Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep

December 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep,
And doesn’t know where to find them,
Leave them alone, and they will come home,
Bringing their tails behind them.

According to the Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, the reason we know that this song existed in the 18th century is because Little Bo Peep appeared in, of all songs, a version of Yankee Doodle! Seems people were concerned about losing animals and their tails at that time, as there is another little rhyme, about Jemima losing her Mare, who’ll come by in time with her tail behind her. Below is Walter Crane’s romantic illustration of the song..

Little Bo Peep with illustration and music arrangement by Walter Crane

There are some further verses to the song

Little Bo-peep fell fast asleep,
And dreamt she heard them bleating;
But when she awoke, she found it a joke,
For they were still a-fleeting.

Then up she took her little crook,
Determined for to find them;
She found them indeed, but it made her heart bleed,
For they’d left their tails behind them.

It happened one day, as Bo-peep did stray
Into a meadow hard by,
There she espied their tails side by side,
All hung on a tree to dry.

She heaved a sigh and wiped her eye,
And over the hillocks went rambling,
And tried what she could, as a shepherdess should,
To tack each again to its lambkin.

I like the fact that Bo Peep, which is the name of a very old baby amusement game, is probably hide and seek.

Bo-peep, Little Bo-peep,
Now’s the time for hide and seek.

Little Bo Peep obviously isn’t so good at that game!

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