The origins of a classic children’s rhyme
‘Jack and Jill went up the hill’: we all know these words that call back our early childhoods so vividly, yet where did they come from and what does this rhyme mean? It can be dangerous to try to probe or analyse the meaning of nursery rhymes too deeply – much like analysing the nonsense verse of Edward Lear or Lewis Carroll, we are likely to come upon a hermeneutic dead-end. But ‘Jack and Jill’ is so well-known that a closer look at its meaning and origins seems justified.
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 Jack got, and home did trot,
As fast as he could caper,
To old Dame Dob, who patched his nob
With vinegar and brown paper. Read the rest of this entry
The origins of a classic nursery rhyme
‘Ring-a-Ring o’ Roses’ is a well-known nursery rhyme. But this intriguing little quatrain has attracted some surprising speculation and its origins are often erroneously attributed. What does this short rhyme mean? And where did it come from? What is this ring o’ roses and what is it being used for? And why does everyone fall down? The questions multiply.
Ring-a-ring o’ roses,
A pocket full of posies,
We all fall down.
Although ‘Ring-a-ring o’ roses’ is probably familiar to most readers and has been a part of many childhoods for a number of generations, the words as we know them only became standardised surprisingly recently: Iona and Peter Opie, in their endlessly illuminating The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford Dictionary of Nusery Rhymes), record that as recently as 1898, when Lady Gomme collected various nursery rhymes, there were a staggering twelve versions in circulation, and only one of these bore any real resemblance to the four-line song cited above. Read the rest of this entry