sing for your supper


We have returned from the Valley of Pigflu.

Hope you are well too. Though what I’m writing about today makes me a little heart-sick.

Seems nursery rhymes are dying out. The London Telegraph reports that modern parents find them old-fashioned and uneducational.  Harumph.

I sensed the first stirrings of this 20 years ago, when Boywonder was young enough for playdates.  When the living/rumpus room was a wreck and blocks had gone from stackable objects to missiles, I would settle the boys down on the couch for a book or two.  Out would come good ol’ Mother Goose.  Boywonder could recite the rhymes with me–and Visitor?  Never heard ’em before.

Child abuse!

Nursery rhymes were a huge part of my childhood.  Song lyrics.  Games.  Books.  What an easy transition from memorized poems to reading those poems on the page.

Rhythm and rhyme.  Babies learn motor coordination in poems like Pat a Cake and This Little Piggy.  Surely nursery rhymes pattern young brains to appreciate Ode on a Grecian Urn and Leaves of Grass later in life. Listen to the rhythm:

Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross
To see a fine lady upon a white horse
With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes
She shall have music wherever she goes.

I don’t know about you, but that nursery rhyme makes me feel like setting a 2-year-old on my knee and bouncing her around while she giggles.  And don’t forget to pinch her little fingers and toes at the appropriate parts.

I could always pull several dozen nursery rhymes out of my skull at the drop of a hat.  When Bottled Lightning was four, she and I had a nursery rhyme-off at the car repair shop.  Now that I think about it, that’s damn weird.  But, hey.  That’s how we roll.

My nursery rhyme roots go back to my grandmother, who was born in 1885.  She grew up educated, but very poor.  Eventually, she became a leading member of the DAR and a well-known genealogist.  At that time, it was a woman’s only way out of obscurity.  Her grandmother recited the rhymes to her, and I will recite them to my grandchildren.  Imagine.  The very same poems, entertaining seven generations.

I can’t end this post without adding my favorite nursery rhyme of all time.  I don’t know why, but this is it:

Bobby Shaftoe’s gone to sea,

With silver buckles on his knee:

He’ll come back and marry me,

Pretty Bobby Shaftoe!

Bobby Shaftoe’s fat and fair,

Combing down his yellow hair;

He’s my love for evermore,

Pretty Bobby Shaftoe.

Tell me your favorite nursery rhymes.  Come on, guys.  Don’t let me down!


About Lisha Cauthen

Lisha Cauthen writes YA novels for guys that girls like to read too.

Posted on October 20, 2009, in childrens' literature, end of western civilisation as we know it and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Each of my kids had their own bedtime song. Daughter 1’s was:

    The Northwind doth blow and we shall have snow
    And what will poor Robin do then?
    Poor thing.
    He’ll sit in the barn to keep himself warm
    And hide his head under his wing,
    Poor thing.

    Which, now that I think about it…is a weird thing to sing to your baby/toddler/child/teen (oh, yes I did and if she’d sit still long enough I’d sing it to her now — in her 20s).

    It was the rhythm of it.

    Those were the best days.

    Thanks for reminding me.

  2. My favorite baby gifts are children’s books, with the most important being a book of Mother Goose rhymes. 🙂

    Two favorites here…

    I still tend to recite this one on rainy days:

    One misty moisty morning,
    When cloudy was the weather,
    I chanced to meet an old man,
    Clothed all in leather.
    He began to compliment
    And I began to grin.
    How do you do? And how do you do?
    And how do you do again?

    My daughter and I enjoyed clapping the hand motions faster and faster while reciting this favorite:

    Pease porridge hot,
    Pease porridge cold,
    Pease poridge in the pot,
    Nine days old.
    Some like it hot,
    some like it cold,
    Some like it in the pot,
    Nine days old.

  3. 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.

  4. My favorite was Hey Diddle Diddle:

    Hey diddle diddle
    The cat & the fiddle
    The cow jumped over the moon
    The little dog laughed to see such fun
    And the dish ran away with the spoon.


    With a ping and a pang the fiddle-strings broke
    and the cow jumped over the moon
    the little dog laughed to see such fun
    and the Saturday dish went off at a run
    with the silver Sunday spoon

    since I was in love those books too and I get the two versions confused in my head anymore.

  5. My sister and I always found the ridiculousness of this one infectious:


    I saw a ship a-sailing,
    A-sailing on the sea;
    And, oh! it was all laden
    With pretty things for thee!

    There were comfits in the cabin,
    And apples in the hold;
    The sails were made of silk,
    And the masts were made of gold.

    The four-and-twenty sailors
    That stood between the decks,
    Were four-and-twenty white mice
    With chains about their necks.

    The captain was a duck,
    With a packet on his back;
    And when the ship began to move,
    The captain said, “Quack! Quack!”

    The absolute deranged ending always made us think “That’s how long it takes for LSD to hit your system – 2 1/2 stanzas.”

    BUT coming from New England all my boys have been bounced to:
    Trot, Trot to Boston
    Trot, Trot to Lynne
    You better watch out or
    You might fall in

    Then you open your lap and let the little guys fall between your legs. No. They don’t hit the ground. You catch them before that. Jeesh!

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