p.1 ]

N U R S E R Y    R H Y M E S.



      [THE traditional Nursery Rhymes of England commence with a legendary satire on King Cole, who reigned in Britain, as the old chronicles inform us, in the third century after Christ. According to Robert of Gloucester, he was the father of St. Helena, and if so, Butler must be wrong in ascribing an obscure origin to the celebrated mother of Constantine. King Cole was a brave and popular man in his day, and ascended the throne of Britain on the death of Asclepiod, amidst the acclamations of the people, or as Robert of Gloucester expresses himself, the "folc was tho of this lond y-paid wel y-nou." The following curious metrical history of King Cole is taken from Robert of Gloucester's Chronicle, in MS. Cotton. Calig., A. xi. fol. 30:

Cole was a noble mon, and gret poer adde an honde;
Erl he was of Colchestre, here in thisse londe,
And Colchestre after is name i-cluped is ich understonde.
Ure loverd, among other thinges, him sende a vair sonde,
That he adde an holi doghter at Colchestre in this lond,
That Seint Eleyne is i-cluped, that the holi rode vond.
p.2 /
Bituene ure king Asclepiod and this erl withoute faile,
Ther wer a gret worre, and that hii smite bataile;
And the erl Cole slou then king and, tho he adde thun over hond,
King he let him crownen here of this lond.
That folc was tho of this lond y-paid wel y-nou,
That he adde y-wonne the kinedom and he the other slou.
The tydinge to Rome come, that the kyng as lawe was,
That hom adde i-don so moche ssame, hii were glad of that cas.
The noble prince hii sende hider the gode knight Costance,
That wan hom alle poer of Spaine and ek of France.
That he ssolde ek this lond winne agen to Rome,
So that this noble prince and is men hider come.
Tho the king Cole it under get, he dradde in is mod,
Vor he was so noble knight that no mon him ne withstod:
To him he sende of acord, gif it were is wille,
That he wolde to Rome abuye and lete al contek be stille;
And under bere is truage, other dude bivore,
Vor wat he hulde the kinedom wanne the truage were y-bore,
Constance it grauntede and nom is truage,
And nom also to be siker of him good ostage,
And graunted him that kinedom and that pes of Rome,
And bilevede in this lond to-gadere bothe i-some.
A monthe it was therafter that Cole wel sik lay,
And deide, as God it wolde, withinne the eightethe day."

      I find also another history of King Cole in the Chronicle of Brute, MS. Harl. 4690, fol. 11, as follows: "Thenne reigned this Asclepades in pees, ffor thatt oon of his erles that hight Cole made a faire towne ayenste the kingges wille, and cleped that towne Colechester by his name; werefore the king was wrothe, and wold have destroyed the erle and beganne to werre, and had grete strengthe, and gaff bateille to the erle: butte the erle defended him myghtly with his power, and slowghe the king himself in the bataile; and thanne was Coel y-crowned king of this londe, and he reigned and governed the ream nobely, and was a gode man and welbeloved among the Brytonnes. Whenne thei of Rome herden that Asclepades was y-sleye, they were wonderly glad, ad senten another p.3 / grete prince of the Romaynes, the whiche hete Constance, and come to the King Cole to chalenge his trewage thatt was woned to paiedd to Rome. But the king answeryd and seid thatt resoun wolde and right, and so thei accordedenne withoute contekke, and dwelledenne togeder with ffryenschippe. And thenne the kyng gaff to this Constance his daughter Elyne to wyfe, for she was fayre and wyse, and well y-lettred; and thanne this Constance wedded her with grete worschipp. Than anone after that, Cole dyghed in the xiii. yere of his reigne, and is entier entered atte Colchester." At Colchester there is a large earth-work, supposed to have been a Roman amphitheatre, which goes popularly by the name of "King Cole's kitchen." According to Jeffery of Monmouth, King Cole's daughter was well skilled in music, but we unfortunately have no evidence to show that her father was attached to that science, further than what is contained in the following lines, which are of doubtful antiquity. The song was very popular a century ago, and may be found in Gay's ballad opera of Achilles, printed in 1733, and other similar pieces. I may mention also that in Lewis's "History of Great Britain," fol. Lond. 1729, three kings of Britain of the same name are mentioned.]

OLD King Cole
Was a merry old soul,
And a merry old soul was he ;
He called for his pipe,
And he called for his bowl,
And he called for his fiddlers three.
Every fiddler, he had a fine fiddle,
And a very fine fiddle had he ;
Twee tweedle dee, tweedle dee, went the fiddlers.
Oh, there's none so rare,
As can compare
     With King Cole and his fiddlers three!

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WHEN good king Arthur ruled this 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 plums :
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 fried.


   [The following song, relating to Robin Hood, the celebrated outlaw, is well known at Worksop, in Nottinghamshire, where it constitutes one of the nursery series.]
ROBIN HOOD, Robin Hood,
Is in the mickle wood!
Little John, Little John,
He to the town is gone.
p.5 /
Robin Hood, Robin Hood,
    Is telling his beads,
All in the green wood,
    Among the green weeds.

Little John, Little John,
    If he comes no more,
Robin Hood, Robin Hood,
    He will fret full sore!


[St. Hugh of Lincoln, a child's ballad. From Godalming in Surrey.]
HE tossed the ball so high, so high,
     He tossed the ball so low ;
He tossed the ball in the Jews' garden,
     And the Jews were all below.

Oh ! then out came the Jew's daughter,
     She was dressed all in green ;
Come hither, come hither, my sweet pretty fellow,
     And fetch your ball again.


p.6 /

     [The original of "The house that Jack built" is presumed to be a hymn in Sepher Haggadah, fol.23, a translation of which is here given. The historical interpretation was first given by P. N. Leberecht, at Leipsic, in 1731, and is printed in the "Christian Reformer," vol. xvii, p.28. The original is in the Chaldee language, and it may be mentioned that a very fine Hebrew manuscript of the fable, with illuminations, is in the possession of George Offor, Esq. of Hackney.]
1. A kid, a kid, my father brought
For two pieces of money :
                 A kid, A kid.

2. Then came the cat, and ate the kid
That my father bought
For two pieces of money :
                 A kid, a kid.

3. Then came the dog, and bit the cat,
That ate the kid,
That my father bought
For two pieces of money :
                 A kid, a kid.

4. Then came the staff, and beat the dog,
That bit the cat,
That ate the kid,
That my father bought
For two pieces of money :
                 A kid, a kid.
p.7 /
5. Then came the fire, and burned the staff,
That beat the dog,
That bit the cat,
That ate the kid,
That my father bought
For two pieces of money :
                 A kid, a kid.

6. Then came the water, and quenched the fire,
That burned the staff,
That beat the dog,
That bit the cat,
That ate the kid,
That my father bought
For two pieces of money :
                 A kid, a kid.

7. Then came the ox, and drank the water,
That quenched the fire,
That burned the staff,
That beat the dog,
That bit the cat,
That ate the kid,
That my father bought
For two pieces of money :
                 A kid, a kid.

8. Then came the butcher, and slew the ox,
That drank the water,
p.8 /
That quenched the fire,
That burned the staff,
That beat the dog,
That bit the cat,
That ate the kid,
That my father bought
For two pieces of money :
                 A kid, a kid.

9. Then came the angel of death and killed the butcher,
That slew the ox,
That drank the water,
That quenched the fire,
That burned the staff,
That beat the dog,
That bit the cat,
That ate the kid,
That my father bought
For two pieces of money :
                 A kid, a kid.

10. Then came the Holy One, blessed be He !
And killed the angel of death,
That killed the butcher,
That slew the ox,
That drank the water,
That quenched the fire,
That burned the staff,
That beat the dog,
p.9 /
That bit the cat,
That ate the kid,
That my father bought
For two pieces of money :
                 A kid, a kid.

      The following is the interpretation:
      1. The kid, which was one of the pure animals, denotes the Hebrews.
      The father, by whom it was purchased, is Jehovah, who represents himself as sustaining this relation to the Hebrew nation. The two pieces of money signify Moses and Aaron, through whose mediation the Hebrews were brought out of Egypt.
      2. The cat denotes the Assyrians, by whom the ten tribes were carried into captivity.
      3. The dog is symbolical of the Babylonians.
      4. The staff signifies the Persians.
      5. The fire indicates the Grecian empire under Alexander the Great.
      6. The water betokens the Roman, or the fourth of the great monarchies to whose dominions the Jews were subjected.
      7. The ox is a symbol of the Saracens, who subdued Palestine, and brought it under the caliphate.
      8. The butcher that killed the ox denotes the crusaders, by whom the Holy Land was wrested out of the hands of the Saracens.
      9. The angel of death signifies the Turkish power, by which the land of Palestine was taken from the Franks, and to which it is still subject.
      10. The commencement of the tenth stanza is designed to show that God will take signal vengeance on the Turks, immediately after whose overthrow the Jews are to be restored to their own land, and live under the government of their long-expected Messiah.


p.10 /


   [The following version of a popular rhyme is in one of Douce's books. I consider it to refer to the rebellious times of Richard II.]
MY father he died, I cannot tell how,
But he left me six horses to drive out my plough :
With a wimmy lo! wommy lo! Jack Straw blazey boys!
Wimmy lo! Wommy lo! Wob, wob, wob!



MY father he died, but I can't tell you how,
He left me six horses to drive in my plough :
     With my wing wang waddle oh,
     Jack sing saddle oh,
     Blowsey boys bubble oh,
     Under the broom.

I sold my six horses and I bought me a cow,
I'd fain have made a fortune, but did not know how :
      With my, &c.

I sold my cow, and I bought me a calf ;
I'd fain have made a fortune, but lost the best half :
      With my, &c.

p.11 /
I sold my calf, and I bought me a cat ;
A pretty thing she was, in my chimney corner sat :
      With my, &c.

I sold my cat, and bought me a mouse ;
He carried fire in his tail, and burnt down my house.
      With my, &c.



[The same song as the preceding, dictated by a lady now living in the Isle of Man, but a far better version.]
MY daddy is dead, but I can't tell you how ;
But he left me six horses to follow the plough :
     With my whim wham waddle ho !
     Strim stram straddle ho !
     Bubble ho ! pretty boy,
     Over the brow.

I sold my six horses to buy me a cow,
And wasn't that a pretty thing to follow the plough ?
      With my, &c.

I sold my cow to buy me a calf ;
For I never made a bargain, but I lost the best half.
      With my, &c.

p.12 /
I sold my calf to buy me a cat,
To sit down before the fire, to warm her little back:
      With my, &c.

I sold my cat to buy me a mouse,
But she took fire in her tail, and so burnt up my house:
      With my, &c.


[The following perhaps refers to Joanna of Castile, who visited the court of Henry the Seventh, in the year 1506.]
I had a little nut-tree, nothing would it bear
But a golden nutmeg and a silver pear ;
The king of Spain's daughter came to visit me,
And all for the sake of my little nut tree.


   [There is an old proverb which says that "a cat may look at a king." Whether the same adage applies equally to a female sovereign, and is referred to in the following nursery song, or whether it alludes to the glorious Queen Bess, is now a matter of uncertainty.]
PUSSY cat, pussy cat, where have you been ?
I've been up to London to look at the Queen.
Pussy cat, pussy cat, what did you there ?
I frighten'd a little mouse under the chair.

p.13 /

THE rose is red, the grass is green,
Serve Queen Bess our noble queen !
            Kitty the spinner
            Will sit down to dinner,
And eat the leg of a frog :
            All good people
            Look over the steeple,
And see the cat play with the dog.


[From MS. Sloane, 1489, fol.19, written about the year 1600. Mr. Wright informs me this relates to events in the reign of James I.]
THERE was a monkey climbed up a tree,
When he fell down, then down fell he.

There was a crow sat on a stone,
When he was gone, then was there one.

There was an old wife did eat an apple,
When she had eat two, she had eat a couple.

There was a horse going to the mill,
When he went on, he stood not still.

There was a butcher cut his thumb,
When it did bleed, the blood did come.

p.14 /
There was a lackey ran a race,
When he ran fast, he ran apace.

There was a cobbler clowting shoon,
When they were mended, they were done.

There was a chandler making candle,
When he them stript, he did them handle.

There was a navy went into Spain,
When it returned it came again.


        LITTLE General Monk
        Sat upon a trunk,
Eating a crust of bread ;
        There fell a hot coal
        And burnt in his clothes a hole,
Now little General Monk is dead.
        Keep always from the fire :
        If it catch your attire,
You too, like Monk, will be dead.


p.15 /

AS I was going by Charing Cross,
I saw a black man upon a black horse ;
They told me it was King Charles the First :
Oh dear! my heart was ready to burst!


HIGH diddle ding
Did you hear the bells ring?
The parliament soldiers are gone to the king !
Some they did laugh, some they did cry,
To see the parliament soldiers pass by.


HIGH ding a ding, and ho ding a ding,
The parliament soldiers are gone to the king ;
Some with new beavers, some with new bands,
The parliament soldiers are all to be hang'd.


p.16 /

[Taken from MS. Douce, 357, fol.124. See Echard's "History of England," book iii, chap.1.]
SEE saw, sack-a-day ;
Monmouth is a pretie boy,
      Richmond is another,
Grafton is my onely joy,
And why should I these three destroy,
      To please a pious brother ?


    [Written on occasion of the marriage of Mary, the daughter of James Duke of York, afterwards James II., with the young Prince of Orange. See the entire song in the next number, but the following three lines are those now appropriated to the nursery.]
WHAT is the rhyme for porringer ?
The king he had a daughter fair,
And gave the Prince of Orange her.


p.17 /

[From "Jacobite Minstrelsy," 12mo, Glasgow, 1828, p. 28.]
OH what's the rhyme to porringer ?
Ken ye the rhyme to porringer ?
King James the Seventh had ae daughter,
And he gae her to an Oranger.
Ken ye how he requited him ?
Ken ye how he requited him ?
The lad has into England come,
And ta'en the crown in spite of him.

The dog, he shall na keep it long,
To flinch we'll make him fain again ;
We'll hing him high upon a tree,
And James shall hae his ain again.
Ken ye the rhyme to grasshopper ?
Ken ye the rhyme to grasshopper ?
A hempen rein, and a horse o tree,
A psalm book—and a presbyter.


[The following nursery song alludes to William III. and George, Prince of Denmark ]
WILLIAM and Mary, George and Anne,
Four such children had never a man :
They put their father to flight and shame,
And call'd their brother a shocking bad name.

p.18 /

OVER the water, and over the lee,
And over the water to Charley.
Charley loves good ale and wine,
And Charley loves good brandy,
And Charley loves a pretty girl,
As sweet as sugar-candy.


BOBBY SHAFTO'S gone to sea,
With silver buckles at his knee ;
He'll come home and marry me,
            Pretty Bobby Shafto !

Bobby Shafto's fat and fair,
Combing down his yellow hair ;
He's my love for evermore !
            Pretty Bobby Shafto !


p.19 /

[The following may possibly allude to King George and the Pretender.]
JIM and George were two great lords,
    They fought all in a churn ;
And when that Jim got George by the nose,
    Then George began to gern.


    [The following is a fragment of a song on the subject, which was introduced by Russell in the character of Jerry Sneak. Mr. Sharpe showed me a copy of the song with the music to it.]
POOR old Robinson Crusoe !
Poor old Robinson Crusoe !
They made him a coat,
Of an old nanny goat,
      I wonder how they could do so !
With a ring a ting tang,
And a ring a ting tang,
      Poor old Robinson Crusoe !


p.20 /

       [In a little tract, called "The Pigges Corantoe, or Newes from the North," 4to, Lond. 1642, this is called "Old Tarlton's Song." This fact is mentioned in Mr. Collier's "Hist. Dram. Poet." vol. ii. p.352, and also in the preface to Mr. Wright's "Political Ballads," printed for the Percy Society. It is perhaps a parody on the popular epigram on "Jack and Jill." I do not know the period of the battle to which it appears to allude.]
THE king of France went up the hill,
     With twenty thousand men ;
The king of France came down the hill,
     And ne'er went up again.


[From MS. Sloane, 1489, fol. 19, written about the year 1600.]
THE king of France, and four thousand men,
They drew their swords and put 'em up again.