From lullabies to drinking songs and proverbs to plague, rhyming ditties for children take many forms. From a variety of sources, including traditional riddles, proverbs, ballads, lines of Mummers plays, drinking songs and historical events. If you dig a little deeper they might also reference plague, medieval taxes, religious persecution, prostitution!
Old Mother Goose, when she wanted to wander; Would ride through the air, on a very fine gander; Mother Goose had a house, twas built in a wood; Where an owl at the door, for sentinel stood;
She had a son Jack, a plain looking lad; He was not very good, nor yet very bad; She sent him to market, a live goose he bought; Here! mother says he, it will not go for nought;
Jack's goose and her gander, grew very fond; They'd both eat together, or swim in one pond; Jack found one morning, as I have been told; His goose had laid him an egg, of pure gold;
Jack rode to his mother, the news for to tell; She called him a good boy, and said it was well.
Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St Clements; I owe you five farthings, say the bells of St Martins; When will you pay me, say the bells at Old Bailey;
When I grow rich, say the bells at Shoreditch; When will that be, say the bells of Stepney; I'm sure I don't 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!
Ding dong bell, pussy’s in the well;
Who put her in? Little Johnny Green;
Who pulled her out? Little Tommy Stout;
What a naughty boy was that, to try to drown poor pussy cat;
Who ne’er did him any harm, but killed all the mice in the farmer’s barn.
The lion and the unicorn, were fighting for the crown;
The lion beat the unicorn, all about the town;
Some gave them white bread, and some gave them brown;
Some gave them plum cake, and sent them out of town.