|Ring-a-Round a Rosie|
The first Mother Goose circle-rhyme to come to most minds is "Ring-a-round a rosie...." The "traditional" words, however, are different on the two sides of the Atlantic:
variation on last two lines
A rather far-fetched interpretation of this piece has had would-be
origin- finders speculating that it is based on the Great Plague
of London (1665), as witness the rash ("roses"), herbs
and spices to sweeten the air ("posies"), sneezing,
and implicit dying ("all fall down"). But the time-lapse
between the plague and the appearance of the game, diminishes
that theory. Satires are almost always written about then-current
events. Also heard is the theory that children sang this during
the catastrophic European Black Death (1347), the "ring"
supposedly referring to the red spot that marked the onset of
the disease, and the rest following the same allegations heard
for the plague theory, which is the one most often repeated.
William Wells Newell, in Games and Songs of American Children (1883), cited a version of 1790 (sung to the melody current in the twentieth century) as:
This appears to be the original wording, as no earlier is foundand gives no impression of being connected with the effects of the plague. The "tumble down" version first appeared in children's literature in 1881, in Kate Greenaway's Mother Goose.
Other nineteenth century versions show the "fall" as a bow, curtsey, or even a stoop.
The early patterns of the words show no real resemblance to the Black Death or the plague. The interpretations continue to surface, however, probably because people in some perverse way would like to believe that the innocent rhyme has a grim history. There are numerous variations on the English wording, and like so many other Mother Goose ditties, similar versions in the European countries.
based on text in Mother Goose: From Nursery to Literature (McFarland Pub.) by Gloria T. Delamar
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