|Michael O'Mara Books|
There is something joyously comforting about nursery rhymes, they remind me of my childhood, and being hidden away in a favourite spot, always curled up with a book. Ever since I picked up my first nursery rhyme book, I have been fascinated by them. I was surprised, once my memory was jogged, just how many, of the rhymes in this slim volume, I could remember without needing to look at the page.
Many of the best loved rhymes hail from the eighteenth or nineteenth century, with just a few having their origins much earlier.
Ring O' Roses was alleged to have derived from the days of the Black Death but this can't be proved as this poem can only be traced to around 1880 and with other versions of the same rhyme found in Europe it seems unlikely that this derived from the Great Plague of 1664.
Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary is alleged to have been about Mary Tudor, but it could equally refer to Mary , Queen of Scots. The earliest recorded version appears in around 1744.
My personal favourite of Ladybird, Ladybird, fly away home was probably used as a farm workers ditty to encourage ladybirds to flee before burning the stubble in the hay fields after harvest. However, the rhyme itself is found in other countries and could in fact be quite old.
Fly away home,
Your house is on fire
And your children all gone;
All except one
And that's little Ann,
And she has crept under
The warming pan.
This book isn't a definitive text on nursery rhymes but it does a give an interesting basic history and there are one or two suggestions as to the origins of rhymes which were new to me.
Best Read With .... A glass of ice cold milk and a paper bag of Dolly Mixtures.