A Conversation for Nursery Rhymes

Humpty Dumpty & Rock-a-bye-Baby

Post 1


If I remember correctly these nursery rhyme refers to the English King Charles I, and his son (whose name escapes me -- maybe Charles II?) Anyway, at the time (early-mid 1600's) Charles was a very strong believer in the divine right of kings. This severly annoyed the nobles, who didn't like the fact that he continually went against parliament. He kept this up for awhile, until it came time that he needed an army to put down an uprising. Naturally, Parliament didn't trust the king, fearing he'd turn the army against them. The king decided to press his point by showing up at parliament, and trying to arrest five members or so (in response to a list of reform demands issued by them). So at this point, both sides called up their armies. To make a long story short, Charles lost, got convicted of treason and was beheaded. Hence the rhyme that "all the kings horses and all the kings men couldn't put humpty back together again". His army just couldn't save him after he decided to go up against Parliament. [Winners write history, remember?] That was the English Revolution.

Upon Charles's death, his son, James II, came to power. Now James was openly a Catholic, a fact that profoundly worried the English people, since they were not catholics and had no intentions of becoming so (And in fact had passed laws against them - The Test Acts, IIRC). James also wasn't the best student of Public Relations. Upon seizing the throne after his father's he put down several uprsisings in a rather violent manner, losing him some of his few allies. He then had a son. Now the English were NOT about to be ruled by a Catholic Dynasty that would favor Catholics. So they made a pointed reminder to the fate of his dad, and hinted about his own future [and that of his son]. They also invited William of Orange to take the throne by marrying Mary, a daughter of James. Now James, being somewhat more intelligent wisely decided to flee the country taking his son with him. This was the Glorious Revolution [because it was bloodless.] Now I only said 'somewhat more intelligent' because James decided to make a try for the throne two years later, which he lost rather badly. He then stayed in exile for the rest of his life.

Hence the rather morbid rhyme about a wind [rally against James] knocking a lil baby [James's son -- James Francis Edward Stuart] off of a branch [english crown].

Ring-a-ring-of-roses & London bridge is falling down.

Post 2

Clive the flying ostrich: Amateur Polymath | Chief Heretic.

Ring a ring a roses, nice song, sung by happy school kids most likely completely ignorant of what it's really all about. That nice and jolly subject: Plague. Bubonic Plague, commonly known as 'The Black Death' swept through London ( don't ask me when this took place, I haven't got a history book with me. ) The Rhyme details the the event of this time.

"Ring-a-ring-of-roses" - the first sign of the disease before the legions was a small ring of red, bruises like marks.

"A pocket full of posies" - Ignorant that germs that cause disease, especially near the open sewers that flowed into the Thames, where a great majority of the poorest population lived on the banks. It was commonly held that bad smells - so often associated with open sewers - was carrying the disease. As a caution therefore, Doctors used to carry with them a pouch of sweet smelling flowers to try to ward of the infection.

"Atichoo!, Atichoo!" - Flu like symptoms, became apparent and grew worse as the disease entered it's final stages. Fever, vomiting, dioreah, shakes, and sneazeing were all manifested.

" We all fall down." - reference to the end, kicking the bucket, buying the farm, keeling over, shuffling off this mortal coil,meeting your maker and other assorted synonyms for dying. Death, the end, kicking the bucket....etc

London Bridge is falling down:

Less extensive this one. I know it has something to do with invaders, might have been vickings, sailing up the thames and demolishing the bridge ( it was only made of wood then ). They might have reapired it only for it to fall down again, I don't really know. I am not sure either what the various lists of materials ( build it up with sticks and stones....etc ) refers to.

Any one else know ?


My favorite nursery rhyme

Post 3


"Johnny is a chemist
But Johnny is no more,
For what he thought was H20
was H2S04"
This little ditty is not only amusing but also informative and admonitory. I don't remember where I learned it but I found it a very useful pneumonic device to remember what the formula is for sulfuric acid. Also, when read dramatically this poem brings a tear to my eye.
smiley - smiley Jox

My favorite nursery rhyme

Post 4

Clive the flying ostrich: Amateur Polymath | Chief Heretic.

I heard a slightly different version:

Poor old Jim is dead and gone.
You'll never see him more.
For what he thought was H2O,
Was H"2SO4"

If this was Jim's/Jimmy's epitaph it would seem that his missadventures in Chemistry were not isoloated incidents:

" Poor old Jim lies still and placid,
he addes water to the acid.
Good Ol' Jane did what she ought-a!,
She added acid to the water."

I think it has something to do with that if you add water to acid, it causes a reaction very quickly upon contact and boils the water. The water become hot so instantly, that it is liable to spit and froth, and there is a danger of you receiving acid burns on your face as it does this, spitting acid and water out of the beaker. This would account for Jim's poor state. Aparently this isn't true however, if you perform the experiment the other way around.

Clive smiley - smiley

My favorite nursery rhyme

Post 5

Wand'rin star

And perhaps both are based on
Old Abraham Brown is dead and gone
You'll never see him more
He used to wear a long brown coat
That hang-ed down before.
which is neither as interesting nor as useful

My favorite nursery rhyme

Post 6

Classic Krissy

I learned Ring Around the Rosey as:

Ring around the rosey
Pocket full of poseys
Ashes, ashes
we all fall down.

So I would agree with the earlier breakdown of the meaning, but "Ashes, ashes" makes more sense to me. The burning of plauge-ridden bodies.

Rock a Bye Baby

Post 7

Demon Drawer

Rock a bye baby on a tree top
When the wind blow the cradle will rock
When the bough breaks the cradle will fall
Down will come baby cradle and all.

Of course anybody attempting to emulate this nursery rhyme these days will be had up by the child protection people at the first sign of wind.

My favorite nursery rhyme

Post 8

Boys and Cake Girl

I don't think they burnt the bodies though; They just collected them in carts and dumped them into mass graves with as much haste as possible. Hence all those lovely stories of people being buried alive and their ghosts groaning and the phrase 'plague pits.'

My favorite nursery rhyme

Post 9

Lord Cartier

True... they dumped the bodies in huge graves.

Blackheath, in South East London is a huge open space that is actually the surface of a mass grave, I believe. Hence the name BLACKHEATH!

My favorite nursery rhyme

Post 10

Classic Krissy

Oh oh!! I completely forgot about that! Andy explained that that's why they can't do any developing in that area. Fear of re-releasing the plauge.

*goes to read up on Blackheath History*

My favorite nursery rhyme

Post 11



My favorite nursery rhyme

Post 12


no - he probably drank it

Humpty Dumpty & Rock-a-bye-Baby

Post 13

Researcher 125203

I think you might be a little confused over Charles the 1st and Charles II. After Charles I was executed, Parliament set up the Commonwealth, there was some political struggles among the Parliamentarians and Oliver Cromwell became the supreme ruler. Not suprisingly as he was the main general of the parliametarian New Model Army (a.k.a. Roundheads - they were the first professional army run by officers based on merit rather than birthright - because the nobility were on the King's side).

Cromwell proved to be a stern and dictatorial ruler and this alongside the religious fundamentalism associated with the Parliamentarians, many of whom weren't just anti-catholic protestants but were Puritans) eventually led to his government becoming so unpopular he dissolved parliament. When he died he intended his son RIchard to take over - but he proved unable to rule in his stead and Charles I son Charles II was invited back by parliament on condition tthere would be no recriminations. This was largely achieved.

This was a time of boom in Britain's fortunes - largely due to trade and a demise in Spanish and Portuguese overseas influence, due partly to European wars that led among other things to the establishment of the Netherlands. A relaxation in moral policing led to theatre and drinking establishments (closed by Cromwell) opening up again.

Charles II was a reasonably popular monarch, who was careful how he challenged parliament although in his exile in France he was tempted by catholicism - a big political problem he was never overtly sympathetic. His son James II however was different and his mishandling of this issue as well as of many other aspect of poor governmental led to parliament sending for William of Orange - the Glorious Revolution.

This enabled the British Parliament to establish its ascendancy over the Crown and forthe divine rights of Kings to be challenged.

Incidentally the English Civil War and its accompanying regicide paved the way philisophically for the French Revolution and Cromwell - who invaded Ireland - is still a real issue in the Troubles and the Peace process - one of the reasons for the Orange marches is to celebrate specific battles he won.

My favorite nursery rhyme

Post 14


" Poor old Jim lies still and placid,
he addes water to the acid.
Good Ol' Jane did what she ought-a!,
She added acid to the water."

I think I went a little mad when I typed the last couple of replies!! Anyway, what I meant to say about poor ol' Jim and sulphuric acid, is that I reckon that he diluted the acid down where as Jane diluted the water down...?

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