Friends have been telling me I need a little more fiber in my diet (I mean, what are friends for, right?). They say I’m too serious lately. Well, for all those who believe I’ve lost my sense of humor, try this on for size.
Have you ever really thought about nursery rhymes? I think some of these beloved rhymes must have been written while the individual was on a drunken binge or some weird LSD-laced acid trip. Here we go…
“Rock-a-bye baby, on the treetops, When the wind blows, the cradle will rock, When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall, And down will come baby, cradle and all.”
Who in the world is going to put a baby in a crib in the top of a tree? I mean can you imagine if the baby understood the lullaby? All you’d have to do is say, “treetops,” and I am sure you’d have to change a diaper.
“Hickory, dickory, dock, The mouse ran up the clock. The clock struck one, The mouse ran down, Hickory, dickory, dock.”
What!!!!???? What in the world? Who came up with this and why? The actual lyrics come from 18th century London. It was first recorded as “’Hickere, Dickere Dock” by Tommy Thumb in his Pretty Song Book collection, 1744, London. You reckon Tommy visited one too many pubs in merry old London before penning this gem?
“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 sight in your life, As three blind mice?”
I’d say I felt sorry for the farmer’s wife, but she struck her revenge with a carving knife. This much beloved rhyme goes back to 1609 when the first written version of the song was published by Thomas Ravenscroft in “Deuteromelia” or “The Seconde part of Musicks melodie.” According to certain claims, the “three blind mice” are the three Protestants executed by Queen Mary I of England, in the Catholicism and Protestantism conflict. It is about the Oxford Martyrs who were tried for heresy and burnt at the stake in 1555. Doesn’t that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
“This little piggy went to the market, This little piggy stayed home, This little piggy had roast beef, This little piggy had none, And this little piggy cried wee wee wee all the way home.”
I can actually remember my father, Max, grabbing my toes and reciting these lines. What struck me the most about this rhyme as a young boy…I didn’t know pigs ate beef. Poor cows. This rhyme is actually another one of Tommy Thumb’s and dates back to 18th century and the full version was first published in 1760 in” The Famous Tommy Thumb’s Little Story-Book.”
“The itsy-bitsy spider crawled up the waterspout. Down came the rain, and washed the spider out. Out came the sun, and dried up all the rain, and the itsy-bitsy spider went up the spout again”
Stupid spider didn’t learn his lesson the first time? I’m sure he got washed down the spout again. The origin of this song is unknown. It was first published in 1920, more as a song for adults in “Camp and camino in lower California” with the words “blooming, bloody” instead of “itsy bitsy.”
“Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jump over the candlestick.”
All I can say for Jack is he better make sure the candle is not lit. The rhyme was first recorded in a manuscript around 1815 and was collected by James Orchard Halliwell in the mid-nineteenth century. Jumping candlesticks was a form of fortune telling and sport. Good luck was said to be signaled by clearing a candle without extinguishing the flame.
There you have it folks. Now you know the rest of the story regarding some of your much-beloved nursery rhymes.