Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Nursery Rhymes with a side of Macabre (or Nursery Rhymes that Give Me the Willies)

Hello my pretties!!!

That was in my best Wicked Witch of the West voice (or Elphaba, if you're a Wicked fan).

I'm feeling a little witchy today. Not in the "mean girl" sense of the word but in the HALLOWEENY sense of the word! My whole day Sunday was spent researching my costume, watching Alfred Hitchcock movies and pulling out the Halloween decorations.

I was also able to catch Halloween Wars on the Food Network channel (LOVE Food Network). If you haven't seen it, it is a pumpkin/cake decorating contest that is Halloween based. Yesterday's theme was nursery rhymes. The challenge was to take a commonly known nursery rhyme and make it sinister... and that got me thinking...Hmmm... most nursery rhymes have not so innocent origins. They sound all sweet and innocent until you really listen to the words. Some of them are down right CREEPY!!!! I mean there is references to murder, ghosts, graveyards and all kinds of terrifying things!

So in the spirit of the season I have included some of my favorite horrifying nursery rhymes and their origin. Most of these are the original ryhmes are the originals that were put into books for little ones in 1500s -1800s. They were a part of children's growing up for ages. In the late 1940s and early 1950s people such as Geffory Handler- Taylor took a major interest in "nursery nursery rhyme reform" and analyzed over 200 hundred nursery rhymes. He concluded that 100 of them "personify all that is glorious and ideal for the child" but the rest "harbor unsavory elements". With that most nursery rhymes have been rewritten and made sugar versions of the originals.

I prefer these creepy originals!

You may want to keep some of these away from the kiddies... at least until they are old enough to love to be frightened!


Gay go up and gay go down,
To ring the bells of London town.

Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clements.

Bull's eyes and targets,
Say the bells of St. Margret's.

Brickbats and tiles,
Say the bells of St. Giles'.

Halfpence and farthings,
Say the bells of St. Martin's.

Pancakes and fritters,
Say the bells of St. Peter's.

Two sticks and an apple,
Say the bells of Whitechapel.

Pokers and tongs,
Say the bells of St. John's.

Kettles and pans,
Say the bells of St. Ann's.

Old Father Baldpate,
Say the slow bells of Aldgate.

You owe me ten shillings,
Say the bells of St. Helen's.

When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey.

When I grow rich,
Say the bells of Shoreditch.

Pray when will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney.

I do not know,
Says the great bell of Bow.

Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
Here comes a chopper to chop off your head.

Chop chop chop chop
The last man's dead!

This one was first published in 1744 in England. When played like a game it is played in the same way as London Bridge where two children face one another and clasp hand in the air while the other children take turns going underneath. On the last words the children drop their arms catching a friend between them.
The origins are a bit cloudy. It is said to have either dealt with child sacrifice or public executions. People think the bells represent the bells a condemned man would pass on his way to his execution. Either way it doesn't seem very child friendly!!


Who killed Cock Robin?
I, said the Sparrow,
with my bow and arrow,
I killed Cock Robin.
Who saw him die?
I, said the Fly,
with my little eye,
I saw him die.
Who caught his blood?
I, said the Fish,
with my little dish,
I caught his blood.
Who'll make the shroud?
I, said the Beetle,
with my thread and needle,
I'll make the shroud.
Who'll dig his grave?
I, said the Owl,
with my pick and shovel,
I'll dig his grave.
Who'll be the parson?
I, said the Rook,
with my little book,
I'll be the parson.
Who'll be the clerk?
I, said the Lark,
if it's not in the dark,
I'll be the clerk.
Who'll carry the link?
I, said the Linnet,
I'll fetch it in a minute,
I'll carry the link.
Who'll be chief mourner?
I, said the Dove,
I mourn for my love,
I'll be chief mourner.
Who'll carry the coffin?
I, said the Kite,
if it's not through the night,
I'll carry the coffin.
Who'll bear the pall?
We, said the Wren,
both the cock and the hen,
We'll bear the pall.
Who'll sing a psalm?
I, said the Thrush,
as she sat on a bush,
I'll sing a psalm.
Who'll toll the bell?
I said the Bull,
because I can pull,
I'll toll the bell.
All the birds of the air
fell a-sighing and a-sobbing,
when they heard the bell toll
for poor Cock Robin.

I've always though this one was a little macabre. Even when I was in kindergarten playing the duck that patted the grave of cock robin with my foot (this was an attempt at a more "child friendly" version of the rhyme. In hindsight it was still a little inappropriate for a kindergarten performance). This one was also published in 1744. Its origins are also obscure and vary from the death of the god, Balder from Norse mythology to paying tribute to Robin Hood, so really who knows? All I know is that it still creeps me out to this day!!!


THERE was a lady all skin and bone; 
Sure such a lady was never known : 
It happen'd upon a certain day, 
This lady went to church to pray. 

When she came to the church stile, 
There she did rest a little while ; 
When she came to the churchyard, 
There the bells so loud she heard. 

When she came to the church door, 
She stopt to rest a little more ; 
When she came the church within, 

The parson pray'd 'gainst pride and sin. 

On looking up, on looking down, 
She saw a dead man on the ground ; 
And from his nose unto his chin, 
The worms crawl'd out, the worms crawl'd in.

Then she unto the parson said, 
Shall I be so when I am dead : 
O yes ! O yes, the parson said, 
You will be so when you are dead. 

(The person reciting the verse is meant to SCREAM the last line)

The only thing I could find on this one was that it was first published in Grammer Gurton's Garland, a book of nursery rhymes in 1784. It was a Halloween favorite among the grade school crowd when I was a kid. I'm not sure if kids still learn it nowadays. 


Baby, baby, naughty baby,
Hush, you squalling thing, I say.
Peace this moment, peace, or maybe
Bonaparte will pass this way.

Baby, baby, he's a giant,
Tall and black as Rouen steeple,
And he breakfasts, dines, rely on't,
Every day on naughty people.

Baby, baby, if he hears you
As he gallops past the house,
Limb from limb at once he'll tear you,
Just as pussy tears a mouse.

And he'll beat you, beat you, beat you,
And he'll beat you into pap,
And he'll eat you, eat you, eat you,
Every morsel snap, snap, snap.

I read that this one comes from Mother Goose. It is a cautionary tale to little ones that if they cry too much Napoleon Bonaparte will come still them away as if he is the boogey man. I'm not sure when this one was written but...I don't think I'll ever recite this to my future little one.

Babes in the Woods

My dear, do you know,
How a long time ago,
     Two poor little children,
Whose names I don't know,
Were stolen away
On a fine summer's day,
     And left in a wood,
As I've heard people say.

Among the trees high 
Beneath the blue sky
     They plucked the bright flowers
And watched the birds fly;
Then on blackberries fed,
And strawberries red,
     And when they were weary
'We'll go home,' they said.

And when it was night
So sad was their plight,
     The sun it went down,
And the moon gave no light.
They sobbed and they sighed
And they bitterly cried,
     And long before morning
They lay down and died.

And when they were dead 
The robins so red
     Brought strawberry leaves
And over them spread;
And all the day long,
The green branches among,
     They'd prettily whistle
And this was their song-
'Poor babes in the wood!
Sweet babes in the wood!
     Oh the sad fate of 
The babes in the wood!

This is one of the saddest ones to me. It is said that this actually happened to a pair of children in 1500's Norfolk, England. Supposedly their uncle, who resented having to care for them after their parents died, sent the children out with men who he paid to kill them. Instead of harming the children they leave them abandoned in the woods.  It is said that they're ghosts still haunt the woods where they died. I suppose this was also the inspiration for Hansel and Gretel. The stories sound really similar.

Ok... now are you going to have restless dreams. I probably am... It's hard to believe that all of these cute little rhymes hide a scary meaning!! I know that some of the more well known nursery rhymes are also a little wicked. That Mother Goose was a little darker than the name suggests. I think that I'll do one more post of the rest of the rhymes that I found, and there were a lot of interesting ones, a little closer to Halloween.

Until then dearies,

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  1. Really wonderful seasonal post, honey. The witchy-witch vibe is flowing through my veins something fierce at the moment, too. It's like, as of this morning (when we hit the half way mark through October), someone turned up my excitement level bout Halloween from high to turbo, and I swear, it's all I can do not to put on my costume already! :)

    ♥ Jessica

  2. I didn't know all of these nursery rhymes, this is a really interesting post. I remember playing oranges and lemons when I was little, hoping not to be the one to get my head chopped off!

  3. English Nursery Rhymes with lyrics and some visual effects by me.
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  4. Its a wonderful Song and Kids will really going to enjoy it .Thanks for sharing. Always keep Posting such things.




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