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A History of Nursery Rhymes by Percy B. Green

Halliwell dates it as of Richard II


"Simple Simon went a-fishing For to catch a whale, All the water he had got Was in his mother's pail.

"Simple Simon went to look If plums grew on a thistle, He pricked his fingers very much, Which made poor Simon whistle.

"Simple Simon went to town To buy a piece of meat, He tied it to his horse's tail To keep it clean and sweet."


"I saw a ship a-sailing, A-sailing on the sea, And it was filled with pretty things For baby and for me. There were raisins in the cabin, Sugar kisses in the hold; The sails were made of silk, And the masts were made of gold. Gold--gold--gold! The masts were made of gold.

"There were four-and-twenty sailors A-sitting on the deck, And these were little white mice, With rings around their neck. The captain was a duck, With a jacket on his back, And when the ship began to sail The captain cried 'Quack! quack!' Quack!--quack!--quack! The captain cried 'Quack! quack!'"


"Taffy was a wicked Welshman, Taffy was a wicked thief, Taffy came

to my house And stole a piece of beef. I went to Taffy's house, Taffy was in bed, I got the poker And hit him on the head."

Sung in derision along the Welsh borders on St. David's Day. Formerly it was the custom of the London mob on this day to dress up a guy and carry him round the principal thoroughfares. The ragged urchins following sang the rhyme of "Taffy was a wicked Welshman."


The historical value of nursery rhymes is incapable of being better illustrated than in the following old English doggerel:--

"My father he died, I cannot tell how, He left me six horses to drive out my plough, With a wimmy lo! wommy lo! Jack Straw, blazey boys. Wimmy lo! wimmy lo! wob, wob, wob."

Mr. Halliwell dates it as of Richard II.'s time, and this much may be said for this opinion, that there is no greater authority than he on the subject of early English rhymes and carols. Mr. Halliwell also believes that of British nursery rhymes it is the earliest extant. There are those, however, who dissent from this view, holding that many of the child's songs sung to-day were known to our Saxon forefathers. In 1835 Mr. Gowler, who wrote extensively on the archaeology of English phrases and nursery rhymes, ingeniously attempted to claim whole songs and tales, giving side by side the Saxon and the English versions. There certainly was a phonetic similarity between them, but the local value of the Saxon, when translated, reads in a strange way, being little more than a protest against the Church's teaching and influence.

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