Goosey Goosey Gander

June 27, 2012 § 2 Comments

Goosey goosey gander, whither shall I wander,
Upstairs and downstairs, in my lady’s chamber,
There I met an old man who wouldn’t say his prayers,
So I took him by the left leg and threw him down the stairs.

G is for Goosey illustrated by Walter Crane

G is for ‘Goosey Gander’ – a wondeful illustration from Walter Crane’s ‘The Absurd ABC‘ – he really is being chucked down the stairs! [E is for the ‘Englishman’ of the FEE FI FO FUM I smell the blood of an englishman rhyme and I will have to post the song about the Frog he would a wooing go – it is a great tune.]

I think this fits in the category of pretty bizarre as rhymes go, though reading  up on it in the The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes I find it could be an amalgamation of a couple of rhymes. One refers to pulling the legs of a daddy long legs and throwing it down the stairs which make more sense. It is a nice example of how repetition over time can introduce nonsenses into little vignettes of everyday life.

It first appears in print in a wonderful book ‘Gammer Gurton’s Garland or The Nursery Parnassus‘ which has a wonderful sub-title ‘A Choice Collection of Pretty Songs and Verses for the Amusement of all Little Good Children who can neither Read nor Run’!



Oh dear what can the matter be!

May 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Oh dear, what can the matter be?
Dear dear, what can the matter be?
Oh dear, what can the matter be?
Johnny’s so long at the fair.

He promised he’d buy me a fairing would please me,
And then for a kiss oh he vowed he would tease me,
He promised he’d buy me a bunch of blue ribbons,
To tie up my bonnie brown hair.

Oh dear what can the matter be illustration by Blanche Fisher Wright

This girl in a 1916 illustration by Blanche Fisher Wright has the wistfulness I get from this song. It may have originated as a Scots song, in the late 1700s. It would make a lovely pairing with ‘My bonny lies over the ocean’, which I guess also has Scots origin. According to my Oxford Book of Nursery Rhymes, there are more verses, and in fact a more nursery version – but I don’t think it fits well to the tune – or not the one I know at any rate. I like it none the less and can see myself chanting it as I try to get my kids dressed!

Jonny shall have a new bonnet,
And Jonny shall go to the fair,
And Jonny shall have a blue ribbon
To tie up his bonny brown hair.
And here’s a leg for a stocking,
And here’s a leg for shoe,
And he has a kiss for his daddy,
And two for his mammy, I trow.

Curly locks curly locks

March 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

Curly locks, curly locks wilt though be mine,
Though shalt not wash dishes, nor yet feed the swine,
But sit on a cushion and sew a fine seam,
And dine upon strawberries, sugar and cream.

I’m not sure there are many ladies around today that sit around on cushions sewing fine seams and eating strawberries and cream!

Curly Locks from The April Baby's book of tunes by Kate Greenaway

This illustration is from a lovely book by Kate Greenaway – another illustrator I love – called The April Baby’s Book of Tunes. It is a whole story discussing the rhymes and what is known about them. Bearing in mind this was written in 1900:

“Perhaps she did marry him, and is sitting to this day on her cushion, and has grown dreadfully fat through never moving and eating so much sugar and cream, and hasn’t even the energy to curl her hair any more.”

All the current exhortations to exercise and eat healthily, and the dangers of obesity really chime with this, though perhaps those messages are couched rather more positively these days!?

The book also shows that these ryhmes are often set to different tunes.

Curly Locks music from The April Baby's Book by Kate Greenaway

(perhaps tunes will be less diverse these days with easy music reproduction and distribution?)

Sing a song of sixpence

March 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

Sing a song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie,
And when the pie was opened, the birds began to sing,
Now wasn’t that a dainty dish to set before the king.

The king was in his counting house, counting out his money,
The queen was in her parlour, eating bread and honey,
The maid was in the garden, hanging out the clothes,
When along came a blackbird and pecked off her nose.

Never fails to tickle the little ones as their noses are ‘pecked’ off.  I was amused to find from another Nursery Rhymes website that on the BBC’s Listen with Mother in the 1950s they used to add the following to the end of the rhyme:

“There was such a commotion that little Jenny Wren
Flew down from the tree tops and popped it on again”

Though it doesn’t sing so well to the tune I know.

Four and Twenty Blackbirds Baked in a Pie by Walter Crane

This lovely illustration again by Walter Crane, from a beautiful book that is called ‘The Sing a Song of Sixpence Picture Book’ and has an illustration for each line of the ryhme.

The idea of birds singing inside a pie is also an idea worth exploring – as Heston Blumental did, by making a pie with homing pigeons in his Medieval Feast on Channel 4 a few years ago.

Mary Mary Quite Contrary

March 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

Mary, mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.

Mistress Mary, Quite Contrary by WW Denslow - Project Gutenberg etext 18546

This amazing illustration by W W Denslow quite accurately depicts the bizarreness of this little ditty, note the cheeky smiles on the bells and cockle shells. I have been singing it in the context of a theme of growing things, the kids like the idea of little people popping up in their garden!

Historically there are possible religious implications and a possible connection with Mary Queen of Scots, but it is only conjecture, as the first print version of this is in the mid 1700s, some 200 years after Mary Queen of Scots, and also the religious upheavals of the Stuart era.

Mary Queen of Scots, head portrait after Francis Clouet

Savez vous plantez les choux

February 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

Savez-vous plantez les choux
À la mode, à la mode?
Savez-vous plantez les choux
À la mode de chez nous?

On les plante avec la main,
À la mode, à la mode?
On les plante avec la main,
À la mode de chez nous!

On les plante avec la tête,
À la mode, à la mode?
On les plante avec la tête,
À la mode de chez nous!

On les plante avec le doigt,
À la mode, à la mode?
On les plante avec le doigt,
À la mode de chez nous!

On les plante avec le pied,
À la mode, à la mode?
On les plante avec le pied,
À la mode de chez nous!

On les plante avec le nez,
À la mode, à la mode?
On les plante avec le nez,
À la mode de chez nous!

A traditional French song about planting cabbages with different parts of your body – plenty of giggles to be had! I have a version of this in a beautifully illustrated book of French songs by Anne Rockwell some of which I hope to be able to reproduce.

Pop goes the weasel

February 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

Up and down the city road,
In and out the eagle,
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop goes the weasel.

Half a pound of tupenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle,
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop goes the weasel.

A tune that ‘pops’ up everywhere – we have a jack in the box that plays it, and pops at the right moment, as you’d expect. These lyrics are the ones I know, but there are all sorts of other options out there, perhaps the kids should be making their own up? A version arranged by Charles Twiggs in 1853 is overtly political.

Queen Victoria’s very sick
Napoleon’s got the measels

Sebastopol is won at last
Pop goes the weasel.