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Old King Cole drawing


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 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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    [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." At Colchester there is a large earthwork, supposed to have been a Roman amphitheatre, which goes popularly by the name of "King Cole's kitchen." According to Jeffrey 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 foregoing lines, which are of doubtful antiquity. In Lewis's 'History of Great Britain,' fol. Lond. 1729, three kings of Britain of the same name are mentioned.]

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.

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   [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.

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 !

[The following lines were obtained in Oxfordshire. The story to which it alludes is related by Matthew Paris.]
ONE moonshiny night
As I sat high,
Waiting for one
To come by ;
The boughs did bend,
My heart did ache
To see what hole the fox did make.

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[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 silver nutmeg and a golden pear ;
The king of Spain's daughter came to visit me,
And all was because of my little nut tree.
I skipp'd over water, I danced over sea,
And all the birds in the air couldn't catch me.

      [From a MS. in the old Royal Library, in the British Museum, the exact reference to which is mislaid. It is written, if I recollect rightly, in a hand of the time of Henry VIII, in an older manuscript.]
WE make no spare
Of John Hunkes' mare ;
And now I
Think she will die ;
He thought it good
To put her in the wood,
To seek where she might ly dry ;
If the mare should chance to fale,
Then the crownes would for her sale.

[From MS. Sloane, 1489, fol.19, written in the time of Charles I.]
THE king of France, and four thousand men,
They drew their swords, and put them up again.

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       [In a tract, called 'Pigges Corantoe, or Newes from the North,' 4to, Lond. 1642, p.3, this is called "Old Tarlton's Song." It is perhaps a parody on the popular epigram of "Jack and Jill." I do not know the period of the battle to which it appears to allude, but Tarlton died in the year 1588, so that the rhyme must be earlier.]
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.

THE king of France, with twenty thousand men,
Went up the hill, and then came down again ;
The king of Spain, with twenty thousand more,
Climb'd the same hill the French had climb'd before.

       [Another version. The nurse sings the first line, and repeats it, time after time, until the expectant little one asks, what next? Then comes the climax.]
THE king of France, the king of France, with forty thousand men,
Oh, they all went up the hill, and so—came back again!

AT the siege of Belle-isle
I was there all the while,
All the while, all the while,
At the siege of Belle-isle.

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[The tune to the following may be found in the 'English Dancing Master,' 1651, p.37.]
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.

PLEASE to remember
The fifth of November,
      Gunpowder treason and plot ;
I know no reason
Why gunpowder treason
      Should ever be forgot.

[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 !

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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.

[The following is partly quoted in an old song in MS.Ashmole, 36, fol.113.]
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.

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    [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 !

    [Written on occasion of the marriage of Mary, the daughter of James duke of York, afterwards James II, with the young Prince of Orange. The song from which these lines are taken may be seen in 'The Jacobite Minstrelsy,' 12mo, Glasgow, 1828, p.28.]
WHAT is the rhyme for poringer ?
The king he had a daughter fair,
And gave the Prince of Orange her.

[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.

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     [From MS. Sloane, 1489, fol.19, written in the time of Charles I. It appears from MS. Harl. 390, fol.85, that these verses were written in 1626, against the Duke of Buckingham.]
THERE was a monkey climb'd up a tree,
When he fell down, then down fell he.

There was a crow sat on a stone,
When he was gone, then there was none.

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, then blood did come.

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 strip, he did them handle.

There was a navy went into Spain,
When it return'd it came again.

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[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.

        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 General Monk is dead.
        Keep always from the fire :
        If it catch your attire,
You too, like Monk, will be dead.

[From the 'Westmoreland and Cumberland Dialects,' p.89, 8vo, Lond. 1839.]
EIGHTY-EIGHT wor Kirby feight,
    When nivver a man was slain ;
They yatt their meaat, an drank ther drink,
     An sae com merrily heaam agayn.