Nursery rhymes (HLD 192)

30 Sept 2020

I sit on the couch, cup of coffee within close reach, researching nursery rhymes.

I have a large book of Mother Goose’s nursery rhymes that I picked up at the church fete last year. It’s very extensive, and to get the worlds best grandchild (so far) to sleep, I sit beside the cot in the dark and read to him from this book.

Largely, it’s a lot of dribble. Some of them I recognise, but a lot of them seem to be just a bunch of words thrown together, with no rhyme (pun intended) or reason.

Some of these rhymes go for pages. It definitely bores #1 grandson, because within ten or fifteen minutes, he’s asleep.

I, of course, am fascinated by the origins or possible meanings of these nursery rhymes, and spend time dog-earing (Father forgive me, for I have sinned against books) pages so I can find out more details later when I can see what I’m doing.

I’ve always known Ring a ring a Rosie (or Ring around the Rosie) is about infectious diseases – whether the plague or other, where the ‘Rosie’ refers to the rash of the diseases, and apparently the ‘pocketful of posies’ is to cover up the smell of all the corpses. Research gives other meanings, but that’s my favourite so I’m staying with that one.

Apparently “Here we go round the mulberry bush” originated in Wakefield Prison where the institutions female prisoners were exercised around a mulberry tree. What a jaunty little rhyme for the kiddies 🙂

Three blind mice you would assume to be just about some rodents, but no!! During the reign of Queen Mary (Henry VIII’s daughter, the Catholic one), apparently burned three Protestant bishops for heresy, and this little ditty remembers them. Apparently the blindness of the mice refers to their religious beliefs.

Speaking of Queen Mary, she is the Contrary one in “Mary, Mary, quite contrary”. I guess those three bishops found her quite contrary. She did kill a lot of other Protestants, not just those three bishops. By the way -just so when you recite this one to the grandies, you can use appropriate facial expressions – silver bells and cockle shells are apparently torture devices.

Some nursery rhymes are very political, because of course infants are the best people to discuss this sort of stuff with. Baa Baa Black Sheep is apparently about the Great Custom, a tax on wool introduced in 1275 by Edward 1.

Before you all nod off for your afternoon nap, I’ll just leave you with a couple more.

Oranges and Lemons follows the path a condemned person took on the way to their execution – past a bunch of London churches, and finishes with “Here comes a chopper to chop off your head”.

And Lucy Locket (not familiar to me so I googled) is apparently about a famous spat between two legendary 18th century prostitutes.

Got to educate the kids young.

One of the final dog eared pages of my nursery rhyme book I don’t think has any ulterior message, because it’s quite profound in its own right. I’ll leave you with:

“For every evil under the sun; there is a remedy, or there is none.

If there be one, try and fine it,

If there be none, never mind it”.

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