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Title: Comparative Studies in Nursery Rhymes
Author: Eckenstein, Lina
Language: English
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  _There were more things in Mrs. Gurton's eye,
  Mayhap, than are dreamed of in our philosophy_





The walls of the temple of King Sety at Abydos in Upper Egypt are
decorated with sculptured scenes which represent the cult of the gods
and the offerings brought to them. In a side chapel there is depicted
the following curious scene. A dead figure lies extended on a bier;
sorrowing hawks surround him; a flying hawk reaches down a seal amulet
from above. Had I succeeded in procuring a picture of the scene, it
would stand reproduced here; for the figure and his mourners recalled
the quaint little woodcut of a toy-book which told the tale of the Death
and Burial of Cock Robin. The sculptures of Sety date from the
fourteenth century before Christ; the knell of the robin can be traced
back no further than the middle of the eighteenth century A.D. Can the
space that lies between be bridged over, and the conception of the dead
robin be linked on to that of the dead hawk? However that may be, the
sight of the sculptured scene strengthened my resolve to place some of
the coincidences of comparative nursery lore before the gentle reader.
It lies with him to decide whether the wares are such as to make a
further instalment desirable.

_23 September, 1906._


  CHAPTER                    PAGE




     IV. RHYMES IN TOY-BOOKS      36

      V. RHYMES AND BALLADS      45




     IX. CUSTOM RHYMES      89

      X. RIDDLE-RHYMES      104






    XVI. BIRD SACRIFICE      185




         ALPHABETICAL INDEX      223

    _... To my gaze the phantoms of the Past,
    The cherished fictions of my boyhood, rise:_

           *       *       *       *       *

    _The House that Jack built--and the Malt that lay
    Within the House--the Rat that ate the Malt--
    The Cat, that in that sanguinary way
    Punished the poor thing for its venial fault--
    The Worrier-Dog--the Cow with crumpled horn--
    And then--ah yes! and then--the Maiden all forlorn!_

    _O Mrs. Gurton--(may I call thee Gammer?)
    Thou more than mother to my infant mind!
    I loved thee better than I loved my grammar--
    I used to wonder why the Mice were blind,
    And who was gardener to Mistress Mary,
    And what--I don't know still--was meant by "quite contrary."_

    C. S. C.

    The dates that stand after the separate rhymes refer to the list of
    English collections on p. 11; the capital letters in brackets refer
    to the list of books on p. 221.




The study of folk-lore has given a new interest to much that seemed
insignificant and trivial. Among the unheeded possessions of the past
that have gained a fresh value are nursery rhymes. A nursery rhyme I
take to be a rhyme that was passed on by word of mouth and taught to
children before it was set down in writing and put into print. The use
of the term in this application goes back to the early part of the
nineteenth century. In 1834 John Gawler, afterwards Bellenden Ker,
published the first volume of his _Essay on the Archaiology of Popular
English Phrases and Nursery Rhymes_, a fanciful production. Prior to
this time nursery rhymes were usually spoken of as nursery songs.

The interest in these "unappreciated trifles of the nursery," as
Rimbault called them, was aroused towards the close of the eighteenth
century. In a letter which Joseph Ritson wrote to his little nephew, he
mentioned the collection of rhymes known as _Mother Goose's Melody_, and
assured him that he also would set about collecting rhymes.[1] His
collection of rhymes is said, in the _Dictionary of National Biography_,
to have been published at Stockton in 1783 under the title _Gammer
Gurton's Garland_. A copy of an anonymous collection of rhymes published
by Christopher and Jennett at Stockton, which is called _Gammer Gurton's
Garland or the Nursery Parnassus_, is now at the British Museum, and is
designated as a "new edition with additions." It bears no name and no
date, but its contents, which consist of over seventy rhymes, agree with
parts 1 and 2 of a large collection of nursery rhymes, including over
one hundred and forty pieces, which were published in 1810 by the
publisher R. Triphook, of 37 St. James Street, London, who also issued
other collections made by Ritson.

    [1] _Letters of Joseph Ritson_, edited by his Nephew, 1833. 27
    April, 1781.

The collection of rhymes known as _Mother Goose's Melody_, which aroused
the interest of Ritson, was probably the toy-book which was entered for
copyright in London on 28 December, 1780. Its title was _Mother Goose's
Melody or Sonnets for the Cradle_, and it was entered by John Carnan,
the stepson of the famous publisher John Newbery, who had succeeded to
the business in partnership with Francis Newbery.[2] Of this book no
copy is known to exist. Toy-books, owing to the careless way in which
they are handled, are amongst the most perishable literature. Many
toy-books are known to have been issued in hundreds of copies, yet of
some of these not a single copy can now be traced.

    [2] Welsh, Ch., _A Publisher of the Last Century_, 1885, p. 272.

The name Mother Goose, its connection with nursery rhymes, and the date
of issue of _Mother Goose's Melody_, have been the subject of some
contention. Thomas Fleet, a well-known printer of Boston, Mass., who was
from Shropshire, is said to have issued a collection of nursery rhymes
under the following title, _Songs for the Nursery, or Mother Goose's
Melodies for Children_, printed by Thomas Fleet at his printing-house,
Pudding Lane, 1719, price two coppers.[3] The existence of this book at
the date mentioned has been both affirmed and denied.[4] John Fleet
Eliot, a great-grandson of the printer, accepted its existence, and in
1834 wrote with regard to it as follows: "It is well known to
antiquaries that more than a hundred years ago there was a small book in
circulation in London bearing the name of _Rhymes for the Nursery or
Lulla-Byes for Children_, which contained many of the identical pieces
of _Mother Goose's Melodies_ of the present day. It contained also other
pieces, more silly if possible, and some that the American types of the
present day would refuse to give off an impression. The cuts or
illustrations thereof were of the coarsest description." On the other
hand, the date of 1719 in connection with the expression "two coppers,"
has been declared impossible. However this may be, no copy of the book
of Fleet or of its presumed prototype has been traced.

    [3] Appleton, _Cyclopædia of American Biography_, 1887: Fleet,

    [4] Whitmore, W. H., _The original Mother Goose's Melody_, 1892, p.
    40 ff.

The name Mother Goose, which John Newbery and others associated with
nursery rhymes, may have been brought into England from France, where
_La Mère Oie_ was connected with the telling of fairy tales as far back
as 1650.[5] _La Mère Oie_ is probably a lineal descendant of _La Reine
Pédauque_, otherwise _Berthe au grand pied_, but there is the
possibility also of the relationship to _Fru Gode_ or _Fru Gosen_ of
German folk-lore. We first come across Mother Goose in England in
connection with the famous puppet-showman Robert Powell, who set up his
show in Bath and in Covent Garden, London, between 1709 and 1711. The
repertory of his plays, which were of his own composing, included
_Whittington and his Cat_, _The Children in the Wood_, _Friar Bacon and
Friar Bungay_, _Robin Hood and Little John_, _Mother Shipton_, and
_Mother Goose_.[6] A play or pantomime called _Mother Goose_ was still
popular at the beginning of the nineteenth century, for the actor
Grimaldi obtained his greatest success in it in 1806.[7]

    [5] Lang, A., _Perrault's Popular Tales_, 1888. Introduction, XXIV.

    [6] Collier, J. P., _Punch and Judy, citing "A Second Tale of a Tub
    or the History of Robert Powell, the puppet-showman, 1715."_

    [7] _Dictionary of National Biography_, Grimaldi.

The name Gammer Gurton which Ritson chose for his collection of rhymes,
was traditional also. _Gammer Gurton's Needle_ is the name of a famous
old comedy which dates from about the year 1566. The name also appears
in connection with nursery rhymes in a little toy-book, issued by
Lumsden in Glasgow, which is called _Gammer Gurton's Garland of Nursery
Songs, and Toby Tickle's Collection of Riddles_. This is undated. It
occurs also in an insignificant little toy-book called _The Topbook of
all_, in connection with Nurse Lovechild, Jacky Nory, and Tommy Thumb.
This book is also undated, but contains the picture of a shilling of
1760 which is referred to as "a new shilling."

The date at which nursery rhymes appeared in print yields one clue to
their currency at a given period. The oldest dated collection of rhymes
which I have seen bears the title _Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book_, vol.
II, "sold by M. Cooper according to Act of Parliament." It is printed
partly in red, partly in black, and on its last page bears the date
1744. A copy of this is at the British Museum.

Next to this in date is a toy-book which is called _The Famous Tommy
Thumb's Little Story-Book_, printed and sold at the printing office in
Marlborough Street, 1771. A copy of this is in the library of Boston,
Mass. It contains nine nursery rhymes at the end, which have been
reprinted by Whitmore.

Other collections of rhymes issued in America have been preserved which
are reprints of earlier English collections. Among these is _Tommy
Thumb's Song Book for all Little Masters and Misses_, by Nurse
Lovechild, which is dated 1788, and was printed by Isaiah Thomas at
Worcester, Mass. A copy is at the British Museum.

Isaiah Thomas was in direct connection with England, where he procured,
in 1786, the first fount of music type that was carried to America.
Among many toy-books of his that are reprints from English publications,
he issued _Mother Goose's Melody, Sonnets for the Cradle_. A copy of
this book which is designated as the third Worcester edition, bears the
date 1799, and has been reprinted in facsimile by Whitmore. It was
probably identical with the collection of rhymes for which the firm of
Newberry received copyright in 1780, and which was mentioned by Ritson.
Other copies of _Mother Goose's Melody_, one bearing the watermark of
1803, and the other issued by the firm of John Marshall, which is
undated, are now at the Bodleian.[8] Thus the name of Mother Goose was
largely used in connection with nursery rhymes.

    [8] Whitmore, loc. cit., p. 6.

The second half of the eighteenth century witnessed a great development
in toy-book literature. The leader of the movement was John Newbery, a
man of considerable attainments, who sold drugs and literature, and who
came from Reading to London in 1744, and settled in St. Paul's
Churchyard, where his establishment became a famous centre of the book
trade. Among those whom he had in his employ were Griffith Jones (d.
1786) and Oliver Goldsmith (d. 1774), whose versatility and delicate
humour gave a peculiar charm to the books for children which they helped
to produce.

In London Newbery had a rival in John Marshall, whose shop in Aldermary
Churchyard was known already in 1787 as the _Great A, and Bouncing B Toy
Factory_. This name was derived from a current nursery rhyme on the
alphabet, which occurs as follows:--

    Great A, little a, Bouncing B,
    The cat's in the cupboard, and she can't see.      (1744, p. 22.)

A number of provincial publishers followed their example. Among them
were Thomas Saint, in Newcastle, who between 1771 and 1774 employed the
brothers Bewick; Kendrew, in York; Lumsden, in Glasgow; Drewey, in
Derby; Rusher, in Banbury; and others. The toy-books that were issued by
these firms have much likeness to one another, and are often illustrated
by the same cuts. Most of them are undated. Among the books issued by
Rusher were _Nursery Rhymes from the Royal Collections_, and _Nursery
Poems from the Ancient and Modern Poets_, which contain some familiar
rhymes in versions which differ from those found elsewhere.

Besides these toy-book collections, there is a large edition of _Gammer
Gurton's Garland_, of the year 1810, which contains the collections of
1783 with considerable additions. In the year 1826, Chambers published
his _Popular Rhymes of Scotland_, which contained some fireside stories
and nursery rhymes, the number of which was considerably increased in
the enlarged edition of 1870. In the year 1842, Halliwell, under the
auspices of the Percy Society, issued the _Nursery Rhymes of England_,
which were reprinted in 1843, and again in an enlarged edition in 1846.
Three years later he supplemented this book by a collection of _Popular
Rhymes_ which contain many traditional game rhymes and many valuable
remarks and criticisms.

These books, together with the rhymes of Gawler, and a collection of
_Old Nursery Rhymes with Tunes_, issued by Rimbault in 1864, exhaust
the collections of nursery rhymes which have a claim on the attention of
the student. Most of their contents were subsequently collected and
issued by the firm of Warne & Co., under the title _Mother Goose's
Nursery Rhymes, Tales and Jingles_, of which the issue of 1890 contains
over seven hundred pieces. In the list which follows, I have arranged
these various collections of rhymes in the order of their issue, with a
few modern collections that contain further rhymes. Of those which are
bracketed I have not succeeded in finding a copy.

(1719. _Songs for the Nursery, or Mother Goose's Melodies._ Printed by
T. Fleet.)

1744. _Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book._

_c._ 1760. _The Topbook of all._

(1771. _Tommy Thumb's Little Story Book._ The nine rhymes which this
contains are cited by Whitmore.)

(1780. _Mother Goose's Melody_, for which copyright was taken by John

_c._ 1783. _Gammer Gurton's Garland._

1788. _Tommy Thumb's Song Book_, issued by Isaiah Thomas.

(1797. _Infant Institutes_, cited by Halliwell and Rimbault.)

1799. _Mother Goose's Melody._ Facsimile reprint by Whitmore.

1810. _Gammer Gurton's Garland._ The enlarged edition, published by R.
Triphook, 37 St. James Street, London.

1826. Chambers, _Popular Rhymes of Scotland_.

1834-9. Ker, _Essays on the Archaiology of Nursery Rhymes_.

1842-3. Halliwell, _The Nursery Rhymes of England_.

1846. Halliwell, ditto. Enlarged and annotated edition.

1849. Halliwell, _Popular Rhymes_.

1864. Rimbault, _Old Nursery Rhymes with tunes_.

1870. Chambers, _Popular Rhymes of Scotland_. Enlarged edition.

1876. Thiselton Dyer, _British Popular Customs_.

1890. _Mother Goose's Nursery Rhymes, Tales and Jingles._ Issued by
Warne & Co.

1892. Northall, G. F., _English Folk Rhymes_.

1894. Gomme, A. B., _The Traditional Games of England, Scotland, and

In the studies which follow, the rhymes cited have attached to them the
date of the collection in which they occur.



Independently of these collections of nursery rhymes, many rhymes are
cited in general literature. This yields a further clue to their
currency at a given period. Thus Rimbault describes a book called
_Infant Institutes, part the first, or a Nurserical Essay on the Poetry
Lyric and Allegorical of the Earliest Ages_, 1797, perhaps by B. N.
Turner, the friend of Dr. Johnson, which was intended to ridicule the
Shakespeare commentators (_N. & Q._, 5, 3, 441). In the course of his
argument, the author cites a number of nursery rhymes.

Again, the poet Henry Carey, about the year 1720, ridiculed the odes
addressed to children by Ambrose Philips by likening these to a jumble
of nursery rhymes. In doing so he cited the rhymes, "Namby Pamby Jack a
Dandy," "London Bridge is broken down," "Liar Lickspit," "Jacky
Horner," "See-saw," and others, which nowadays are still included among
the ordinary stock of our rhymes.

Again, in the year 1671, John Eachard, the divine, illustrated his
argument by quoting the alphabet rhyme "A was an apple pie," as far as
"G got it."[9] Instances such as these do not, however, carry us back
farther than the seventeenth century.

    [9] Eachard, _Observations, etc._, 1671, cited. Halliwell, _Popular
    Rhymes_, 1849, p. 137.

Another clue to the date of certain rhymes is afforded by their mention
of historical persons, in a manner which shows that the rhyme in this
form was current at the time when the individual whom they mention was
prominently before the eyes of the public. Halliwell recorded from oral
tradition the following verse:--

    Doctor Sacheverel
    Did very well,
    But Jacky Dawbin
    Gave him a warning.      (1849, p. 12.)

The verse refers to Dr. Sacheverel, the nonconformist minister who
preached violent sermons in St. Paul's, pointing at the Whig members as
false friends and real enemies of the Church. John Dolben (1662-1710)
called attention to them in the House of Commons, and they were declared
"malicious, scandalous, and seditious libels."

Again there is the rhyme:--

    Lucy Locket lost her pocket,
    Kitty Fisher found it,
    But the devil a penny was there in it,
    Except the binding round it.      (1849, p. 48.)

This is said to preserve the names of two celebrated courtesans of the
reign of Charles II (1892, p. 330).

The first name in the following rhyme is that of a famous border hero
who was hanged between 1529 and 1530:--

    Johnny Armstrong killed a calf;
    Peter Henderson got half;
    Willy Wilkinson got the head,--
    Ring the bell, the calf is dead.      (1890, p. 358.)

Among the pieces collected by Halliwell, and told in cumulative form,
one begins and ends with the following line, which recurs at the end of
every verse:--

    John Ball shot them all.

Halliwell is of opinion that this may refer to the priest who took a
prominent part in the rebellion at the time of Richard II, and who was
hanged, drawn, and quartered in 1381.

But a historical name does not necessarily indicate the date of a rhyme.
For a popular name is sometimes substituted for one that has fallen into
contempt or obscurity. Moreover, a name may originally have indicated a
person other than the one with whom it has come to be associated.

A familiar nursery song printed in the collection of c. 1783, and extant
in several variants, is as follows:--

    When good King Arthur rul'd the land,
    He was a goodly king,
    He stole three pecks of barley meal
    To make a bag pudding.
    A bag pudding the king did make
    And stuff'd it well with plumbs,
    And in it put great lumps of fat,
    As big as my two thumbs.
    The king and queen did eat thereof,
    And noblemen beside,
    And what they could not eat that night
    The queen next morning fry'd.      (_c._ 1783, p. 32.)

Mr. Chappell, as cited by Halliwell, considered that this version is
not the correct one, but the one which begins:--

    King Stephen was a worthy king
    As ancient bards do sing....

The same story related in one verse only, and in simpler form, connects
it with Queen Elizabeth, in a version recovered in Berkshire.

    Our good Quane Bess, she maayde a pudden,
    An stuffed un well o' plumes;
    And in she put gurt dabs o' vat,
    As big as my two thumbs.      (1892, p. 289.)

On the face of it the last variant appears to be the oldest.

An interesting example of a change of name, and of the changing meaning
of a name, is afforded by the nursery song that is told of King Arthur,
and _mutatis mutandis_ of Old King Cole. The poem of King Arthur is as

    When Arthur first in Court began
    To wear long hanging sleeves,
    He entertained three serving men
    And all of them were thieves.

    The first he was an Irishman,
    The second was a Scot,
    The third he was a Welshman,
    And all were knaves, I wot.

    The Irishman loved usquebaugh,
    The Scot loved ale called blue-cap.
    The Welshman he loved toasted cheese,
    And made his mouth like a mouse-trap.

    Usquebaugh burnt the Irishman,
    The Scot was drowned in ale,
    The Welshman had liked to be choked by a mouse,
    But he pulled it out by the tail.

In this form the piece is designated as a glee, and is printed in the
_New Lyric_ by Badcock of about 1720, which contains "the best songs now
in vogue."

In the nursery collection of Halliwell of 1842 there is a parallel piece
to this which stands as follows:--

    Old King Cole was a merry old soul
    And a merry old soul was he;
    Old King Cole he sat in his hole,
    And he called for his fiddlers three.

    The first he was a miller,
    The second he was a weaver,
    The third he was a tailor,
    And all were rogues together.

    The miller he stole corn,
    The weaver he stole yarn,
    The little tailor stole broadcloth
    To keep these three rogues warm.

    The miller was drowned in his dam,
    The weaver was hung in his loom,
    The devil ran away with the little tailor
    With the broadcloth under his arm.      (1842, p. 3.)

Chappell printed the words of the song of Old King Cole in several
variations, and pointed out that _The Pleasant Historie of Thomas of
Reading, or the Six Worthie Yeomen of the West_ of 1632, contains the
legend of one Cole, a cloth-maker of Reading at the time of King Henry
I, and that the name "became proverbial owing to the popularity of this
book." "There was some joke or conventional meaning among Elizabethan
dramatists," he says, "when they gave the name of Old Cole, which it is
now difficult to recover." Dekker in the _Satiromatrix_ of 1602, and
Marston in _The Malcontent_ of 1604, applied the name to a woman. On the
other hand, Ben Jonson in _Bartholomew Fair_ gave the name of Old Cole
to the sculler in the puppet-play _Hero and Leander_ which he there
introduces.[10] In face of this information, what becomes of the
identity of the supposed king?

    [10] Chappell, _Popular Music of the Olden Time_, 1893, p. 633.

On the other hand a long ancestry is now claimed for certain characters
of nursery fame who seemed to have no special claim to attention. The
following verse appears in most collections of rhymes, and judging from
the illustration which accompanies it in the toy-books, it refers
sometimes to a boy and a girl, sometimes to two boys.

    Jack and Gill went up the hill
    To fetch a bottle of water;
    Jack fell down and broke his crown,
    And Gill came tumbling after.      (_c._ 1783, p. 51.)

    [Later collections have _Jill_ and _pail_.]

This verse, as was first suggested by Baring-Gould,[11] preserves the
Scandinavian myth of the children Hjuki and Bill who were caught up by
Mani, the Moon, as they were taking water from the well Byrgir, and they
can be seen to this day in the moon carrying the bucket on the pole
between them.

    [11] Baring-Gould, _Curious Myths of the Middle Ages_, 1866, p. 189.

Another rhyme cited by Halliwell from _The New Mad Tom o'Bedlam_
mentions Jack as being the Man in the Moon:--

    The Man in the Moon drinks claret,
    But he is a dull Jack-a-dandy;
    Would he know a sheep's head from a carrot,
    He should learn to drink cider or brandy.      (1842, p. 33.)

According to North German belief, a man stands in the moon pouring water
out of a pail (K., p. 304), which agrees with expressions such as "the
moon holds water." In a Norse mnemonic verse which dates from before the
twelfth century, we read, "the pail is called Saeg, the pole is called
Simul, Bil and Hiuk carry them" (C. P., I, 78).

The view that Jack and Jill are mythological or heroic beings finds
corroboration in the expression "for Jak nor for Gille," which occurs in
the Townley Mysteries of about the year 1460.[12] By this declaration a
superhuman power is called in as witness. The same names are coupled
together also in an ancient divination rhyme used to decide in favour of
one of two courses of action. Two scraps of paper slightly moistened
were placed on the back of the hand, and the following invocation was
pronounced before and after breathing upon them to see which would fly
first. The sport was taught by Goldsmith to Miss Hawkins when a child,
as she related to Forster.[13]

    [12] Cited _Murray's Dictionary_: Jack.

    [13] Forster, J., _Life of Goldsmith_, II, p. 71.

    There were two blackbirds sat upon a hill
    The one was named Jack, the other named Jill.
    Fly away Jack! Fly away Jill!
    Come again Jack! Come again Jill!      (1810, p. 45.)

The lines suggest the augur's action with regard to the flight of birds.
The same verse has been recited to me in the following variation:--

    Peter and Paul sat on the wall,
    Fly away Peter! Fly away Paul!
    Come again Peter! Come again Paul!

In this case the names of Christian apostles have been substituted for
heathen names which, at the time when the _names_ were changed, may
still have carried a suggestion of profanity. The following rhyme on
Jack and Gill occurs in an early nursery collection:--

    I won't be my father's Jack,
    I won't be my mother's Gill,
    I will be the fiddler's wife
    And have music when I will.
    T'other little tune, t'other little tune,
    Pr'ythee, love, play me, t'other little tune.      (_c._ 1783, p. 25.)



On looking more closely at the contents of our nursery collections, we
find that a large proportion of so-called nursery rhymes are songs or
snatches of songs, which are preserved also as broadsides, or appeared
in printed form in early song-books. These songs or parts of songs were
included in nursery collections because they happened to be current at
the time when these collections were made, and later compilers
transferred into their own collections what they found in earlier ones.
Many songs are preserved in a number of variations, for popular songs
are in a continual state of transformation. Sometimes new words are
written to the old tune, and differ from those that have gone before in
all but the rhyming words at the end of the lines; sometimes new words
are introduced which entirely change the old meaning. Many variations
of songs are born of the moment, and would pass away with it, were it
not that they happen to be put into writing and thereby escape falling
into oblivion.

In _Mother Goose's Melody_ stands a song in six verses which begins:--

    There was a little man who woo'd a little maid,
    And he said: "Little maid, will you wed, wed, wed?
    I have little more to say, will you? Aye or nay?
    For little said is soonest mended, ded, ded."      (1799, p. 46.)

Halliwell's collection includes only the first and the fourth verse of
this piece. (1842, p. 24.)

In the estimation of Chappell this song was a very popular ballad, which
was sung to the tune of _I am the Duke of Norfolk_, or _Paul's
Steeple_.[14] It appears also in the _Fairing or Golden Toy for Children
of all Sizes and Denominations_ of 1781, where it is designated as "a
new love song by the poets of Great Britain." Its words form a variation
of the song called _The Dumb Maid_, which is extant in a broadside of
about 1678,[15] and which is also included in the early collection of
_Pills to Purge Melancholy_ of 1698-1719. The likeness between the
pieces depends on their peculiar repeat:--

    There was a bonny blade had married a country maid,
    And safely conducted her home, home, home;
    She was neat in every part, and she pleased him to the heart,
    But alas, and alas, she was dumb, dumb, dumb.

    [14] Chappell, loc. cit., p. 770.

    [15] _Roxburgh Collection of Ballads_, IV, p. 355.

The same form of verse was used in another nursery song which stands as

    There was a little man, and he had a little gun,
    And the ball was made of lead, lead, lead.
    And he went to a brook to shoot at a duck,
    And he hit her upon the head, head, head.

    Then he went home unto his wife Joan,
    To bid her a good fire to make, make, make,
    To roast the duck that swam in the brook,
    And he would go fetch her the drake, drake, drake.

    (1744, p. 43; with repeat, 1810, p. 45.)

Again, a song which appears in several early nursery collections is as

    There was an old woman toss'd in a blanket,
    Seventeen times as high as the moon;
    But where she was going no mortal could tell,
    For under her arm she carried a broom.

    "Old woman, old woman, old woman," said I,
    "Whither, ah whither, ah whither, so high?"
    To sweep the cobwebs from the sky,
    And I'll be with you by and by.      (_c._ 1783, p. 22.)

This song was a favourite with Goldsmith, who sang it to his friends at
dinner on the day when his play _The Good-natured Man_ was produced.[16]
It was one of the numerous songs that were sung to the tune of
Lilliburlero, which goes back at least to the time of Purcell.[17] A
Scottish version of this piece was printed by Chambers, which presents
some interesting variations:--

    There was a wee wifie row't up in a blanket,
    Nineteen times as hie as the moon;
    And what did she there I canna declare,
    For in her oxter she bure the sun.
    "Wee wifie, wee wifie, wee wifie," quo' I,
    "O what are ye doin' up there sae hie?"
    "I'm blowin' the cauld cluds out o' the sky."
    "Weel dune, weel dune, wee wifie!" quo' I.      (1870, p. 34.)

    [16] Forster, _Life of Goldsmith_, II, 122.

    [17] Chappell, loc. cit., p. 569.

I have come across a verse sung on Earl Grey and Lord Brougham, written
in 1835, which may have been in imitation of this song:--

    Mother Bunch shall we visit the moon?
    Come, mount on your broom, I'll stick on a spoon,
    Then hey to go, we shall be there soon ... etc.

Mother Bunch is a familiar character of British folk-lore, who figures
in old chapbooks as a keeper of old-world saws, and gives advice in
matters matrimonial. One of the earliest accounts of her is _Pasquill's
Jests with the Merriments of Mother Bunch_, extant in several editions,
which was reprinted by Hazlitt in _Old English Jestbooks_, 1864, Vol.
III. There are also _Mother Bunch's Closet newly broke open_, _Mother
Bunch's Golden Fortune Teller_, and _Mother Bunch's Fairy Tales_,
published by Harris in 1802. The name also occurs in _Mother Osborne's
Letter to the Protestant Dissenters rendered into English Metre by
Mother Bunch_, 1733. Mother Bunch, like Mother Goose and Mother Shipton,
may be a traditional name, for Mother Bunch has survived in connections
which suggest both the wise woman and the witch.

Another old song which figures in early nursery collections is as

    What care I how black I be?
    Twenty pounds will marry me;
    If twenty won't, forty shall--
    I am my mother's bouncing girl.      (_c._ 1783, p. 57.)

Chappell mentions a song called, _What care I how fair she be_, which
goes back to before 1620.[18] The words of these songs seem to have
suggested a parody addressed to Zachary Macaulay, the father of the
historian, who pleaded the cause of the slaves. The Bill for the
abolition of slavery was passed in 1833, and the following quatrain was
sung with reference to it:--

    What though now opposed I be?
    Twenty peers will carry me.
    If twenty won't, thirty will,
    For I'm His Majesty's bouncing Bill.      (_N. & Q._, 8, XII, 48.)

    [18] Chappell, loc. cit., p. 315.

Another so-called nursery rhyme which is no more than a popular song has
been traced some way back in history by Halliwell, who gives it in two

    Three blind mice, see how they run!
    They all run after the farmer's wife,
    Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
    Did you ever see such fools in your life--
    Three blind mice!      (1846, p. 5.)

In _Deuteromalia_ of 1609 this stands as follows:--

    Three blind mice, three blind mice!
    Dame Julian, the miller and his merry old wife
    She scrapte the tripe, take thow the knife.

Among the popular songs which have found their way into nursery
collections is the one known as _A Frog he would a wooing go_, the
subject of which is old. Already in 1549 the shepherds of Scotland sang
a song called, _The Frog cam to the Myldur_. In the year 1580 there was
licensed, _A most strange Wedding of the Frog and the Mouse_, as appears
from the books of the Stationers' Company cited by Warton.[19] The song
has been preserved in many variations with a variety of burdens. These
burdens sound like nonsense, but in some cases the same words appear
elsewhere in a different application, which shows that they were not
originally unmeaning.

    [19] Warton, _History of English Poetry_, 1840, III, 360.

The oldest known version of the song begins:--

    It was a frog in the well, _humble dum, humble dum_,
    And the mouse in the mill, _tweedle tweedle twino_.[20]

    [20] Chappell, loc. cit., p. 88.

The expression _humble dum_ occurs in other songs and seems to indicate
triumph; the word _tweedle_ represents the sound made by the pipes.

A Scottish variation of the song begins:--

    There lived a Puddy in a well, _Cuddy alone, Cuddy alone_,
    There lived a Puddy in a well, _Cuddy alone and I_.[21]

    [21] Sharpe, Ch. K., _Ballad Book_, 1824, p. 87.

In the nursery collection of _c._ 1783 the song begins:--

    There was a frog liv'd in a well, _Kitty alone, Kitty alone_,
    There was a frog liv'd in a well.
    There was a frog liv'd in a well, _Kitty alone and I_.
    And a farce mouse in a mill,
    _Cock me cary, Kitty alone, Kitty alone and I_.      (_c._ 1783, p. 4.)

The origin and meaning of this burden remains obscure.

The antiquity and the wide popularity of these verses are further shown
by a song written in imitation of it, called _A Ditty on a High Amore at
St. James_, and set to a popular tune, which dates from before 1714. It
is in verse, and begins:--

    Great Lord Frog and Lady Mouse, _Crackledom hee, crackledom ho_,
    Dwelling near St. James' house, _Cocki mi chari chi_;
    Rode to make his court one day,
    In the merry month of May,
    When the sun shone bright and gay, _twiddle come, tweedle dee_.[22]

    [22] Chappell, loc. cit., p. 561.

In the accepted nursery version the song begins:--

    A frog he would a wooing ride, _heigho, says Rowley_,
    Whether his mother would let him or no,
    _With a roly-poly, gammon and spinach,
    Heigho, says Anthony Rowley_.

This burden is said by a correspondent of _Notes and Queries_ to have
been first inserted in the old song as a burden by Liston. His song,
entitled _The Love-sick Frog_, with an original tune by C. E. H., Esq.
(perhaps Charles Edward Horn), and an accompaniment by Thomas Cook, was
published by Goulding & Co., Soho Square, in the early part of the
nineteenth century (_N. & Q._, I, 458). The burden has been traced back
to the _jeu d'esprit_ of 1809 on the installation of Lord Grenville as
Chancellor of Oxford, which another correspondent quotes from memory:--

    Mister Chinnery then an M. A. of great parts,
    Sang the praises of Chancellor Grenville.
    Oh! He pleased all the ladies and tickled their hearts,
    But then we all know he's a Master of Arts.
    _With a rowly, powly, gammon and spinach,
    Heigh ho! says Rowley._      (_N. & Q._, 11, 27.)

Another variation of the song of _The Frog and the Mouse_ of about 1800

    There was a frog lived in a well, _heigho, crowdie_!
    And a merry mouse in a mill, _with a howdie, crowdie_, etc.

    (_N. & Q._, 11, 110.)

This expression, _heigho, crowdie_, contains a call to the crowd to
strike up. The crowd is the oldest kind of British fiddle, which had no
neck and only three strings. It is mentioned as a British instrument
already by the low Latin poet Fortunatus towards the close of the sixth
century: "Chrotta Britannia canat." The instrument is well known to this
day in Wales as the _crwth_.

The word crowdy occurs also as a verb in one of the numerous nursery
rhymes referring to scenes of revelry, at which folk-humour pictured the
cat making music:--

    Come dance a jig to my granny's pig,
    With a rowdy, rowdy, dowdy;
    Come dance a jig to my granny's pig,
    And pussy cat shall crowdy.      (1846, p. 141.)

This verse and a number of others go back to the festivities that were
connected with Twelfth Night. Some of them preserve expressions in the
form of burdens which have no apparent sense; in other rhymes the same
expressions have the force of a definite meaning. Probably the verses in
which the words retain a meaning have the greater claim to antiquity.

Thus among the black-letter ballads is a song[23] which is found also in
the nursery collection of 1810 under the designation _The Lady's Song in
Leap Year_.

    [23] _Roxburgh Collection_, IV, 433.

    Roses are red, _diddle diddle_, lavender's blue,
    If you will have me, _diddle diddle_, I will have you.
    Lillies are white, _diddle diddle_, rosemary's green,
    When you are king, _diddle, diddle_, I will be queen.
    Call up your men, _diddle, diddle_, set them to work,
    Some to the plough, _diddle, diddle_, some to the cart.
    Some to make hay, _diddle, diddle_, some to cut corn,
    While you and I, _diddle, diddle_, keep the bed warm.

    (1810, p. 46.)

Halliwell cites this song in a form in which the words are put into the
lips of the king, and associates it with the amusements of Twelfth

    Lavender blue, _fiddle faddle_, lavender green.
    When I am king, _fiddle faddle_, you shall be queen, etc.

    (1849, p. 237.)

The expression _diddle diddle_ according to Murray's Dictionary means to
make music without the utterance of words, while _fiddle faddle_ is said
to indicate nonsense, and to fiddle is to fuss. But both words seem to
go back to the association of dancing, as is suggested by the songs on
Twelfth Night, or by the following nursery rhyme which refers to the
same celebration.

    A cat came fiddling out of the barn,
    With a pair of bagpipes under her arm,
    She could sing nothing but fiddle cum fee,
    The mouse has married the humble bee;
    Pipe, cat, dance, mouse;
    We'll have a wedding in our good house.      (1842, p. 102.)

The following variation of this verse occurs in the _Nursery Songs_
published by Rusher:--

    A cat came fiddling out of a barn,
    With a pair of bagpipes under her arm,
    She sang nothing but fiddle-de-dee,
    Worried a mouse and a humble bee.
    Puss began purring, mouse ran away,
    And off the bee flew with a wild huzza!

In both cases the cat was fiddling, that is moving to instrumental music
without the utterance of words, and called upon the others to do so
while she played the pipes. Her association with an actual fiddle,
however, is preserved in the following rhyme which I cite in two of its
numerous variations:--

    Sing hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle,
    The cow jump'd over the moon!
    The little dog laughed to see such sport,
    And the dish lick't up the spoon.      (1797, cited by Rimbault.)

    Sing hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle,
    The cow jumped over the moon;
    The little dog laughed to see such craft,
    And the dish ran away with the spoon.      (_c._ 1783, p. 27.)

This rhyme also refers to the revelry which accompanied a feast,
probably the one of Twelfth Night also.



Many of our longer nursery pieces first appeared in print in the
diminutive toy-books already described, which represent so curious a
development in the literature of the eighteenth century. These books
were sometimes hawked about in one or more sheets, which were afterwards
folded so as to form a booklet of sixteen, thirty-two, or sixty-four
pages. Others were issued sewn and bound in brilliant covers, at a cost
of as much as a shilling or eighteen pence. Usually each page contained
one verse which was illustrated by an appropriate cut. In the toy-books
which tell a consecutive story, the number of verses of the several
pieces seem to have been curtailed or enlarged in order to fit the
required size of the book.

It is in these toy-books that we first come across famous nursery
pieces such as the _Alphabet_ which begins:--

    A was an Archer, who shot at a frog,
    B was a blind man, and led by a dog ... etc.

This first appeared in _A Little Book for Little Children_ by T. W.,
sold at the Ring in Little Britain. It contains a portrait of Queen
Anne, and probably goes back to the early part of the eighteenth

_The Topbook of all_, already mentioned, which is of about 1760,
contains the oldest version that I have come across of the words used in
playing _The Gaping, Wide-mouthed, Waddling Frog_, each verse of which
is illustrated by a rough cut. Again, _The Tragic Death of A, Apple
Pie_, which, as mentioned above, was cited as far back as 1671, forms
the contents of a toy-book issued by J. Evans about the year 1791 at the
price of a farthing. _The Death and Burial of Cock Robin_ fills a
toy-book which was published by J. Marshall, London, and again by Rusher
at Banbury; both editions are undated. Again _The Courtship, Marriage,
and Picnic Dinner of Cock Robin and Jenny Wren_ form the contents of a
toy-book dated 1810 and published by Harris, and _The Life and Death of
Jenny Wren_ appeared in a toy-book dated 1813, issued by J. Evans.

Another famous toy-book contained _The Comic Adventures of Old Mother
Hubbard and her Dog_. This story was first issued in toy-book form by J.
Harris, "successor to E. Newbery at the corner of St. Paul's
Churchyard," probably at the beginning of 1806, at the cost of eighteen
pence. A copy of the second edition, which mentions the date 1 May,
1806, is at the British Museum. It contains the words "to T. B. Esquire,
M.P. county of XX, at whose suggestion and at whose house these notable
sketches were first designed, this volume is with all suitable deference
dedicated by his humble servant S. C. M." The coffin which is
represented in one of the cuts in the book bears the initials S. C. M.,
and the date 1804. This inscribing of the author's initials on a coffin
is quite in keeping with the tone of toy-book literature.

In October, 1805, J. Harris had published _Whimsical Incidents, or the
Power of Music, a poetic tale by a near relation of Old Mother
Hubbard_, which has little to recommend it, and contains nothing on the
dog. On its first page stands a verse which figures independently as a
nursery rhyme in some later collections:--

    The cat was asleep by the side of the fire,
    Her mistress snor'd loud as a pig,
    When Jack took the fiddle by Jenny's desire,
    And struck up a bit of a jig.      (1810, p. 33.)

J. Harris also published in March, 1806, _Pug's Visit, or the Disasters
of Mr. Punch_, a sequel to the _Comic Adventures of Mother Hubbard and
her Dog_. This has a dedication framed in the same style, "To P. A.
Esquire ... by his humble servant W. F."

The success of the _Comic Adventures of Mother Hubbard and her Dog_ was
instantaneous and lasting. In _The Courtship of Jenny Wren_, which is
dated 1810, while its cuts bear the date 1806, Parson Rook is
represented carrying "Mother Hubbard's book," and a foot-note is added
to the effect that "upwards of ten thousand copies of this celebrated
work have been distributed in various parts of the country in a few
months." The _Comic Adventures_ were read all over London and in the
provinces, both in the original and in pirated editions, of which I have
seen copies issued by J. Evans of Long Lane, West Smithfield; by W. S.
Johnson of 60 St. Martin's Lane; by J. Marshall of Aldermary Churchyard;
and by others. A very diminutive toy-book containing verses of the tale
of Mother Hubbard, illustrated with rough cuts, is on view at South
Kensington Museum among the exhibits of A. Pearson. I do not know its

The _Comic Adventures of Mother Hubbard_ are usually told in fourteen
verses, which refer to the dame's going to the cupboard, to her going
for bread, for a coffin, for tripe, beer, wine, fruit, a coat, a hat, a
wig, shoes, hose, and linen. The story ends:--

    The dame made a curtsey, the dog made a bow,
    The dame said, "Your servant," the dog said "Bow-wow."

But some editions have an additional rhyme on the dame's going for fish;
and the edition at South Kensington has the verse:--

    Old Mother Hubbard sat down in a chair,
    And danced her dog to a delicate air;
    She went to the garden to buy him a pippin,
    When she came back the dog was skipping.

In the edition of Rusher, instead of "the dog made a bow," we read "Prin
and Puss made a bow."

In Halliwell's estimation the tale of Mother Hubbard and her dog is of
some antiquity, "were we merely to judge," he says, "of the rhyme of
laughing to coffin in the third verse."

    She went to the undertaker's to buy him a coffin,
    When she came back the poor dog was laughing.

But it seems possible also that the author of the poem had running in
his mind a verse containing this rhyme, which occurs already in the
_Infant Institutes_ of 1797, where it stands as follows:--

    There was a little old woman and she liv'd in a shoe,
    She had so many children, she didn't know what to do.
    She crumm'd 'em some porridge without any bread
    And she borrow'd a beetle, and she knock'd 'em all o' th' head.
    Then out went the old woman to bespeak 'em a coffin
    And when she came back she found 'em all a-loffing.

This piece contains curious mythological allusions, as we shall see

It may be added that the nursery collection of 1810 (p. 37) contains the
first verse only of Mother Hubbard, which favours the view expressed by
Halliwell, that the compiler of the famous book did not invent the
subject nor the metre of his piece, but wrote additional verses to an
older story.

The association of Mother Hubbard and the dog may be relatively new, but
the name Mother Hubbard itself has some claim to antiquity. For a
political satire by Edmund Spenser was called _Prosopopeia or Mother
Hubberd's Tale_. It was a youthful effort of the poet, and was soon
forgotten. In this piece "the good old woman was height Mother Hubberd
who did far surpass the rest in honest mirth," and who related the fable
of the fox and the ape. Also Thomas Middleton in 1604 published _Father
Hubburd's Tale, or the Ant and the Nightingale_, in the introduction to
which he addressed the reader as follows:--"Why I call these Father
Hubburd's tales, is not to have them called in again as the Tale of
Mother Hubburd. The world would shew little judgment in that i' faith;
and I should say then _plena stultorum omnia_; for I entreat (_i.e._
treat) here neither of rugged (_i.e._ ragged) bears or apes, no, nor the
lamentable downfall of the old wife's platters--I deal with no such
metal ... etc."

We do not know that Spenser's tale was "called in again," nor does it
mention ragged bears and platters. Middleton must therefore be referring
to a different production to which obstruction was offered by the public
authorities. In any case the name of Mother Hubburd, or Hubbard, was
familiar long before the publication of the story of the dame and her

Father Hubberd, who is mentioned by Middleton, figures in nursery lore
also. A rhyme is cited which mentions him in connection with the
traditional cupboard:--

    What's in the cupboard? says Mr Hubbard;
    A knuckle of veal, says Mr Beal;
    Is that all? says Mr Ball;
    And enough too, says Mr Glue;
    And away they all flew.     (_N. & Q._, 7, IV, 166.)

Were they figured as cats?

The form of verse of this piece on Father Hubbard reproduces the chiming
of bells. The same form of verse is used also in the following:--

    "Fire! Fire!" says the town-crier;
    "Where, where?" says Goody Blair;
    "Down the town," said Goody Brown;
    "I'll go and see't," said Goody Fleet,
    "So will I," said Goody Fry.      (1890, p. 315.)

The old play of _Ralph Roister Doister_, written about the year 1550,
ends with a "peele of bells rung by the parish clerk," which is in the
same form of verse:--

    First bell: When dyed he, when dyed he?
    Second bell: We have him! We have him!
    Third bell: Roister doister, Roister doister.
    Fourth bell: He cometh, he cometh.
    Great bell: Our owne, our owne.



Various nursery pieces deal with material which forms the subject of
romantic ballads also. Romantic ballads, like popular songs, are
preserved in a number of variations, for they were sung again and again
to suit the modified taste of succeeding ages. Many romantic ballads
retain much that is pre-Christian in disposition and sentiment. The
finest collection of romantic ballads during recent times was made by
Child,[24] who included the fireside versions of ballads that have come
down to us through nursery literature. Child puts forward the opinion
that where we are in possession of a romantic and a fireside version of
the same ballad, the latter is a late and degraded survival. But this
hardly seems probable, considering that the nursery version of the tale
is usually simpler in form, and often consists of dialogue only.

    [24] Child, F. G., _English and Scottish Popular Ballads_ 1894.

In the estimation of Gregory Smith, the oldest extant examples of
romantic ballads "do not date further back than the second and third
quarter of the fifteenth century" (that is between 1425 and 1475),
"since the way in which the incidents in these are presented, reflects
the taste of that age."[25] This applies to romantic ballads that are
highly complex in form. The fireside version of the same story may have
flowed from the same source. The question hangs together with that of
the origin of the ballad, which may have arisen in connection with
dancing and singing, but the subject needs investigation.

    [25] Smith, G., _The Transition Period_, 1897, p. 180, in
    Saintsbury, _Periods of European Literature_.

Among our famous early ballads is that of _The Elfin Knight_, the oldest
printed copy of which is of 1670.

It begins as follows:--

    My plaid awa', my plaid awa',
    And o'er the hill and far awa',
    And far awa' to Norrowa,
    My plaid shall not be blown awa'.
    The Elfin Knight sits on yon hill,
    Ba, ba, ba, lilli ba,
    He blaws his horn both loud and shrill,
    The wind has blawn my plaid awa',
    He blows it east, he blows it west,
    He blows it where he liketh best.[26]

    [26] Child, loc. cit., I, 6 ff.

The ballad goes on to describe how problems were bandied between the
Elfin Knight and a lady. The one on whom an impossible task was imposed
stood acquitted if he devised a task of no less difficulty, which must
first be performed by his opponent. Such flytings go far back in
literature. In this case the Elfin Knight staked his plaid, that is his
life, on receiving the favour of the lady, and he propounded to her
three problems, viz. of making a sack without a seam, of washing it in a
well without water, and of hanging it to dry on a tree that never
blossomed. In reply, she claimed that he should plough an acre of land
with a ram's horn, that he should sow it with a peppercorn, and that he
should reap it with a sickle of leather. The problems perhaps had a
recondite meaning, and the ballad-monger probably found them ready to
hand. For Child cites a version of the ballad in which the same flyting
took place between a woman and "the auld, auld man," who threatened to
take her as his own, and who turned out to be Death. The idea of a wooer
staking his life on winning a lady is less primitive than that of Death
securing a victim.

The same tasks without their romantic setting are preserved in the form
of a simple dialogue, in the nursery collections of _c._ 1783 and 1810.
In this case also it is the question of a wooer.

    _Man speaks._

    Can you make me a cambrick shirt,
    Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme,
    Without any seam or needlework?
    And you shall be a true lover of mine.
    Can you wash it in yonder well? Parsley, etc.,
    Where never spring water or rain ever fell.
    Can you dry it on yonder thorn,
    Which never bore blossom since Adam was born?

    _Maiden speaks._

    Now you have asked me questions three,
    I hope you will answer as many for me.
    Can you find me an acre of land,
    Between the salt water and the sea sand?
    Can you plow it with a ram's horn,
    And sow it all over with peppercorn?
    Can you reap it with a sickle of leather,
    And bind it up with a peacock's feather?

    When you have done and finished your work,
    Then come to me for your cambrick shirt.      (_c._ 1783, p. 10.)

On the face of it, it hardly seems likely that this version is descended
from the romantic ballad.

The tasks that are here imposed on the man are set also in the form of a
boast in a nursery song, in which they have so entirely lost their
meaning as to represent a string of impossibilities.

    My father left me three acres of land,
    Sing sing, sing sing,
    My father left me three acres of land,
    Sing holly, go whistle and sing.
    I ploughed it with a ram's horn,
    And sowed it with one pepper corn.
    I harrowed it with a bramble bush,
    And reaped it with a little pen knife.
    I got the mice to carry it to the mill,
    And thrashed it with a goose's quill.
    I got the cat to carry it to the mill,
    The miller swore he would have her paw,
    And the cat she swore she would scratch his face.

    (_N. & Q._, VII. 8.)

Another nursery piece is recorded by Halliwell which, in simple form
relates concerning _Billy my son_ the sequence of events which underlies
the famous romantic ballad of Lord Randal.[27] The story is current also
in Scotland relating to _The Croodin Doo_ (1870, p. 51); it was told
also some eighty years ago in Lincolnshire, of _King Henry my son_ (_N.
& Q._, 8, VI, 427). The romantic ballad in five verses, as told of
Lairde Rowlande, relates how he came from the woods weary with hunting
and expecting death. He had been at his true love's, where he ate of the
food which poisoned his warden and his dogs. In the nursery version the
tragedy is told in the following simple form:--

    Where have you been to-day, Billy my son?
    Where have you been to-day, my only man?--
    I've been a wooing, mother; make my bed soon,
    For I'm sick at heart, and fain would lie down.

    What have you ate to-day, Billy my son?
    What have you ate to-day, my only man?--
    I've eat eel pie, mother; make my bed soon,
    For I am sick at heart, and shall die before noon.      (1849, p. 259.)

    [27] _Ibid._, I, 157: Lord Randal.

Other nursery pieces deal with Tommy Linn, the Tam Linn of romance, who
is the hero of many famous romantic ballads. The name of Tam Linn goes
some way back in history. For the _Tayl of young Tamlene_, according to
Vedderburn's _Complaint of Scotland_, of 1549, was told among a company
of shepherds, and the name appears also as that of a dance, _A Ballett
of Thomalyn_, as far back as 1558.[28]

    [28] _Ibid._, I, 256: Tamlene.

According to the romantic ballads, Tam Linn fell under the influence of
the fairies through sleeping under an apple tree, and they threatened to
take him back as their own on Hallowe'en, when they rode abroad once in
seven years and had the right to claim their due. Tam Linn told the
woman who loved him that she must hold him fast, whatever shape he
assumed owing to the enchantment of the witches, and that she must cast
him into water as soon as he assumed the shape of a _gled_. He would
then be restored to human form.

Tam Linn of romance figures in nursery lore as Tommy Linn. His exploits
were printed by Halliwell in one of the numerous versions that are
current in the north. In these pieces Tommy Linn has only this in common
with Tam Linn of romance, that he too is ready with a suggestion
whatever mishap befalls.

    Tommy Linn is a Scotchman born,
    His head is bald and his beard is shorn;
    He has a cap made of a hare skin,
    An alderman is Tommy Linn.

    Tommy Linn has no boots to put on,
    But two calves' skins and the hair it was on.
    They are open at the side and the water goes in,
    Unwholesome boots, says Tommy Linn.

    Tommy Linn had no bridle to put on,
    But two mouse's tails that he put on.
    Tommy Linn had no saddle to put on,
    But two urchins' skins and them he put on.

    Tommy Linn's daughter sat on the stair,
    O dear father, gin I be not fair?
    The stairs they broke and she fell in,
    You're fair enough now, says Tommy Linn.

    Tommy Linn had no watch to put on,
    So he scooped out a turnip to make himself one;
    He caught a cricket and put it within,
    It's my own ticker, says Tommy Linn.

    Tommy Linn, his wife, and wife's mother,
    They all fell into the fire together;
    Oh, said the topmost, I've got a hot skin,
    It's hotter below, says Tommy Linn.      (1849, p. 271.)

Several short nursery rhymes are taken from this, or other versions of
this poem. Among the pieces printed by Chambers we read--

    Tam o' the Lin and his bairns,
    Fell i' the fire in others' arms!
    Oh, quo' the bunemost, I ha'e a hot skin!!
    It's hotter below, quo' Tam o' the Lin!!!      (1870, p. 33.)

Sir Walter Scott in _Redgauntlet_ cites a catch on _Sir Thom o' Lyne_.

In some nursery collections the adventures of Tommy Lin, the Scotchman,
are appropriated to Bryan O'Lin, the Irishman.

    Bryan O'Lin had no watch to put on,
    So he scooped out a turnip to make himself one:
    He caught a cricket and put it within,
    And called it a ticker, did Bryan O'Lin.

    Bryan O'Lin had no breeches to wear,
    So he got a sheepskin to make him a pair:
    With the skinny side out and the woolly side in,
    Oh! how nice and warm, cried Bryan O'Lin.      (1842, p. 212.)

Many nursery rhymes which dwell on cats are formed on the model of these
verses. A rhyme that comes from America is as follows:--

    Kit and Kitterit and Kitterit's mother,
    All went over the bridge together.
    The bridge broke down, they all fell in,
    "Good luck to you," says Tom Bolin.

A modern collection of rhymes (1873, p. 136) gives this as follows:--

    The two grey cats and the grey kits' mother,
    All went over the bridge together;
    The bridge broke down, they all fell in,
    May the rats go with you, sings Tom Bowlin.

The association of cats with Tommy Linn reappears in the rhyme in which
Tommy, who in the romantic ballad begged immersion for himself,
practised immersion on a cat. Perhaps the cat was figured as a witch,
who, being suspected, was cast into the water in order to prove her

    Ding dong bell, poor pussy has fall'n i' th' well,
    Who threw her in? Little Tom O' Linne,
    What a naughty boy was that
    To drown poor pussy cat,
    That never did any harm,
    But catch'd a mouse i' th' barn.      (1797, cited by Rimbault.)

Other variations of this rhyme mention Johnny Green (_c._ 1783, p. 23)
and Tommy Quin (Rusher), which, considering the relative antiquity of
Tommy Linn, are obvious degradations of this name.

The rhyme in some collections is quoted in an enlarged form:--

    Who put her in? Little Tommy Lin,
    Who pulled her out? Little Tommy [_or_ Dickey] Stout.

I have heard also:--

    Who put her in? Little Tommy Thin.
    Who pulled her out? Little Tommy Stout.

Stout is perhaps a traditional name. For it occurs in the nursery piece
on the old woman who went to sleep out of doors and forgot her identity.
I know no earlier version of this piece in English than the one recorded
by Rimbault which begins:

    There was a little woman as I've heard tell,
    Who went to market her eggs for to sell.

It further relates how she went to sleep out of doors, how the man Stout
"cut her petticoats round about," and how on waking she did not know
herself, and decided to go home and find out if her dog knew her (1864,
p. 6). But the story is an old one, for we come across it in Grimm's
_Fairy Tales_, where it forms a sequel to "Kluge Else," (No. 35). In
this the part of Stout is taken by the woman's husband, who hung her
skirt about with bells, and it is further stated that the woman fell
asleep when she was cutting corn. The same story in a more interesting
form was recovered in Norway. Here we read that the woman fell asleep
while she was cutting hemp, which explains why her mind failed her. For
hemp newly cut has strongly narcotic properties. It was probably the
herb which the witches smoked in their diminutive clay-pipes in
pre-Christian times. Presumably on account of these narcotic properties
sowing and cutting of hemp were associated all over Europe with peculiar
dances, such as _Enfille aiguille_, our _Thread-the-Needle_. Its
connection with heathen rites of divination is suggested by the
well-known rhyme:--

    Hemp-seed I set, hemp-seed I sow,
    The young man whom I love,
    Come after me and mow.      (1890, p. 414.)

In this form the rhyme is also cited in _Mother Bunch's Closet newly
broke open_, as a charm to secure the vision of one's future husband.



Many true nursery rhymes go back to traditional dancing and singing
games which are now relegated to the playground, but which were danced
by rustics within the memory of man, and which are heirs to the choral
dances of our heathen forefathers. For dancing in its origin was no idle
and unmeaning pastime. Dances were undertaken for serious purposes, such
as warding off evil and promoting agricultural growth, conceptions which
hang closely together. These dances formed part of festivities that took
place at certain times of the year. They were accompanied by expressive
words, and by actions which were suited to the words, and which gave the
dance a dramatic character. Our carol is related to the _caraula_ that
was prohibited among heathen customs by Bishop Eligius of Noyon (d.
659), in the north of France in the seventh century, and has the same
origin as the _Choreia_ of the Greeks, the _reihe_ or _reigen_ of
Germany, the _karol_ of Brittany, and the _caraula_ of eastern
Switzerland. In course of time the religious significance of the choral
dance was lost and its practice survived as a sport. At a later stage
still, it became a pastime of children and a diversion of the ballroom.

Among the dances that can be traced back through several stages, is the
one which in its latest survival is known as the _Cotillon_. This is
mentioned in England as far back as the year 1766. Burns in _Tam o'
Shanter_ speaks of it as "brand new from France." The peculiar features
of the Cotillon as it is danced nowadays, include free choice of
partners, the women being at liberty in one figure to choose the men,
the drawing into the dance of the assembled company, and the presence of
a cushion which is put to a variety of uses. The Cotillon usually
concludes the ball.

In an earlier form the Cotillon is represented by the dance which was
known in the seventeenth century as _Joan Saunderson or the Cushion
Dance_. The way of dancing _Joan Saunderson_ is described in _The
Dauncing Master, a collection of dances with tunes for young people_,
published by H. Playford. Of this the first volume was issued in 1650,
which was enlarged in subsequent editions, when further volumes were
added. _The Dauncing Master_ of Playford shows how traditional country
dances were appropriated to the ballroom, for many of these dance tunes,
such as _Mulberry Bush_, and _Green Sleeves_, correspond with the names
of traditional dancing and singing games.

In _Joan Saunderson or the Cushion Dance_ as described by Playford,[29]
a cushion and a drinking-horn were brought in by two dancers to the
sound of a fiddle. The cushion-bearer locked the door and pocketed the
key, and danced round the room alone. Then he exchanged words with the
fiddler as to the need of finding a maid and pressing her into the
dance. The name Joan Saunderson being proposed, the cushion-bearer
placed the cushion before the woman of his choice, and knelt upon it.
She did the same, and drank from the horn. They kissed and danced
together. The same ceremony was then gone through by the girl, who, when
the name John Saunderson was proposed, approached the man of her choice
bearing the cushion, the first dancer accompanying her. The ceremony was
repeated again and again, alternately by man and woman, and as each
dancer chose a partner, the number of those following the cushion-bearer
increased. Finally the whole assembled company were drawn into the ring.

    [29] Playford, _The Dauncing Master_, 1686, p. 206.

A scene in _Joan Saunderson_ is said to be represented in a Dutch
engraving of the year 1624 (1876, p. 254). _Joan Saunderson_ is still
danced in different parts of the country under the same or some similar
name. In Derbyshire it is known as the _Cushion Dance_, and those who
are drawn into the ring are addressed as John Sanders and Jane Sanders.
In the Lowlands the dance is known as _Babbity Bowster_, bowster
standing for bolster; in the north it is the _Whishin Dance_, whishin
standing for cushion (1894, I, pp. 9, 87). The Cushion Dance was the
last dance that was danced at a wedding,[30] and at Northampton it came
at the conclusion of the May-Day festival (1876, p. 253).

    [30] Murray's Dictionary: _Cushion Dance_.

In the Cotillon of the ballroom, the ring finally breaks up and the
company dances in couples; the Cushion Dance leads up to the withdrawal
of the married pair, and concludes with a romp. A later edition of _The
Dauncing Master_ (1698, p. 7), perhaps with a view to forestalling this,
adds a sequel to the dance, according to which the game, after it had
been wound, was unwound, that is, each dancer in turn bade farewell to
his partner, and after doing so left the room.

The points of likeness between the Cotillon and the Cushion Dance are
such as to favour the belief that they are connected. The free choice of
partners, the presence of the cushion, the drawing in of the whole
assembled company, and the fact that the dance terminates the ball, are
peculiar to them both. The Cushion Dance being the older sport,
preserves the association with weddings and with the May-Day festival,
which at one time was the occasion for mating and marriage.

The associations with mating and marriage are preserved also in a
traditional game that is still played throughout the greater part of
England, which is generally known as _Sally Waters_. The verses recited
in playing it render it probable that the Cushion Dance is a later
development of the game known as _Sally Waters_.

In playing _Sally Waters_ the players stand in a ring, a boy and a girl
alternately choose a partner and seal the bond by joining hands, or by
kneeling, or by a kiss. The verses recited in playing the game were
first recorded by Halliwell (1849, p. 133). Forty-nine further
variations, used in different parts of the kingdom in playing the game,
have been printed by Mrs. Gomme, who classed this among marriage games,
(1894, II, 461). In the book of Playford the Cushion Dance is called
also _Joan Saunderson_, and those who are pressed into the dance are
designated as Joan Saunderson and John Saunderson, or as Jane Sanders
and John Sanders. In playing the game of _Sally Waters_ similar names
are used. Thus the children in Penzance stand in a ring and sing the
following verse:--

    Little Sally Sander sitting in the Sander,
    Weeping and crying for her young man.      (1894, No. 26.)

In playing the game in Liverpool they begin:--

    Little Polly Sanders sits on the sand, etc.      (_Ibid._, No. 42.)

The verses used in Yorkshire begin:--

    Little Alice Sander sat upon a cinder, etc.      (_Ibid._, No. 31.)

These names Sally Sander, Polly Sanders, etc., must be derived from the
same source as Saunderson and Sanders of the Cushion Dance. A host of
other rhymes current in the nursery deal with the same theme, and are
formed on the same model. There is one step only from _little Sally
Sander_ of Penzance, _little Polly Sanders_ of Liverpool, and _little
Alice Sander who sat upon a cinder_, to the following rhymes which are
included in different nursery collections. All these rhymes describe a
person sitting and waiting, and most of them dwell on the idea of a seat
or a cushion, while the allusion to matters matrimonial, being
unsuitable to children, is altogether dropped.

    Little Polly Flinders sat among the cinders,
    Warming her pretty toes;
    Her mother came and caught her, and scolded her little daughter,
    For spoiling her nice new clothes.      (1846, p. 212.)

    Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet,
    Eating of curds and whey,
    There came a great spider and sat down beside her
    And frightened Miss Muffet away.[31]

    Little Mary Ester sat upon a tester
    Eating of curds and whey;
    There came a little spider and sat down beside her,
    And frightened Mary Ester away.      (1842, p. 61.)

    [31] _Songs for the Nursery_, published by Darton & Co., 1812. The
    verses included in this collection were altered with a view to
    rendering them more suitable for children.

Tuffet and tester are words for a footstool.

    Little Miss Mopsey sat in the shopsey,
    Eating of curds and whey;
    There came a great spider who sat down beside her
    And frightened Miss Mopsey away.      (1842, p. 37.)

    Little Tom Tacket sits upon his cracket,
    Half a yard of cloth will make him a jacket,
    Make him a jacket and breeches to the knee,
    And if you will not have him, you may let him be.      (1842, p. 199.)

    Little Tom Tucker sings for his supper,
    What shall he eat, but white bread and butter;
    How will he cut it, without e're a knife
    And how will he be married without e're a wife.

    (1744, p. 10; _c._ 1783, p. 56.)

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

    _Chorus_: And what a good boy am I!      (_c._ 1783, p. 55.)

These verses as they here stand arranged, show an increasing deviation
from the words used in playing the game of Sally Waters.

Tom Tucker and Jack Horner are names that go some way back in history.
For Brand states that at the revels kept at St. John's College, 1
November, 1607, a Christmas Lord of the Revels was chosen as Thomas
Tucker.[32] A dance tune of the _Dauncing Master_ was called _Tom
Tucker_ also.[33]

    [32] Brand, _Popular Antiquities_, I, 219.

    [33] _The Dauncing Master_, 1686, p. 130.

The name of Jacky Horner was familiar to Carey about the year 1720, as
mentioned above. _Little Jack Horner_ was a well-known tune, and there
is a direction in the Grub Street opera that the chorus shall be sung
to this melody.[34] A chapbook of the latter half of the eighteenth
century bears the title, _The Pleasant History of Jack Horner,
containing his Witty Tricks_, etc. It cites the familiar rhyme, and
further describes the pranks that the hero played upon women. This
association and the name recall the expressions _hornified_, that is a
cuckold;[35] _horning_, a mock serenade "without which no wedding would
be complete"; and _Horn Fair_, a time of unusual licence, kept up in
Kent: "all was fair at Horn Fair" (1876, p. 387).

    [34] Whitmore, loc. cit., p. 27.

    [35] Murray's Dictionary: _Horning_.



The game of _Sally Waters_ calls for further comment. In this game, as
already mentioned, the players stand in a circle, boy and girl
alternately choose a partner, while the friends stand around and chant
the verses. In these lies the interest of the game. For these words in
the fifty variations collected by Mrs. Gomme, all give expression to the
same sequence of ideas. There is the call to Sally to go through the
ceremony of sprinkling the pan or watering the can. This is followed by
a chorus that urges that a choice be made. When this is made and sealed
by joining hands, or by kneeling, or by a kiss, the chorus utters wishes
for a prosperous union. Similar traits appear in the games known as
_Pretty Little Girl of Mine_, _The Lady of the Mountain_, and _Kiss in
the Ring_, which, in a less pronounced form, give expression to the same

The verses used in playing _Sally Waters_ in Dorsetshire are among the
most meaningful, and stand as follows:--

    Sally, Sally Waters, sprinkle in the pan,
    Rise, Sally; rise, Sally, and choose a young man;
    Choose [_or_ bow] to the east, choose [_or_ bow] to the west
    [_Or_ choose for the best one, choose for the worst one],
    Choose the pretty girl [_or_ young man] that you love best.

    And now you're married, I wish you joy,
    First a girl and then a boy;
    Seven years after son and daughter,
    And now young people, jump over the water.      (1894, Nr. 1.)

These verses and the fact that _Sally Waters_ is related to the Cushion
Dance that is danced at weddings, render it probable that _Sally Waters_
originated in a marriage celebration of heathen times. The formula in
the Dorsetshire version of the game concludes with a direction to the
young couple to "jump over the water." In the Somersetshire version the
direction is "kiss each other and come out of the water" (1894, No. 3);
in the Shropshire variation, "kiss and shake hands and come out" (1894,
No. 14); in the London variation, "kiss before you go out of the water."

Dipping was an accepted ceremonial during heathen times, which recovered
or revealed a person's true identity as in the case of Tam Linn, or of
the suspected witch who was thrown into the water. Dipping constituted
part of definite celebrations. For the ceremonial of "dipping" formed
part of the May-Day festival as it was kept in Northampton, while in
Cornwall the saying is current: "The first of May is dipping day" (1876,
p. 235). May-Day was a great day for contracting matrimonial alliances
in the heathen past, and is at present avoided because of its riotous

Judging from the verses used in playing Sally Waters, the union between
the parties was contracted conditionally for seven years only. Seven
years are definitely mentioned in sixteen out of fifty variations of the
game. The same period is mentioned also in fourteen out of the
twenty-five variations of the verses used in playing _Pretty Little Girl
of Mine_, and in three out of seven variations of the verses used in
playing _The Lady on the Mountain_.

Mrs. Gomme, in discussing the game of Sally Waters, cites various
expressions which show that the marriage vow is still popularly looked
upon as binding for a certain period only, sometimes for seven years
(1894, II, 177). I find this corroborated by remarks I have gleaned from
country-folk. Thus a woman whose husband had gone from her, after seven
years felt justified in looking upon him as dead, and had the bell
tolled for his funeral.

Time-reckoning by seven years goes far back in history, and is still the
rule in many legal arrangements. Seven years of plenty succeeded seven
years of famine in Egypt. Once in seven years the fairies rode out to
claim their due. Some festivities happened only once in seven years. The
curious custom of _bumping_, that is, of two persons taking up by the
arms any persons whom they met, and swinging them to and fro, was
observed on Ganging Day (29 September) once in seven years at Bishop's
Stortford (1876, p. 380). At Bradford also a septennial festival was
kept in honour of Jason and the Golden Fleece and St. Blaize on 3
February (1876, p. 60). Similarly a dance known as the Metzgersprung
was danced at Munich once in seven years to keep off the plague (Bo., p.

The mention of seven years in the marriage game may indicate that the
marriage was broken off after seven years if the stipulated conditions
failed to be fulfilled. These conditions were that the children born of
the union should include one of either sex. Mrs. Gomme, in connection
with this stipulation, remarks that a marriage is still popularly
reckoned incomplete from which there is not male and female offspring.
She also points out that the expression "choose for the best, choose for
the worst" of the marriage game, is related to the words "for better,
for worse" of the vernacular portion of the English marriage service.
The expressions "worst and best," or "wisest and best," occur in
thirteen out of the fifty versions of words; instead of these, "choose
east and choose west" occur in twenty-two out of the fifty versions
(1894, II, 168). It is difficult to decide which is the more primitive
form of the verse; I fancy the latter.

The ceremony of choosing was led up to by _sprinkling the pan_, which is
mentioned in twenty-one out of fifty variations of the game; _watering
the can_ stands in twelve others. The pan was specially associated with
women as housekeepers, and, together with the cradle, is mentioned as
one of the first essentials in setting up house in the game of

    [36] Gomme, loc. cit.:  _Wallflowers_:--

    Mister Moffit is a very good man,
    He came to the door with a hat in his hand,
    He pulled up his cloak and showed me the ring;
    To-morrow, to-morrow the wedding begins.
    First he bought a frying pan, then he bought the cradle,
    And then one day the baby was born. Rock, rock the cradle.

    (No. 32.)

Judging from the game of _Sally Waters_ as played in Bucks, a "mother"
actually presided at the game, who directed her daughters to sprinkle
the pan, and their being included among those from whom a choice was
made, depended on their successfully doing so. To the words of the game
as played in Bucks, I have added in brackets an indication how the words
were probably distributed:--

    (Half chorus): Sally, Sally Walker, sprinkled in the pan.
    (Other half):  What did she sprinkle for?
    (Answer):      For a young man.
    (Mother):      Sprinkle, sprinkle daughter, and you shall have a cow.
    (Daughter):    I cannot sprinkle, mother, because I don't know how.
    (Mother):      Sprinkle, daughter, sprinkle, and you shall have a man.
    (Daughter):    I cannot sprinkle, mother, but I'll do the best I can.
    (Chorus):      Pick and choose, but don't you pick me,
                   Pick the fairest you can see.
    (Man):         The fairest that I can see is.... Come to me!

    (1894, No. 23.)

This is followed by the usual marriage formula.

A similar dialogue is included amongst the Nursery Rhymes of Halliwell,
in which the daughter is directed to whistle, a word which formerly
conveyed the idea of uttering imprecations in a low voice, and which was
condemned in a woman since it marked her out for a witch. The verse
stands as follows:--

    Whistle daughter, whistle, whistle for a cradle.
    I cannot whistle, mammy, 'deed I am not able.

    Whistle daughter, whistle, whistle for a cow,
    I cannot whistle, mammy, 'deed I know not how.

    Whistle, daughter, whistle, whistle for a man,
    I cannot whistle, mammy; whew! Yes, I believe I can.

    (1846, p. 219.)[37]

    [37] Cf.

    A whistling woman and a crowing hen
    Are neither fit for God or man.      (1892, p. 506.)


    Une femme qui siffle et une poule qui crie
    Porte malheur dans la maison.

If the words used in playing _Sally Waters_ are analysed, it will be
seen that the name Sally occurs in forty-four out of fifty variations,
and that in twenty-four variations the name is associated with water. It
is combined with water especially in the south and the south-west of
England. Away from this district we have the name Sally Walker, in
Shropshire, Bucks, Yorkshire, Scotland, and Ireland; the name Sally
Salter in Yorkshire and Lincoln; the names Sally Sander in Penzance,
Polly Sanders in Liverpool, and so forth. Obviously, Sally Waters is the
oldest form of the name. This view is accepted by Mrs. Gomme, who was,
however, at a loss to account for the wide use of the name Sally Waters.
But, in classing the variations of words of the game according to the
reasonableness of their contents, she placed foremost as most meaningful
the verses that hailed from Dorsetshire, Somerset, and Devonshire, where
the form Sally Waters is in use. It is to this district, therefore, that
we must turn for the origin of the game of _Sally Waters_.

On turning to the history of the British past in these districts, we
find that the Romans when they came to Bath found this spot far famed
for its waters. The name by which they knew the place was _Aquæ Solis_,
but the word _Solis_ did not stand for the sun as a male divinity, but
for _Sul_, the presiding female divinity of the place. For the Roman
temple built at Bath was dedicated to the goddess Sulis-Minerva, and the
name Sul, both with and without the name of Minerva, occurs among the
noted inscriptions.[38] It was a common practice with the Romans to
couple the name of one of their own divinities with that of a local
divinity, and Minerva, in her capacity of a healing goddess, was here
associated with Sul, the female divinity of the waters. On the façade of
the temple a medallion is represented. Inside it is the head of a
goddess with her hair tied together over her forehead, and a crescent
moon is behind her. The moon is an emblem which is not associated with
Minerva elsewhere, and the head on the medallion must therefore
represent Sul. Sul was the presiding divinity at Bath, and an altar was
also discovered which was dedicated to the Sulevæ.

    [38] Scarth, H. M., _Aquæ Solis, Notices on Roman Bath_, 1864, pp.
    16 ff., 22 ff., etc.

A similar altar has been discovered at Nismes, which is dedicated to
_Suliviæ Idennicæ Minervæ_. Scarth, in his history of Roman Bath, cites
Mr. Roach Smith on these Sulevæ, who "appear to have been sylphs, the
tutelary divinities of rivers, fountains, hills, roads, villages and
other localities against whom were especially directed in the fifth and
subsequent centuries the anathemas of Christian councils, missionaries,
and princes."[39] Taking this evidence into consideration, is it
far-fetched to suggest that Sally Waters of the traditional marriage
game, which, in its most meaningful form, is still played in the
districts surrounding Bath, may be related to Sul of the waters of Bath,
and to her followers, or ministrants, the Sulevæ?

    [39] _Ibid._, p. 53.

We know nothing further of Sul as far as our islands are concerned. But
in Central France a female impersonation of the sun is still called upon
as _La Soule_, and St. Solange, patron saint of Berry, who is
represented with a light over her forehead, is looked upon as heir to
her in the pantheon of Christian saints. Sulis also was a place-name in
Brittany during Roman times, situated somewhere between Auray and
Quimper. It seems probable that the site is identical with that of the
present St. Anne d'Auray, famous for its holy waters, which are still
sought in pilgrimage from far and near. The enormous stone basin into
which pilgrims are dipped, remains its most curious feature.

In Scandinavian nursery lore we also come across a _Fru Sole_, the
mother of many daughters, who sat in heaven, and across _Fru Soletopp_,
who distributed gifts. These names may be related to Sul of the waters
of Bath, or to Sally of our game, or to both. However this may be, the
wide distribution of the game known as _Sally Waters_, and its peculiar
connection with the south-west of England, induce the belief that there
is some relation between Sally of the game, and Sul, the divinity of the



Associations dating from heathen times are preserved in other
traditional games, the full meaning of which becomes apparent only when
we compare these with their foreign parallels. Some of these games in
their cruder and more primitive forms are sports, in which dialogue
takes the place of rhymed verses, and in which the characters that are
introduced are frequently spoken of as animals.

Among the dancing and singing games first described by Halliwell is one
called by him _The Lady of the Land_. In this game one side is taken by
a mother and her daughters, the other by a second woman, and the game
consists in the daughters changing sides. The verses that are recited
are as follows:--

    Here comes a woman from Babyland,
    With three small children in her hand.
    One can brew, the other can bake,
    The other can make a pretty round cake.
    One can sit in the garden and spin,
    Another can make a fine bed for a king.
    Pray m'am will you take one in?      (1846, p. 121.)

One child is then pointed out and passes to the other side, and this is
continued till all are selected.

Twelve further variations of the words used in playing this game were
recovered from different parts of the country by Mrs. Gomme (1894, I,
313). Of these two, one from Shropshire (No. 3) and one from the Isle of
Wight (No. 6), like that of Halliwell, designate the woman as "from
Babyland." Others, from the Isle of Man and from Galloway (Appendix),
describe her as from Babylon, while further variations mention Sandiland
(No. 9), Cumberland (Berks, No. 8), and others. The word Babyland, which
occurs in three out of thirteen variations of the game, is probably the
original one, for it has a parallel in the corresponding German game in
the name _Engelland_, the land of the spirits of the unborn.

The Babyland game in a more primitive form is known as _Little Dog I
call you_, in which the players also change sides (1894, I, 330). In
this game, the one side is taken by a girl who looks after a number of
children, the other by a girl who is designated as _Little Dog_, and who
stands apart. The children secretly impart their wishes to their owner
or leader, who warns them against laughing, and then calls the Little
Dog and tells him to pick out the child who has expressed such and such
a wish. Should this child laugh by inadvertence, she at once goes over
to the Little Dog. If not, the dog is left to guess who has imparted the
wish, and by doing so he secures the child. If he fails to guess aright,
the child goes and stands behind the leader and is altogether removed
out of the reach of the Little Dog. This is continued till all belong to
one side or the other, and the game concludes with a tug of war.

The games of _The Lady of the Land_ and _Little Dog_ have parallels in
the foreign game of children changing sides, fourteen variations of
which were collected from different parts of northern Europe by
Mannhardt (M., p. 273). The closest parallel to _The Lady of the Land_
is played in Belgium, in which sides are taken by two leaders, of whom
the one has many daughters and the other has none. The game is called
_Riche et pauvre_ and the following verses are sung:--

    Je suis pauvre, je suis pauvre, Anne Marie Jacqueline;
    Je suis pauvre dans ce jeu d'ici.--
    Je suis riche, je suis riche, Anne Marie Jacqueline;
    Je suis riche dans ce jeu d'ici.--
    Donnez-moi un de vos enfants, Anne Marie Jacqueline,
    Donnez-moi un de vos enfants, dans ce jeu d'ici.      (M., No. 13.)

    "I am poor, I am poor in this game, I am rich in this game. Give me
    one of your children, in this game."

This is continued as in the Babyland game till every child has had its
turn. There is no sequel.

In the German game the woman who owns the children is called sometimes
Mary, sometimes Witch, but usually she has the name of a heathen
divinity. Thus in Mecklenburg she is _Fru Goden_ or _Fru Gol_ (No. 11).
Gode is the name of a mother divinity, who, as _Godmor_, is the mother
of Thor (Gr., p. 209, note). In the game as played in Prussia (No. 10),
in Elsass (No. 3), in Swabia (No. 2), and in Aargau (No. 4), she is
_Frau Ros_ or _Frau Rose_, that is Lady Ros or Rose; while in
Pommerellen she is either _Ole Moder Rose_ or _Ole Moder Taersche_ (No.
1), a word that signifies witch. In Holstein, on the other hand, the
alternative is recorded as _Fru Rosen_ or _Mutter Marie_, Mother Mary
(No. 9), while in Appenzell (No. 5) and near Dunkirk (No. 6) the owner
of the children is _Marei Muetter Gotts_, i.e. Mary the Mother of God.
Mannhardt points out that Ross, sometimes Rose, is the name of a German
mother divinity who occurs frequently in German folk-lore. I have come
across Mother Ross in our own chapbook literature, where the name may be
traditional also. Mary indicates the substitution of a Christian name in
the place of the older heathen one. In Sweden the owner of many babes is
_Fru Sole_, who is represented as sitting in heaven surrounded by her
daughters, who are described as chickens (No. 14).

The game of securing children is called in Switzerland _Das Englein
aufziehen_ (No. 5), that is, "the drawing forth of an angel." The word
_Engel_, angel, according to the information collected by Mannhardt,
originally designates the spirit that awaits re-birth. For the heathen
inhabitants of Northern Europe, including the Kelts, were unable to
realize individual death. They held that the living spirit passed away
with death, but continued in existence, and again reappeared under
another shape. In the civilization that belonged to the mother age,
these spirits or angels that awaited re-birth, peopled the realm which
was associated with divine mothers or mother divinities. At a later
period, transferred into Christian belief, they were pictured as a host
of winged babes, whom we find represented in mediaeval art hovering
around the Virgin Mother and Child.

The land in which the unborn spirits dwelt, is generally spoken of in
German nursery and folk rhymes as _Engelland_, an expression which forms
a direct parallel to the expression Babyland of our game. Thus the
_Woman of Babyland_, like _Frau Rose_ or _Frau Gode_ of the German
game, was in all probability a divine mother, who was the owner of the
spirits or babes that awaited re-birth.

In the estimation of Mannhardt, the game in which children are drawn
from one woman into the possession of the other, preserves the relics of
a ceremonial connected with the cult of the mother divinity. It visibly
set forth how the spirits of the departed were drawn back into life (M.,
p. 319). Perhaps we may go a step further. The study of folk-lore has
taught us that to simulate a desired result is one way of working for
its attainment. Women who were desirous of becoming mothers, both in
England and in Germany, were wont to rock an empty cradle. They also
visited particular shrines. Of the rites which they practised there we
know nothing. Perhaps the Babyland game originated not as an ideal
conception, but preserves the relics of a rite by which women sought to
promote motherhood. This assumption is supported by various features
that are incidental to the game.

Thus the game, both in England and abroad, is essentially a girls'
game, and the words that are used indicate that it is played by them
only. Even where the generality of the players are designated as
"children," the leaders are invariably girls.

Again, in some versions of the foreign game (Nos. 8, 9) there is mention
of salt. The woman who asks for a child, complains that she has lost
those that were given to her; she is told that she ought to have
sprinkled them with salt (No. 8). Sprinkling with salt is still observed
at Christian baptism in some districts, and such sprinkling is said to
make a child safe.[40]

    [40] Cf. Addy, S. O., _House Tales and Traditional Remains_, 1895,
    pp. 86, 120.

Again, in the game as played abroad the child that is chosen is put to
the test if it can be made to laugh (Nos. 2, 4, 5, 8). In the game of
_Little Dog_ also, the child that laughs passes into the keeping of a
new owner. Laughing indicates quickening into life, and in folk-lore
generally the child that refrains from laughing is reckoned uncanny.
Numerous stories are told of the changeling that was made to laugh and
disappeared, when the real child was found restored to its cradle.

Again, in the foreign game the player who seeks to secure a child speaks
of herself as lame, and limps in order to prove herself so (Nos. 1, 2,
14). In one instance she attributes her limping to a bone in her leg.
Limping, in the estimation of Mannhardt, is peculiar to the woman who
has borne children (M., p. 305). For in German popular parlance the
woman who is confined, is said to have been bitten by the stork who
brought the child.

A reminiscence of this idea lurks in our proverb rhyme:--

    The wife who expects to have a good name,
    Is always at home as if she were lame;
    And the maid that is honest, her chiefest delight
    Is still to be doing from morning till night.[41]

    [41] Bohn, H., _A Handbook of Proverbs_, 1901, p. 43.

Again, in one version of the foreign game the children that are won over
are given the names of dogs, and when their former owner attempts to get
them back, they rush at her and bark (No. 1). This corresponds to our
game of _Little Dog_, in which the child that stands apart is addressed
as "Little Dog I call you." Grimm declared himself at a loss to account
for the fact that a dog was associated with the Norns or Fate-maidens
who assisted at childbirth (Gr., p. 339); Mannhardt cites the belief
that the spirits of the dead were sometimes spoken of as dogs (M., p.
301); and in England there also exists a superstition that the winds
that rush past at night are dogs, the so-called Gabriel hounds or
ratchets (cf. below, p. 165).

Features preserved in other games contain similar suggestions which are
worth noting.

Thus in the game known as _Drop-handkerchief_ one girl holding a
kerchief goes round the others who are arranged in a circle, saying:--

    I have a little dog and it won't bite you
    It won't bite you, it won't bite you [_ad lib._]
    It _will_ bite you.      (1894, I, 109.)

The person on whom _the little dog_ is bestowed is "bitten"; that is,
she is in the same predicament as the German woman who is bitten by the
stork, and the limping woman of the German Babyland game.

In playing _Drop-handkerchief_ in Deptford the children sing:--

    I had a little dog whose name was Buff,
    I sent him up the street for a pennyworth of snuff.
    He broke my box and spilt my snuff
    I think my story is long enough--
    'Taint you, 'taint you, and 'taint you, but 'tis you.

    (1894, I, p. 111.)

In the collection of Nursery Songs by Rusher stands the following

    I had a little dog and they called him Buff,
    I sent him to a shop to buy me snuff,
    But he lost the bag and spilt the stuff;
    I sent him no more but gave him a cuff,
    For coming from the mart without any snuff.

"Bufe" as a word for a dog occurs as far back as 1567.[42]

    [42] Murray's Dictionary: _Bufe_.



The comparison of our short nursery rhymes with those current in other
countries, next engages our attention. Halliwell has remarked that some
of our rhymes are chanted by the children of Germany and Scandinavia,
which to him strikingly exhibited the great antiquity and remote origin
of these rhymes. The observation which he made with regard to the
countries of Northern Europe, applies to the countries of Central and
Southern Europe also. Scholarly collections of rhymes have been
published during recent years in Scandinavia, Germany, France, Italy,
Spain, and referring to special parts of these countries, which give us
a fair insight into their nursery lore. (Cf., p. 212). The comparison of
these collections with ours yields surprising results. Often the same
thought is expressed in the same form of verse. Frequently the same
proper name reappears in the same connection. In many cases rhymes, that
seem senseless taken by themselves, acquire a definite meaning when
taken in conjunction with their foreign parallels. Judging from what we
know of nursery rhymes and their appearance in print, the thought of a
direct translation of rhymes in the bulk cannot be entertained. We are
therefore left to infer, either that rhymes were carried from one
country to another at a time when they were still meaningful, or else
that they originated in different countries as the outcome of the same
stratum of thought.

The sorting of nursery rhymes according to the number of their foreign
parallels, yields an additional criterion as to the relative antiquity
of certain rhymes. For those rhymes that embody the more primitive
conceptions are those that are spread over the wider geographical area.
The above inquiry has shown that pieces such as _Mother Hubbard_ and
_Three Blind Mice_ are relatively new, and that all the rhymes formed on
the model of _Little Miss Muffet_ go back to the _Cushion Dance_ and to
the game of _Sally Waters_. Rhymes of this kind are entirely without
foreign parallels. On the other hand, calls, such as those addressed to
the ladybird and the snail, and riddle-rhymes, such as that on _Humpty
Dumpty_, have numerous and close parallels half across Europe.

The ladybird is the representative among ourselves of a large class of
insects which were associated with the movement of the sun from the
earliest times. The association goes back to the _kheper_ or chafer of
ancient Egypt, which has the habit of rolling along the ball that
contains its eggs. This ball was identified as the orb of the sun, and
the _kheper_ was esteemed as the beneficent power that helped to keep it

A like importance attached to the chafers that had the power of flying,
especially to the ladybird (_Coccinella septem punctata_). In India the
insect was called _Indragopas_, that is "protected by Indra." The story
is told how this insect flew too near the sun, singed its wings, and
fell back to the earth.[43]

    [43] De Gubernatis, _Zoological Mythology_, 1872, II, p. 209.

In Greece the same idea was embodied in the myth of Ikaros, the son of
Dædalus, who flew too near the sun with the wings he had made for
himself, and, falling into the sea, was drowned. Already the ancient
Greeks were puzzled by this myth, which found its reasonable explanation
in describing Ikaros as the inventor of sails. He was the first to
attach sails to a boat, and sailing westwards, he was borne out to sea
and perished.

Among ourselves the ladybird is always addressed in connection with its
power of flight. It is mostly told to return to its house or home, which
is in danger of being destroyed by fire, and warned of the ruin
threatening its children if it fails to fly. But some rhymes address it
on matters of divination, and one urges it to bring down blessings from

The rhyme addressed to the ladybird first appears in the nursery
collection of 1744, where it stands as follows:--

    1.  Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home,
        Your house is on fire, your children will burn.

Many variations of the rhyme are current in different parts of the
country, which may be tabulated as follows:--

    2.  Lady cow, lady cow, fly away home,
        Your house is on fire, your children all roam.      (1892, p. 326.)

    3.  Ladycow, Ladycow, fly and be gone,
        Your house is on fire, and your children at home.

    (Hallamshire, 1892, p. 326.)

    4.  Gowdenbug, gowdenbug, fly away home,
        Yahr house is bahnt dun, and your children all gone.

    (Suffolk, _N. & Q._, IV., 55.)

    5.  Ladybird, ladybird, eigh thy way home,
        Thy house is on fire, thy children all roam,
        Except little Nan, who sits in her pan
        Weaving gold laces as fast as she can.

        (Lancashire, 1892, p. 326.)

    6.  Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home,
        Your house is on fire, your children at home.
        They're all burnt but one, and that's little Ann,
        And she has crept under the warming pan.      (Rusher's Series.)

    7.  Ladycow, ladycow, fly thy way home,
        Thy house is on fire, thy children all gone;
        All but one, that ligs under a stone,
        Ply thee home, ladycow, ere it be gone.      (1842, p. 204.)

    8.  Ladycow, Ladycow, fly away home,
        Thy house is on fire, thy children all gone;
        All but one, and he is Tum,
        And he lies under the grindelstone.

        (Shropshire, 1892, p. 327.)

    9.  Dowdy cow, dowdy cow, ride away hame,
        Thy house is burnt, and thy bairns are ta'en;
        And if thou means to save thy bairns,
        Take thy wings and fly away.

        (N. Riding, Yorks., 1892, p. 327.)

    10. Lady, lady landers, fly away to Flanders.

        (Chambers, 1842, p. 43.)

    11. Fly, ladybird, fly!
        North, south, east, or west,
        Fly to the pretty girl that I love best.      (1849, p. 5.)

    12. King, king Golloway, up your wings and fly away,
        Over land and over sea; tell me where my love can be.

    (Kincardineshire, 1870, p. 201.)

    13. Ladycow, ladycow, fly from my hand,
        Tell me where my true love stands,
        Up hill and down hill and by the sea-sand.      (1892, p. 119.)

    14. Bishop, Bishop, Barnabee, tell me when my wedding will be.
        If it be to-morrow day,
        Ope your wings and fly away.      (Sussex, 1892, p. 119.)

    15. Bishop, bishop, barnabee, tell me when my wedding will be.
        Fly to the east, fly to the west,
        Fly to them that I love best.      (_N. & Q._, I., p. 132.)

    16. Burnie bee, burnie bee, say when will your wedding be.
        If it be to-morrow day,
        Take your wings and fly away.      (Norfolk, 1849, p. 3.)

    17. Bless you, bless you, bonnie bee, say when will your wedding be.
        If it be to-morrow day,
        Take your wings and fly away.      (M., p. 253, foot-note.)

    18. God A'mighty's colly cow, fly up to heaven;
        Carry up ten pound, and bring down eleven.

    (Hampshire, 1892, p. 327.)

    19. This ladyfly I take from the grass,
        Whose spotted back might scarlet red surpass.
        Fly ladybird, north, south, or east or west,
        Fly where the man is found that I love best.

    (M., p. 417, citing Brand.)

The comparison of these rhymes with their foreign parallels, of which a
number were collected by Mannhardt, shows that a rhyme current in Saxony
is very close to ours:--

    Himmelsküchlein, flieg aus!
    Dein Haus brennt,
    Deine kinder weinen alle miteinander.      (M., p. 349.)

    "Heaven's little chicken, fly away; thy house is on fire, thy
    children are all crying."

Mannhardt was of opinion that the ladybird rhyme originated as a charm
intended to speed the sun across the dangers of sunset, that is, the
"house on fire" or welkin of the West, which is set aglow at sundown.
Throughout the East a prayer is still uttered to the setting sun in
order to ensure its safe return on the morrow.

The ladybird is known by a variety of names both in England and abroad.
Among ourselves it is identified as a cow, a bird, or a bee, while the
_lady_ of our rhymes reappears as Mary in the German expression
_Marienkäfer_. In Sweden the ladybird is addressed as _Jungfru Marias
Nyckelpiga_, "the Lady Mary's keybearer," and this expression is
explained by the story that the Virgin lost the keys of heaven, and that
all the animals helped her to look for them. They were found by the
ladybird, to whose care they are now entrusted. The keys of heaven have
been interpreted as the lightning which opened the floodgates of heaven.
For the mother divinities were credited with making the weather, with
giving rain, and with washing. This latter association lingers in the
Scottish ladybird rhyme, in which the ladybird is addressed as landers,
i.e. laundress (M., p. 250, foot-note).

In Potsdam they sing:--

    Marienwörmken flïg furt,
    Flïg furt nach Engelland!
    Engelland ist zugeschlossen,
    Schlüssel davon abgebrochen.      (M., p. 347.)

    "Insect of Mary, fly away, fly away to Engelland. Engelland is
    locked, its key is broken."

The rhyme thus combines the idea of the keys of heaven with _Engelland_,
the home of the unborn spirits, and with Mary, to whom the insect is

Many of our ladybird rhymes refer to the danger that is threatening,
probably from sunset or the direction of the West, but one person is
safe. It is little Nan, who sits weaving gold laces. Spinning gold or
silk was a prerogative of the mother divinities who sat in heaven (Gr.,
223, M., 705). Another rhyme calls her Ann. Nan or Ann reappears in the
corresponding ladybird rhymes of Switzerland and Swabia. In Aargau they

    Goldchäber, flüg uf, uf dine hoche Tanne,
    Zue diner Muetter Anne.
    Si git dir Chäs und Brod,
    's isch besser as der bitter Tod.      (R., p. 464.)

    "Gold-chafer, up and away, up to thy high story, to thy Mother Anne,
    who gives thee bread and cheese. 'Tis better than bitter death."

In Swabia they sing:--

    Sonnevögele flieg aus,
    Flieg in meiner Ahne Haus,
    Bring mir Aepfel und Bire;
    Komm bald wieder.      (Me., p. 24.)

    "Sunbird, fly away, fly to my ancestress' house; bring me apples and
    pears; come back soon."

This request to the ladybird to bring down gifts from heaven has a
parallel in our rhyme which entreats it to "carry up ten pounds, and
bring down eleven."

According to another of our rhymes the one who is safe at home is Tom,
who lies under the grindelstone, that is the grindstone. The analysis of
the stories that are told of Tom shows that he is related to the
northern god Thor, and that the grindstone corresponds to Thor's hammer.
Moreover, in Scandinavian folk-lore there is a house-sprite called
Tommelgubbe, literally Tom-boy, who took offence if work was done on a
Thursday, the day sanctified to the god Thor. The hammer of Thor was
called _Mjölnir_, that is pounder, and with it the god was busy in
summertime in heaven, pounding ice into snow.

In an old story-book called _Tom Hickathrift_, otherwise
_Hickifric_,[44] traits are preserved in connection with Tom, which
recall the peculiarities of the god Thor. Tom dwelt with his mother, who
slept on straw; there was no father. Thor had no father; his mother was
designated as Godmor. Tom ate hugely, Thor did the same. Tom flung his
hammer into the river, Thor measured distance by throwing his hammer.
Tom carted beer--a trait that recalls Thor's fits of drunkenness. On one
occasion Tom made himself a weapon by sticking an axle-tree into a
waggon-wheel, which suggests that Thor's hammer was a flat stone mace.
Likewise Tom, having broken his club, "seized upon a lusty raw-boned
miller," and used him as a weapon. Can we hesitate from accepting that
this "miller" in a confused manner recalls the _Mjölnir_--that is the
hammer--of the northern god Thor?

    [44] Reprinted Halliwell, 1849, p. 81 ff.

The analysis of the ladybird rhymes takes us even farther afield. In
Saxony they sing:--

    Flieg, Käfer, flieg, dein Vater ist im Krieg,
    Deine Mutter ist in den Stiefel gekroche,
    Hat das linke Bein gebroche.      (M., p. 347.)

    "Fly, chafer, fly, father has gone to war, mother has crept into the
    shoe, she has broken her left leg."

The mother with the broken leg of this rhyme recalls the limping mother
of the Babyland game, and the person in _Drop Handkerchief_, who was
bitten. The expression of "creeping into a shoe" yields a clue to the
nature of the woman of one of our rhymes who lived in a shoe, and was
oppressed by the number of her children. In one form this rhyme, cited
above in connection with the tale of Mother Hubbard, describes how the
children were to all appearance dead, but were quickened into life. This
conception is allied to the quickening into life of the babes in the
Babyland game. In its earliest printed form the rhyme stands as

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

    (_c._ 1783, p. 52.)

Those of our ladybird rhymes which call on the insect in matters of love
divination have their closest parallels in Scandinavia. In Sweden they

    Jungfru Marias Nyckelpiga,
    Flyg öster, flyg vester,
    Flyg dit der bor din älskede.      (1849, p. 5.)

    "Fly, Our Lady's keybearer! fly east, fly west, fly where thy lover

Of the rhymes of this class, one introduces the term Golloway. This may
be intended for Yellow Way, the course of the sun in daytime, as
distinct from the Milky Way, the course of the stars at night.

Another rhyme begins with the call Bishop, bishop, which has puzzled
various commentators. I venture to suggest that the word be read
Beeship, and that it indicates the boat that sailed across heaven
bearing the souls of the dead, who were figured as bees. For the spirits
of those who passed away, viewed under one aspect, were bees, and the
ship that conveyed the dead in Norsk saga was actually designated as the
_Bŷskip_. Mannhardt, in illustration, cites a line which the skald Egil
Skallagrimssonr, whose date is between 902 and 980, sang on his son that
had been drowned:--

    Byrr es bŷskips i boe kominn kvanar son.

    "In the beeship there has gone the son of my wife."

Our commentators inaccurately translate the expression as "City of the
Hive" (C. P., I, 546).

According to a fancy of the Welsh bards, Britain was peopled with bees
before the arrival of man, and this was held to account for its name,
the "Isle of Honey."

A Prussian ladybird rhyme also mentions the boat that sailed across
heaven. In Dantzig they sing:--

    Herrgotspferdchen, fliege weg,
    Dein Häuschen brennt, dein Kähnchen schwimmt,
    Deine Kinder schreien nach Butterbrod;
    Herrgotspferdchen, fliege weg.      (M., 349.)

    "God Almighty's little horse, fly away, thy house is on fire, thy
    boat is afloat, thy children cry for bread and butter."

From an early period the sun was supposed to be conveyed in a boat, and
boats were associated with divinities half the world over. Tacitus was
acquainted with the boat of the goddess Isis that was conveyed about in
Alexandria, and he described the boat that was taken about in procession
by the heathen Germans in their cult of Hertha, as the boat of Isis
(Gr., p. 214). The sun-boat of Ra in Egypt conveyed the dead to heaven.
So did the golden ship of Odin in Scandinavia, which conveyed the bodies
of the fallen warriors to Valhalla. The remembrance of this sun-boat
probably gave rise to the story how Ikaros invented sails. It may linger
still in the "beeship" of our rhymes, and in the "Kähnchen" of the
corresponding German ladybird rhyme.



Among other rhymes which date some way back in history are those which
may fitly be called riddle-rhymes. Some of these have close parallels in
the nursery lore of other countries. The most interesting example of
this class is the rhyme on Humpty-Dumpty which deals with the egg. The
egg from the earliest times formed an enigma in itself, and was looked
upon as representing the origin of life. Aristophanes knew of the great
bird that laid the world-egg. According to _Kalevala_, the Finnish epic,
the world-egg fell and broke. Its upper part became the vault of heaven,
its lower part the earth. The yolk formed the sun, the white the moon,
and the fragments of the shell became the stars in heaven. Reminiscences
of this idea of a world-egg linger in the _Senchus Mor_ of Ireland and
in the _Volospa_ of Norse saga. In Tibet the holy Budh is represented
holding in his hand a broken egg-shell, on the edge of which a
diminutive human being is sometimes represented sitting. These
world-wide conceptions account for the existence of numerous riddles
that are current about the egg.

The rhyme on Humpty-Dumpty among us is current in three variations:--

    Humpty-Dumpty sate on a wall,
    Humpty-Dumpty had a great fall;
    Threescore men and threescore more
    Cannot place Humpty-Dumpty as he was before.      (1810, p. 36.)

    Humpty-Dumpty sate on a wall,
    Humpty-Dumpty had a great fall;
    All the king's soldiers and all the king's men
    Cannot set Humpty-Dumpty up again.      (1842, p. 113.)

    Humpty-Dumpty lay in a beck
    With all his sinews around his neck;
    Forty doctors and forty wights
    Couldn't put Humpty-Dumpty to rights.      (1846, p. 209.)

Many parallels of this rhyme were collected from different parts of
Europe by Mannhardt. In these Humpty-Dumpty appears under various names.
They include Hümpelken-Pümpelken, Rüntzelken-Püntzelken,
Wirgele-Wargele, Gigele-Gagele, and Etje-Papetje in different parts of
Germany, and Lille-Trille and Lille Bulle in Scandinavia. The closest
parallel of our rhyme hails from Saxony, and stands as follows:--

    Hümpelken-Pümpelken sat up de Bank,
    Hümpelken-Pümpelken fël von de Bank;
    Do is kën Docter in Engelland
    De Hümpelken-Pümpelken kurere kann.      (M., p. 416.)[45]

    "H.-P. sat on a bench, H.-P. fell from the bench; there is no doctor
    in Engelland who can restore H.-P."

    [45] Cf. also Mannhardt, _Das Rätsel vom Ei_, in _Zeitschrift für
    deutsche Mythologie_, IV, 1859, p. 394 ff.

In Switzerland the rhyme of Humpty-Dumpty is told of Annebadadeli. The
usual answer is an egg, but sometimes it is an icicle or a

In Scandinavia they say:--

    Lille Bulle trilla' ner a skulle;
    Ingen man i detta lan'
        Lille Bulle laga kan.      (1849, p. 9.)

    "Little B. fell from the shelf, no man in the whole land can restore
    little B."

This has a further parallel in France in a rhyme which reproduces the
German expression Engelland regardless of its intrinsic meaning:--

    Boule, boule su l'keyere,
    Boule, boule par terre.
    Y n'a nuz homme en Angleterre
    Pou l'erfaire.[46]

    "B. b. on the bench, B. b. on the ground. There is no man in England
    who can restore him."

    [46] Rolland, E., _Devinettes on énigmes populaires_, 1877, p. 199,
    from Mons.

The forty doctors of our rhyme who figure also as twice threescore men,
reappear in the German rhyme as "no doctor in _Engelland_," as "no man
in all the land" in the Scandinavian rhyme, and as "no man in England"
literally translated, of the French version.

In one version of our rhyme those who are powerless to restore what is
broken are described as "all the king's soldiers and all the king's
men." This expression is also used in the riddle-rhymes on Smoke and on
the Well, which are found in our own and in foreign nursery collections.

    As round as an apple, as deep as a cup,
    And all the king's horses cannot pull it up.

    (The Well, 1846, p. 75.)

    As high as a castle, as weak as a wastle,
    And all the king's soldiers cannot pull it down.

    (Smoke, 1849, p. 144.)

In Swabia they say:--

    Es ist etwas in meinem Haus,
    Es ziehen es hundert tausend Gäule nicht naus.      (Me., p. 79.)

    "There is something in my house, not a hundred thousand horses can
    pull it out."

The answer is "Smoke." In France they say:--

    Qu'est-ce-qui est rond comme un dé,
    Et que des chevaux ne peuvent porter.[47]

    "What is as round as a thimble, and horses cannot pull it?"

    [47] Rolland, E., _Devinettes on énigmes populaires_, 1877, p. 98,
    from Paris.

The answer is "A well." Possibly the "king" of these rhymes stands for
the sun as the representative of power, whose horses and men are alike

The egg, which in these rhymes is designated by fanciful names, in other
riddle-rhymes current abroad is described as a cask containing two kinds
of beer. A riddle was put by the god Wodan in the character of a
wayfarer to King Heidrek, and stood as follows:--

"Blond--haired brides, bondswomen both, carried ale to the barn; the
casks were not turned with hands nor forged by hammers; she that made it
strutted about outside the isle." The answer is "Eider-ducks' eggs" (C.
P., I, 89).

The egg is also likened to a cask containing beer in a short
riddle-rhyme which is current from Lapland to Hungary. In the Faroe
Islands it takes this form: "Bolli fell from the ledge, all its hoops
fell off. There is no man in the East, there is no man in the West, who
can restore it" (M., p. 417). In Prussia they say:--

    Kommt ein Tonn aus Engelland,
    Ohne Boden, ohne Band;
    Ist zweierleai Bier drin.      (Sim., p. 287.)

    "A cask comes from Engelland, without bottom, without band; it
    contains two kinds of beer."

Among ourselves there is no riddle-rhyme, as far as I know, which
describes the egg as a cask containing beer. But in the seventeenth
century the word Humpty-Dumpty was used to designate a drink which
consisted of ale boiled in brandy,[48] and this conception obviously
hangs together with the two kinds of beer of the foreign riddle-rhymes
on the egg.

    [48] Murray's Dictionary: _Humpty-Dumpty_.

Other riddle-rhymes current among ourselves or abroad describe the egg
as a house or a castle. The following one describes it as an enigma in

    As I was going o'er London Bridge
    I saw something under a hedge;
    'Twas neither fish, flesh, fowl, nor bone,
    And yet in three weeks it runned alone.      (1846, p. 213.)

Girls in America play a game called _Humpty-Dumpty_. They sit on the
ground with their skirts tightly gathered around them so as to enclose
the feet. The leader begins some rhyme, all join in, and at a certain
word previously agreed upon, all throw themselves backwards, keeping
their skirts tightly grasped. The object is to recover the former
position without letting go the skirt (N., p. 132).

Possibly the game is older than the riddle-rhymes, for these rhymes
describe _Humpty-Dumpty_ as sitting on a wall, or a bank, or a ledge, or
as lying in a beck, which for an actual egg are impossible situations.
They are intelligible on the assumption that the sport is older than
the rhyme, and that the rhyme describes human beings who are personating

The name Humpty-Dumpty itself is one of the large class of rhyming
compounds which are formed by the varied reduplication of the same word.
Perhaps they originally conveyed a definite meaning. The word
Humpty-Dumpty is allied to _hump_ and to _dump_, words which express
roundness and shortness. Another name of the kind is Hoddy-Doddy, which
occurs in the following riddle-rhyme:--

    Hoddy-Doddy with a round, black body;
    Three legs and a wooden hat, what is that?      (1849, p. 142.)

The answer is "An iron pot."[49] The word Hoddy-Doddy in the sixteenth
century was directly used to express "a short and dumpy person" (1553).
It was also applied to a "hen-pecked man" (1598).[50] The meaning of
shortness and roundness is expressed also by the name of the foreign
equivalents of Humpty-Dumpty. The German Hümpelken-Pümpelken, and
probably Lille Bulle of Scandinavia convey the same idea. On the other
hand, the names Wirgele-Wargele and Gigele-Gagele suggest instability.
The Danish Lille Trille is allied to _lille trölle_, little troll, that
is, a member of the earlier and stumpy race of men who, by a later age,
were accounted dwarves. These were credited in folk-lore with
sex-relations of a primitive kind, an allusion to which seems to linger
in the word Hoddy-Doddy as applied to a hen-pecked man.

    [49] A workman in Berkshire in 1905 repeated this riddle to H. P.

    [50] Murray's Dictionary: _Hoddy-Doddy_.

Among other rhyming compounds is the word _Hitty-Pitty_. It occurs in a
riddle-rhyme which Halliwell traced back to the seventeenth century (MS.
Harl. 1962):--

    Hitty Pitty within the wall,
    Hitty Pitty without the wall;
    If you touch Hitty Pitty,
    Hitty Pitty will bite you.      (A nettle, 1849, p. 149.)

This verse is sometimes used in playing _Hide and Seek_ as a warning to
the player who approaches the place that is "hot" (1894, I, 211). A
variation of the word is _Highty-Tighty_, which is preserved in the
following rhyme:--

    Highty, tighty, paradighty, clothed in green,
    The king could not read it, no more could the queen;
    They sent for a wise man out of the East,
    Who said it had horns, but was not a beast.      (1842, p. 118.)

The answer is "A holly tree."

Another rhyming compound is preserved in the riddle-rhyme on the

    Hick-a-more, Hack-a-more
    Hung on a kitchen door;
    Nothing so long, and nothing so strong,
    As Hick-a-more, Hack-a-more
    Hung on the kitchen door.      (1846, p. 207.)

The following riddle-rhyme preserves the word lilly-low, which is the
north-country term for the flame of a candle:--

    Lilly-low, lilly-low, set up on end,
    See little baby go out at town end.      (A candle, 1849, p. 146.)

Another riddle on the candle, which also stands in MS. Harl. 1962, and
has found its way into nursery collections, is:--

    Little Nancy Etticoat with a white petticoat,
    And a red nose;
    The longer she stands, the shorter she grows.      (1842, p. 114.)

This recalls a riddle current in Devonshire, where the sky is called

    Widdicote, widdicote, over cote hang;
    Nothing so broad, and nothing so lang
    As Widdicote, etc.       (1892, p. 333.)

All these riddle-rhymes are based on primitive conceptions, and all have
parallels in the nursery lore of other countries. The rhyme on
Hoddy-Doddy in Norwegian is simply descriptive; in France it is told in
the form of words exchanged between _Noiret_, "Blacky," the pot, and
_Rouget_, "Ruddy," the fire. In Italy the Pot, the Smoke, and the Fire
are described as three sisters. Again, the riddle-rhyme on the candle is
told in Swabia and in France. But in no case are the foreign parallels
as close as in the riddle-rhyme of Humpty-Dumpty, and in no case do they
preserve the same interesting allusions.



We now turn to rhymes which dwell on different ideas and present life
under other aspects. In these rhymes there is much on spells, on the
magic properties of numbers, and on sacrificial hunting. A fatalistic
tendency underlies many of these rhymes, and there are conscious efforts
to avert danger.

The different range of ideas which are here expressed is reflected in
the form of verse in which they are presented. While the rhymes hitherto
discussed are set in verse which depends for its consistency on tail
rhyme and assonance, the pieces that deal with the magic properties of
things and with hunting, are mostly set in a form of verse that depends
for its consistency on repetition and cumulation. This difference in
form is probably due to the different origin of these pieces. Rhymed
verse may have originated in dancing and singing--cumulative verse in
recitation and instruction.

In cumulative recitation one sentence is uttered and repeated, a second
sentence is uttered and repeated, then the first sentence is said; a
third sentence is uttered and repeated, followed by the second and the
first. Thus each sentence adds to the piece and carries it back to the
beginning. Supposing each letter to stand for a sentence, the form of
recitation can thus be described: A, a; B, b, a; C, c, b, a; D, d, c, b,
a; etc. This manner of recitation is well known among ourselves, but I
know of no word to designate it. In Brittany the form of recitation is
known as _chant de grénouille_, i.e. frog-chant. A game of forfeits was
known in the eighteenth century, which was called _The Gaping
Wide-mouthed Waddling Frog_, in which the verses were recited in exactly
the same manner. We shall return to it later. A relation doubtless
exists between this game and the French expression frog-chant.

Among our most familiar pieces that are set in cumulative form are _The
Story of the Old Woman and Her Pig_ and _This is the House that Jack
built_. They both consist of narrative, and are told as stories. _This
is the House that Jack built_ first appeared in print as a toy-book that
was issued by Marshall at his printing office, Aldermary Churchyard. It
is illustrated with cuts, and its date is about 1770. Perhaps the story
is referred to in the _Boston News Letter_ (No. 183) of 12-19 April,
1739, in which the reviewer of Tate and Brady's Version of the Psalms
remarks that this "makes our children think of the tune of their vulgar
playsong so like it: this is the man all forlorn." The sentence looks
like a variation of the line "this is the maiden all forlorn" in _This
is the House that Jack built_.

In 1819 there was published in London a satire by Hone, called _The
Political House that Jack built_. It was illustrated by Cruikshank, and
went through fifty-four editions. In form it imitates the playsong,
which was doubtless as familiar then as it is now.

The playsong in the form published by Marshall begins:--

    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

which is followed by the cat that killed the rat--the dog that worried
the cat--the cow that tossed the dog--the maiden that milked the
cow--the man that kissed the maid--the priest that married them. Here it
ended. But a further line added by Halliwell (1842, p. 222) mentioned
the cock that crowed on the morn of the wedding-day, and a lady of over
seventy has supplied me with one more line, on the knife that killed the
cock. She tells me that she had the story from her nurse, and that she
does not remember seeing it in print. The version she repeated in
cumulative form, told to me, ended as follows:--

    This is the knife with a handle of horn,
    that killed the cock that crowed in the morn,
    that wakened the priest all shaven and shorn,
    that married the man all tattered and torn,
    unto the maiden all forlorn,
    that milked the cow with a crumpled horn,
    that tossed the dog over the barn,
    that worried the cat that killed the rat
    that ate the malt that lay in the house
    that Jack built.

The greater part of this piece consists of rhymed verse, and deals with
matters of courtship. The idea of a cock sacrificed on the wedding-day
is certainly heathen in origin, but its introduction forms a new
departure when we come to compare this piece with its foreign parallels
and with the story of _The Old Woman and Her Pig_. These pieces are all
set in the same form, and all introduce a regular sequence of relative

_The Old Woman and Her Pig_ was first printed by Halliwell (1842, p.
219). It tells how the woman found sixpence, and how she set out for
market, and bought a pig which on the way back refused to jump over the
stile. In order to break the spell that had fallen on it, she summoned
to her aid: dog--stick--fire--water--ox--butcher--rope--rat--cat--cow.
The cow finally gave the milk required by the cat, which set the other
powers going, and thus enabled the woman to get home that night.
Halliwell was impressed by the antiquity of this sequence, and included
in his collection a translation of a Hebrew chant which has considerable
likeness to the tale of _The Old Woman and Her Pig_. This chant is told
in the first person. It begins:--

    A kid, a kid my father bought
    For two pieces of money,
                          A kid, a kid.

    Then came the cat and ate the kid,
    That my father bought,
    For two pieces of money.
                          A kid, a kid.      (1842, p. 6.)

It further introduces dog--staff--fire--water--ox--butcher--angel of
death--Holy One.

The Hebrew chant of the kid was printed in Venice as far back as 1609,
and was made the subject of the learned Latin dissertation _De Haedo_ by
Probst von der Hardt in 1727 (R., p. 153). It was again discussed by P.
N. Leberecht in 1731.[51] The chant forms part of the Jewish liturgy,
and is still recited in the original Hebrew or in the vernacular as part
of a religious ceremonial at Easter. Opinions on the origin and the
meaning of the chant differ. One learned rabbi interpreted it as setting
forth how each power in creation is kept within bounds by a power that
stands above it. It teaches how he who goes wrong is at the mercy of one
stronger than himself. But according to another interpretation the
Father who bought the kid was Jehovah himself, the kid was the Hebrew,
the cat represented the Assyrians, the dog the Babylonians, and so
forth; and the whole poem described the position of the Jews at the time
of the Crusades.

    [51] The article by Leberecht is in _Der Christliche Reformator_,
    Leipzig, 1731, XVII, 28.

The Hebrew chant and its relation to _The Old Woman and her Pig_ engaged
the attention of Professor Tylor, who remarked on the solemn ending of
the Hebrew chant, which according to him may incline us to think that we
really have before us this composition in something like its first form.
"If so," he says, "then it follows that our familiar tale of the Old
Woman who couldn't get the kid (_or_ pig) over the stile, must be
considered as a broken-down adaptation of this old Jewish poem."[52]

    [52] Tylor, E. B., _Primitive Culture_, II, 86.

But the tale of the Old Woman taken in conjunction with _This is the
House that Jack built_ and its numerous foreign parallels, shows that
these sequences of relative powers, far from being broken-down
adaptations, are at least as meaningful as the Hebrew chant. For the
underlying conception in all cases is that a spell has fallen on an
object which man is appropriating to his use. The spell extends to
everything, be it man or beast, that comes within the range of its
influence, and the unmaking of the spell necessitates going back step by
step to the point at which it originated.

Halliwell compared a piece current in Denmark with _This is the House
that Jack built_:--

    Der har du det haus som Jacob bygde.

    "Here hast thou the house that Jacob built."[53]

    [53] Halliwell, 1849, p. 6, citing Thiele, II, 3, 146. I cannot find
    this book.

Many other versions of this tale are current in Germany and Scandinavia.
In them it is sometimes a question of a house, sometimes of corn,
oftenest of cutting oats or of garnering pears. The cumulative form is
throughout adhered to. One German piece called _Ist alles verlorn_, "all
is lost," begins:--

    Es kam eine Maus gegangen
    In unser Kornehaŭs,
    Die nahm das Korn gefangen,
    In ŭnserm Kornehaŭs.
    Die Maus das Korn,
    Ist alles verlorn
    In ŭnserm Kornehaŭs.      (Sim., p. 256.)

    "There came a mouse into our corn-house, she seized the corn in our
    corn-house. The mouse, the corn, now all is lost in our corn-house."

The other powers are rat, cat, fox, wolf, bear, man, maid. This piece,
like _This is the House that Jack built_, ends abruptly.

Among the less primitive variations of the tale is one recorded in
Sonneberg (S., p. 102), and another in the north of France, which both
substitute the name of Peter for that of Jack, that is a Christian name
for a heathen one. In France the piece is called _La Mouche_, literally
"the fly," but its contents indicate that not _mouche_ but the Latin
_mus_ (mouse) was originally meant. The tale departs from the usual
form, and has a refrain:--

    Voici la maison que Pierre a bâtie,
    Il sortait un rat de sa raterie,
    Qui fit rentrer la mouch' dans sa moucherie:
    Rat à mouche,
    Belle, belle mouche
    Jamais je n'ai vu si belle mouche.      (D.B., p. 116.)

    "This is the house that Peter built. A rat came out of a rat-hole,
    and made the fly go into the fly-hole. Rat to fly, lovely fly, never
    saw I so lovely a fly."

The other powers are dog, bear, man, maid, abbot, pope, devil.

The same tale is told in Austria (V., p. 113), and in Prussia (F., p.
197), where it is called _Das Haus vom hölzernen Mann_, "the house of
the wooden Man." In Prussia it is recited as a game of forfeits. The
sequence of the powers in the one version is house, door, lock, band,
mouse, cat, dog, stick, fire, water, ox, butcher, devil; and in the
other, house, door, lock, band, mouse, cat, huntsman.

Jack in Germany is called Jockel, Jöggeli, Jokele. _The Master who sent
out Jockel_ is mentioned already in the Gargantua of Fischart, which was
published in 1575 (Chap. XXV.). The name Jack among ourselves is applied
to a person or an object of peculiar serviceableness, as in
Jack-of-all-trades, or boot-jack. But in Germany the expression "to
send Jockel on an errand" implies that this will never get done.

In Vogtland the current nursery version of this piece begins:--

    Es schickt der Herr den Gȏkel 'naus,
    Er soll den Haber schneiden.      (Du., p. 35.)

    "The master sent out Gokel to cut oats."

As he failed to come back, dog, fire, water, ox, butcher, hangman,
devil, were sent after him.

In Swabia Jokele (Br., p. 44), and in Switzerland Joggeli, was sent to
knock off pears on which a spell had fallen. The chant in Zürich has
been traced back to the year 1769, and it begins:--

    Es ist ein Baum im Gärtle hinne,
    d' Birren wänd nüd fallen.
    Do schückt de Bur de Joggeli usen
    Er soll di Birren schütteln.      (R., p. 155.)

    "There is a tree in the garden, its pears will not drop. The peasant
    sent out Joggeli to knock them off."

But the pears refused to be knocked off, and the usual sequence of
powers was sent to secure them.

The tale of Jack was current in Münster in Westphalia also, where it was
taken over by the Church, and annually recited at the religious
procession which took place on the eve of the feast of St. Lambert, 17
September. This was done as late as the year 1810 (R., p. 155). The
recitation was followed or accompanied by a dance, the purpose of which
is not recorded. Perhaps the procession stood in relation to the actual
garnering of pears, and the tale was recited in order to secure a good
harvest. In this case not Jack, but _der Jäger_, "the huntsman," was
dispatched to knock the pears off, and the sequence of powers included
dog, stick, fire, water, calf, butcher, hangman, devil.

This adoption by the Church of the sequence of powers shows that we have
to do with the remains of a heathen ritual, which found its way into a
Christian celebration, as the tale of the kid found its way into the
Easter celebration of the Jewish Church. In both instances the sequence
of relative powers is preserved, and in both it is question of making an
object secure for the use of man.

The same sequence of powers is preserved also in the traditional game
that is known as _Dump_ among ourselves (1894, I, 117; II, 419), and as
_Club Fist_ in America (N., p. 134). In this game it is also a question
of building a house, and of knocking off pears. The action of the
players, however, stands in no obvious relation to the words that are
used. Sometimes three, sometimes a number of lads, crowd together and
place their fists sideways one on the other, till they form a pile of
clenched hands. The last boy, who has a fist free, knocks off the fists
one by one, saying:--

    (In Yorkshire) What's this?--(Answer) Dump.
    (In America) What's that?--(Answer) A pear.
    Take it off or I'll knock it off.

In Shropshire all sing together:--

    I've built my house, I've built my wall;
    I don't care where my chimneys fall.

When all the fists are knocked down, the following dialogue ensues:--

    What's there?--Cheese and bread and a mouldy half-penny.

    Where's my share?--I put it on the shelf, and the cat got it.

    Where's the cat?--She's run nine miles through the wood.

    Where's the wood?--T' fire burnt it.

    Where's the fire?--T' water sleckt it.

    Where's the water?--T' ox drunk it.

    Where's the ox?--T' butcher killed 'em.

    Where's the butcher?--Upon the church-top cracking nuts, and you may
    go and eat the shells; and _them as_ speak first shall have nine
    nips, nine scratches, and nine boxes on the ear. (1849, p. 128.)

Silence falls, all try not to laugh, and he who first allows a word to
escape him, is punished by the others in the methods adopted by
schoolboys. In the Scottish game the punishment is described as "nine
nips, nine nobs, nine double douncornes, and a good blow on the back."

In France the same game is known as _Le Pied de Bœuf_, "the foot of the
ox," and a scramble of fists starts at the words:--

    Neuf, je tiens mon pied de bœuf.      (Mo., p. 351.)

    "Nine, I hold my ox's foot";

the number nine in this case being also mentioned.

The meting out of punishments by nines goes far back in history. It was
associated with a Yule-tide sport which is still practised in Denmark
and in Schleswig, and is known as _Ballerrune_ or _Balderrune_. Every
member of the assembled company repeated a formula on "Balder Rune and
his wife," and he who made a mistake received nine blows, as in our
game. The custom was explained by the legend that the god Balder,
incensed at his wife's loquacity, chastised her by giving her nine
blows, and ordered that this should be repeated every year, so that
women be reminded that it is their duty to be silent when their husbands
speak (H., p. 44).

In the game of _Dump_ also, it is the person who speaks first that is
punished, but there is nothing to suggest that this was a woman, for the
game is essentially a boys' game.

The story of _The Woman and her Pig_ (_or Kid_), like that of Jack, is
told over a wide geographical area. In the Scottish version the woman
lived in a wee house and found two pennies and bought a kid. On coming
home she saw a bush and wished to pull off its berries, and could not.
She set the kid to watch the house, and went to seek the help of dog,
stick, fire, water, ox, axe, smith, rope, mouse, cat, milk, in her hope
of breaking the spell that had fallen on the bush. Each animal or object
refused "to do the next one harm, saying that it never did it any harm
itself"; but the cat finally could not resist the temptation of lapping
the milk (1870, p. 57). Thus the tale introduced a moral element which
is not found elsewhere.

In Sweden the tale of _The Old Woman and her Pig_ is called _Konen och
Grisen Fick_, "the woman and her pig Fick," and the pig refused to leave
off eating acorns. A similar tale is called _Gossen och Geten Näppa_,
"the lad and the kid Näppa," (1849, p. 6). In Elsass the pig is called
_Schnirrchele_ (St., p. 93), in Transylvania it is _Mischka_ or
_Bitschki_ (Sch., p. 372). And a version from the north of France tells
how _Biquette_ got into a cabbage-patch from which stick, fire, water,
were summoned to expel her. _Biquette_ is described as a kid (D., p.
122). In Languedoc _Biquette_ reappears as _Bouquaire-Bouquil_, who is
furnished with horns and does havoc in a millet-field from which he is
expelled with the help of wolf, dog, stick, fire, water, ox, rope (M.
L., p. 538). In all cases the animal is one that is provided with horns.
Millet is one of the oldest cereals that were cultivated in Europe, the
displacement of which by the cultivation of corn had begun in England
when Pytheas visited these shores in the fourth century B.C. Can the
"malt" of _This is the House that Jack built_ stand for millet?

A French piece is current in Remiremont which is called _Le Conjurateur
et le Loup_, "the magician and the wolf." It describes the contest
between them, and shows that the making and unmaking of spells is

    L'y a un loup dedans le bois,
    Le loup ne veut pas sortir du bois.
    Ha, j' te promets, compèr' Brocard,
    Tu sortiras de ce lieu-là.      (R., p. 152.)

    "There is a wolf in the wood, the wolf will not come out of the
    wood. Ha, I promise you, brother Brocard, you will soon come out."

And the magician summons to his assistance stick, fire, water, calf,
butcher, devil, which help him to expel the wolf.

Even more primitive than this tale is one current in Languedoc, in which
a spell has fallen on a root or turnip, which is finally raised by the
hog. It begins: "The old woman went into the garden in order to pull out
a turnip. When the old man saw that the old woman did not come back, he
went into the garden and saw the old woman pulling at the turnip. The
old man pulled at the old woman, the old woman pulled at the turnip, but
the turnip stuck fast." They were followed by daughter-in-law, son, man,
maid, and so forth, including the cat and the rat. Finally the hog came
to the rescue. Instead of pulling like the others, he attacked the
turnip from below, and by doing so he succeeded in raising it, otherwise
the spell would continue, "and the root would still be holding fast" (M.
L., p. 541).

The comparison of these various tales or pieces shows that dog, stick,
fire, water, ox, butcher, form a sequence of powers that was accepted
over a wide geographical area. They were invoked wherever it was
question of breaking a spell that had fallen on a coveted object, the
object including pigs, pears, oats, berries, millet, and roots. These
are products that were prized in Europe from a remote period in
antiquity. As the products are primitive, so probably is the form of
verse in which the story is told of their being made fast. For the same
form of verse is used in a further class of pieces to which we now turn,
and which, by their contents, betray a pre-Christian origin.



Among our traditional games, some consist of a dialogue in which the
answer is set in cumulative form. These include the game known as _The
Twelve Days of Christmas_, which was played on Twelfth-Day night by the
assembled company before eating mince-pies and twelfth cake. In the game
of _Twelve Days_ each player in succession repeated the gifts of the
day, and raised his fingers and hand according to the number which he
named. Each answer included the one that had gone before, and forfeits
were paid for each mistake that was made. (1894, II, 315.)

The oldest printed version of the words used in playing _Twelve Days_
stands in one of the diminutive toy-books exhibited at South Kensington
Museum by E. Pearson. These words begin:--

    The first day of Christmas, my true love gave me
    A partridge in a pear-tree.
    The second day of Christmas, my true love gave me
    Two turtle-doves and a partridge in a pear-tree.

And so forth, enumerating three French hens, four colly birds, five gold
rings, six geese a-laying, seven swans a-swimming, eight maids
a-milking, nine drummers drumming, ten pipers piping, eleven ladies
dancing, twelve lords leaping.

The same game is played in Scotland, where it is known as _The Yule
Days_, but is carried on to thirteen.

    The king sent his lady on the first Yule day
    A papingo-aye [i.e. peacock or parrot]
    Who learns my carol and carries it away?
    The king sent his lady on the second Yule day
    Two partridges and a papingo-aye.      (1870, p. 42.)

On the third day he sent three plovers; on the fourth, a goose that was
grey; on the fifth, three starlings; on the sixth, three goldspinks; on
the seventh, a bull that was brown; on the eighth, three ducks a-merry
laying; on the ninth, three swans a-merry swimming; on the tenth, an
Arabian baboon; on the eleventh, three hinds a-merry dancing; on the
twelfth, two maids a-merry dancing; on the thirteenth three stalks of

In Cambresis, in the North of France, the same game is called _Les dons
de l'an_, "the gifts of the year," but the gifts correspond in number
with the number of the day. They are: one partridge, two turtle-doves,
three wood-pigeons, four ducks flying, five rabbits trotting, six hares
a-field, seven hounds running, eight shorn sheep, nine horned oxen, ten
good turkeys, eleven good hams, twelve small cheeses (D. B., II, 125).

In the West of France the piece is described as a song. It is called _La
foi de la loi_, that is, "the creed of authority," and is sung _avec
solennité_. It begins:--

    La premièr' parti' d'la foi de la loi,
    Dit' la moi, frère Grégoire.
    --Un bon farci sans os--
    La deuxième parti' d'la foi de la loi,
    Dit' le moi, frère Grégoire
    --Deux ventres de veau,
    Un bon farci sans os.      (B., II, 271.)

    "The first part of the creed of authority, tell it me, Brother
    Gregory. A good stuffing without bones. The second part of the creed
    of authority ... two breasts of veal."

And so forth, enumerating three joints of beef, four pig's trotters,
five legs of mutton, six partridges with cabbage, seven spitted rabbits,
eight plates of salad, nine plates of (? _chapitre_), ten full casks,
eleven beautiful full-breasted maidens, twelve knights with their

The same conceptions underlie a Languedoc chant, in which the numbers
are, however, carried on to fifteen. The gifts in this case are made on
the first fifteen days of the month of May:--

    Le prumiè del més de mai,
    Qu'embouiarei à mai mio.
    Uno perdic que bolo, que bolo.      (M. L., p. 486.)

    "The first of the month of May, what shall I send to my lady
    love?--A partridge that flies and flies."

And similarly we read of two doves, three white pigeons, four ducks
flying in the air, five rabbits, six hares, seven hunting dogs, eight
white horses, nine horned oxen, ten bleating sheep, eleven soldiers
coming from war, twelve maidens, thirteen white nosegays, fourteen white
loaves, fifteen casks of wine.

The contents of these chants at first sound like nonsense, but on
looking at them more closely one notes that the gifts which they
enumerate mostly consist of birds and beasts that are conceived as food.
We know that the weather on Twelve Days was carefully observed, since
the weather of the months of the ensuing year was prognosticated from
that of the corresponding day of the twelve.[54] A like conception
perhaps underlies these enumerations of food, which may refer to the
representative sports of the months.

    [54] Frazer, loc. cit., 1900, p. 143; Rolland, _Almanach des
    traditions populaires_, 1883, Jan. 1-12.

The game of _Twelve Days_ in a degraded form is known as _The Gaping
Wide-mouthed Waddling Frog_, in which the crux likewise consists of
answering the question with rapidity and exactness. But words are
purposely chosen that are difficult to enunciate and to remember. The
result is a string of nonsense. The words used in playing _The Gaping
Wide-mouthed Waddling Frog_ were first printed in a toy-book of the
eighteenth century. Persons who are still living remember it in this
form as a Christmas game. As in playing _Twelve Days_, the players sat
in a circle, a dialogue ensued, and the answers were given in
cumulative form. He who made a mistake gave a forfeit.

    Buy this of me:--What is it?
    The gaping wide-mouthed waddling frog.

    Buy this of me:--What is it?
    Two pudding ends will choke a dog,
    With a gaping wide-mouthed waddling frog.

    Buy this of me:--What is it?
    Three monkeys tied to a clog,
    Two pudding ends will choke a dog, etc.

The answer to the last question stood as follows:--

    Twelve huntsmen with horns and hounds,
    Hunting over other men's grounds;
    Eleven ships sailing o'er the main,
    Some bound for France and some for Spain,
    I wish them all safe home again;
    Ten comets in the sky,
    Some low and some high;
    Nine peacocks in the air,
    I wonder how they all came there,
    I do not know and I don't care;
    Eight joiners in joiner's hall
    Working with their tools and all.
    Seven lobsters in a dish,
    As fresh as any heart could wish;
    Six beetles against the wall [_or_ six spiders in the wall],
    Close by an old woman's apple stall;
    Five puppies by our bitch Ball
    Who daily for their breakfast call;
    Four horses stuck in a bog;
    Three monkeys tied to a clog;
    Two pudding ends would choke a dog;
    With a gaping wide-mouthed waddling frog.

Many rhymes that originated in these nonsense verses have found their
way into nursery collections. Halliwell printed the following lines as a
separate nursery rhyme:--

    Eight ships on the main,
    I wish them all safe back again;
    Seven eagles in the air,
    I wonder how they all came there;
    I don't know, nor I don't care.
    Six spiders on the wall,
    Close to an old woman's apple stall;
    Five puppies in Highgate hall,
    Who daily for their breakfast call;
    Four mares stuck in a bog,
    Three monkeys tied to a log,
    Two pudding ends will choke a dog,
    With a gaping wide mouthed waddling frog.      (1842, p.246.)

Halliwell also printed some utterly debased rhymes, in which, however,
numbers are still combined with the objects that are named. Among these
rhymes is the following:--

    One old Oxford ox opening oysters;
    Two teetotums totally tired of trying to trot to Tadbury;
    Three tall tigers tippling tenpenny tea;
    Four fat friars fanning fainting flies;

And so on to

    Twelve typographical typographers typically translating types.

    (1846, p. 111.)

Other rhymes of this kind depend for their consistency on alliteration
only, such as:--

    Robert Rowley rolled a round roll round,
    A round roll Robert Rowley rolled round;
    Where rolled the round roll Robert Rowley rolled round.

    (1842, p. 128.)

Robert Rowley is perhaps a name for thunder, since a rhyme recited in
the North of England as a charm against thunder is:--

    Rowley, Rowley, Rattley-bags;
    Take the lasses and leave the lads.      (1876, p. 15.)

Another rhyme of this class begins:--

    Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper, etc.      (1842, p. 129.)

And the time-honoured rhyme, "When a twister a twisting," etc., has been
traced back by Halliwell to a collection of 1674. This has a French

    Si un cordonnier accordant veut accorder sa corde, etc.

I do not know if the English or the French version is the older one.



The game of _Twelve Days_, especially in one French version, shows that
instruction was conveyed by the cumulative mode of recitation. There are
many pieces enlarging on matters of belief--Hebrew, Christian,
Druidical, and heathen--which in the same way associate numbers with
objects. The comparison of these pieces suggests that they are all
derived from one original source. They may fitly be termed Chants of the

One of these cumulative chants is included in the Hebrew service for the
night of the Passover, which is called _Echod mi jodea_, "He who
knows."[55] It is recited to a monotonous tune after the return of the
family from celebration, either by the master of the house or by the
assembled company. The dialogue form, I am told, is no longer observed.
The piece begins:--

    Who knoweth One?--I, saith Israel, know One.
    One is God, who is over heaven and earth.
    Who knoweth Two?--I, saith Israel, know Two.
    Two tables of the covenant; but One is our God who is over the heavens
        and the earth....

    [55] Tylor, E. B., _Primitive Culture_, I, 87, citing Mendes,
    _Service for the First Nights of the Passover_, 1862.

And so forth to the last verse, which is as follows:--

    Who knoweth thirteen?--I, saith Israel, know thirteen: Thirteen
    divine attributes--twelve tribes--eleven stars--ten
    commandments--nine months preceding childbirth--eight days preceding
    circumcision--seven days of the week--six books of the Mishnah--five
    books of the Law--four matrons--three patriarchs--two tables of the
    covenant--but One is our God, who is over the heavens and the earth.

The same chant adapted to matters of Christian belief, but carried only
from one to twelve, is current also in Latin, Italian, Spanish, French,
German, and Danish. Among ourselves it is set as a song. But the objects
which are associated with the numbers are not uniformly the same, and
this renders it probable that the chants were composed independently of
one another. This view is supported by the fact that some of the items
that are named in the Christian chants are not Christian, and are, in
fact, identical with the items named in the entirely heathen chants.

The Latin version of the Chant of the Creed has been traced back to the
second half of the sixteenth century. Its words were set to music in a
motet for thirteen voices by Theodor Clinius (d. 1602), a Venetian by
birth (E., p. 408). Another Latin version of the chant goes back to
1650. The chant begins:--

    Dic mihi quid unus?

    --Unus est Jesus Christus [_or_ Deus] qui regnat in aeternum [_or_
    coelis]. (A., I, 420.)

    "Tell me, what is One? One is Jesus Christ [_or_ God] who reigns in
    eternity [_or_ in heaven]."

The answers further explain two as the testaments, three as the
patriarchs, four as the evangelists, five as the books of Moses, six as
the water-jugs of Cana in Galilee, seven as the gifts of the spirit
(_or_ the candelabra lit before God), eight as the beatitudes, nine as
the orders (_or_ choirs of the angels), ten as the commandments, eleven
as the disciples (_or_ stars seen by Joseph), twelve as the articles of
the faith (_or_ the apostles).

The Chant of the Creed as recited in Spain (A., II, 142) is set in the
same form, and explains the numbers in much the same manner, except that
six are the days of the Creation, and eleven are eleven thousand
virgins. Another version (A., II, 104) associates the Virgin with one,
the three Maries with three, while nine, like the Hebrew chant,
indicates the months of expectancy of the Virgin. In a Portuguese
version also, nine are the months of Christ's becoming, and eleven are
eleven thousand virgins (A., II, 102).

Throughout Italy and in Sicily the Chant of the Creed is known as _Le
dodici parole della Verità_, "the twelve words of truth." They are
generally put into the lips of the popular saint, Nicolas of Bari, who
is said to have defeated the evil intentions of Satan by teaching them.
These Italian chants for the most part agree with the Latin chant
already cited, except that two in the Abruzzi is associated with the sun
and the moon; five is explained as the wounds of Jesus _or_ of St.
Francis, and eleven stands for the articles of the Catholic faith (A.,
I, 419; II, 97).

In Denmark the Chant of the Creed is put into the lips of St. Simeon,
and begins:--

    Stat op, Sante Simeon, og sig mig, hvad een er?

    "Stand forth, St. Simeon, and tell me, what is one."

The explanations in this case are strictly Christian, Jesus Christ
standing for One. The souls saved by God from the ark (_sjaele frelste
Gud udi Arken_) stand for eight (Gt., II, 68).

In Languedoc also the chant is current in a Christian adaptation which
agrees with the Latin, except that the Trinity stands for three; the
wounds of Jesus, as in the Italian chant, stand for five; the lights in
the temple stand for six; and the joys of our Lady stand for seven (M.
L., p. 478).

From Europe the Chant of the Creed has been carried to Canada, where a
version is sung in French to a monotonous tune in four beats at a formal
kind of dance, called a _ronde religieuse_--a religious round. To this
dance six couples stand up; each dancer represents a number. To the
sound of their singing they move in a chain, each person turning first
to the right, then to the left. When number six is reached in singing,
and every time that six recurs in the chant, the dancing stops, and to
the words "_six urnes de vin remplies_," the dancers who represent even
numbers turn first to the right, then to the left, and make a deep bow,
while those that represent uneven numbers perform the same ceremony the
other way about (G., p. 298). Then the dancing is resumed. This figure,
judging from the description, exactly corresponds to the Grand Chain in
Lancers, except that six couples dance instead of four or eight.

In the Canadian chant the explanations of the numbers are all Christian,
except that for eleven they say eleven thousand virgins, which agrees
with the virgins of the Spanish and Portuguese chants. These eleven
thousand virgins are mentioned also in a version of the chant current in
Zürich, which, unlike the others, carries the numbers to fifteen. It
enumerates Christian matters similar to those already named as far as
nine choirs of angels, and further associates ten with thousands of
knights, eleven with thousands of virgins, the apostles with twelve, the
disciples with thirteen, the helpers in need (_Nothelfer_) with
fourteen, the mysteries with fifteen. This chant is set in the old way
of question and answer, and the answers are recited in cumulative form
(R., p. 268).

The Chant of the Creed in a late development is preserved in the form of
a religious poem among ourselves which is called _A New Dyall_. Two
versions of it are preserved in the MS. Harleian 5937, which dates from
about the year 1625. They have been printed by F. S. A. Sandys among his
_Christmas Carols_. The refrain of the one recalls the celebration of
Twelve Days:--

    In those twelve days, in those twelve days, let us be glad,
    For God of His power hath all things made.

In both pieces the dialogue form is dropped, and there is no attempt at

    One God, one baptism, and one faith,
    One truth there is the Scripture saith;
    Two Testaments, the old and new,
    We do acknowledge to be true;
    Three persons are in Trinity,
    Which make one God in Unity;
    Four sweet evangelists there are
    Christ's birth, life, death, which do declare;
    Five senses like five kings, maintain
    In every man a several reign;
    Six days to labour is not wrong,
    For God Himself did work so long;
    Seven liberal arts has God sent down
    With divine skill man's soul to crown;
    Eight in Noah's ark alive were found,
    When (in a word) the World lay drowned.
    Nine Muses (like the heaven's nine spheres)
    With sacred tunes entice our ears;
    Ten statutes God to Moses gave
    Which, kept or broke, do spoil or save;
    Eleven with Christ in heaven do dwell,
    The twelfth for ever burns in hell;
    Twelve are attending on God's Son;
    Twelve make our Creed, "the dyall's done."[56]

    [56] Sandys, F. S. A.: _Christmas Carols_, p. 59 ff.

The objects named in this poem agree in most cases with those of the
Latin chant, but six, there associated with the water-jugs in Cana of
Galilee, is here associated with the days of the Creation, which
correspond with the six days of the Creation of the Spanish Chant of the
Creed, and with the six working days of the week of a heathen dialogue
story to which we shall return later. The number eight is here
associated with the persons saved in the ark of Noah, as in the Chant of
the Creed which is current in Denmark.



We now turn to those versions of the Chant of the Creed which are
heathen in character. Again we have versions before us in the vernacular
of Brittany, Spain, Scotland, and several set in the form of songs that
are current in different parts of England.

The most meaningful and elaborate versions of the chant come from
Brittany. One is called _Les vêpres des grenouilles_. It is set in the
form of instruction, and begins:--

    Can caer, Killoré. Iolic, petra faot dide?
    Caera traïc a gement orizoud ti.      (L., I, p. 95.)

    "Chant well, Killore. Iolic, what shall I sing?--The most beautiful
    thing thou knowest."

And it enumerates, "One silver ring to Mary, two silver rings, three
queens in a palace, four acolytes, five black cows, six brothers and
six sisters, seven days and seven moons, eight beaters of the air, nine
armed sons, ten ships on the shore, eleven sows, twelve small swords."
This combination of objects with numbers from one to twelve agrees most
closely with the enumeration of the game of _Twelve Days_.

The longer version of the Breton chant was interpreted by its editor as
a chant of instruction, and he claimed for it a Druidical origin. It

    Beautiful child of the Druid, answer me right well.

    --What would'st thou that I should sing?--

    Sing to me the series of number one, that I may learn it this very

    --There is no series for one, for One is Necessity alone, the father
    of death, there is nothing before and nothing after.

And we read of two as oxen yoked to a cart; of three as the beginning,
the middle, and the end of the world for man and for the oak; also of
the three kingdoms of Merlin; of four as the stones of Merlin for
sharpening the swords of the brave; of five as the terrestrial zones,
the divisions of time, the rocks on one sister (_sic_); of six as babes
of wax quickened into life through the power of the moon; of seven as
the suns, the moons, and the planets, including _La Poule_ (i.e. the
constellation) of Charles's Wain; of eight as the winds that blow, eight
fires with the great fire lighted in the month of May on the War
Mountain; of nine as little white hands near the tower of Lezarmeur, and
as maidens who groan; of nine also as maidens who dance with flowers in
their hair and in white robes around the well by the light of the moon;
'the wild sow and her young at the entrance to their lair, are snorting
and snarling, snarling and snorting; little one, little one, hurry to
the apple-tree, the wild boar will instruct you'; of ten as the enemy's
boats on the way from Nantes, 'woe to you, woe to you, men of Vannes';
of eleven as priests 'coming from Vannes with broken swords and
blood-stained garments, and crutches of hazel-wood, of three hundred
only these eleven ones are left'; of twelve as months and signs,
'Sagittarius, the one before the last, lets fly his pointed arrow. The
twelve signs are at war. The black cow with a white star on her forehead
rushes from the forest (_des despouillés_) pierced by a pointed arrow,
her blood flows, she bellows with raised head. The trumpet sounds, fire
and thunder, rain and wind. No more, no more, there is no further
series.' (H. V., p. 1.)

The contents of this chant in several particulars agree with the shorter
one. Seven stands for days, eight for winds, and ten for boats.

A similar chant comes from Spain, which gives the answers with a curious
variation. For in this case most of the numbers are explained as one
less of one kind and one more of another. Thus one stands for the Wheel
of Fortune; two for one clock and bell; three for the handle of a mortar
(? _la mano del almiles_); four for three basins and one dish; five for
three jars of red wine and two of white (_or_ for the wounds of St.
Francis); six for the loves you hold (_amores que teneis_); seven for
six cassocks and a cape; eight for seven butchers and one sheep; nine
for eight hounds and one hare; ten for the toes; eleven for ten horsemen
and one leader (_breva_, ? acorn); twelve are probably pigs.

Exactly as in the other chants the numbers are set in question and
answer, the answer being in cumulative form:--

    Quién me dirá que no es una?--
    La rued de la fortuna.      (Ma., p. 68.)

    "Who will tell me what is one?--One is the Wheel of Fortune," and so

In this Spanish version there is the alternative of associating five
with the jars of wine of Cana or with the wounds of St. Francis, both of
which are Christian conceptions that occur in the Christian chants--the
wounds of St. Francis in the Italian chant, and the jugs of wine, six in
number, in the chant as it is sung and danced in Canada. Christian
conceptions are also introduced into some of the numerous versions of
the heathen Chants of the Creed that are current among ourselves, but
they are relatively few, and by their nature suggest a change from
heathen to Christian matters of belief.

The oldest version of this chant was printed by Chambers from an
unpublished collection of songs by P. Buchan. It is in dialogue form,
and, as in the case of the Druidical chants, its words indicate a
teacher who is instructing his pupils:--

    1. We will a' gae sing, boys,
       Where will we begin, boys?
       We'll begin the way we should,
       And we'll begin at ane, boys.

       O, what will be our ane, boys?
       O, what will be our ane, boys?
       --My only ane she walks alane,
       And evermair has dune, boys.

    2. Now we will a' gae sing, boys;
       Where will we begin, boys?
       We'll begin where we left aff,
       And we'll begin at twa, boys.

       What will be our twa, boys?
       --'Twa's the lily and the rose
       That shine baith red and green, boys.
       My only ane she walks alane,
       And evermair has dune, boys.

    3. Now we will a' gae sing, boys, ... etc.
       What will be our three, boys?
       Three, three thrivers ... etc.      (1870, p. 44.)

    Four's the gospel-makers, five's the hymnlers o' my bower, six the
    echoing waters, seven's the stars in heaven, eight's the table
    rangers, nine's the muses of Parnassus, ten's the commandments,
    eleven's maidens in a dance, twelve's the twelve apostles.

Further variations of this chant have been recovered in Dorsetshire,
Cornwall, Derbyshire, Norfolk, and elsewhere. Many of them at the close
of each line insert the interjection _O_ in the place of the word
_boys_. This drew the suggestion from Dr. Jessopp that the song was
connected with the so-called _Seven great Os_, a song sung at vespers
during Advent before the _Magnificat_ from 16 December to Christmas Eve.
It took its name from the first line in the song, which begins _O

The Dorsetshire version is still sung at Eton, and is known as "Green
grow the rushes oh," the words that form the chorus:--

    Solo:   I'll sing you one oh!

    Chorus: Green grow the rushes oh!
            What is your one oh?

    Solo:   One is one and all alone
            And ever more shall be so.[57]

    [57] Byrne, S. R., _Camp Choruses_, 1891, p. 91.

The same order is observed for the next verse, the soloist explaining
two, the chorus adding one, and so forth. In this version we have two
lily-white boys, three rivals, four gospel makers, five symbols at your
door, six proud walkers, seven stars in the sky, eight bold rainers,
nine bright shiners, ten commandments, eleven for the eleven that went
up to heaven, twelve for the twelve apostles.

A Chant of the Creed is sung in Cornwall by the sailors, and begins:--

    Come and I will sing you!
    --What will you sing me?
    I will sing you one, oh!
    --What is your one, oh!
    Your one is all alone,
    And ever must remain so.

The explanations which follow are very corrupt. Two are lily-white maids
clothed all in green, oh!; three are bright shiners; four are
gospel-makers; five are the ferrymen in a boat and one of them a
stranger; six is the cheerful waiter; seven are the stars in the sky;
eight are the archangels; nine are the bold rainers; ten are the
commandments; eleven went up to heaven; twelve are the apostles.[58]

    [58] Lang, A., "At the Sign of the Ship," in _The Gentleman's
    Magazine_, January, 1889, p. 328.

In Derbyshire the chant is associated with the harvest festival, and
takes the form of a drinking song. It begins with three, but the
explanations of one and two are preserved in the last verse, in which
the song is carried back to its real beginning:--

    Plenty of ale to-night, my boys, and then I will sing you.
    What will you sing?--I'll sing you three oh.
    What is the three O?...

The last verse enumerates:--Twelve apostles; eleven archangels; ten
commandments; nine bright shiners; eight, the Gabriel riders; seven
golden stars in heaven; six came on the board; five by water; four
Gospel rhymers; three threble thribers; two lily-white maids and one was
dressed in green O.[59]

    [59] Addy, S. O., "Two Relics of English Paganism," in _The
    Gentleman's Magazine_, July, 1890, p. 46.

This version of the chant was sung or recited at harvest-time in Norfolk
also, and began:--

    A: I'll sing the one O.
    B: What means the one O?
    A: When the one is left alone, No more can be seen O!
    C: I'll sing the two Os.
    D: What means the two Os?

    Two's the lily-white boys--three's the rare O--four's the gospel
    makers--five's the thimble in the bowl--six is the
    provokers--seven's the seven stars in the sky--eight is the bright
    walkers--nine's the gable rangers--ten's the ten
    commandments--'leven's the 'leven evangelists--twelve's the twelve

    [60] Jessopp, "A Song in Arcady," in _Longman's Magazine_, June,
    1889, p. 187.

The version current in Herefordshire is preserved as far as number eight

    Eight was the crooked straight,
    Seven was the bride of heaven,
    Six was the crucifix,
    Five was the man alive,
    Four was the lady's bower [_or_ lady bird, _or_ lady, _or_ lady's
    Three was the Trinity,
    Two was the Jewry,
    One was God to the righteous man
    To save our souls to rest. Amen.[61]

    [61] From Stoke Prior, Herefordshire, in Addy, S. O., _Household
    Tales and Traditional Remains_, 1895, p. 150.

Some of our nursery rhymes which are nonsensical represent these lines
in a further degradation:--

    One, two, three, four, five,
    I caught a hare alive;
    Six, seven, eight, nine, ten,
    I let her go again.      (_c._ 1783, p. 48.)

And the following, in which "sticks" takes the place of _crucifix_,
while "straight" recalls _crooked straight_:--

    One, two, buckle my shoe,
    Three, four, shut the door,
    Five six, pick up sticks,
    Seven, eight, lay them straight.      (1810, p. 30).

The rhyme is sometimes continued as far as twenty:--

    Nine, ten, a good fat hen,
    Eleven, twelve, who shall delve? _etc._

The tabulation of the explanations of numbers of these various songs
will give an idea of the degradation to which words are liable, when
they have lost their meaning. It shows also that some information can be
recovered from comparing what is apparently nonsensical.

    _One._--Scotland: One all alone.
            Dorset: One is one and all alone.
            Cornwall: Is all alone and ever must remain so.
            Derbyshire: One was dressed in green O.
            Norfolk: One left alone no more can be seen O.
            Hereford: One was God to the righteous man.

    _Two._--Sc.: Lilly and rose.
            Dt.: Lilly white boys.
            C.: Lilly white maids clothed in green.
            Db.: Lilly white maids.
            N.: Lily white boys.
            H.: Jewry.

    _Three._--Sc.: Thrivers.
            Dt.: Rivals.
            C.: Bright shiners.
            Db.: Threble thribers.
            N.: Rare O.
            H.: Trinity.

    _Four._--Sc.: Gospelmakers.
            Dt.       "
            C.        "
            Db.: Gospelrhymers.
            N.: Gospelmakers.
            H.: Lady's bower.

    _Five._--Sc.: Hymnlers of my bower.
            Dt.: Symbols at your door.
            C.: Ferrymen in a boat and one a stranger.
            Db.: By water.
            N.: Thimble in a bowl.
            H.: Man alive.

    _Six._--Sc.: Echoing waters.
            Dt.: Proud walkers.
            C.: Cheerful waiter.
            Db.: Came on board.
            N.: Provokers.
            H.: Crucifix.

    _Seven._--Sc.: Stars in heaven.
            Dt.: Stars in the sky.
            C.    "    "
            Db.: Golden stars.
            N.: Stars in the sky.
            H.: Bride of heaven.

    _Eight._--Sc.: Table rangers.
            Dt.: Bold rainers.
            C.: Archangels.
            Db.: Gabriel riders.
            N.: Bright walkers.
            H.: Crooked straight.

    _Nine._--Sc.: Muses.
            Dt.: Bright shiners.
            C.: Bold rainers.
            Db.: Bright shiners.
            N.: Gable rangers.

    _Ten._--Sc.: Commandments.
            Dt.     "
            C.      "
            Db.     "
            N.      "

    _Eleven._--Sc.: Maidens in a dance.
            Dt.: Went up to heaven.
            C.    "        "
            Db.: Archangels.
            N.: Evangelists.

    _Twelve._--Sc.: Apostles.
            Dt.    "
            C.     "
            Db.    "
            N.     "

From this table we see that the _thrivers_ of Scotland are _threble
thribers_ in Derbyshire. These, according to the explanation of Addy,
are the three Norns or white ladies,[62] and this view is supported by
the _three queens_ of the one Breton chant, which probably suggested
_The Three Maries_ of the one Spanish version.

    [62] Addy, S. O., loc. cit., p. 150.

Again, the _table rangers_ of the Scottish song are _Gabriel riders_,
otherwise known as _Gabriel hounds_ or _gabbe ratches_ in Derbyshire.
_Gabriel hounds_ is a word applied to the winds. The winds are also
associated with eight in the one Breton chant. In Cornwall _bright
shiners_ are associated with three, but in Dorsetshire and Derbyshire
_bright shiners_ are associated with nine, and nine is the number of
maidens in one Breton chant also. We are reminded of the priestesses who
were devoted to religious rites on some island of the Atlantic, perhaps
Ushant, off Brittany, when Pytheas, in the fourth century before Christ,
visited these shores. Nine of them attended a famous oracle, and
professed to control the weather.

The interest of these chants is increased when we compare them with what
folk-lore preserves on the subject. The followers of Mohammed tell a
tale which describes how a rich man promised a poor man his ox if he
could explain to him the numbers, and the following dialogue ensued:--

    What is one and not two?--God is one.

    What is two and not three?--Day and night [_or_ the sun and the

And further: three for divorces from one's wife; four for the Divine
books (i.e. the Old and New Testament, the Psalter and the Koran); five
for the states of Islam; six for the realms in Nizam; seven for the
heavens that surround the throne of God (A., II, 230).

The same story in a more primitive form is told in Ditmarschen, a
district bordering on Holstein, in which also the numbers are carried to
seven only. But in this case a peasant's property stood forfeited to the
"little man in grey," unless he found an explanation to the numbers. He
despaired of doing so, when Christ intervened and instructed him as

One stands for wheelbarrow; two stands for a cart; three for a trivet;
four for a waggon; five stands for the fingers of the hand; six for the
working days of the week; seven for the stars of the Great Bear. And the
peasant remained in the possession of his goods (R., p. 137).

More primitive still is the story as told in Little Russia. In this case
a man bartered away his soul for six pigs. After three years the devil
came to fetch him. But the devil was met by an old, old man who
successfully cheated him of his due. The dialogue between them was: "Who
is in the house?--One and not one (that is two). And how about two?--It
is well to thrash two at a time. It is well to travel three at a time.
He who has four has a waggon. He who has five sons has company. Six pigs
the devil had, but he left them with a poor man, and now he has lost
them for ever" (A., II, 227).

The comparison of these stories with the Chants of the Creed shows that
the dialogue stories are older in contents, and probably in form also,
than the cumulative pieces. In both, superhuman power is conveyed by
associating numbers with objects. This power in the dialogue pieces is
attributed to the "little man in grey" of the German piece, who may be
intended for Death, and to the devil in the Russian piece. In the
pieces where numbers are associated with Christian articles of belief,
the superhuman power is attributed to a popular saint, viz. St. Simeon
in Denmark and St. Nicholas in Italy, who make use of their power to
overcome Satan.

The dialogue stories explain the numbers only as far as six or seven.
This in itself indicates that they are relatively early. Some of the
explanations they contain reappear in the cumulative Chants of the
Creed, both in their Christian and in their heathen variations. Thus the
"one wheel" of the wheelbarrow in the German dialogue story, reappears
as the Wheel of Fortune in the Spanish chant, and as the "One that walks
alone" of the Scottish chant. Perhaps this idea underlies the one O, or
circle of our late English songs also. Two in the dialogue story is
explained as a cart; one Breton Chant of the Creed associates two with
an ox-cart also. In the Mohammedan dialogue story two is explained as
the sun and moon, and this explanation reappears in the Christian chant
as sung in the Abruzzi. Six, which the German dialogue story explains
as the working days of the week, has the same meaning in our song of
the _New Dyall_. Seven, which the German dialogue story associates with
the constellation of Charles's Wain, reappears as _La Poule_ in the
Breton Chant of the Creed, as seven bright shiners in our English songs,
and as the stars seen by Joseph in the Latin Chant.

These points of likeness cannot be due to mere chance; they indicate a
relationship between all the pieces which associate objects with
numbers. There has been some discussion as to which Chant of the Creed
has the greater claim to priority--whether the Breton was based on the
Christian, or the Christian on the Hebrew, and how these stand in
relation to the various heathen chants. But the analysis of these pieces
renders it probable that they are all derived from an earlier prototype,
and this prototype is perhaps to be sought in the dialogue stories. For
in the Chants of the Creed the explanations of the numbers are often
abstract in meaning, whereas in the dialogue pieces they are simple
objects, mostly wheels or circles, which may well have appeared magical
in themselves to the primitive mind. Again, the purpose of the Chants
of the Creed is to convey religious instruction as a protection against
the devil, while in the dialogue stories in the last instance the theme
is the acquisition of pigs, and pigs were esteemed valuable possessions
from a remote period of antiquity.



Many nursery rhymes and pieces relate to sacrificial hunting. This
hunting goes back to the time when certain animals were looked upon as
tabu in that they were generally held in reverence, and ill-luck befell
him who wittingly or unwittingly did them harm. At the same time one
animal of the kind was periodically slain. It was actually killed, but
its spirit was held to be incarnate in other creatures of its kind, and
it therefore continued to be spoken of as alive.

The custom of killing the divine animal belongs to an early stage of
social evolution, since it stands in no relation to agriculture, and
perhaps took rise before men tilled the soil. The animal that was
slaughtered was generally looked upon as the representative of a certain
clan, or as constituting the bond between a number of kinsmen.[63]

    [63] Frazer, J. G., _The Golden Bough_, 1900, II, 442 ff.

Among the creatures that were sacrificiallybasiliskost hunted in
different parts of Western Europe were a number of small birds. Many of
our nursery pieces relate to the hunting of the wren. A peculiar
importance was attached to this bird from a remote period in antiquity,
possibly on account of the golden crest worn by one kind of these birds.
This importance was expressed by the term "little king." In Greek the
wren was βασιλισκος, in Latin he was _regulus_ or _rex avium_. In France
he is _roitelet_; in Italy he is _reatino_; in Spain he is _reyezuolo_;
in Germany he is _zaunkönig_; in Wales he is _bren_, a word allied to
our wren. The sacrifice of a bird that was so highly esteemed, must have
a deeper significance. Possibly his sacrifice was accepted in the place
of the periodical sacrifice of the real king, a primitive custom which
dates far back in history. If so, the practice of slaying the wren
represents the custom of killing the king "of the woods" at a later
stage of development.

The designation of king as applied to the wren naturally called for an
explanation. It was accounted for by the story according to which the
birds challenged one another as to who could fly highest. The eagle flew
higher than the other birds, but the diminutive wren hid beneath his
wing, and, being carried up by the eagle, started on his own flight when
the eagle tired, and so proved his superiority (Ro., II, 293). The story
dates from the period when cunning was esteemed higher than brute force,
and when cheating was accepted as a legitimate way of showing one's
powers. Among the fairy tales of Grimm one tells how the wren, whose
young had been spoken of disrespectfully by the bear, challenged the
four-footed beasts of the forest, and by a similar strategem proved his
superiority over them also (No. 152). Thus the kingship of the wren
extended to the four-footed as well as to the feathered tribes.

The lines that celebrate the _Hunting of the Wren_ are included in
several of the oldest nursery collections. They depend for their
consistency on repetition; there is no attempt at cumulation. In the
collection of 1744 the piece stands as follows:--


    We will go to the wood, says Robbin to Bobbin,
    We will go to the wood, says Richard to Robbin,
    We will go to the wood, says John and alone,
    We will go to the wood, says everyone.


    We will shoot at a wren, says Robbin to Bobbin,
    We will shoot at a wren, says Richard to Robbin, etc.


    She's down, she's down, says Robbin to Bobbin, etc.


    How shall we get her home, says Robbin to Bobbin, etc.


    We will hire a cart, says Robbin to Bobbin, etc.


    Then hoist, hoist, says Robbin to Bobbin, etc.


    She's up, she's up, says Robbin to Bobbin, etc.

In the collection of 1783 there is an additional verse:--

    So they brought her away after each pluck'd a feather,
    And when they got home shar'd the booty together.

    (_c._ 1783, p. 20.)

Another version of this chant from Scotland is included in Herd's
collection of songs, which goes back to 1776.[64] In this the wren "is
slayed," "conveyed home in carts and horse," and is got in by "driving
down the door cheeks." The characters in this case are Fozie Mozie,
Johnie Rednosie, Foslin 'ene, and brethren and kin. The song ends:--


    I'll hae a wing, quo' Fozie Mozie,
    I'll hae anither, quo' Johnie Rednosie,
    I'll hae a leg, quo' Foslin 'ene,
    And I'll hae another, quo' brither and kin.

    [64] Herd, David, _Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs_, reprint,
    1869, II, 210.

In the toy-book literature of the eighteenth century I have come across
the expression, "They sang the Fuzzy Muzzy chorus," which may be related
to these names.

Another variation of the chant sung in Carmarthenshire[65] is set in the
form of a dialogue, and the fact is insisted on that the hunt shall be
carried out in the old way in preference to the new:--

    [65] Mason, M. H., _Nursery Rhymes and Country Songs_, 1877, p. 47.


    O, where are you going, says Milder to Malder,
    O, I cannot tell, says Festel to Fose,
    We're going to the woods, says John the Red Nose,
    We're going to the woods, says John the Red Nose.


    O, what will you do there? says Milder to Malder....
    | We'll shoot the Cutty Wren, says John the Red Nose. |


    O, how will you shoot her....
    | With cannons and guns, _etc._ |


    O, that will not do ...
    | With arrows and bows, _etc._ |


    O, how will you bring her home....
    | On four strong men's shoulders, _etc._ |


    O, that will not do ...
    | In waggons and carts, _etc._ |


    O, what will you cut her up with?...
    | With knives and forks, _etc._ |


    O, that will not do ...
    | With hatchets and cleavers, _etc._ |


    O, how will you boil her?...
    | In kettles and pots, _etc._ |


    O, that will not do ...
    | In cauldrons and pans, _etc._ |


    O, who'll have the spare ribs, says Milder to Malder,
    O, I cannot tell, says Festel to Fose,
    We'll give them to the poor, says John the Red Nose,
    We'll give them to the poor, says John the Red Nose.

Further variations of the chant have been recovered from the Isle of Man
and from Ireland, where the hunt is kept up to this day. In the Isle of
Man it used to take place on 24 December, though afterwards on St.
Stephen's Day, that is 27 December, which according to the old reckoning
was the beginning of the New Year.[66] On this day people left the
church at midnight and then engaged in hunting the wren. When the bird
was secured, it was fastened to a long pole with its wings extended, and
it was carried about in procession to the singing of the chant:--

    We hunted the wren for Robin the Bobbin.

    [66] Waldron, _Description of the Isle of Man_, reprint 1865, p. 49;
    also Train, T., _History of the Isle of Man_, 1845, II, 126.

This chant further describes that the bird was hunted with sticks and
stones, a cart was hired, he was brought home, he was boiled in the
brewery-pan, he was eaten with knives and forks, the king and the queen
dined at the feast, and the pluck went to the poor.

The behaviour of the huntsmen was not, however, in keeping with these
words; for the bearers of the wren, after making the circuit, laid it on
a bier and carried it to the parish churchyard, where it was buried with
the utmost solemnity, and dirges were sung over it in the Manx language,
which were called the knell of the wren. The company then formed a
circle outside the churchyard and danced to music.

In the middle of the nineteenth century the wren was still hunted in the
Isle of Man and was carried by boys from door to door, suspended by the
legs in the centre of two hoops. These crossed each other at right
angles and were decorated with evergreens and ribbons. The boys recited
the chant. In return for a coin they gave a feather of the wren, so that
before the end of the day the bird hung featherless. A superstitious
value was attached to these feathers, for the possession of one of them
was considered an effective preservative from shipwreck during the
coming year among the sailors. At this time the bird was no longer
buried in the churchyard, but on the seashore or in some waste place.

The hunt in the Isle of Man was accounted for by the legend that in
former times a fairy of uncommon beauty exerted such influence over the
male population of the island that she induced them by her sweet voice
to follow her footsteps, till by degrees she led them into the sea,
where they perished. At last a knight-errant sprang up, who laid a plot
for her destruction, which she escaped at the last moment by taking the
form of a wren. But a spell was cast upon her by which she was condemned
on every succeeding New Year's Day to reanimate the same form, with the
definite sentence that she must ultimately perish by human hand. In this
form the legend is told by Train. Waldron relates the same story, which
explained why the female sex are now held of little account in the
island, but the fairy according to him was transformed into a bat.

In Ireland also the wren was generally hunted during the eighteenth
century, and continues to be hunted in Leinster and in Connaught, but I
have come across no chant of the hunt. The bird was slain by the
peasants, and was carried about hung by the leg inside two crossed
hoops, and a custom rhyme was sung which began:--

    The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,
    Was caught St. Stephen's Day in the furze;
    Although he's little, his family's great,
    Then pray, gentlefolks, give him a treat.      (1849, p. 166.)

The bird was slain, but it was not therefore dead. This is conveyed by
the tale told in the Isle of Man, and by the following custom observed
in Pembrokeshire on 6 January, that is on Twelfth Day. On this day one
or several wrens were secured in a small house or cage, sometimes the
stable lantern, which was decorated with ribbons and carried from house
to house while the following lines were sung:--

    Joy, health, love, and peace,
    Be to you in this place.
    By your leave we will sing
    Concerning _our king_:
    Our king is well drest,
    In silks of the best,
    With his ribbons so rare
    No king can compare.
    _In his coach he does ride_
    With a great deal of pride
    And with _four footmen_
    To wait upon him.
    We were four at watch,
    And all nigh of a match;
    And with powder and ball
    We fired at his hall.
    We have travell'd many miles,
    Over hedges and stiles,
    To find you this king
    Which we now to you bring.
    Now Christmas is past,
    Twelfth Day is the last.
    Th' Old Year bids adieu;
    Great joy to the new.      (1876, p. 35.)

On grouping together these various pieces, we are struck by their
likeness, and by the antiquity of their allusions. The bird was usually
slain with stones and sticks, which are among the most primitive
weapons. In Wales _bows and arrows_, which are old also, were declared
preferable to _cannons and guns_. In Wales the bird was cut up with
_hatchets and cleavers_ in preference to _knives and forks_; it was
boiled in the _brewery pan_, or in _cauldrons and pans_, in preference
to _kettles and pots_; and it was conveyed about in a _waggon or cart_
in preference to being _carried on four men's shoulders_. Sometimes the
bird was plucked. Finally it was cut up in a sacrificial manner; one
wing--another--one leg--another--and the spare ribs or the pluck, as the
least valuable part of the feast, went to the poor.

The representative huntsmen in England are Robbin, Bobbin, Richard, and
John-all-alone. In Scotland they are Fozie-Mozie, Johnie Rednosie, and
Foslin, besides "the brethren and kin." In Wales they are Milder,
Malder, Festel, Fose, and John the Rednose. Of these characters only
Robin and Bobbin (the names are sometimes run together) and Richard,
reappear in other nursery pieces. In the oldest collection of 1744 stand
the lines:--

    Robbin and Bobbin, two great belly'd men,
    They ate more victuals than three-score men.      (1744, p. 25.)

These powers of eating perhaps refer to the first share of these
characters at the feast. They are further dwelt on in the following
nursery rhyme:--

    Robin the Bobbin, the big-headed hen [_or_ ben]
    He eat more meat than four-score men.
    He eat a cow, he eat a calf,
    He eat a butcher and a half;
    He eat a church, he eat a steeple,
    He eat the priest and all the people.      (_c._ 1783, p. 43.)

To which some collections add:--

    And yet he complained that his belly was not full.

Other pieces dilate on Robin and Richard as lazy in starting, and on
Robin, whose efforts as a huntsman were attended with ill luck:--

    Robin and Richard were two pretty men,
    They lay in bed till the clock struck ten:
    Then up starts Robin, and looks at the sky,
    Oh! brother Richard, the sun's very high.
    You go before, with the bottle and bag,
    And I will come after, on little Jack Nag.      (_c._ 1783, p. 42.)

    Robin-a-Bobbin bent his bow,
    Shot at a woodcock and killed a yowe [ewe];
    The yowe cried ba, and he ran away,
    And never came back till Midsummer day.      (1890, p. 346.)

Halliwell saw a relation between the huntsman of this verse and the bird
robin, since the robin was reckoned to disappear at Christmas and not to
return till Midsummer. As a matter of fact, the robin leaves the abodes
of man and retires into the woodland as soon as the sharp winter frost
is over. However this may be, the presence of the wren and of the robin
was mutually exclusive, as we shall see in the pieces which deal with
the proposed union, the jealousy, and the death of these two birds.



The custom of slaying the wren is widespread in France also. But the
chants that deal with it dwell, not like ours, on the actual hunt, but
on the sacrificial plucking and dividing up of the bird. Moreover, the
French chants depend for their consistency not on repetition like ours,
but are set in cumulative form. Both in contents and in form they seem
to represent the same idea in a later development.

At Entraigues, in Vaucluse, men and boys hunted the wren on Christmas
Eve, and when they caught a bird alive they gave it to the priest, who
set it free in church. At Mirabeau the hunted bird was blessed by the
priest, and the curious detail is preserved that if the first bird was
secured by a woman, this gave the sex the right to jeer at and insult
the men, and to blacken their faces with mud and soot if they caught
them. At Carcassonne, on the first Sunday of December, the young people
who dwelt in the street of Saint-Jean went out of the town armed with
sticks and stones to engage in the hunt. The first person who struck the
bird was hailed king, and carried the bird home in procession. On the
last of December he was solemnly introduced to his office as king; on
Twelfth Day he attended mass in church, and then, crowned and girt about
with a cloak, he visited the various dignitaries of the place, including
the bishop and the mayor, in a procession of mock solemnity. This was
done as late as 1819.[67] This identification of the bird and the men
explains the hiring of a cart or waggon to convey "the bird" in our own

    [67] Rolland, loc. cit., II, 295 ff.; Frazer, loc. cit., II, 445 ff.

The Breton chant on "plucking the wren," _Plumer le roitelet_ begins:--

    Nin' ziblus bec al laouenanic
    Rac henès a zo bihanic | _bis._      (L., I, p. 72.)

    "We will pluck the beak of the wren, for he is very small," and
    continues, "We will pluck the left eye of the wren, for he is very

and then enumerates right eye, left ear, right ear, head, neck, chest,
back, belly, left wing, right wing, left buttock, right buttock, left
thigh, right thigh, left leg, right leg, left foot, right foot, first
claw of left foot and every claw in succession of this and of the other
foot. The last sentence is "We will pluck the tail of the wren," and
then sentence after sentence is repeated to the first, "We will pluck
the beak of the wren because he is very small, we have plucked him

Another poem preserved in Breton relates how the wren was caught and
caged and fed till the butcher and his comrades came and slew it, when
the revelry began (L., I, p. 7).

I have often wondered at the cruel sport of confining singing birds in
cages. Possibly this goes back to a custom of fattening a victim that
was sacrificially slain. For the wren is tabu in Brittany as among
ourselves, and in popular belief the nestlings of each brood assemble
with the parent birds in the nest on Twelfth Night, and must on no
account be disturbed. This reflects the belief that the creature that is
slain during the winter solstice, at its close starts on a new lease of

The wren is not the only bird that was sacrificially eaten in France,
judging from the chants that are recorded. A chant on "plucking the
lark," _Plumer l'alouette_, is current in the north of France which

    Nous la plumerons, l'alouette,
    Nous la plumerons, tout de long.      (D. B., p. 124.)

    "We will pluck the lark, we will pluck it altogether."

And it enumerates the bird's beak, eyes, head, throat, back, wings,
tail, legs, feet, claws.

A variation of the same chant is sung in Languedoc, where it is called
_L'alouette plumée_, "the plucked lark," and is described as a game (M.
L., p. 457).

Again, the dividing up of the thrush forms the subject of a chant which
is sung in Brittany in the north (L., I, p. 81), and in Languedoc in the
south. It is called _Dépecer le merle_, and preserves the further
peculiarity that the bird, although it is divided up, persists in
singing. The version current in Languedoc begins:--

    Le merle n'a perdut le bec, le merle n'a perdut le bec,
    Comment fra-t-il, le merle, comment pourra-t-il chanter?
    Emai encaro canto, le pauvre merle, merle,
    Emai encaro canto, le pauvre merlatou.      (M. L., p. 458.)

    "The thrush has lost his beak, how will he manage to sing, and yet
    he sings, the poor thrush, yet he goes on singing."

The chant then enumerates the bird's tongue, one eye, two eyes, head,
neck, one wing, two wings, one foot, two feet, body, back, feathers,
tail; always returning to the statement that the bird, although it is
divided up, persists in singing.

The French word _merle_ stands both for thrush and for blackbird. The
blackbird is held in reverence among ourselves in Salop and
Montgomeryshire, and blackbird-pie was eaten in Cornwall on Twelfth
Night.[68] But there is no reference to the sacrificial slaying of the
bird, as far as I am aware. In the French chant the bird continues to
sing although it is killed. The same idea finds expression in our
nursery song of _Sing a Song of Sixpence_. This piece, taken in
conjunction with the eating of blackbird-pie in Cornwall and the French
chants, seems to preserve the remembrance of the ancient bird sacrifice.
The first verse of this rhyme appears in the collection of 1744, in
which "naughty boys" stands for blackbirds. In other collections the
piece runs as follows:--

    Sing a song of sixpence, a bagful of rye,
    Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pye
    And when the pye was open'd, the birds began to sing;
    Was not this a dainty dish to set before the king?
    The king was in his parlour counting out his money,
    The queen was in the kitchen eating bread and honey,
    The maid was in the garden hanging out the clothes,
    Up came a magpie and bit off her nose.      (_c._ 1783, p. 26.)

    [68] Thomas, N. W., "Animal Superstitions" in _Folk-Lore_,
    September, 1900, p. 227.

The magpie is "a little blackbird" in the version of Halliwell, which

    Jenny was so mad, she didn't know what to do,
    She put her finger in her ear and cracked it right in two.

Halliwell (1842, p. 62) noted that in the book called _Empulario or the
Italian Banquet_ of 1589, there is a receipt "to make pies so that the
birds may be alive in them and fly out when it is cut up," a mere
device, live birds being introduced after the pie is made. One cannot
but wonder if the device was a mere sport of fancy, or if it originated
from the desire to give substance to an ancient belief.

Again, the robin redbreast was sacrificially eaten in France at Le
Charme, Loiret, on Candlemas, that is on February the first (Ro., II,
264). There are no chants on the sacrifice of the robin in France, as
far as I know. Among ourselves, on the other hand, where no hunting of
the robin is recorded, a piece printed both by Herd[69] and Chambers
suggests his sacrifice. The piece is called by Chambers _The Robin's
Testament_, and it describes how the bird, on the approach of death,
made a bequest of his several parts, which he enumerated exactly in the
way of the sacrificial bird-chants current in France. They were his neb,
feathers of his neb, right leg, other leg, feathers of his tail, and
feathers of his breast, to each of which he attributed a mystic
significance. The piece in the combined versions stands as follows:--

    [69] Herd, David, loc. cit., II, 166.

    Guid-day now, bonnie Robin
      How lang have you been here?
    I've been bird about this bush,
      This mair than twenty year!

    _Chorus_: Teetle ell ell, teetle ell ell.
              Tee, tee, tee, tee, tee, tee, tee,
              Tee, tee, tee, teetle eldie.

    But now I am the sickest bird
      That ever sat on brier;
    And I wad make my testament,
      Guidman, if ye wad hear.

    "Gar tak this bonnie _neb_ o' mine,
      That picks upon the corn,
    And gie 't to the Duke o' Hamilton
      To be a hunting horn.

    "Gar tak these bonnie feathers o' mine,
      _The feathers o' my neb_,
    And gie to the Lady o' Hamilton
      To fill a feather-bed.

    "Gar tak this guid _right leg_ o' mine
      And mend the brig o' Tay;
    It will be a post and pillar guid,
      It will neither ban nor gae.

    "And tak this _other leg_ o' mine
      And mend the brig o'er Weir;
    It will be a post and pillar guid,
      It'll neither ban nor steer.

    (_Herd only_).

    "Gar tak these bonnie feathers o' mine
      The feathers o' my tail,
    And gie to the Lady o' Hamilton
      To be a barn-flail.

    "Gar tak these bonnie feathers o' mine
      The _feathers o' my breast_,
    And gie to ony bonnie lad
      That'll bring me to a priest."

    Now in there came my Lady Wren
      With mony a sigh and groan;
    "O what care I for a' the lads
      If my wee lad be gone?"

    Then robin turned him round about
      E'en like a little king,
    "Go, pack ye out at my chamber door,
      Ye little cutty quean."

    (_Chambers only_).

    Robin made his testament
      Upon a coll of hay
    And by came a greedy gled
      And snapt him a' away.      (1870, p. 40.)

_The Robin's Testament_ should be compared with the French piece called
_Le Testament de l'Ane_, "the testament of the ass," of which a number
of variations have been collected. The "testament of the ass" was
recited outside the church on the so-called _Fête de l'Ane_, "the feast
of the ass," which was kept in many cities of France till a
comparatively recent date. In Douai it was celebrated as late as the
year 1668. On this occasion an ass was brought into church, and an
office was recited in Latin, which enlarged on the ass that carried the
Holy Family into Egypt, the ass which bore Christ into Jerusalem, the
ass of Balaam, and so forth. Its chorus consisted of braying, in which
the assembled canons joined. This service in church was preceded by a
recitation outside the holy edifice, which was in the vernacular, and
which, in dialogue form, enlarged on the several parts of the ass.[70]

    [70] Clémént, Madame, _Histoire des fêtes civiles et religieuses du
    Nord_, 1834, p. 184. Also, Du Cange, Glossarium, _Festum Asinorum_.

One of these dialogue pieces, current in Franche-Comté, describes how
the she-ass, conscious of the approach of death, bequeathed her feet and
ears to her son, her skin to the drummer, her tail to the priest to make
an aspergill, and her hole to the notary to make an inkpot (B., p. 61).

Another version, at greater length, is in the form of instruction which
is given by the priest to the child, whose answers are set in cumulative

"The feast of the ass," in the words of Bujeaud, "must have been very
popular, since I have often heard the children of Angoumais and Poitou
recite the following piece ":--

    Le prêtre: Que signifient les deux oreilles de l'âne?

    L'enfant: Les deux oreilles de l'âne signifient les deux grands
    saints, patrons de notre ville.

    Le prêtre: Que signifie la tête de l'âne?

    L'enfant: La tête de l'âne signifie la grosse cloche et la langue
    fait le battant de cette grosse cloche qui est dans le clocher de la
    cathédrale des saints patrons de notre ville. (B. I., p. 65.)

    "The priest: What do the ears of the ass stand for?--The child: The
    ears of the ass stand for the two great patron saints of our
    city.--The priest: What does the head stand for?--The head stands
    for the great bell, and the tongue for the clapper of the great bell
    which is in the belfry of the cathedral of the holy saints, the
    patrons of our city."

We then read of the throat which stands for the entrance to the
cathedral--the body for the cathedral itself--the four legs, its
pillars--the heart and liver, its great lamps--the belly, its
alms-box--the tail which stands for the aspergill--the hide which
stands for the cope of the priest--and the hole which stands for the
holy-water stoup.

This chant on the parts of the ass is among the most curious survivals.
At first one feels inclined to look upon it as intended to convey
ridicule, but this idea is precluded by the existence of _The Robin's
Testament_, and by the numerous pieces which enumerate the several parts
of the bird in connection with the bird sacrifice. Again in this case we
are led to look upon the piece as a garbled survival of some heathen
form of ritual. The ass, however, was not known in Western Europe till a
comparatively late period in history. It has no common Aryan name, and
the question therefore arises how it can have come to be associated with
what is obviously a heathen form of ritual.

Mannhardt, with regard to German folk-lore, pointed out that the ass was
substituted in many places for the hare, which was tabu, and with which
it shared the peculiarity of having long ears. This substitution was
favoured by their likeness of name: _heselîn_, _heselken_. (M., p.

We are led to inquire if the ass in Western Europe can have taken the
place of another animal also, and we find ourselves confronted with the
following facts:--

_Dicky_ among ourselves is applied to a bird, especially to a caged (?
perhaps a sacrificial) bird; the word Dicky is also widely applied to an
ass, properly to a he-ass.[1] The ass is often called by nicknames
exactly like the small wild birds: Jack-ass, Betty-ass, Jenny-ass, in
form closely correspond to Jack-daw, Magpie, and Jenny Wren of the
feathered tribe. The word Jack-ass moreover is applied both to the
four-footed beast and to a member of the feathered tribe. Nicknames
probably originated in the desire to conceal a creature's true identity.

In Scotland the word _cuddy_ again stands both for an ass and for some
kinds of bird, including the hedge-sparrow and the moor-hen.[71] The
word cuddy is said to be short for Cuthbert, but it seems to be related
also to cutty, an adjective applied to the wren (cf. above, p. 176,
193), the derivation and meaning of which are uncertain.

    [71] Murray's Dictionary: _Dicky_, _cuddy_, _ass_, _Jackass_.

The same overlapping of terms exists in France, where the ass is
popularly called Martin (Ro., IV, 206, 223, 233), while the feathered
martins include the _martin pêcheur_, kingfisher, the _martin rose_,
goatsucker, and the _martinets_ (Ro., II, p. 70). In Germany also, where
no bird-chants are recorded, as far as I am aware, the expression
_Martinsvogel_ is applied to a bird of augury of uncertain identity,
sometimes to the redbreast (Gr., p. 946). And a current proverb has it,
_Es ist mehr als ein Esel der Martin heisst_, "he is more than an ass
who is called Martin." (Ro., IV, 233.) In Barmen boys parade the streets
on the eve of St. Martin's Day, asking for contributions, and, if they
receive nothing, they sing:--

    Mäten ist ein Esel, der zieht die Kuh am Besel.      (B., p. 363.)

    "Martin is an ass, he pulls the cow by the tail," that is, "he has
    no money in his purse."

These various survivals support the view that the ass in Western Europe
somehow got mixed up with the birds. When and how this came about is
difficult to tell. The representatives of Christianity were in a
position to accept the feast of the ass, since the ass figured largely
in the Old and the New Testaments. But we do not know if they
consciously did so, and introduced the ass in the place of another
animal, or if they took over an animal which had before their time been
accepted in the place of a bird.



One side of the subject remains to be discussed. It is the relation of
the robin to the wren. Many custom rhymes, legends, and nursery pieces
name the birds together, and they sometimes enlarge on the jealousy of
the birds, and on the fact that their presence was reckoned mutually
exclusive. Perhaps the birds, looked at from one point of view, were
accounted the representatives of the seasons, and, as such, came and
went by turns.

The robin and the wren are mentioned together in several custom rhymes,
some of which mention other birds also:--

    The robin redbreast and the wren
    Are God's cock and hen.      (1826, p. 292.)

In Warwickshire they say:--

    The robin and the wren
    Are God Almighty's cock and hen;
    The martin and the swallow
    Are God Almighty's bow and arrow.      (1870, p. 188.)

In Lancashire this takes the form:--

    The robin and the wren are God's cock and hen;
    The spink and the sparrow are the de'il's bow and arrow.

    (1892, p. 275.)

This association of the sparrow with the bow and arrow reappears in some
nursery pieces, as we shall see later.

The robin and the wren are coupled together also in the following rhyme
from Scotland, which has found its way into some modern English nursery

    The robin redbreast and the wran
    Coost out about the parritch pan;
    And ere the robin got a spune
    The wran she had the parritch dune.      (1870, p. 188.)

_The Robin's Testament_ already quoted concludes with anger on the part
of the robin at the entrance of the wren, whose appearance heralds his
death. Other pieces describe the inverse case, when the wren dies in
spite of the robin's efforts to keep her alive. This conception forms
the subject of a Scottish ballad called _The Birds' Lamentation_, which
is included in the collection of David Herd of the year 1776. It
contains the following lines:--

    The Wren she lyes in Care's bed, in meikle dule and pyne, O!
    Quhen in came Robin Red-breast wi' sugar saps and wine, O!
    --Now, maiden will ye taste o' this?--It's sugar saps and wine, O!
    Na, ne'er a drap, Robin, (I wis); gin it be ne'er so fine, O!
    --Ye're no sae kind's ye was yestreen, or sair I hae mistae'n, O!
    Ye're no the lass, to pit me by, and bid me gang my lane, O!
    And quhere's the ring that I gied ye, ye little cutty quean, O!
    --I gied it till an ox-ee [tomtit], a kind sweat-heart o' myne, O!

The same incidents are related of real birds in the toy-book called _The
Life and Death of Jenny Wren_, which was published by Evans in 1813 "for
the use of young ladies and gentlemen:--

    A very small book at a very small charge,
    To teach them to read before they grow large."

The story begins:--

    Jenny Wren fell sick upon a merry time,
    In came Robin Redbreast and brought her sops and wine;
    Eat well of the sop, Jenny, drink well of the wine.
    Thank you Robin kindly, you shall be mine.

The wren recovered for a time, but her behaviour was such as to rouse
the robin's jealousy. She finally died, and the book concludes with the

    Poor Robin long for Jenny grieves,
    At last he covered her with leaves.
    Yet near the place a mournful lay
    For Jenny Wren sings every day.

It was an ancient superstition that the robin took charge of the dead,
especially of those who died by inadvertence.

The proposed union of the robin and the wren forms the subject also of a
story that was taken down from the recitation of Mrs. Begg, the sister
of the poet Burns. She was under the impression that her brother
invented it. It describes how the robin started on Yule morning to sing
before the king, and of the dangers, in the form of Poussie Baudrons, of
the grey greedy gled, of Tod Lowrie, and of others, he encountered by
the way. He sang before the king and queen, who gave him the wee wren
to wed. Then he flew away and sat on a briar (1870, p. 60). There is no

In all these stories the wren is described not as a cock-bird, but as a
hen-bird, which is incompatible with the idea of kingship that is
expressed by the bird-chants. Perhaps the idea of the kingship is the
older one. For in the legend told in the Isle of Man as an explanation
of the custom of killing the wren, this bird is described as a fairy,
that is, of the female sex, and legends that are intended to account for
a custom are necessarily of a more recent date than the custom which
they explain. The wren in Normandy also is sometimes spoken of as a
hen-bird, _La poulette du bon Dieu_, God Almighty's hen. One
custom-rhyme current in Scotland directly associates the bird with the
Lady of Heaven:--

    Malisons, Malisons, mair than tens,
    That harry the Ladye of Heaven's hen.      (1870, p. 186.)

There is another toy-book relating the proposed union of the robin and
the wren, which leads up to the death of the robin. It is called _The
Courtship, Marriage, and Picnic Dinner of Cock Robin and Jenny Wren_,
and was first issued by Harris in 1810. In this book other animals took
part in the ceremony. The cock blew the horn, the parson rook carried
Mother Hubbard's book, the lark sang, the linnet, the bullfinch, and the
blackbird all officiated. A picnic dinner followed, to which the raven
brought walnuts, the dog Tray brought a bone, the owl brought a sack of
wheat, the pigeon brought tares, and so forth. The enjoyment was at its

    When in came the cuckoo and made a great rout,
    He caught hold of Jenny and pulled her about.
    Cock robin was angry and so was the sparrow,
    Who now is preparing his bow and his arrow.
    His aim then he took, but he took it not right,
    His skill was not good, or he shot in a fright,
    For the cuckoo he missed, but cock robin he killed,
    And all the birds mourned that his blood was so spilled.

The cuckoo, it will be remembered, was the bird of the god Thor, and the
enemy of matrimonial bliss.

This story of a bird-wedding does not stand alone. From France and Spain
come a number of pieces which similarly describe the proposed wedding
of birds and end in disaster. In Languedoc one is called _Lou mariage de
l'alouseta_, "the wedding of the lark." It begins:--

    Lou pinson et l'alouseta
    Se ne voulien maridà.      (M. L., p. 490.)

    "The spink (_or_ finch) and the lark intended to marry. On the first
    day of the wedding they had nothing to eat."

A gadfly on his neck brought a loaf, a gnat brought a cask, a butterfly
a joint, and a sparrow brought grapes. The flea jumped out of the bed
and began to dance, and the louse came forth from the rags and seized
the flea by the arm. Then the rat came out of his hole and acted as
drummer, when in rushed the cat and devoured him.

Exactly the same story is told in much the same form in Catalan of _La
golondrina y el pinzon_, "The goldfinch and the swallow," but the verses
on the gay rat and the destructive cat are wanting (Mi., p. 398). Other
versions have been recorded in the centre and in the North of France,
one of which was printed in 1780 (Ro., II, 180, 212; D. B., p. 106).
From thence the song was probably carried to Canada, where it reappears
as _Pinson et Cendrouille_, "The finch and the nuthatch" (G., p. 275).
Here the ending is that the rat played the fiddle, and the cat rushed in
and spoilt the fun.

These stories of bird-weddings should be compared with one which
describes how the flea and the louse combined to set up house together
and came to grief. It is told in Catalan of _La purga y er piejo_ (Ma.,
p. 74). In Languedoc the same story is told of _La fourmiho e le
pouzouil_, "the ant and the flea" (M. L., p. 508). In form these pieces
closely correspond with our bird-wedding. There is the same communal
feast to which the various guests bring contributions, and the same
revelry which ends in disaster.

This Spanish piece on the housekeeping of the louse and the flea has a
further parallel in the story called _Laüschen und Flöhchen_, "The louse
and the flea," which is included in the fairy tales of Grimm (No. 30).
But the German story is told in the cumulative form of recitation, and
its contents are yet one stage more primitive. There is nothing on a
wedding celebration. The louse and the flea set up house together, and
began by brewing beer in an eggshell. The flea fell in by inadvertence
and was drowned. Then the louse set up the wail. In this the door joined
by jarring, the broom by sweeping, the cart by running, the dungheap by
reeking, the tree by shaking, till they were all carried away by the

Much the same story, told in cumulative form also and equally primitive,
is current among ourselves. It seems to be old (1890, p. 454), and is
called _Tittymouse and Tattymouse_. We read how Tittymouse and
Tattymouse went a-leasing (gleaning), and set about boiling a pudding.
Titty fell in and was scalded to death. Then Tatty set up the wail. It
was joined by the stool that hopped, the besom that swept, the window
that creaked, the tree that shed its leaves, the bird that moulted its
feathers, and the girl that spilt the milk. Finally an old man fell from
a ladder, and all were buried beneath the ruins. Tittymouse and
Tattymouse are usually represented as mice, but the word tittymouse is
also allied to titmouse, a bird. Titty and Tatty are among the many
rhyming compounds of which the meaning is no longer clear.

The conceptions on which these pieces are based all recall primitive
customs. The wedding is a communal feast to which contributions of
different kinds are brought by the several guests. Again the death of
one individual draws that of a number of others in its wake. On
comparing these various pieces, we find that those which are set in
cumulative form, judging from their contents, are the more primitive.
This supports the view that the cumulative form of recitation represents
an earlier development in literature than rhymed verse.

The toy-book on _The Courtship of Cock Robin and Jenny Wren_ attributes
the robin's death to the carelessness of the sparrow. The sparrow is
also described as causing the death of the robin in the knell of the
robin, which is one of our oldest and most finished nursery pieces. The
death of the robin is a calamity, his blood is treasured, he is buried
with solemnity. In the collections of 1744 and 1771 the knell stands as

    1.  Who did kill Cock Robbin?
          I said the sparrow, with my bow and arrow,
        And I did kill Cock Robbin.

    2.  Who did see him die?
          I said the fly, with my little eye,
        And I did see him die.

    3.  And who did catch his blood?
          I said the fish, with my little dish,
        And I did catch his blood.

    4.  And who did make his shroud?
          I said the beetle, with my little needle,
        And I did make his shroud.

_The Death and Burial of Cock Robin_ formed the contents of a toy-book
that was printed by Marshall in London, by Rusher in Banbury, and
others. One of the early toy-books belonging to Pearson, which are
exhibited at South Kensington Museum, contain verses of this knell with
quaint illustrations. The toy-book published by Marshall which contains
the knell, is described as "a pretty gilded toy, for either girl or
boy." It leads up to the knell by the following verse, which occurs
already as a separate rhyme in the nursery collection of 1744:--

    Little Robin Redbreast sitting on [_or_ sat upon] a pole,
      Niddle noddle [_or_ wiggle waggle] went his head [tail]
    And poop went his hole.

This is followed by the picture of a dead robin with the words:--

    Here lies Cock Robin, dead and cold,
    His end this book will soon unfold.

We then read the four verses of the knell already cited, and further
verses on the owl so brave that dug the grave; the parson rook who read
the book; the lark who said amen like a clerk; the kite who came in the
night; the wren, both cock and hen; the thrush sitting in a bush; the
bull who the bell did pull.

In another toy-book the magpie takes the place of the fly, and from the
illustration in a third one we gather that not a bull but a bullfinch
originally pulled the bell.

The toy-book published by Marshall concludes:--

    All the birds of the air
    Fell to sighing and sobbing,
    When they heard the bell toll
    For poor Cock Robin.      (Reprint 1849, p. 169 ff.)

The antiquity of this knell of the robin is apparent when we come to
compare it with its foreign parallels, which are current in France,
Italy, and Spain. In these rhymes also, those who undertake the office
of burial are usually birds, but the nature of him whose death is
deplored remains obscure.

In Germany he is sometimes _Sporbrod_, sometimes _Ohnebrod_, that is
"breadless" (Sim., p. 70), a term which may indicate a pauper. The piece
current in Mecklenburg is simpler in form than ours.

    Wer is dod?--Sporbrod.
    Wenn ehr ward begraben?
    Oewermorgen abend, mit schüffeln un spaden,
    Kukuk is de kulengräver,
    Adebor is de klokkentreder,
    Kiwitt is de schäŭler,
    Mit all sin schwester un bräŭder.      (W., p. 20.)

    "Who is dead?--Breadless. When will he be buried?--On the eve of the
    day after to-morrow, with spades and with shovels. The Cuckoo is the
    gravedigger, the Stork is the bell-ringer, the Pee-wit acts as
    scholar, with all his sisters and brothers."

The knell that is recited in Languedoc is called _Las Campanas_, the
bells. One version begins:--

    Balalin, balalan, La campana de Sant Jan
    Quau la sona? Quau la dis?--Lou curat de Sant-Denis.
    Quau sona lous classes?--Lous quatre courpatrasses.
    Quau porta la caissa?--Lou cat ambe sa maissa.
    Quau porta lon doù?--Lou pèirou.[72]

    "Ding dong, the bell of St. John.--Who tolls it and who says
    (mass)?--The priest of St. Denis.--Who sounds the knell?--The four
    ravens.--Who bears the coffin?--The cat in its maw.--Who wears
    mourning?--The partridge."

    [72] (M. L., p. 225.)

Another version preserves the trait that the individual's possessions
took part in the mourning:

    "Balanli, balanlau, the bells near Yssingeaux are all tolled through
    April. Who is dead?--Jan of the Gardens (dos Ort). Who carries him
    to his grave?--His great coat. Who follows him?--His hat. Who mourns
    for him?--The frog. Who sings for him?--The toad. Who forsakes
    him?--His sabots. Who says so?--Jan the less. What shall we give
    him?--The legs of a dog. Where shall we find them?--Near Chalençons
    there are plenty." (M. L., p. 232.)

_Jan dos Ort_ in other versions of the knell is called _Jean le Porc_,
also _le père du jardin_; and in the latter case, _le père petit_, the
little father, pronounces him dead, and receives dogflesh (M. L., pp.
226, 230).

The Italian knell is quite short:--

    Who is dead?--Beccatorto.
    Who sounds the knell?--That rascal of a punch.

    (Quel birbon de pulcinella, Ma., p. 133.)

The Spanish knell is not much longer:--

    ?Quién s'ha muerto.--Juan el tuerto.
    ?Quién lo llora.--La señora.
    ?Quién lo canta.--Su garganta.
    ?Quién lo chilla.--La chiquilla.      (Ma., p. 62.)

    "Who is dead?--Crooked Juan. Who mourns for him?--The swallow. Who
    sings for him?--His coat. Who calls for him?--The quail."

Victor Smith, with reference to these chants, enlarged on the possible
nature of Jan, or Juan, of the French and Spanish versions, who is
called also "the father of the gardens," and who was given dogflesh to
eat. In illustration he adduced the legend of the god Pan, who was
looked upon as the father of gardens, and who was supposed to eat
dogflesh (M. L., p. 227). Dogs were sacrificed at the Lupercalia which
were kept in April, and the month of April is actually mentioned in one
of the French chants. If this interpretation is correct, the knells on
Jan current in France and Spain preserve the remembrance, not of a bird
sacrifice, but of a dog sacrifice. But the Italian name Beccatorto is
probably crossbill (R., II, 160), and birds appear as the chief mourners
in most of the foreign chants, as they do in ours.



In conclusion it seems well to glance back over the ground that has been
traversed, and to consider what information can be gleaned from the
comparative study of nursery rhymes.

At the outset we saw that our nursery collections consist of a variety
of pieces of diverse origin. Many rhymes are songs or snatches of songs
which have no direct claim on the attention of the student of folk-lore.
Other pieces are relatively new, although they contain names that are
old. Thus, Old King Cole and Mother Hubbard are names that go some way
back in history; the story of the woman who fell asleep out of doors and
forgot her identity, preserves an old tradition; Jack and Jill are
connected with Scandinavian mythology; while Tommy Linn, the hero of
several nursery pieces, figures in romantic ballad literature also.

A more primitive form of literature is represented by traditional
dancing and singing games, to which many nursery rhymes can be traced.
These games in several instances preserve the remains of celebrations
that date from heathen times. In the last instance they survive as a
diversion of the ballroom. Incidental allusions enabled us to establish
the relation between the Cotillon, the Cushion Dance, and the game of
_Sally Waters_. This latter game preserves features of a marriage rite,
which was presided over by a woman who was addressed as mother. The
words used in the game and the rite suggest that there may be some
connection between the game of _Sally Waters_ and the name of Sul, the
local goddess of the waters at Bath.

Other traits preserved in the games of _The Lady of the Land_, _Little
Dog I call you_, and _Drop Handkerchief_, probably date from the same
period. For the comparison of these games with their foreign parallels
enabled us to realize that, in their case also, it is a question of a
presiding mother, who, in some of the German versions of the game, was
addressed by the name of a heathen mother divinity. _Engelland_, that is
Babyland, and the disabled condition of the human mother, which are
mentioned in these games, reappear in the ladybird rhymes. In these we
also come across Ann or Nan, who reappears under the same name in the
corresponding rhymes of Switzerland and Swabia.

On comparing our rhymes with those of other countries, we find that the
same thoughts and conceptions are usually expressed in different
countries in the same form of verse. The words that are used, both in
England and abroad, in dancing and singing games, in custom rhymes like
those addressed to the ladybird, and in riddle-rhymes such as that in
_Humpty-Dumpty_, are set in short verse that depends on tail rhyme for
its consistency. Distinct from them are the pieces that depend for their
consistency on repetition and cumulation. Some of these are obviously
intended to convey instruction, like the chants of Numbers and of the
Creed. Others appear to be connected with the making and unmaking of
spells. Again in this case, the parallel pieces of different countries
are set in the same form of verse.

Another class of rhymes is represented by the chants on bird sacrifice.
Those current among ourselves depend for their consistency on repetition
only, while those current abroad which present details on the plucking
and the dividing up of the bird, are related in cumulative form. Perhaps
the repetition which preserves the simpler facts of the custom is the
older form of recitation. The kingship of the wren which is accepted
throughout Europe, and which dates some way back in history, in some of
these chants is connected with the kingship of the man who was engaged
in the hunt. Possibly the custom of killing the king was overlaid by the
custom of sacrificing a bird in his stead.

The reverence felt for the wren is equalled among ourselves by the
reverence felt for the robin, whose knell remains one of our finest, and
perhaps one of our oldest nursery pieces. It is set in dialogue form,
which seems to have been generally associated with bells, but which was
a primitive manner of recitation, as we gather from other pieces.

The information which can be derived from nursery rhymes corroborates
what has been collected elsewhere concerning different stages of social
history in the heathen past. Some pieces preserve allusions which carry
us back to customs that prevailed during the so-called mother age;
others, quite distinct from them, are based on conceptions that may have
taken rise before man tilled the soil. The spread of European nursery
rhymes, taken in the bulk, appears to be independent of the usual racial
divisions. Some of our rhymes, such as that of the ladybird and _Humpty
Dumpty_ have their closest parallels in Germany and Scandinavia; others,
such as the bird-chants and the animal weddings, have corresponding
versions in France and in Spain. Moreover, some of the ideas that are
expressed in rhymes carry us beyond the confines of Europe. The chafer
was associated with the sun in Egypt, the broken egg engaged the
attention of the thinking in Tibet.

Thus the comparative study of the nursery rhymes of different countries
throws light on allusions which otherwise remain obscure, and opens up a
new vista of research. The evidence which is here deduced from some
rhymes, and the interpretation put on others, may be called into
question. Much remains to be said on the subject. But the reader will, I
think, agree that nursery rhymes preserve much that is meaningful in
itself, and worth the attention of the student.


The following foreign collections are referred to by initials in the

    A. Archivio Storrco per lo Studio delle tradizione popolari.
    Articles by Canizzaro, I, 1882; by Wesselowski, II, 1883, _etc._

    Br. _Birlinger_: Nimm mich mit, 1871.

    Bo. _Boehme, F. M._: Geschichte des Tanzes, 1884.

    B. _Bujeaud, I._: Chants et chansons des provinces de l'Ouest, 1895.

    C. P. Corpus Poet. Borealium, ed. Vigfusson and Powell, 1883.

    D. _Dumersan, M._: Chansons et rondes enfantines, 1856.

    Du. _Dunger, H._: Kinderlieder aus dem Vogtland, 1874.

    D. B. _Durieux et Bruyelles_: Chants et chansons du Cambrésis, 1864.

    E. _Erk, L._: Deutscher Liederhort, 1856.

    F. _Frischbier, H._: Preussische Volksreime und Spiele, 1867.

    G. _Gagnon, E._: Chansons pop. du Canada, 1865.

    Gr. _Grimm, J._: Deutsche Mythologie, reprint 1875.

    Gt. _Grundtvig_: Gamle Danske Minder, 1854-6.

    H. _Handelmann_: Volks--und Kinderspiele aus Schleswig Holstein,

    H. V. _Hersart de la Villemarqué_: Barzas Breis, 1867.

    L. _Luzel, F. M._: Chansons de la Basse Bretagne, 1890.

    M. _Mannhardt_: Germanische Mythen, 1858.

    Ma. _Marin, Rodriguez_: Rimas Infantiles, 1882.

    Me. _Meier, Ernst_: Kinderreime und Kinderspiele aus Schwaben, 1851.

    Mi. _Mila y Fontanals_: Romancerillo Catalan, 1882.

    Mo. _Morlidas_: Grande Encyclopedie des Jeux.

    M. L. _Montel et Lambert_: Chants populaires du Languedoc, 1880.

    N. _Newell, W. W._: Songs of American Children, 1884.

    _N. & Q._ Notes and Queries.

    R. _Rochholz_: Alemannisches Kinderlied und Spiel, 1859.

    Ro. _Rolland_: Faune populaire, 1876-83.

    S. _Schleicher_: Volksthümliches aus Sonneberg, 1858.

    Sch. _Schuster, F. W._: Siebenbürg-sächs. Volkslieder, 1856.

    Sim. _Simrock_: Das deutsche Kinderbuch.

    St. _Stöber_: Elsässisches Volksbüchlein, 1842.

    V. _Vemaleken_: Spiele und Reime aus Oesterreich, 1873.

    W. _Wossidlo_: Volksthümliches aus Mecklenburg, 1885.



  A cat came fiddling out of a barn, 34, 35

  A frog he would a-wooing ride, 29, 31

  A new dyall (_Christmas carol_), 149

  A was an apple pie, 14

  A was an archer who shot at a frog, 37

  A whistling woman and a crowing hen (_Proverb rhyme_), 73 n.

  Ann _or_ Nan, 97, 217

  As high as a castle, 108

  As round as an apple, 107

  Ass, chants on the, 193 ff.


  Babbity Bowster (_a game_), 60

  Babyland, 79 ff., 100, 217

  Balalin, balalan (_French knell_), 212

  Balanli, balanlau (_French knell_), 213

  Ballads and rhymes, 44 ff.

  Bells, 54, 56, 212, 213

  Bird sacrifice, 185 ff.

  Bishop, bishop, barnabee, 94

  Blackbird, sacrificed and eaten, 189

  Bless you, bless you, bonnie bee, 95

  Boule, boule (_French riddle_), 107

  Bryan o'Lin had no watch to put on, 53

  Bufe (_name of a dog_), 88

  Burdens and their origin, 29

  Burnie bee, burnie bee, 94

  Buy this of me (_a game_), 139


  Can, caer, Killoré (_Breton chant_), 152

  Can you make me a cambrick shirt?, 49

  Chants of Numbers, 134 ff.

  Chants of the Creed, 142 ff.

  Chi è morto? (_Italian knell_), 213

  Club Fist (_a game_), 127

  Collections of English Nursery Rhymes, 11

  Collections of foreign rhymes, 221

  Come, and I will sing you (_a chant_), 159

  Come, dance a jig, 33

  Cotillon (_a dance_), 58, 216

  Country dances, 57 ff.

  Cuddy (_bird and ass_), 197

  Cumulative pieces 115, ff.

  Cushion Dance, 60, 216

  Custom Rhymes, 89 ff.


  Das Englein aufziehen (_German game_), 83

  Das Haus vom hölzernen Mann (_German piece_), 124

  Dépecer le merle (_French chant_), 188

  Der har du det haus (_Scandinavian piece_), 122

  Dic mihi quid unus (_Latin chant_), 145

  Dicky (_bird and ass_), 197

  Ding dong bell, 54

  Dipping, custom of, 69

  Doctor Sacheverel, 14

  Dog, character in games, 80, 85

  Dog sacrifice, 214

  Dowdy cow, dowdy cow, 94

  Drop handkerchief (_a game_), 87, 216

  Dump (_a game_), 126


  Early references to rhymes, 13 ff.

  Echod me jodea (_a Hebrew chant_), 143

  Eggs in religious belief, 104 ff.

  Eight ships on the main, 140

  Eight was the crooked straight (_a chant_), 161

  Enfille aiguille (_French dance_), 56

  Engelland (_in German folk-lore_), 84, 217

  Es ist ein Baum (_German piece_), 125

  Es ist etwas in meinem Haus (_Swabian riddle_), 108

  Es kam eine Maus gegangen (_German piece_), 123

  Es schickt der Herr (_German piece_), 125


  Father Hubbard, 42

  Fire, fire, says the town crier, 44

  First appearance of rhymes in print, 1 ff.

  Flieg, käfer, flieg (_German rhyme_), 100

  Fly, ladybird, fly, 94

  Frau Gode, Rose, Sole (_German divinities_), 81 ff.

  Fuzzy-Muzzy chorus, 175


  Gabriel hounds, 87, 165

  God Almighty's colly cow, 95

  Goldchäber flüg up (_Swiss rhyme_), 97

  Gossen och Geten Näppa (_Swedish piece_), 130

  Gowden bug, gowden bug, 93

  Great A, little a, Bouncing B, 9

  Great Lord Frog and Lady Mouse (_a song_), 31

  Green grow the rushes, O (_a chant_), 158

  Guid day now, bonnie Robin (_a ballad_), 192


  Heathen chants of the Creed, 152 ff.

  Hebrew chants, 119, 143

  Hemp seed I set, 56

  Here comes a woman from Babyland, 79

  Herrgotspferdchen (_German rhyme_), 102

  Hick-a-more, Hack-a-more, 113

  Highty, tighty, paradighty, 113

  Himmelsküchlein (_German rhyme_), 95

  Hitty Pitty within the wall, 112

  Hiuki and Bill (_heathen divinities_), 20

  Hoddy doddy with a round body, 111

  Hümpelken Pümpelken (_German rhyme_), 106

  Humpty Dumpty (_a drink_), 109

  Humpty Dumpty (_a game_), 110

  Humpty Dumpty sate on the wall, 91, 105, 217, 219

  Hunting the wren, 173 ff.


  I had a little dog whose name was Buff, 88

  I have a little dog and it won't bite you, 87

  I'll sing you one, oh! (_a song_), 158, 160

  I won't be my father's Jack, 22

  Il sortait un rat (_French piece_), 123

  In those twelve days, in those twelve days (_a carol_), 149

  It was a frog in the well (_a song_), 29


  Jack and Gill went up the hill, 20 ff., 215

  Je suis pauvre (_French game_), 81

  Jenny Wren fell sick, 203

  Joan Saunderson (_a dance_), 59

  John Ball shot them all, 15

  Johnny Armstrong killed a calf, 15

  Joy, health, love, and peace (_a custom rhyme_), 181


  King, King Golloway, 94

  King Stephen was a worthy king (_a song_), 17

  Kiss in the ring (_a game_), 67

  Kit and Kitterit and Kitterit's mother, 54

  Kluge Else (_German tale_), 56

  Kommt ein Tonn (_German riddle_), 109


  L'alouette plumée (_French chant_), 188

  La fourmiho e le pouzouil (_French piece_), 207

  La golondrina y el pinzon (_Spanish piece_), 206

  La premiere partie de la foi (_French chant_), 136

  La purga y er piejo (_Spanish piece_), 207

  La Soule (_a French divinity_), 77

  Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home, 93

  Lady cow, lady cow, fly and be gone, 93

  Lady, lady landers, 94

  Laughing, significance of, 80, 85

  Laüschen und Flöhchen (_German tale_), 207

  Lavender blue, fiddle faddle, 34

  Le conjurateur et le loup (_French piece_), 131

  Le merle a perdu le bec (_French chant_), 189

  Le pied de bœuf (_French game_), 128

  Le testament de l'âne (_French chant_), 193

  Les dons de l'an (_French game_), 136

  Lille Bulle (_Scandinavian riddle_), 106

  Lillylow, lillylow, 113

  Limping, significance of, 86

  Little Dog, I call you (_a game_), 80, 85 ff., 216

  Little Jack Horner sat in a corner, 14, 65

  Little Mary Ester, 64

  Little Miss Mopsey, 64

  Little Miss Muffet, 64, 90

  Little Nancy Etticoat, 113

  Little Polly Flinders, 64

  Little Robin Redbreast sitting on a pole, 210

  Little Tom Tacket, 64

  Little Tom Tucker, 65

  Lou pinson et l'alouseta (_French chant_), 206

  Lucy Locket lost her pocket, 15

  L'y a un loup (_French chant_), 131


  Malisons, malisons, mair than tens, 204

  Malt or millet, 131

  Mäten ist ein Esel (_German rhyme_), 198

  Martin (_bird or ass_), 198

  Mister Chinnery then, 32

  Mister Moffit is a very good man, 172 n.

  Mjölnir _or_ miller, 99

  Mohammedan dialogue story, 165

  Mother Bunch (_a traditional name_), 27, 56

  Mother Goose (_a traditional name_), 3

  Mother Hubbard, 38, 215

  Mother Ross, 82

  My father left me three acres of land, 49

  My plaid awa' (_a ballad_), 46


  Nan _or_ Ann, 97, 217

  Nin ziblus bec (_Breton chant_), 186

  Nines, punishment by, 128

  Nous la plumerons l'alouette (_French chant_), 188


  O, where are you going, says Milder to Malder, 176

  Old King Cole was a merry old soul, 18, 215

  Old Mother Hubbard she went to the cupboard, 38, 42

  One God, one baptism, and one faith (_a poem_), 149

  One old Oxford oyster, 141

  One, two, buckle my shoe, 162

  One, two, three, four, five, 161

  Our good Quane Bess, 17


  Peter and Paul sat on the wall, 22

  Peter Piper picked a peck, 141

  Pinson et Cendrouille (_French chant_), 207

  Plenty of ale to-night, my boys (_a song_), 160

  Plumer le roitelet (_French chant_), 186

  Pretty little girl of mine (_a game_), 67


  Qu'est-ce-qui est rond (_French riddle_), 108

  Quién me dira (_Spanish chant_), 156

  Quien s'ha muerto (_Spanish knell_), 214


  Riddle-rhymes, 104 ff.

  Robbin and Bobbin, two great belly'd men, 182

  Robert Rowley rolled, 141

  Robin and Richard were two pretty men, 183

  Robin-a-Bobbin bent his bow, 183

  Robin-the-Bobbin, the big-headed hen, 183

  Roses are red, diddle, diddle, 33

  Rowley, rowley, rattlebags, 141


  Sacrificial hunting, 171 ff.

  Sally Waters (_a game_), 62, 67 ff., 216

  Salt, significance of, 85

  Seven years' time reckoning, 51, 69 ff.

  Si un cordonnier cordant (_French rhyme_), 142

  Sing a song of sixpence, 190

  Sing hey diddle diddle, 35

  Sommervögele flueg aus (_German rhyme_), 96

  Sprinkling the pan (_a ceremonial act_), 71

  Stout (_a traditional name_), 55

  Sul (_a divinity_), 75


  Tam o' th' Lin and a' his bairns, 53

  The birds' lamentation (_a song_), 202

  The comic adventures of Mother Hubbard (_a toy-book_), 38 ff.

  The courtship of Cock Robin and Jenny Wren (_a toy-book_), 205, 209

  The death and burial of Cock Robin (_a toy-book_), 37, 210

  The first day of Christmas (_a game_), 135

  The gaping, wide-mouthed, waddling frog (_a game_), 37, 116, 138

  The king sent his lady (_a game_), 135

  The Lady of the Land (_a game_), 78 ff., 216

  The Lady of the Mountain (_a game_), 67

  The life and death of Jenny Wren (_a toy-book_), 202

  The man in the moon drinks claret, 21

  The old woman and her pig _or_ kid, 119 ff.

  The robin and the wren, 200 ff.

  The robin redbreast and the wren, 201

  The Robin's Testament (_a song_), 191 ff., 201

  The tragic death of A, apple pie (_a toy-book_), 37

  The twelve days of Christmas (_a game_), 134 ff.

  The two grey cats, 54

  The wife who expects to have a good name (_a proverb_), 86

  The wren she lyes in care's bed (_a song_), 202

  The wren, the wren, the king of all birds, 180

  The Yule days (_a game_), 135

  There lived a puddy in a well (_a song_), 30

  There was a bonny blade (_a song_), 25

  There was a frog lived in a well (_a song_), 32

  There was a little man who woo'd, 24

  There was a little man who had a little gun, 25

  There was a little old woman, and she lived in a shoe, 41

  There was a little woman as I've heard tell, 55

  There was a wee wifie (_a song_), 26

  There was an old woman tossed in a blanket (_a song_), 25

  There was an old woman who lived in a shoe, 100

  There were two blackbirds, 22

  This is the house that Jack built, 117 ff.

  This ladyfly I take from the grass, 95

  Three blind mice, 28, 29, 90

  Tittymouse and Tattymouse (_a cumulative story_), 208

  Tom Hickathrift (_a chapbook_), 99

  Tommy Linn is a Scotchman born, 52, 215

  Toy-books, 3, 36 ff., 202, 204

  Twelve huntsmen, with horns and hounds, 139


  Une femme qui siffle (_French proverb_), 73 n.


  Voici la maison que Pierre a bâtie (_a French piece_), 123


  Wallflowers (_a game_), 72 n.

  We hunted the wren, 177

  We will a' gae sing, boys (_a chant_), 157

  We will go to the wood, 174

  Wer is dod (_German knell_), 212

  What care I how black I be, 28

  What care I how fair she be (_a song_), 28

  What though now opposed I be (_a song_), 28

  What's in the cupboard? says Mr. Hubbard, 43

  When a twister a twisting, 141

  When Arthur first in court began, 17

  When good King Arthur rul'd the land, 16

  Where have you been to-day, Billy, my son?, 50

  Whishin dance, 60

  Whistle, daughter, whistle, 73

  Who did kill Cock Robbin?, 210

  Widdicote, widdicote (_a riddle-rhyme_), 114




  A.D. 500 AND 1500.







Obvious typos and printer errors have been corrected without comment.
Other than obvious errors, the author's spelling, grammar, and use of
punctuation are retained as in the original publication.

In addition to obvious errors, the following changes have been made:

  Pages 101 and 102: The word "Bŷskip/ bŷskips" appears in the original
    with an inverted breve over the y. Since this character is not
    available in the utf-8 code lists, a variant spelling is used in
    this text with a circumflex over the y.

  Page 144: endquote removed from the phrase, "... heavens and the

  Page 154: closing parenthesis added in the phrase, "(i.e. the

  Page 193: "bonuie" changed to "bonnie" in the phrase, "... bonnie

  Page 205: "it" changed to "its" in the phrase, "... was at its

  Page 213: closing quote added in the phrase, "... are plenty." (M. L.,
    p. 232.)

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