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Nursery Rhymes

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Nursery Rhymes Empty Nursery Rhymes

Mensaje  Profesor Von Brokenheimer Vie Nov 04, 2011 3:14 am

Sir Winchester commented to me once that as me, Mr and Mrs Specter are huge fans of English nursery rhymes so I decided to write this short article. I hope you enjoy it.

Nursery Rhymes: A history and it's secrets.

We have all heard at one time or another in our childhood a nursery rhyme. Those very short stories with an easy rhyme and more often than we would desire, a not so nice meaning!
These nursery rhymes although often associated with childhood and innocence are nothing even close to that.
As kids, o should say toddlers, we learnt these little merry songs before we could even read or write but now we know that these nursery rhymes enclosed a very different meaning than the one we thought they had (if we thought they had a meaning at all!).
It seems that most nursery rhymes are based on true historical events, and were used as a political instrument of "free speech". Such protests and claims were disguised in the form of Nursery Rhymes, thus being quick vessel to spread gossip, mockery and subversive messages.
It's important to understand that nursery rhymes emerged in a time when most people couldn't read or write so the use of the rhyme was essential, as it helped people to remind these poems and they have passed on from generation to generation.
We could say that nursery rhymes were the first type of viral messaging! Way before Facebook or twitter!

On of the first nursery rhymes we know of is the famous "Ring a ring o' rosies".
Ring a ring 'o rosies
A pocket full of posies
"Atishoo, atishoo"
We all fall down!

Theories say that this rhyme relates to the great plague of London, the bubonic plague.
It seems that among other symptoms, the bubonic plague provoked violent sneezing and bright red rashes on the skin, and it is of common knowledge that at the time the bubonic plague was believed to be transmitted by bad smells, hence the carrying of a posie or small bouquet of sweet flowers or herbs. Actually the bubonic plague was carried by rats which contaminated London's water supplies and the plague stopped because of the Great Fire of London that burnt the rats. Nevertheless, these are only theories and urban legends that have passed on over generations, but it certainly fits in the story!

Another very famous nursery rhyme is supposed to be an allusion to Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII, also known as Bloody Mary.
Mary Mary quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row

This is what I meant before. This nursery rhyme is anything but childish!
We know that Mary I of England was a very bloodthirsty tyrant, and stories tell that graveyards were growing in size as protestants who denied to abandon their beliefs and turn to catholicism. Hence the phrase "how do your gardens grow?".
The silver bells were a colloquial way of naming torture instruments, as the silver bells were thumbscrews which crushed the thumbs and cockleshells were some kind of instruments of torture attached to the genitals.
The maids is the short name for the Maiden. The Maiden was a device created to sever the head off a victim, also known as a guillotine.

Humpty Dumpty I think is one the best known nursery rhymes of all. The image of an egg, sat on a wall, fell off and breaks is present in all English speaking children, it even had a place in Lewis Carrol's Alice Through the Looking Glass!
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King's horses and all the King's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again

Humpty Dumpty was usual slang in the 15th century used to mock a fat or obese person, and this has lead to many thories on who is the identity behind Humpty Dumpty. However this is the wrong question. The question we should be making is no "who" is Dumpty, but "what" he is.
Actually, Humpty Dumpty was an extraordinarily large cannon. Yes, as you read!
Used during the English Civil War, in the Siege of Colchester, Humpty Dumpty was placed on the wall of the heavy fortification built around the town of Colchester, next to the St. Mary's Church. It seems that the parliamentarians blew the wall of the church which caused the cannon to fall due to it's extremely high weight. The cavaliers, (or royalists, hence the King's men) tried to position the cannon on another part of the wall, but it was so heavy that even with the help of all the horses available, it was deemed impossible.

The "Jack and Jill" rhyme has a no less gruesome hidden meaning.
Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down and broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling after.
Up got jack, and home did trot
As fast as he could caper
He went to bed and bound his head
With vinegar and brown paper

The origins of this nursery rhyme come from across the sea, from France. Jack refers to King Louis XIV who was beheaded at the guillotine (broke his crown) and Jill to his wife Queen Marie Antoinette who was also beheaded just after the king (came tumbling after).
The lyrics were "softened" and given a happy ending, more suitable for children.

There are plenty more I will comment in further posts, and feel more than free to add your own nursery rhyme stories!

You may find the translation in Spanish here
Profesor Von Brokenheimer
Profesor Von Brokenheimer
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