Thursday, January 24, 2019

Origins of Childhood Songs and Poems.

London, Tower Bridge, Bridge, Monument When I was growing up, we played games outside and sometimes in the gym. These games seemed to have songs associated with them.  We never thought about the origins and honestly, I don't know if the games are still played because I've never seen them played here in the village. 

One, Ring Around the Rosie, is said to originate from the 1300's when the Black Plague struck the world, wiping out about a third of the population but Snopes states that statement is not true.

According to Snopes, Ring around the Rosie is quite recent and has not been around since the 1300's.  The first printed version of the song appeared in 1881 in Kate Greenway's  "Mother Goose in 1881.  It is unlikely for this song to have been about the plague in the 1300's yet is never referred to in any way until 1881.  Furthermore, there were several different versions of this song published in at least 5 different books between 1881 and 1898.  Although it is possible to argue there are references to the plague in one version, none of the others have that so its unlikely any of the versions were preserved perfectly for over 5 centuries.

Jack and Jill is another one that may have shrouded origins.  It is said the Jack in the story represents King Louis 16th of France who was beheaded while Jill is his wife Marie Antoinette yet there does not appear to be any clear cut proof of that.  One source suggests its just a rhyme written over a period of time.  It is said the first verse is the oldest and probably has been around since the 1700's.  The second verse did not make an appearance until the early 1800's when chapbooks became all the rage.  Chapbooks were small illustrated books filled with extended versions of nursery rhymes. 

Then there is London Bridge in which we all fell down.  One story says its about the bridge falling down way back in 1044 but there is no evidence this claim is true.  On the other hand, they've found a reference to "London Bridge is breaking down" in a poem printed in 1725 and in another poem published in 1740.  About the same time, children's games involving falling bridges appeared in London, Paris, and other countries.  In fact, the Italian game "La Porte" which is essentially a game involving a falling bridge dates from the mid 1300's.  Thus it seems to be based on a game, not on a bridge actually collapsing.

I've always wondered about these.  I hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about these three games/songs.  I remember playing to London Bridge and Ring around the Rosie but Jack and Jill was a song they had us learn in music.  I'd love to hear what you think.  Have a great day.

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