or fog, or by simply jumping into the other ship when it came alongside if no other means of surprise attack was possible) to quickly kill or disable as many crew members as possible. Thus the four and twenty "blackbirds" (i.e., Blackbeard's crewmen) "baked in a pie" (i.e., concealed in anticipation of springing a trap).


When the pie was opened / The birds began to sing
This follows from the previous line. Once the victim's ship was lured in for the kill, the "blackbirds" came out of hiding and attacked with a fearsome din.


Was that not a tasty dish / To set before a king?
This line is commonly misinterpreted. The King is not a reference to any real king, but rather to Blackbeard himself, the king of pirates. And the tasty dish is the plundered ship that was so easily captured.


The King was in his counting house / Counting out his money

Again, the King is Blackbeard (no real king would take on such a mean task as counting money). This line of the message signals that Blackbeard had the cash on hand to pay a crew on salary rather than strictly on divided spoils.


The Queen was in the parlor / Eating bread and honey
Blackbeard's main vessel was a French merchant ship named "Le Concorde de Nantes" that was jointly captured by Blackbeard and Captain Hornigold in the Grenadines in November of 1717. Upon his retirement from pirating, Hornigold presented the ship to Blackbeard, who renamed it "The Queen Anne's Revenge". Thus the "Queen" referred to here is Blackbeard's ship, and "eating bread and honey" meant that it was in port taking on supplies in preparation for a cruise.


The Maid was in the garden / Hanging out the clothes
The use of the word "maid" indicated that the location/route of one or more prize ships was known, and they were going to be specific targets of the upcoming cruise (this greatly enhancing the probability of the crew's collecting prize money). The waters around the Carolinas down to the Caribbean were referred to as the garden, as this was an area where pirates would often cruise for easy pickings. "Hanging out the clothes" meant the targeted ship was already at sea or just about to leave port (thus its sails — or "clothes" — have been hung).


When down came a blackbird / And snapped off her nose!
There is some scholarly debate in literary and maritime circles as to whether the last part was originally "and snapped off her nose" or "and snapped off a rose." Either way, the passage is taken to be a Blackbeard's bragging about his plans to swoop in and have his way with the targeted ship.

So, next time you hear this innocent children's song, remember that it was originally recited in taverns by drunken, bloodthirsty buccaneers as a code to recruit other pirates for their next murderous voyage!
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2007 10:16 pm    Post subject: Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme Reply with quote

Humpty Dumpty is a character in a nursery rhyme portrayed as an anthropomorphic egg. Most English-speaking children are familiar with the rhyme:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again.
The fact that Humpty Dumpty is an egg is not actually stated in the rhyme. In its first printed form, in 1810, it is a riddle, and exploits for misdirection the fact that "humpty dumpty" was 18th-Century reduplicative slang for a short, clumsy person. Whereas a clumsy person falling off a wall would not be irreparably damaged, an egg would be. The rhyme is no longer posed as a riddle, since the answer is now so well known. Similar riddles have been recorded by folklorists in other languages, such as Boule Boule in French, or Lille Trille in Swedish & Norwegian; though none is as widely known as Humpty Dumpty is in English.

Origins
Previous to the "short, clumsy person" meaning, "humpty dumpty" referred to a drink of brandy boiled with ale. There are also various theories of an original "Humpty Dumpty", who was not an egg. As some are mutually exclusive, the theories necessarily include false etymologies.

According to an insert taken from the East Anglia Tourist Board in England, Humpty Dumpty was a powerful cannon used in the Siege of Colchester during the English Civil War. It was mounted on top of the St. Mary's at the Wall Church in Colchester defending the city against siege in the summer of 1648. Although Colchester was a Royalist stronghold, it was besieged by the Roundheads for 11 weeks before finally falling. The church tower was hit by enemy cannon fire and the top of the tower was blown off, sending "Humpty" tumbling to the ground. Naturally all the King's horses and all the King's men (Royalist cavalry and infantry respectively) tried to mend "him" but in vain. Other reports have Humpty Dumpty referring to a sniper nicknamed One-Eyed Thompson, who occupied the same church tower.
Visitors to Colchester can see the reconstructed Church tower as they reach the top of Balkerne Hill on the left hand side of the road. An extended version of the rhyme gives additional verses, including the following:
In Sixteen Hundred and Forty-Eight
When England suffered the pains of state
The Roundheads lay siege to Colchester town
Where the King's men still fought for the crown
There One-Eyed Thompson stood on the wall
A gunner of deadliest aim of all
From St. Mary's Tower his cannon he fired
Humpty-Dumpty was its name...
Another version has it:

In Sixteen Hundred and Forty-Eight
When England suffered the pains of state
The Roundheads lay siege to Colchester town
Where the King's men still fought for the crown
Then One-Eyed Thompson stood on the wall
A gunner of deadliest aim
The cannon he fired from the top of the tower
Humpty-Dumpty was its name...
In another theory, Humpty Dumpty referred to King Richard III of England, the hunchbacked monarch, the "Wall" being either the name of his horse (called "White Surrey" in Shakespeare's play), or a reference to the supporters who deserted him. During the battle of Bosworth Field, he fell off his steed and was said to have been "hacked into pieces". (However, although the play depicts Richard as a hunchback, other historical evidence suggests that he was not.)
The story of Cardinal Wolsey's downfall is supposedly depicted in the children's nursery rhyme of Humpty Dumpty. At length Cawood Castle (Cawood, a village in Yorkshire, seven miles southwest of York) passed to Cardinal Wolsey, who let it fall into disrepair in the early part of his career (1514 – 1530), due to his residence at the Court, devotion to temporal affairs and his neglect of his diocesan duties. King Henry VIII sent Wolsey back home in 1523 after he failed to obtain a divorce from the Pope – a huge mistake on Wolsey’s part. Wolsey returned to the castle and began to restore it to its former grandeur. However, he was arrested for high treason in November, 1530 and ordered to London for trial. He left on 6 November, but took ill at Leicester and died in the Abbey there on 29 November.
An explanation given on a British radio programme described Humpty Dumpty as a siege tower, used by the Cavaliers (King's Men) during the English civil war. Unfortunately, as it was poorly designed, the tower often toppled over when it was full of men and broke. Hence, "All the King's horses and all the King's men, couldn't put Humpty together again."

References in popular culture

Humpty Dumpty and Alice. From Through the Looking Glass. Illustration by John Tenniel.

Humpty Dumpty, shown as a riddle with answer, in a 1902 Mother Goose story book by William Wallace Denslow

Denslow shows the result of the fallHumpty appears in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass, where he discusses semantics and pragmatics with Alice.
"I don't know what you mean by 'glory,' "Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. "Of course you don't -- till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!'"

"But `glory' doesn't mean `a nice knock-down argument,'" Alice objected.

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master -- that's all."

Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again.

"They've a temper, some of them -- particularly verbs, they're the proudest -- adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs -- however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That's what I say!"

Among other things, he (mis-)explains the difficult words from Jabberwocky. See Humpty Dumptyism.

Throughout James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, the male protagonist, Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker, is compared to Humpty Dumpty. One of many exegeses is that his subconscious, which he "breaks open" every night as he sleeps, contains all the fragments of history, which his wife collects and puts back together again in the morning (unlike the rhyme). Joyce explicitly refers to Humphrey as Humpty on page 12, line 12 of the Wake.
"All the King's Men" is used as the title of Robert Penn Warnen's 1946 novel, depicting the events in the dramatic political rise and fall of Willie Stark, a populist southern governor in the American South during the 1930s.
In L. Frank Baum's Mother Goose in Prose, the rhyming riddle is devised by the daughter of the King, having witnessed Humpty's "death" and her father's soldiers' efforts to save him.
Tori Amos wrote a song named Humpty Dumpty which uses the poem as lyrics.
Batman features a character based on Humpty Dumpty - most likely out of its tendency to base ideas on fairy tales and Alice and Wonderland (such as the Mad Hatter). He enjoys taking things apart to see if he can put them back together again and make them better - and was thus mislabeled as a terrorist.
Counting Crows have a song called "Einstein on the Beach (For An Eggman)" in which the chorus references Humpty-Dumpty: "And all the king's men reappear / For an eggman, on and off the wall / Who'll never be together again..."
A re-telling of the rhyme appeared in the TV show Lost In Space in the episode "Rocket To Earth". Dr. Smith is convinced he is seeing things. The Robot attempts to cheer him up by reciting the following:
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty was two inches tall
He fell down and broke his shell
Poor little egg, I wish him well.
To which Smith responds: "I think I'm going to be violently ill".

The title of Robert Penn Warren's novel All the King's Men derives from the nursery rhyme, as does the title of Woodward and Bernstein's Watergate memoir All the President's Men.
All the King's Men is also the title of a children's opera by Richard Rodney Bennett. Set in the time of the English Civil War it describes the invention of a machine similar to the Roman testudo (see below) which the troops on both sides in the Gloucester siege christened "Humpty-Dumpty".
Also, Aimee Mann wrote a song named "Humpty Dumpty", in which the last verses are a romantic adaptation of the original poem ("All the king horses and all the kings men/ Couldn't put baby together
Neil Gaiman published in Knave, in 1984 a short story called 'The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds', which casts Humpty as a murder victim. The tone is that of hard boiled detective fiction and casts a number of nursery rhyme characters in various roles such as Jill from Jack and Jill as the femme fatale or Cock Robin as the underworld informant. It is now available to read from his website.
Jasper Fforde includes Humpty Dumpty in two of his novels. One, The Well of Lost Plots, the third novel in his Thursday Next series, features Humpty as the ringleader of dissatisfied nursery rhyme characters threatening to strike. The other, The Big Over Easy sets Humpty as the victim of a murder under investigation by Detective Inspector Jack Spratt and his partner Detective Sergeant Mary Mary.
Robert Rankin includes Humpty Dumpty as one victim of a serial fairy tale character murderer investigated by Bill Winkie, Private Eye and sidekick Eddie Bear the Teddy Bear, in his novel "The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse"
Humpty makes a cameo in American McGee's Alice, where he is half-broken and smoking a cigar. His role in the game is to point Alice to the location of the Blunderbuss.
In Todd McFarlane's 'Twisted Fairy Tales' line, Humpty Dumpty is not an egg, but a huge fat creature wearing a propellor beanie, with entrails leaking from his body and stitches and staples to 'fix' him.
Frank Beddor said in an interview that Humpty Dumpty will probably be in his third The Looking-Glass Wars book.
Humpty Dumpty also appears in James Joyce's Finnegans Wake as a symbol of the fall of all men.
There is also a song by Travis (Scottish band) which is called "The Humpty Dumpty Love Song". The first lines of it are "All of the king's horses and all of the king's men couldn't put my heart back together again". Taken from their third studio album The Invisible Band (2001). There is another Travis Song called "Coming Around". In the video, there is the singer Fran Healy in an egg and by the end of it he falls from a wall.
In Fantasy Flight Games Grimm RPG of twisted fairy tales he features as Humpty Dumpty aka. "The Rotten King". A smelly ruler over an evil kingdom of monsters who enjoys nothing more than pitting children against each other in cruel games.
The Prog rock band Genesis has a song named Squonk, from their 1976 album A Trick of the Tail, which features the line "All the king's horses and all the king's men could never put a smile on that face".
Humpty Dumpty features prominently in City of Glass by Paul Auster. The character Peter Stillman, while cracking open a boiled egg, uses the example of Humpty Dumpty to explain his theories about language.
In Amanda Filipacchi's novel Nude Men, the eleven-year-old nymphet, Sarah, uses Humpty Dumpty in a variety of ways (for instance, by inventing slightly erotic Humpty Dumpty stories and creating Humpty Dumpty sculptures) to help her seduce the twenty-nine-year old protagonist she is after.
Eggorny is a Colombian cartoon, which is about Humpty Dumpty. It takes place in a mediæval landscape. After his great fall, no one was able to put Humpty together again until some 1500 years later. A teenager named Rufus put him together again, and renamed him Eggorny. Eggorny now lives in the modern-day town of Someville.
The British jazz-funk group Central Line name-checked Humpty Dumpty in their 1981 club hit "You Know You Can Do It" ("Not like Humpty / Don't come tumbling down / Into pieces on the ground")
60's rock band The Monkees has a song called "All The King's Horses" with the chorus singing "All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put my broken heart back together again."
The rap group 2 Live Crew mentions Humpty Dumpty on their controversial album As Nasty As They Wanna Be (1989), on the song "Dirty Nursery Rhymes": "Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall / 'Cause a ho on the ave was sucking his balls / All the king's horses and all the king's men / Couldn't put that fat motherfucker back together again."
In "All the King's horses" by Joss Stone there's a line in the chorus "All the king's horses, and all the king's men, couldn't put our two hearts, together again"
Humpty Dumpty is also a minor character in the first story arc of the comic book Jack of Fables, in which he remembers the Battle at Colchester, and actually fires as a cannon once before cracking up.
On November 6th, 2006, NPR's All Things Considered used the nursery rhyme to demonstrate the talents of voice-over artists Dennis Steele and Scott Sander. Their voices are both recognizeable as narrators for political season TV advertisements. In a "Dire and Disastrous" tone the rhyme was lampooned as, "Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All our Federal Tax Dollars could not put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Humpty Dumpty...Wrong on wall-sitting."
Ricky Gervais, comedian and producer of both the British and American versions of the television show "The Office", riffed about Humpty Dumpty in his stage show, "Politics."
Boston-based band The Receiving End of Sirens uses the lyrics "Bring all the king's horses and all the king's men" in their song "The War of All Against All".
The theme song of australian television show Round The Twist,used the line "If All the king's horses, and all the king's men, couldn't put me back together again I'd say...", the next line in the verse is the opening line of popular nursery rhyme Rain, Rain, Go Away.
Olivier Blanchard and Michael Kremer close their 1997 paper in the Quarterly Journal of Economics entitled "Disorganization" with a phrase from the rhyme.
In Cardcaptor Sakura Tomoyo is Humpty Dumpty during Sakura's trip into "Alice in Wonderland".
In Shugo Chara there is a pair of a lock (Humpty Lock) and a matching key (Dumpty Key). The anime also revolves around the search of the Embryo, an egg that makes wishes come true.
Toast soldiers that are dipped in soft boiled eggs are believed to have been given the name from the rhyme.
In the episode "Nursery Crimes" of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy Mandy tells a very sad Humpty Dumpty tale.
The Stevie Nicks song "Fall From Grace" from her 2001 album Trouble in Shangri-La contains the line "Not all the king's horses / Not all the king's men / Could put it back together..."
The Teena Marie song Fix It from her album Robbery (1983) mentions Humpty Dumpty ("Just like Humpty Dumpty off the wall/ I'm falling down/ I am just the pieces of a fall")
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2007 10:18 pm    Post subject: ANOTHER Meaning of the nursery rhyme Baa Baa Black Sheep ? Reply with quote

ANOTHER Meaning of the nursery rhyme Baa Baa Black Sheep ?

First  in this mad, mad world of political correctness we live in today the nursery rhyme baa, baa black sheep is being re-worded as baa, baa, rainbow sheep because saying black sheep may cause offence to black people   Did anyone ask a black person if he was offended    

In the Middle Ages, a hard-working peasant was required to give one third of his income to the King, "my master," and one third to the fat nobility, "my dame," leaving only a final third for himself, "the little boy." Payment was made in sacks of wool. In other words it was a tax. Another point about this is that wool from a black sheep was worth quite a lot less than ordinary wool. The term "black sheep" of the family derives from this too.

It is interesting that taxation rates were exorbitant in the Middle Ages too
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2007 10:22 pm    Post subject: The Ladybug Nursery Rhyme Reply with quote

The Ladybug Nursery Rhyme

One of the best known of all nursery rhymes is the one that begins "Ladybug ladybug . . . " or, alternatively, "Ladybird ladybird . . . " One common version of this rhyme is:

Ladybug ladybug fly away home,
Your house in on fire and your children are gone,
All except one and that's little Ann,
For she crept under the frying pan.


Another is:

Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home,
Your house is on fire, your children all gone,
Except little Nan, who sits in a pan,
Weaving gold laces as fast as she can.


In Medieval England farmers would set torches to the old hop (used in flavoring beer) vines after the harvest in order to clear the fields for the next planting. This poem was sung as a warning to the ladybugs that were still crawling on the vines in search of aphids. The ladybugs' children (larvae) could get away from the flames, but the pupae, referred to as "Nan" in some versions, were fastened to the plants and thus could not escape.

Pupae are the larvae when they have formed a cocoon and are changing into adults. "Nan" was originally an affectionate form of the name "Ann" (but it is now generally used as a short form of "Nancy").
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san4uzel



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PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2007 10:31 pm    Post subject: meaning of the rhyme Hey Diddle, Diddle. Reply with quote

meaning of the rhyme Hey Diddle, Diddle.

There are many theories about the meaning of the rhyme Hey Diddle, Diddle. One of the most popular explanations for the cat and the fiddle pertains to Queen Elizabeth I.
Hey diddle, diddle,

The cat and the fiddle,

The cow jumped over the moon,

The little dog laughed to see such fun,

And the dish ran away with the spoon.

As with many nursery rhymes, there are many theories about the possible meaning of the popular rhyme Hey Diddle, Diddle. Scholars and laymen argue themselves in circles about where a particular rhyme originated and what it might possibly mean. However, no one is certain about the precise meanings of nursery rhymes because like many traditional forms of childhood entertainment, nursery rhymes were originally an oral tradition. One of the most popular explanations for the cat and the fiddle pertains to Queen Elizabeth I of England.

Hey diddle, diddle,
Hey Diddle, Diddle was originally published in 1765, as High Diddle, Diddle and reflects the popular use of nonsense phrases in songs and rhymes. Shakespeare used the word diddle in his writing. And the phrase hey diddle, diddle is considered similar to a colloquialism found in traditional English folk ballads: ‘hey nonny no.'

The cat and the fiddle,
The cat is argued to represent Queen Elizabeth I who was nicknamed ‘The Cat’ because of the way she played or fiddled with her cabinet members, much like a cat will play with mice. An interesting quote by Elizabeth I states, “I may not be a lion, but I am a lion’s cub, and I have a lion’s heart.” Perhaps the nickname, given behind her back, was not unknown to Elizabeth.

The cow jumped over the moon,
The little dog laughed to see such fun,
The little dog was reportedly Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester. Some believe Elizabeth loved Robert others feel that they were simply very close friends. It is said that Elizabeth once referred to him as her ‘lap dog.’ It is suggested that the cow and the moon are also nicknames for members of Elizabethan court intrigue.

Court intrigue was a huge part of life in the Elizabethan era much as political intrigue is part of our world today. There was very strict protocol regarding the behavior of members of court towards each other and towards the Queen and it is not surprising that nicknames would have been given to the various players.

And the dish ran away with the spoon.
It is said that Elizabeth’s serving lady represents the dish and the spoon was the designation of the royal taster. These two servants fell in love and secretly eloped and ran away from the court. When they were captured, Elizabeth had them thrown into the Tower of London.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2007 10:34 pm    Post subject: Little Jack Horner ;-A Good Boy or Conniving Politician? Reply with quote

Little Jack Horner
A Good Boy or Conniving Politician?

The good little boy in the corner eating his Christmas pie was not so good and implicates a religious man, who is hung, beheaded, and quartered.

Modern Version

Little Jack Horner sat in the corner
Eating his Christmas pie,
He put in his thumb and pulled out a plum
And said "What a good boy am I!"

Historical Version

Little Jack Horner
Sat in a Corner,
Eating of Christmas Pye
He put in his Thumb,
And pull’d out a Plum,
And [said] what a good Boy was I

Alternate Historical Version of Jacky Horner

Sitting in the Chimney-corner
Eating of a Christmas-Pie
Putting in his Thumb, Oh fie!!
Putting in, Oh fie! his Thumb
Pulling out, Oh Strange! a Plum.

The Naughty Little Jack Horner
The idea that Jack Horner is a reference to Thomas Horner is, according to the Annotated Mother Goose nursery rhyme books, a persistent legend. However, even if the account is not true, the fact that Jack was a knave is worth consideration. During the Tudor era (1485-1603), Jack was used as another name for ‘knave.’ The earliest known publication of Little Jack Horner is the inclusion of the rhyme in Henry Carey’s ballad titled “Namby Pamby” in 1720. It is quite possible that the rhyme lasted in an oral form from the Tudor era until it was first published.

The Naughty Thomas Horner
After Henry VIII broke from the Catholic Church he began to disband the monasteries and abbeys in England. Ironically, the motivation was not religious; it was economic. The Dissolution allowed the King to acquire all the churches property both lands and precious metals (gold, silver, and lead among them).

By 1539, Glastonbury Cathedral was one of the last strongholds. Richard Whiting was the Abbot at the time and Thomas Horner was his steward. In desperation, Whiting decided to send a Christmas gift to the King. The gift was the deeds to twelve manorial estates baked into a pie. It was common during the Tudor era to go to extremes to hide valuables and therefore the pie charade was not unusual.

Thomas Horner decided to make the most of the situation and opened the pie and removed the deed to the Manor of Mells. His descendents continue to live on the ‘plum’ estate that he plucked from a pie.

Unfortunately, Horner’s crimes do not stop there. When the King had Abbot Whiting tried for treason, Thomas Horner was on the jury that found him guilty. The poor abbot’s punishment was to be hanged, beheaded, and quartered.

Conclusion
Whoever Little Jack Horner may be, it is a fair guess that he was not a very good little boy.

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Ring-a-ring-a-roses

Like many nursery rhymes Ring around the Rosy has sinister undertones.

Ring around the rosy
A pocketful of posies
"Ashes, Ashes"
We all fall down!

Alternate Version

Ring-a-Ring o'Rosies
A Pocket full of Posies
"A-tishoo! A-tishoo!"
We all fall Down!

Alternate Version

Ring-a-ring-a-roses
A pocket full of posies;
Hush! Hush! Hush! Hush!
We’ve all tumbled down.

Traditional Interpretation
Traditionally the nursery rhyme Ring Around the Rosy or Ring-a-Ring o’Rosies was believed to be a description of the people’s experiences with the bubonic plague.

Ring-a-ring o’Rosies referred to the circular rose-colored rash that appeared on the skin of those who were infected with the bubonic plague.

A Pocket full of Posies referred to the sweet herbs that people collected in pockets or pouches to carry with them in an attempt to prevent the disease. People believed the plague was transferred by bad smells so the posies were considered a beneficial ward against infection.

Ashes, Ashes / We all fall down! Falling down clearly refers to death. The phrase ashes, ashes refers to the cremation of the dead. Nearly 60% of the population died from the bubonic plague. The disease was not halted until the Great Fire of London in 1666, which turned the rats who carried the disease into ashes.

The variation A-tishoo! A-tishoo refers to the violent sneezing, which was another manifestation of the disease.

Modern Concerns
The poem did not appear in print until 1881 when it appeared as part of a Kate Greenaway collection of Mother Goose. The late date of any written record for the rhyme leads skeptics to believe that the rhyme has nothing to do with the bubonic plague.

Others argue that many of the words found in the rhyme cannot be corroborated in Middle English writing. Particularly problematic is the use of the word of and the word poesies. Defenders claim that while the word of is not found in all versions of the rhyme it is used in the version traditionally associated with the English which uses the Middle English variant o’.

While the word poesy is not found in many early documents the word poesy is found in a poem by Edmund Spenser called 'Prothalamion or A Spousal Verse' (1552-1599).

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Ride a cock horse
The theories about the identity of the famous lady who rode to Banbury Cross range from Queen, to scandalous ladies; from goddesses to nobility.

Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross,
To see a fine lady upon a white horse;
With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes
She shall have music wherever she goes.

Alternate Version

Ride a cock horse to Coventry Cross,
To see a fine lady upon a white horse;
With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes
She shall have music wherever she goes.

Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross
There are several suggestions as to what a cock horse might be, among them a white horse, a black horse, a hobbyhorse, or perhaps a euphemism for stallion.

Banbury Cross could refer to either a literal cross, erected in Banbury or to the fact that Banbury was located a crossroads.

Banbury had a large white stone cross to which people would pilgrimage. Not much is known about the cross today because in 1602, anti-Catholic Puritans destroyed the cross because they disagreed with the idea of pilgrimages and perhaps just because it was Catholic.

The fact that Banbury was located at a crossroads would have been enough to warrant mention in a nursery rhyme. Crossroads are significant as a metaphor in religion, art, and literature.

To see a fine lady upon a white horse;
The theories regarding who the ‘fine lady’ might be include, Queen Elizabeth I of England, Lady Godiva, Celia Fiennes, and the Welsh Goddess Rhiannon.

Queen Elizabeth was said to travel to Banbury Cross to see the notable cross.

Lady Godiva is most well known for the legend concerning her naked ride through town on horseback. Her ride was taken in an effort to relieve the taxes of the people Coventry who were under her husband’s care. After countless appeals to him, Lady Godiva’s exasperated husband said he would relieve the taxes if she rode naked through the town. This account would fit well into the alternate version of the rhyme.

Apparently, Celia Feinnes (pronounced fines) married into the Sayre family who lived near Banbury cross at the Broughton Castle. She took many rides through the English countryside in the late 1600’s.

The Welsh Goddess Rhiannon was said to ride a white stallion.

With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes
Wearing bells on the toes of one’s shoes was a popular fashion in the 1600’s, one that dates back to the Plantagenet era. The bells were worn on the toes of shoes that tapered and often curled up. Legend states that these shoes were supposed to imitate the cloven hoof of the goat and were worn by Satanists.

She shall have music wherever she goes
In addition to the music from her apparel, music may have come from the parade-like atmosphere surrounding the ride. If the ‘fine lady’ were Queen Elizabeth, minstrels would have accompanied her on her pilgrimage.
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Pop goes the weasel.

Simply translated the buoyant sounding verse, Pop goes the Weasel is a worker's lament on a ritual of survival in their lives.

Half a pound of tuppenny rice
Half a pound of treacle
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.
Up and down the City road,
in and out the Eagle
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop goes the weasel.

The variations of the nursery rhyme Pop goes the Weasel are diverse. Perhaps one of the reasons for the diversity is that the passage of time has rendered the rhyme so meaningless to modern people that they simply take the imagery away concocting their own interpretive rhymes to fit into the delightful swing of the tune.

Cockney Rhyming Slang
The rhyme dates back to the 1700’s. During that time, a group of working class people who lived on the east side of London near St Mary-le-Bow were known as cockneys. A true cockney was a person within earshot of Bow Bells (the bells of St Mary-le-Bow) and who spoke with a cockney accent. The incomprehensibility of Pop goes the Weasel to modern people lies in its origins as a rhyme created in cockney rhyming slang (CRS).

Translation of the Slang in Pop Goes the Weasel
In CRS, Pop is a slang word for ‘pawn.’ Weasel is shorthand for ‘weasel and stoat’, which translates as coat. In that era, how you dressed for Sunday worship was important. As a result, even the poorest people had their Sunday Best. When money was tight, they would pawn their Sunday Best on Monday and claim it on Friday. The pawning on Monday of their Sundays Best would be ‘popping their weasel.’

For some people, this was a weekly ritual. On Monday, they would pawn their coat for money to buy food and on the weekend when they were paid, they would buy back their coat for Sunday. On Monday, the cycle would begin again – ‘in and out, the money goes.’ The money would then be spent on food items such as rice and treacle.

Half a pound of tuppenny rice

Half a pound of treacle

Treacle is cane sugar that is refined into a syrup by a process of boiling. The treacle referred to in the rhyme is probably from the second boiling and is what we call molasses.

Landmarks in Pop Goes the Weasel
The City Road was a road in London on which The Eagle was located. The Eagle refers simply to a local bar or tavern called ‘The Eagle Tavern.’ Clearly, someone spent some of that hard-earned money in the bar. Imagine the exasperated wife ‘that’s the way the money goes! Pop goes the weasel.’

Simply translated the buoyant sounding verse, Pop goes the Weasel is a worker’s lament on a weekly ritual of survival in their lives.

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Pussycat, Pussycat

The nursery rhyme Pussycat, Pussycat is a fun little nursery rhyme devoid of any meaning besides the literal. Yet there is timeless appeal in the little vignette painted

Explanation
Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been?
I’ve been to London to look at the Queen.
Pussycat, pussycat, what did you there?
I frightened a little mouse under her chair.

The Queen in this rhyme is Elizabeth I (1533-1603). Apparently, one of Elizabeth’s ladies in waiting had a cat that visited the throne room and startled the Queen by brushing against her foot when crawling under the throne. The Queen agreed to allow the cat to remain as long as it removed all mice from the throne room.

Digging Deeper
A simple image given in a simple rhyme is all we find in Pussycat, Pussycat, right? It ought to be. William A. Miller uses it in his book Big Kids’ Mother Goose to illustrate the idea of destiny. Say what? Yep, destiny. Still, while Miller may go astray in his thoughts about a deeper meaning for this poem his initial thoughts aim directly at the idea that this rhyme is simply a vignette of life as it actually is.

...to visit the queen! Oh, absolute ecstasy! What a thrill and honor and privilege for any cat! But what happens? ... No royal reception, no conversation with the queen, no mission accomplished.

So when the cat returns home everyone excitedly says, “Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been?”

And the cat replies, “I’ve been to London to visit the queen.”

And they ask, “Oh pussycat, pussycat what did you there.”

And the pussycat, somewhat sheepishly answers, “I frightened a little mouse...under the queen’s chair.”

Oh well, that’s the way cats are. That’s destiny. That’s the way destiny would have it.(Miller, 51-52).

It is a simple word picture of life as it is.

Variations ;- Version 1
As is often the case with nursery rhymes, there are a number of variations for this rhyme.

Pussycat pussycat, where have you been?
I've been up to London to visit the Queen.
Pussycat pussycat, what did you dare?
I frightened a little mouse under her chair
MEOWW!

Version 2

Pussycat, pussycat where have you been?
I’ve been to grandmother over the green.
What did she give you? Milk in can.
What did you say for it? Thank you, Grandam!

Version 3

Little girl, little girl, where have you been?
Gathering roses to take to the queen.
Little girl, little girl, what gave she you?
She gave me a diamond as big as my shoe.
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Goosey, Goosey Gander

Goosey, Goosey Gander is a nursery rhyme with a historical subtext rooted in religious intolerance.

Goosey, goosey gander
Whither shall I wander?
Upstairs and downstairs
And in my lady’s chamber.
There I met an old man
Who wouldn’t say his prayers.
I took him by the left leg
And threw him down the stairs.

Additional Concluding Lines
The stairs went “crack” / He broke his back / And all the little ducks went “quack, quack, quack.”

Alternate 1
Goose-a-goose-a, gander, / Where shall I wander? / Up stairs, down stairs, / In my lady’s chamber; / There you’ll find a cup of sack. / And a race of ginger.

Alternate 2
Old father Long-Legs / Can’t say his prayers: / Take him by the left leg, / And throw him down stairs. / And when he’s at the bottom, / Before he long has lain, / Take him by the right leg, / And throw him up again.

Traditional Interpretation
The traditional interpretation of this rhyme regards it as an account of the religious upheaval in England during the sixteenth century.

The lady’s chamber is the private room of a high born lady. The lady in this rhyme, apparently had a ‘Priest Hole’ in her room to hide a Catholic Priest. A Priest Hole is a very small hidden room. Priest holes were necessary at this time because those found harboring a priest were executed along with the priest.

The old man who wouldn’t say his prayers refers to the fact that Catholic Priests said their prayers in Latin instead of the using correct language for prayers which according to Protestants was in English. Those who did not ‘convert’ to the Protestant way were executed.

A Specific Event Recorded in the Rhyme
Katherine Elwes Thomas in her book The Many Personages of Mother Goose (1930) proposed a specific incident as the source for the rhyme. The old man who wouldn’t say his prayers was Cardinal Beaton. Beaton did not follow the reformed doctrine of the Convenanters who insisted that prayers be said in English and not Latin.

Cardinal Beaton was thrown “down the stairs.” Once he reached the bottom, he was stabbed to death. His body was then hung from the walls of his castle.

The Evolution of the Rhyme
It is not clear how it happened but the rhyme as we know it today is a merger of the two alternate rhymes listed above.

Difficult Words in Alternate 1
A “cup of sack” refers to vine sec or dry wine.

“Race” is a word used for root and is now obsolete.

Difficult Words in Alternate 2
“Old father Long-Legs refers to one of the insects we call daddy longlegs, harvestman, or crane fly. The Annotated Mother Goose explains that this rhyme was said to children cruel enough to pull the legs of these insects.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
'Mary, Mary Quite Contrary'

Typically portrayed as a rather sweet girl in a lovely garden, the Mary of 'Mary, Mary Quite Contrary' was not nice. The rhyme is typically associated with Bloody Mary.

Mary, Mary quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row.

How We See Mary Illustrated
The illustrations of Mary in her garden for the nursery rhyme Mary, Mary Quite Contrary are usually those of a cherubic maiden tripping down the path in a whimsical garden full of bells and seashells. Occasionally, one might find a rather disconcerting Victorian interpretation of the rhyme with the heads of maidens as the face of the flowers but that is as disturbing as this popular nursery rhyme gets in modern interpretation. However, Mary’s prototype was not so sweet.

About the Real Mary Behind the Rhyme
Because it is an English nursery rhyme, the most commonly accepted historical interpretation is that the rhyme refers to Mary Tudor (Mary I of England) also known as Bloody Mary. Mary was the daughter of Henry the VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon. Her young life was full of upheaval and at one point, she was demoted from Princess to simply being ‘Lady Mary’ when her father separated with the Roman Catholic Church, became head of the Church of England, and demoted Catherine from her role as Queen, which in turn made Mary illegitimate. However, she did ultimately become Queen.

Mary’s first move, as queen, was to retroactively legalize the marriage between Henry and her mother and thus legitimize herself. Her second move was to find herself a Catholic husband so that she could provide herself with an heir and thus remove any opportunity for her Protestant sister Elizabeth from ascending the throne if she were to die.

Therefore, at the age of 37, Mary married a prince from Spain named Philip who later became Philip II. Eleven years her junior, Philip did not find Mary desirable; the marriage was simply a political move for him. Mary never succeeded in providing an heir for them. She had two false pregnancies and ultimately died from what appears to have been ovarian cancer.

A staunch Catholic, Mary tried to reverse the damage done by her father’s break with Rome. In her attempts to rid her country of Protestantism and restore Catholicism, Mary persecuted and murdered many Protestants.

Mary’s personal history and the nature of Catholicism lead to several distinct interpretations of the rhyme.

Line by Line Interpretation
One interpretation suggests that silver bells were Catholic cathedral bells, that the cockle shells were the symbol of pilgrimage to the Catholic Shrine of St James in Spain, and the pretty maids all in a row were Catholic nuns.

A second interpretation views the cockle shells as a lewd comment on her relationship with her disinterested husband, Philip II of Spain. The question How does your garden grow? was a scornful attack of her inability to produce an heir. And the pretty maids all in a row was a reference to her miscarriages.

A final interpretation goes to the heart of her persona as “Bloody Mary” with silver bells and cockle shells referring to instruments of torture: silver bells being thumbscrews and cockles shells being instruments of torture attached to the genitals. While the pretty maids would be a reference to early guillotine-type devices used to decapitate victims.

Alternate Interpretation
There are some arguments that the rhyme is really about Mary Queen of Scots a contemporary of Mary Tudor with a similar interpretation of the rhyme to the second one listed above. However, the historical data and the fact that this is an English rhyme supports the arguments for Mary Tudor.



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Levibrawn



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PostPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2007 12:11 am    Post subject: HIDDEN VIOLENCE / HORROR OF NURSERY RHYMES Reply with quote

HIDDEN VIOLENCE / HORROR OF NURSERY RHYMES

Nursery rhymes are said, verses in my head
Into my childhood they’re spoon fed
Hidden violence revealed
Darkness that seems real
Look at the pages that cause all this evil


(Jonathan Davis, Korn)1

When we see or experience something wonderful, we often exclaim it was “just like a fairy tale”, overlooking that most events in fairy tales are rather unpleasant. The morbid elements are most prominent in the earliest surviving texts of these tales. For example in the earliest versions of Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty, we discover that Red Riding Hood does not get saved in the end and the prince doesn’t kiss Sleeping Beauty, he rapes her! (Opie, Classic Fairy Tales 121,102) Although the most widespread versions have been considerably prettified, they are still quite disturbing when you think about it. Most people are conscious of this morbid streak that runs through classic fairy tales, but what about the fairy tale’s close cousin the nursery rhyme? When people think of nursery rhymes they think of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”, cute, innocent and harmless. They think of them as the ideal entertainment for children, the exact opposite of the “harmful” diversions of today’s violent cartoons and video games. Few are aware of their dubious history. A very large number of interesting collections have been published, but curiously enough , there are hardly any books devoted expressly to their origin and history. Of course no one theory can satisfactorily account for their origin. Their ages likely vary considerably and their meanings (if they ever had meanings) are diverse. Most of them are innocent enough like the ones that are supposed to help children learn numbers, letters etc. but reading through a comprehensive collection you soon realise that a lot of the rhymes do not fit this ideal image people have. They have the same morbid undercurrent as fairy tales, sometimes blatant, sometimes subtle. This essay is meant to explore these undercurrents. It discusses the history and origin of nursery rhymes, focusing on their lesser-known darker side.

What exactly are they?

Nursery rhymes which may be either said or sung, are resorted to by the mother (or whoever the guardian is) for the soothing and amusement of her child. They are usually rhymes she remembers from her own childhood, and thus they have been orally transmitted for hundreds of years. More than 40 per cent of the rhymes have been found recorded before the close of the eighteenth century (Opie 72). “Songs were natural for the occasion of play, feasting, festivals and dancing” (Baring-Gould 179). The songs preserved from that time are known as folksongs, songs which have a special association with the peasantry. Folk wisdom was often cast in the form of rhymes to make it more easily remembered (Skelton & Blackwood 2), but the connection is more often a matter of transmission than of origin. Many of the rhymes might have been written for the gentry and then copied by the “folk” who worked for them. The folk songs have originated in many ways and at many times, but they have all been transmitted by oral, as opposed to written tradition. The labouring classes were largely illiterate and depended on their memory, spoken and sung words for knowledge, and hence they were the perfect vehicle for the transmission of these songs (Williams 1-4). The women who minded the children would have been sure to carry bits of these songs back to the nursery, unconsciously changing and adapting them hence turning them into what we call nursery rhymes. “It can be safely stated that the overwhelming majority of nursery rhymes were not in the first place composed for children…many are survivals of an adult code of joviality, and in their original wording were, by present standards, strikingly unsuitable for those of tender years” (Opie, 3). Like the fairy tales, a lot of the cruder nursery rhymes have been suppressed or prettified throughout the years. Even rhyme collections that claim to include the earliest recorded versions are a bit prudish and often only hint at their possible sordid origin and then print the rhyme with the “offensive” words blotted out!3

The themes of the rhymes are very diverse and scholars have argued on how to categorise them. There are nonsense jingles, character rhymes, lullabies, counting out formulas, riddles, rhyming alphabets, tongue twisters, prayers, singing games and even magic spells and fairy tales in verse. They are fragments of ballads and the cries of street vendors. They are proverbs, prayers, rude jokes and crude romantic lyrics4. They have poked fun at religious practices and laughed at the rulers of the day. They are remnants of ancient customs and rituals4. They have even come out of taverns and barracks5. The fact that some “inappropriate” subjects found their way into the nursery is not so strange if we examine the attitude towards children in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Children were treated as miniature adults. “The conduct and the power of understanding expected of them were those of an adult. Many parents saw nothing unusual in their children hearing strong language or savoring strong drink” (Opie 5). “We can say almost without hesitation that, of those pieces which date from before 1800, the only true nursery rhymes (i.e. rhymes composed especially for the nursery) are the rhyming alphabets, the infant amusements (verses which accompany a game), and the lullabies” (Opie 4). Yet even these “true nursery rhymes” can get pretty ghastly. The pedagogy of the time involved frightening children to do or not to do something as can clearly be seen in the following lullaby:

Baby, baby, naughty baby,
Hush, you squalling thing I say.
Peace this moment, peace, or mabey
Bonaparte6 will pass this way
Baby, baby, he’s a giant
Tall and black as Rouen steeple
And he breakfasts, dines, rely on’t,
Every day on naughty people.
Baby, baby, if he hears you,
As he gallops past the house,
Limb from limb at once he’ll tear you,
Just as pussy tears a mouse.
And he’ll beat you, beat you, beat you,
And he’ll beat you all to pap,
And he’ll eat you, eat you, eat you,
Every morsel snap, snap, snap.
(Opie 59)

How old are they?

When dealing with inaccurate records, word-of-mouth accounts and years and centuries gone by it is impossible to be precise about anything. Deciphering the chronological history of nursery rhymes has proved a very difficult task for scholars and they have been lead along different paths. Nevertheless, a basic history has been established. There is reason to believe some of the rhymes are of great antiquity. Henry Bett concluded that some nursery rhymes and tales "…have spread over the world with the migrations of races and the forgotten commerce of many thousands of years" (12). He bases this statement on the fact that the rhymes are found in thousands of variations all over the world, and because of their allusions to ancient customs and ideas. An example of this is the counting out rhyme “Eena, meena, mina, mo”, whose purpose, even today is to designate which of a group of children shall be singled out as “It”. Strikingly similar versions of this rhyme have been collected in diverse regions8. A popular belief in England was that such counting out rhymes were remnants of formulas used by the Druids for choosing human sacrifices (Opie 12, Baring Gould 12). It is not known how this idea arose, but the words could possibly be a corruption of ancient Celtic numerals:

Welsh (pronounced)

un een
dau daay
tri tree
pedwar paidwar
pump pimp

The connection is not immediately apparent, but when we look at it in relation to an early version of the rhyme that goes “Eetern, feetern, peeny, pump” it becomes a bit clearer. However, in oral tradition there exists another similar counting system called the Anglo-Cymric Score. It was often used by shepherds for counting sheep, fishermen for estimating their catch, and knitting women for their stiches :

Yarmouth Northumberland Westmorland

ina een yan
mina tean tyan
tethera tether tethera
methera mether methera
pin pimp pimp

There are numerous versions that bear a striking resemblance to this system, for example “Ya, ta, tethera, pethera, pip” and “Een, teen, tether, fether, fip” which was collected in America and known as “Indian counting”, popularly believed to be in the language of Native Americans (Opie 12-14). Wether the counting out rhyme originated from the Druids or from knitting women will remain a mystery but the obvious connection with ancient numerals confirms that some nursery rhymes can indeed be of great antiquity. Casual allusions in ancient writings confirm the archaic origin of a few of them. “Petronius Arbiter about A.D. 50 tells of a small boy saying ‘Bucca, bucca, quot sunt hic?’ Children today still use ‘Buck she, buck she, buck, how many fingers do I hold up?’ (Opie 17). Although some of the rhymes can be traced as far back as the previous examples indicate, the majority of nursery rhymes are dated from the beginning of the seventeenth century and onwards. The following table presented in The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes gives the over-all picture of the age of the rhymes. The first two rows are based on contemporary documentation. The third row is based among other factors on internal evidence in the rhymes (Opie 7).

third row is based among other factors on internal evidence in the rhymes (Opie 7).


1599 & before
1600-49
1650-99
1700-49
1750-99
1800-24
1825 & after

% definitely found recorded
1.8
6.8
3.7
9.6
20.4
21.7
36.0

% probably identified
5.6
6.6
4.6
10.4
19.1
21.3
32.4

% believed to date
24.2
9.3
15.4
18.0
20.1
10.7
2.3

Some of the rhymes are found to be stanzas from ballads, printed in the seventeenth century. These ballads were written by literary hacks, issued on broadsides and were sold by street peddlers. Most often they were humorous or pornographic, or concerned with current affairs (which has given wind to endless speculations of the rhymes being political satires). They were extremely popular. People carried them on their person or stuck them on cottage and tavern walls. Some of these ballads later ended up in songbooks, also popular at the time and a great source of nursery rhymes.

It was in the eighteenth century that collections of nursery rhymes started to appear in print (There are rumors of collections published as early as 1620, but no one has been able to locate any copies of these (Baring Gould 24)). As more books appeared, the more they contributed to the rhymes. The collections published in the early nineteenth century contained some of the best known rhymes known today such as “Little Miss Muffet”, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. However, this time, the authors were known. Added to old rhymes were new ones, composed especially for the collections. Some editions included selections from the works of Spencer, Wordsworth and other poets, not proper nursery rhymes at all. Some original rhymes were written by “anonymous hacks [and were] ill-written, tediously repetitive, and overly sentimental” (Baring-Gould 111). This custom of “padding” nursery rhyme books by including staff written rhymes and poems by celebrated authors continued into the earliest years of the twentieth century. These have been omitted from modern day collections as they never achieved any popularity and failed to survive “a remarkable tribute to the good taste of nineteenth century readers” (Baring-Gould 111).

Who was Mother Goose?

The term “nursery rhyme” sprang up in the nineteenth century. No record of it has been found earlier than 1824. Before that the rhymes had been known mainly as songs, ditties, jingles or Mother Goose’s melodies. The term Mother Goose is still very popular, especially in America, so I feel I must include something about it’s history. The possible identity of Mother Goose has long been debated. In French history, there are two women connected with this particular fowl. Queen Bertha who died in 783, the mother of King Charlemagne had webbed feet and was known as La Reine Pedauque (Queen Goosefoot) or Berthe au grand pied (Goose footed Bertha). “In French legendry [she] is represented as constantly spinning with hordes of children clustered about her, listening to her stories” (Baring-Gould 17). Another Bertha, wife of Robert II of France (Robert the Pious 970-1013) was so closely related to her husband that he was excommunicated from the Catholic Church. It was whispered that she had given birth to a monster, a creature with the head of a goose (Baring-Gould 17). Although the term “Mother Goose” or (la Mére Oie) as a teller of tales was already being used in France as early as 1650, many American scholars proclaim that Mother Goose was an American woman by the name of Elizabeth Foster Goose (or Vertigoose) born in 1665. When marrying at twenty-seven she became the stepmother of ten children, later having six of her own. One of her daughters married a printer, who allegedly published a book in 1719 called Songs for the Nursery or Mother Goose’s Melodies for children featuring the rhymes he had heard his mother-in-law sing to lull her grandchildren. No copy of this book has ever been found and it has been called “the most elusive ghost volume in the history of American letters” (Baring-Gould 17-18, Opie 37-3. “Mother Goose” died in 1756 and was reputedly buried in the Old Granary Burial Ground, although no headstone is there (Baring-Gould 19).

The mysterious world of schoolchildren

When children reach school age and start associating with their peers instead of their parents, they enter a whole new community, complete with its own language and lore. It is remarkable how the rhymes, games, jokes and customs of schoolchildren have survived relatively unaltered from generation to generation. As a Douglas Newton pointed out: “The world wide fraternity of children is the greatest of savage tribes, and the only one which shows no sign of dying out” (Opie, The Lore… 2). The rhymes of older children often differ from nursery rhymes both in rhythm and in subject matter. Also, the manner of transmission is different. Nursery rhymes pass from mother (or other adult) to child, who usually doesn’t pass it on again until he/she is grown up and has children of his or her own. The school rhymes however, circulate from child to child, and are not intended for adult ears. When little, the words of nursery rhymes and tales seem almost sacred to children. Even the slightest change will infuriate them. But when they get older they often establish their independence by parodying the rhymes their parents taught them:

Mary had a little lamb
Her father shot it dead
And now it goes to school with her
Between two chunks of bread.

Or:

Mary had a little lamb,
You’ve heard this tale before,
But did you know she passed her plate
And had a little more?


“Little do children realise that in trying to escape from one tradition they are plunging headlong into another” (Opie, the Lore… 90). Some of these parodies have been circulating amongst children for a century or more. The first recorded parody of a nursery rhyme goes back to 1886. Children often communicate with each other in secret language so that adults or outsiders aren’t able to understand. The best known example of this is pig Latin, in which the first consonant or double consonant is transferred to the end of the word and ay is added thereafter: (ohnjay isay igpay = John is a pig). Ironically a lot of these secret languages were first thought to have been used by parents who did not want their children to know what they were talking about. (Opie, The Lore…321)

When children are about ten years old they enter a period during which they are extremely interested in death, ghosts and goulish things. This is of course reflected in their rhymes and singing games. Take for instance this jump rope rhyme that goes back to at least 1864 and is well known in many countries 10:

Mother, mother, I feel sick
Send for the doctor, quick, quick, quick,
Doctor, doctor, shall I die?
Yes, my dear, and so shall I.
How many carriages shall I have?
One, two, three, four…”


In their study of the language and lore of schoolchildren (done in the fifties), Iona and Peter Opie describe a game often practiced in the dormitories of girls’ boarding schools in England after lights out. One girl whispers to another “This is the dead mans eye, pass it on”, and she drops a peeled grape into another girls hand. “This is the dead mans hand, pass it on” and passes on a rubber glove filled with sand etc. (Opie, The Lore…35). I was amazed when I read this description as I remembered a game very popular in children’s birthday parties here in Iceland when I was about 11 years old (the late eighties). A few children locked themselves in the bathroom to prepare themselves. Then the other children were called in one at a time, blindfolded and forced to handle various things which they were told were parts of a dead body. For example the child’s finger was put into a jar of hair gel and he was told he was putting his finger in the body’s empty eye sockets. Screams coming from the locked bathroom generated excitement and fear in the ones still waiting outside. It is not known how old this practice is, but a description of it is found in a collection of “frightening rhymes” collected in the nineteenth century from schoolchildren in Edinburgh (Opie, The Lore… 35). There are hordes of spooky rhymes that are recited when the lights are low. Many of them are told in a low, hair-raising voice and then the last word is suddenly shouted. Sometimes the tension is increased by the repetition of an adjective such as old or dark:

In a dark, dark wood there was a dark, dark house,
And in that dark, dark house, there was a dark, dark room,
And in that dark, dark room, there was a dark, dark cupboard,
And in that dark, dark shelf, there was a dark, dark box
And in that dark, dark box, there was a GHOST!


The oldest of these “quietly told tales with electrifying endings” was in print by 1810 (Opie, The Lore… 36)

Children are very superstitious and have a vast array of rituals that they perform on various occasions. They are a primitive community that conducts its business by ritual declaration, considered binding by the whole community. For example, children reinforce the truth by swearing upon their honor, their heart, the Bible, their own life, or their mother’s. Gestures like spitting, linking fingers, holding their hand up to God and making crosses upon their body accompany their declarations to stress their significance (Opie, the Lore… 121):

Cross my heart and hope to die
Drop down dead if I tell a lie.


Children take these sort of oaths very seriously and do not dare break them. They are considered an infallible test of truthfullness.

One inexplicable and incredibly widespread superstition is the one of considering it unlucky to step on the lines between pavement stones. Stories of what could happen to those who do vary from region to region. In America the refrain “Step on a crack/You’ll break your mothers back” is well known. Another widespread superstition is the one that causes two children to “instantly stop what they are doing and without uttering a word to each other glide into a set ritual which varies according to the part of the world in which they live” (Opie, The Lore… 310). This occurs when children accidentally say the same thing at once. The ritual most often includes locking their fingers together and making a wish.

When the Opies asked children if they knew any magic practices, they described folk remedies they had learned for the treatment of minor ailments; cures for warts were most common. A number of them included rubbing the warts with something which then was wrapped in cloth or paper and dropped somewhere. Supposedly, the person who picks the parcel up and opens it will then contract the warts himself and relieve the original sufferer. A description identical to this has been recorded in the Historia Naturalis, the one surviving work of the Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder, A.D. 23-A.D. 79. This is a practice known to distant corners of the world. In India, scabs from the body of a smallpox victim are placed in little piles of earth set up in the middle of the road and decorated with flowers in the hope that someone will touch them and thus catch the disease and relieve the patient. In Zambesi, Africa, the witch doctor transfers the patients sickness to a little straw pig which is then placed where two paths meet on the chance that a passerby will kick it, absorb the illness and draw it away from the patient. “It appears that our children…are successfully practicing an enchantment worked by witch doctors in Africa, and have obtained this knowledge through having it orally handed down to them from men who were living in the days of Christ” (Opie, The Lore… 316-317)

From all this we can see how schoolchildren remain tradition’s best friends. They honor and respect customs, and in their self-contained community their basic lore and language scarcely alters from generation to generation.

Hidden violence revealed: London Bridge

The violence present in so many nursery rhymes, is in most cases easily spotted:

A woman, a spaniel, and a walnut tree,
The more you beat them the better they be.


(289 Baring-Gould)

But in some cases, the violence is hidden; deeply rooted in the history of mankind. Attempts to find latent meaning in the rhymes have of course been protested. Due to the nature of the material, all attempts to determine meaning are based on conjectures. Some scholars have perhaps “been a little overzealous in reading meaning into rhymes where no meaning was ever intended” (Baring-Gould 13). An example of these is Katherine Elwes Thomas who wrote a book published in 1930 called The Real Personages of Mother Goose9. She was determined to prove that all nursery rhyme characters were based on historical persons, regardless of what other sources said. “Little Bo-Peep” became Mary, Queen of Scots, the cat in “Hey Diddle Diddle” became Queen Elizabeth and so on (Opie 29). Although theories regarding the possible meaning of nursery rhymes can be far-fetched, they cannot be totally dismissed. We have no conclusive evidence to prove them wrong. An especially convincing hypothesis is one regarding the meaning of “London Bridge”, a rhyme still popular today. Iona and Peter Opie say the rhyme “is one of the few, perhaps the only one, in which there is justification for suggesting that it preserves the memory of a dark and terrible rite of past times. (272)

All over the world there are stories about spirits interfering with construction sites. The spirits were thought to dwell in the earth or in nearby rivers, and there are reports of half-finished buildings being dismantled overnight, for which these spirits are credited. At one time, human sacrifice at these sites was common as propitiation to the spirits or for the victims to serve as guardian angels. In Polynesia, the central pillar of an island temple was often planted upon the body of a man. In 1840, an English sailor in Fiji reported seeing men buried alive in the holes in which the posts of the chief’s house were being set up (Bett 25-32). Many European legends are concerned with the same custom. One from Serbia tells of a fortress that was being built three brothers. Every night a demon demolished all that they had built during the day. The evil spirit had to be appeased by human sacrifice, so the wife of the youngest brother, bringing food for the workmen, was built into the wall. A hole was left so that she might nurse her baby for a time, and tourists visiting this fortress are still shown a stream of water, which looks milky because of the lime in it, trickling down the wall. In some parts of Russia the practice reduced itself to the sacrifice of an animal or to the mere naming of one. Carpenters who were going to build a house called out at the first few strokes of the axe, the name of some animal, believing that it would instantly die. “Peasants were sure to be civil to them lest they should call out their names” (Bett 34).

It is with regard to the building of bridges though, that the custom has left most traces in European legend. It was much more difficult to build a bridge than a house, and when raging floods carried away the masons’ work it might well seem that the spirits of the water was angry. In a number of legends, animals are substituted for humans, and are thrown to the Devil to cheat him of a greater pray. Kilgrim Bridge in North Yorkshire is supposed to derive its name from Grim, the shepherd’s dog who ran across the bridge after a crust of bread. The builders had made a pact with the Devil, promising him the first living thing that went across (Bett 34-35). There are several folk songs from Greece which relate the burial alive of a woman as a sacrifice at the building of a bridge. One of these tells of a bridge falling down each night until a bird told the builders that the bridge could never be built until the wife of the master mason was buried in the foundation. In Germany, in 1843, when a new bridge was to be built in Halle, a rumor was circulating among the people that a child was wanted to be built into the base. When the Bridge Gate at Bremen was demolished, the skeleton of a child was found embedded in the foundations (Opie 275). Skelton and Blackwood report that when this business of sacrifice became socially unacceptable, builders were still said to lure an unsuspecting person to the site, measure their shadow and then “bury” it (314).

The rhyme “London Bridge is Falling Down” and the game which often accompanies it preserve unmistakable traces of this custom of human sacrifice at the building of a bridge. There are many variants but they nearly all agree in these particulars: the bridge has fallen down and attempts to build it up with different materials are all failures. The game revolves around the arrest of a prisoner (a victim?). In France, in Germany and in Ireland versions of the game have been recorded which introduce the Devil. This is the most popular version of the English rhyme:

London Bridge has fallen down, fallen down, fallen down
London Bridge has fallen down, my fair lady
How shall we build it up again, up again, up again
How shall we build it up again, my fair lady
Build it up with lime and stone, lime and stone, lime and stone
Build it up with lime and stone, my fair lady
Stone and lime would wash away, wash away, wash away
Stone and lime would wash away, my fair lady
Build it up with iron bars…
Iron bars would bend and break…
Get a watch to watch all night…
Suppose the watch would fall asleep…
Get a dog to bark all night…
Suppose the dog should get a bone…
Get a cock to crow all night…
Suppose the cock would fly away…
What has this poor prisoner done, prisoner done, prisoner done
What has this poor prisoner done, my fair lady
Off to prison she must go, she must go, she must go
Off to prison she must go, my fair lady


(Bett 36)

The builders of London Bridge are faced with many obstacles. The bridge cannot be made to stand by ordinary means, so a watchman is required. This watchman can apparently protect the bridge against the forces of nature. Legend has it that during the building of the bridge of Rosporden in Brittany, all attempts were unsuccessful until a four-year–old boy was immured at the foot of it. Supposedly, the boy was buried with a candle in one hand and a piece of bread in the other, so that the guardian might keep alive and watchful (Opie 275). “Suppose the watch should fall asleep…”

The earliest text appears in Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book (c.1744)

London Bridge
Is Broken down
Dance over my Lady Lee
London Bridge
Is Broken down
With a gay Lady
How shall we build
It up again,
Dance over my Lady Lee,
How shall we build
It up again,
With a gay Lady
Build it up with Gravel, and Stone,
Dance over my Lady Lee, etc
Gravel, and Stone Will wash away,
Dance over my Lady Lee, etc
Build it up with Iron, and Steel,
Dance over my Lady Lee, etc
Iron, and Steel, Will bend, and Bow,
Dance over my Lady Lee, etc
Build it up with Silver, and Gold,
Dance over my Lady Lee, etc
Silver, and Gold Will be stolen away,
Dance over my Lady Lee, etc
Then we’ll set
A man to Watch,
Dance over my Lady Lee.
Then we’ll set
A man to Watch
With a gay Lady


(Opie 272-3, Skelton & Blackwood 245)

Attempts have been made to connect the name of Leigh with the refrain “Dance over my Lady Lee”. The story goes that at Stoneleigh Park, the seat of the Leigh family in Warwickshire, one or more human victims lie buried under the foundations. Another suggestion is that “my Lady Lee” is the river Lea, which connects to the Thames (Opie 276).

The evidence connecting this rhyme with human sacrifice seems too great to be a coincidence. This theory and others regarding the meaning of specific rhymes certainly add new dimensions to them. Children seem fascinated by their sheer sound, rhythm and rhyme, seldom bothering about their actual meaning. For adults however, a knowledge of the rhymes’ past might add to the pleasure of them in the present. That has at least been the Opies’ experience (Opie viii) and mine as well.

Nursery rhyme reform

It seems to be a rule that whenever a new form of entertainment for youths develops it is let go unrestricted till some authority figure finds fault in it and attempts to somehow repress it. An example of these absurd crusades is the 1950’s war on comic books. A psychiatrist, Dr. Fredrick Werthman wrote a book called the Seduction of the Innocent , claiming that comic books were the number one cause of juvenile crime. Even though his studies were highly unprofessional and could in no way establish a direct link between comics and delinquency, his opinions were very popular with the press and he found a great following in the 1950’s housewives. This led the comic industry to cave in and adopt a restrictive code prohibiting sex, violence and anything that had anything to do with horror. But where there is a demand there will always be a supply. Children have always enjoyed being scared, up to an extent and horror simply found a new outlet; in this case television shows with horrific hosts such as Vampira, flaunting morbid humour, comic book style. Right now the witch hunt is aimed at violent video games. The oldest medium for children’s entertainment has also been attacked. The macabre elements present in so many nursery rhymes have not gone unnoticed. The following catalog of horrors found in traditional children’s rhymes was compiled by Geoffrey Handley-Taylor in 1952:

“The average collection of 200 traditional nursery rhymes contains approximately 100 rhymes which personify all that is glorious and ideal for the child. Unfortunately, the remaining 100 rhymes harbor unsavory elements. The incidents listed below occur in the average collection and may be accepted as a reasonably conservative estimate based on a general survey of this type of literature.

8 allusions to murder (unclassified)
2 cases of choking to death,
1 case of death by devouring,
1 case of cutting a human being in half,
1 case of decapitation,
1 case of death by squeezing,
1 case of death by shrivelling,
1 case of death by starvation,
1 case of boiling to death,
1 case of death by hanging,
1 case of death by drowning,
4 cases of killing domestic animals,
1 case of body snatching,
21 cases of death (unclassified)
7 cases relating to the severing of limbs,
1 case of the desire to have a limb severed,
2 cases of self-inflicted injury,
4 cases relating to the breaking of limbs,
1 allusions to a bleeding heart,
1 case of devouring human flesh
5 threats of death
1 case of kidnapping,
12 cases of torment and cruelty to human beings and animals,
8 cases of whipping and lashing,
3 allusions to blood,
14 cases of stealing and general dishonesty,
15 allusions to maimed human beings and animals,
1 allusion to undertakers,
2 allusions to graves,
23 cases of physical violence (unclassified)
1 case of lunacy,
16 allusions to misery and sorrow,
1 case of drunkenness,
4 cases of cursing,
1 allusion to marriage as a form of death,
1 case of scorning the blind,
1 case of scorning prayer,
9 cases of children being lost or abandoned
2 cases of house burning,
9 allusions to poverty and want,
5 allusions to quarreling,
2 cases of unlawful imprisonment,
2 cases of racial discrimination (Baring-Gould 20-21).

Critics have popped up now and again claiming that traditional nursery rhymes are not fit for children; that they are preoccupied with death and violence and have hence urged that they be rewritten for a more “humane” and “enlightened” era. In 1925 for instance, a Mrs. Winifred Sackville Stoner Jr. wrote and tried to promote constructive, informative rhymes that she hoped would replace the vulgar ones. She didn’t have much success nor did other would-be reformers. The random violence found in children’s entertainment whether it is nursery rhymes, cartoons or video games, seems to be one of their most popular as well as persistent characteristics. Why that is I can’t say, that would be a subject for a nother essay, but as the newspaper editor Robert Warshow wrote during the 1950’s crusade against comic books:

“Children do need some sinful world of their own to which they can retreat fom the demands of the adult world…Ultimately one suspects [Wertham] would like to see our culture entirely hygienic. I cannot agree with this tendency. I myself would not like to live surrounded by the kind of culture Dr. wertham could thoroughly approve of.” (Skal 236)

Conclusion: The future of Nursery Rhymes

In our society, death has become somewhat sanitized. Although we are surrounded by death in the media it doesn’t seem real to us and in actuality we are far away from it. We do our best to hide from ourselves and from our children the harsh facts about fried chicken and hamburgers. A pet is “put to sleep” and people are not “dead”, they have merely “passed on”. Our ancestors however, frequently witnessed the slaughter of animals and were not spared the reality of human death. They could not avoid this reality, but they could laugh at it. Laughter is one of mankind’s most basic defense mechanisms. Gallows humor, in one form or another, permeates European folklore and was bound to make its way into children’s nursery rhymes and tales (Ashliman). Although this essay has focused on the dark side of nursery rhymes, they have of course many other sides. Their themes are so diverse that it does not seem to matter what they are. As the poet Walter de la Mare once wrote about the rhymes:

“[They] free the fancy, charm tongue and ear, delight the inward eye, and many of them are tiny masterpieces of word craftsmanship-of the latest device in rhythm indeed-the sprung! Last, but not least they are not only crammed with vivid little scenes and objects and lliving creatures, but, however fantastic and nonsensical they may be, they are a direct short cut into poetry itself. How any child who has ever delightedly dandled to their strains can have managed to grow up proof against their enchantment, and steady and

desperately more and more matter-of-fact and prosaic, is a question to which I can find no satisfactory answer” (Baring-Gould 21)

These trivial verses have endures where newer and ,ore ambitious compositions have become dated and forgotten. Although today’s society is filled with new amusements, the children of today still play games with exactly the same ritual and phrases, in some instances as the children of thousands of years ago. The same goes for the rhymes and stories. There is the same uncanny persistence of tradition, age after age. In the repetition of tales, children demand the exact reproduction of the familiar phrases. Anyone who has any experience of little children knows that. The smallest deviation from the original version will be taken notice of and corrected. We remember these rhymes and they stay with us all our lives. I was watching The Tonight Show with Jay Leno the other night and he was asking people on the street about nursery rhymes. All of them could quote Little miss Muffet/sat on a tuffet correctly even though none of them actually knew what a “tuffet” was. We owe the preservation of our nursery rhymes and tales from remote ages to the astonishing persistence of children. I am not worried about the future of nursery rhymes. As long as there are children, there will also be nursery rhymes.

Works cited

Ashliman, D. L. Aging and Death in Folklore. 1997

Baring-Gould, William and Ceil. The Annotated Mother Goose. New York: Bramball House, 1962.

Bett, Henry. Nursery Rhymes and Tales. London: 1924.

Opie, Iona and Peter. The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes. 1951. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1980.

---. The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren. 1959. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1967

---. The Classic Fairy Tales. 1974. London: Granada, 1980.

Skal, David J. A Cultural History of Horror. London: Plexus, 1993.

Skelton, Robin and Margaret Blackwood. Earth, Air, Fire, Water: Pre-Christian and Pagan Elements in British Songs, Rhymes and Ballads. London: Arkana- Penguin, 1990.

Williams, Iolo A. English Folk-Song and Dance. London: Longmans, Green and Co, 1935.


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