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A Short Analysis of ‘Ride a Cock-Horse to Banbury Cross’

What are the origins of this nursery rhyme?

‘Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross’ is a famous nursery rhyme, and has been popular with children for several centuries. The nineteenth-century Prime Minister, William Ewart Gladstone, used to sing ‘Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross’ to his children every day. But which ‘Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross’ are we talking about? For there’s more than one. The origins and history of this nursery rhyme require a bit of unearthing and analysis.

First, here’s the most familiar version of the rhyme:

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

But this isn’t the only version of ‘Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross’. There’s also this one: Read the rest of this entry


A Short Analysis of the ‘Lucy Locket Lost Her Pocket’ Nursery Rhyme

Who was Lucy Locket, and what is the deal with her pocket? How does one lose a pocket? We’re here to answer these and other important questions in today’s blog post, the latest in our series of posts analysing classic nursery rhymes. Today, as you might have guessed, it’s the turn of ‘Lucy Locket’, or ‘Lucy Locket Lost Her Pocket’. So, here goes with the analysis:

Lucy Locket lost her pocket,
Kitty Fisher found it;
Not a penny was there in it,
Only ribbon round it. Read the rest of this entry

Britain by the Book: The Curious Origins of Mother Hubbard

This week, the paperback edition of our literary travelogue, Britain by the Book, was published by John Murray. In honour, here is a shortened version of one of the entries from the book…

The village of Yealmpton (pronounced ‘Yampton’) is a few miles east of Plymouth. Market Street boasts a house built around 400 years ago with something you don’t see everyday: a thatched dog on the roof. This is ‘Mother Hubbard’s Cottage’, and it was supposedly the home of the woman who inspired the nursery rhyme of Old Mother Hubbard.

I say ‘supposedly’ because it’s nearly always impossible to pin down a nursery rhyme’s origins in any definite way. ‘Old Mother Hubbard’ was one of the most popular publications of the entire nineteenth century, with sales in the tens of thousands within just a few months of publication. Its instant bestseller status may partly have stemmed from the public’s belief that it was some sort of political satire, but nobody seems to know what it was satirising. A sequel to the story was published very shortly after. It inspired rival productions, such as ‘The Comic Adventures of Old Mother Lantry and Her Wonderful Goat’, and gave its name to a style of dress (a loose-fitting smock) and, in Canada, a kind of duffel coat. Read the rest of this entry