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Originally posted on SPEAKZEASY.

Right at this moment, mothers of small children, around the world, are singing along to seemingly innocuous nursery rhymes that, if you dig a little deeper, reveal shockingly sinister backstories.

Medieval taxes, illness, religious persecution : these are not exactly the topics that you expect to be immersed in as a “new parent.”  Babies falling from trees ?  Heads being chopped off in Central London ?  Animals being cooked alive ?  Since when were these topics DEEMED APPROPRIATE TO PEDDLE TO TODDLERS ? — Since the 14th century, actually.  That’s when the earliest nursery rhymes seem to date from, although the GOLDEN AGE came later, in the 18th century, when the canon of classics that we still hear today, emerged and flourished.  The 1st nursery rhyme collection to be printed was Tommy Thumb’s Song Book —- around 1744 ; a century later Edward Rimbault published a nursery rhymes collection, which was the 1st one printed to include “notated music” —— although a minor-key version of THREE BLIND MICE can be found in Thomas Ravenscroft’s folk-song compilation DEUTEROMELIA, dating from 1609.

The roots probably go back even further.  There is no human culture that has not invented some form of “rhyming ditties” for its children.  The distinctive sing-song metre, tonality and rhythm that characterises “MOTHERESE” has a proven evolutionary value and is reflected in the very nature of…

via The dark side of nursery rhymes | SPEAKZEASY.


One, Two, Buckle My Shoe
One, Two, Buckle My Shoe Postcard

One two buckle my shoe,
Three, four, knock at the door,
Five, six, pick up sticks,
Seven, eight, lay them straight,
Nine, ten, a big fat hen,
Eleven, twelve, dig and delve,
Thirteen, fourteen, maids a’courting,
Fifteen, sixteen, maids in the kitchen,
Seventeen, eighteen, maids a’waiting,
Nineteen, twenty, my plate’s empty.


How satisfying it is to read nursery rhymes out loud. Go on – try it!


“The things which the child loves remain in the domain of the heart until old age. The most beautiful thing in life is that our souls remain hovering over the places where we once enjoyed ourselves. I am one of those who remembers those places regardless of distance or time.”
Kahlil Gibran, Mirrors of the Soul


As I was Going to St Ives Postcard
As I was Going to St Ives Postcard

As I was going to St. Ives,
I met a man with seven wives,
Each wife had seven sacks,
Each sack had seven cats,
Each cat had seven kits:
Kits, cats, sacks, and wives,
How many were there going to St. Ives?

Both images were scanned from my copy of The Children’s Encyclopaedia by Arthur Mee, published by the Educational Book Company Ltd. These popular volumes were published from 1908 until 1964 but the volumes I have were not given to me as a child but bought in my late teens from a charity shop. There’s no date of publication but the nature of the information and the images suggest the 1920s or 1930s.


Available at the following galleries:
One, Two…
Zazzle US
Zazzle UK
As I was Going…
Zazzle US
Zazzle UK

Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah

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