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Ring a Ring o’ Roses – Wikipedia
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Summary: Articles about Ring a Ring o’ Roses – Wikipedia “Ring a Ring o’ Roses”, “Ring a Ring o’ Rosie”, or (in the United States) “Ring Around the Rosie” is originally an English nursery rhyme or folksong and …
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Pocket full of posies.
One, two, three—squat!
Behind the Song Lyrics and Meaning of “Ring Around the Rosie”
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Summary: Articles about Behind the Song Lyrics and Meaning of “Ring Around the Rosie” Ring around the Rosie meant the itchy rash around the infected sore of a person sick with the plague. Pocket full of posies were the flower …
Match the search results: Ring around the Rosie meant the itchy rash around the infected sore of a person sick with the plague.
Summary: Articles about Ring Around the Rosie – Bedtimeshortstories Ring around the Rosie is sung as a game for children. They form a ring around a person, who stands in the middle and sings the rhyme. Then, in the end, …
Match the search results: In this poem, we see a group of little children holding hands and running around in circular motion around a person. As they run in circles, they sing the poem. They sing and jump around, still going in circles. Singing about the lovely warm sunlight and beautiful flowers, they keep going. Then fina…
Summary: Articles about Ring Around the Rosie – Nursery Rhymes “Ring a Ring o’ Roses” more commonly known in the USA as “Ring Around the Rosie” is a folksong and singing game that was first published in 1881 in England.
Match the search results: “Ring Around the Rosie” is a very popular singing game and it is easy to learn. Children hold hands and dance around until at the end of each stanza an action is taken – falling down or getting up. There are many known versions of the song and various different actions can be perfo…
Summary: Articles about Ring Around the Rosie | Barney Wiki “Ring Around the Rosie” is a nursery rhyme or folksong and playground singing game. It first appeared in print in … The song first appeared in the Barney…
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How innocent nursery rhymes tell tales of death and destruction
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Summary: Articles about How innocent nursery rhymes tell tales of death and destruction Look at the version of the most famous rhyme in England. “Ring a Ring a Rosie” or “Ring Around Roses” which talks about the Black Death which …
Match the search results: Analysis: the roots of “Ring a Ring a Rosie” lie in the devastating events around the Black Death
Kate Greenaway’s Mother Goose or Old Nursery Rhymes (1881) was the first English language edition of Ring Around the Rosie. Her illustrations were published in 1881 and are therefore in the public domain.
A recent blog post at Londonistdescribes “The five rhymes of the London Arboretum, representing death and desolation.” The rhymes mentioned have different origins and stories, but what seems undeniable from James FitzGerald’s work is that they depict dark and important themes of British history.
Or are you? A close look at these rhymes and the science that surrounds them suggests alternative interpretations. I’ll go into one of the rhymes specifically because it tells us interesting things about folklore and our ideas about folklore: “Ring Around the Rosie,” or “Ring-a-Ring-a-Roses,” as it’s sometimes called.
FitzGerald’s text reads as follows:
A bag full of positions,
A tishoo! A tishoo!
We are all Russians.
FitzGerald claims unequivocally that this rhyme arose from the Great Plague, an outbreak of plague and plague that struck London in 1665:
Ring-a-Ring-a-Roses is all about the Great Plague; whimsy is clearly a shield for one of London’s most devastating horrors (thanks to the Black Death). The rhyming fatalism is brutal: Rose is a way of saying fatal rashes, it’s a supposed preventive measure; a-tishoos involves symptoms of sneezing, and the consequence of everyone falling is, well, death.
This interpretation appeared in the mid-twentieth century and gained popularity, but was never accepted by folklorists for a number of reasons. First, like most folk songs, this rhyme exists in many versions and variations. This allowed us to ask whether certain images associated with the plague appeared in all or even most versions. Turns out they weren’t. Many versions don’t have the word sneeze at all, and many versions don’t mention falling. E.g.Iona and Peter Opiegives an 1883 version (where “curchey” is the dialect of “curt”):
A ring, an O’Rosen ring
A bag full of positions
One for Jack and one for Jim and one for little Moses
A show-in and a show-out
And all together
Also, in many versions, everyone gets back up after a fall, which makes little sense if a fall symbolizes death.
“Places” or bouquets of flowers are almost universal in the song. However, many versions do not make them portable, instead fitting in pots or bottles, inconsistent with the plague interpretation.William Wells Newell, written in 1883, spawned several versions including:
Pots full of positions
The last stop
tell me who she loves the most
The bottle is full of luxury
All the girls in our town
Ring for little Josie
On May 16, 1939, in Wiergate, Texas, John and Ruby Lomax collected an interesting version for the Library of Congress from a group of African American schoolgirls. You can hear it in the player below. The words are as follows:
For a Rosey
Light bread, sweet bread, squat!
Guess who she told me, tralalalala
Mr. Red is her lover, tralalalala
If you love him, hug him!
If you hate him, stomp your feet!
Neither of these versions fits the plague explanation very well, but they reveal other functions and meanings: rhymes are often used as a flirty flirty game, with children jumping into a hoop, then suddenly bending over, crouching, curchey, or in some cases fall to the ground. The last person to do so (or the one who skips the gun) has to pay a fine, sometimes to show love (or hug or kiss) another child. In some versions, this then takes a place in the center of the ring, representing the “rose” or rosebush. Newell specifically states that the game was played this way in America in the 1880s and similar games were similar in Europe at the same and later times. Roses and lanterns, in many versions, represent what flowers usually signify in traditional European culture: not sorrow and death, but joy and love.
Children play “Ring Around the Rosie” in Chicago, Illinois, April 1941. Photograph by Edwin Rosskam. Printing and Photo Department. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8a15771
The above observations suggest that “Ring Around the Rosie” is a “singspiel” or “play song”, both of which are names of children’s dance songs. Plague theorists say it may still be the original meaning of plague, and that children used the rhyme for their own games and dances. But there are other reasons not to believe the plague story. For example, this rhyme and dance was distributed worldwide, and recordings appeared in mainland Europe before appearing in the UK. Opies offers versions from Germany, Switzerland and Italy, among others. Meanwhile, until the late 19th century, there is no evidence that rhyme existed in English. Newell, writing in 1883, claims that this rhyme was known in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1790, but he provided no evidence and nothing has come to light. Rhyme after this unsubstantiated claimappeared in English in 1881. What evidence is there that it has remained undocumented since 1665?
title page ofThe dreaded visit: a brief overview of the course and effects of the plagueby Daniel Defoe. This is one of several contemporary plague year stories, none of which mention anything resembling “Ring Around the Rosie”. Printing and Photo Department. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b41405
Claims that rhymes are associated with the plague are even more recent; The folklorists who carefully recorded the verse themselves in the 19th and early 20th centuries never mentioned any interpretation of the plague, although they certainly knew of it. The first evidence I saw of people associating rhymes with death and disasters was in 1949 when the newspaperThe Observercontains a passage that begins to rhyme “ring-a-ring-o’-geranium, a bag of uranium” referring to the bombing of Hiroshima. In 1951 we found the first direct reference to an interpretation of the plague:Iona and Peter Opiesays that some people believe rhyme refers to the plague but are not convinced themselves.
In the end, there is simply no direct evidence. Even if the rhyme itself was not recorded two hundred years after the plague, there may be different types of evidence: descriptions of children playing dance games mention roses and rituals, ridicule or word of mouth from the earliest informants made the connection. However, as it turned out, none of these types of evidence surfacedmeticulous daily accountingLiving in London in 1665 andStories of the plague from those who lived through it. So today’s scholars want to know: how did the first person to claim a connection between the events of 1665 and this rhyme find that connection, and why can’t we find it?
All of this makes scholars skeptical, to say the least. In 2010English folklorist and librarian Steve Roudremarked that “the origin of the plague is utter nonsense”, and in the 1980sopiates(who first recorded and publicly proclaimed the belief in 1951) wrote: “We ourselves have often had to hear this interpretation, we are afraid to leave the house”.
However, the story only seems to gain strength in the second half of the 20th century, and this alone has intrigued folklorists. After all, the story itself is folklore: a story passed first orally, then in writing and in online media. And because it isaboveFolklore, folklorists classify it as “metafolklore”: folklore about folklore.
The cover of Leonard Leslie Brooke’s Ring O’ Roses features the characters in the children’s tune performing “Ring Around the Rosie.” The book was first published in 1922 and the image is therefore in the public domain.
If the story of the plague was folklore, we would see it in different versions and variations. And so do we. The two main variations are claims by Londoners that it refers to the Great Plague of 1665 and claims by others that it came from itThe Black Death of 1347. Of these two major variations, there are minor variations: namely, that FitzGerald and others say the rhyme originates in London in 1665, duringothers say it comes from Eyam, a village in the English Midlands, was also infected by bubonic plague in 1665.One article even claimedThe Eyam children sang it “while dancing around the victims!”
There are also countless individual versions of this story, each with their own quirks. Because bubonic plague can infect different parts of the body and cause different symptoms, because people know or imagine different historical health practices, and because different versions of the rhyme have different specific words, the plague stories vary widely in the correspondence they find between the words and the epidemic experience:for some people, “a-tishoo” denotes a sneeze, duringfor others, “ashes” means cremation. For supporters of pneumonic plague is the ringpink rash, while for proponents of the plague it wasred sore around a black bump. Indeed, observing the various ways in which “Ring Around the Rosie” is thought to correspond to real or false symptoms, it seems that the story clearly does not grow from compelling evidence; Instead, evidence was gathered to support a compelling story.
Metafolkloric stories may or may not be true, but in either case there’s usually a compelling reason we keep telling them, or a deeper truth they express. So a question folklorists like to ask is, “What made people so interesting about this story?” It’s a difficult question to answer, but we can see certain patterns in the types of people who speak to it. It is of great interest to historians, for whom a glimpse into the distant past is always interesting in the present. It is of particular interest to plague historians; Actually, the default worksabout the plague of 1347andBubonic plague 1665Tell the story as it is. Part of the historian’s job is to explain how the plague continues to affect our lives, and the opportunity to bring up a rhyme everyone knows and connect it to this profound story is irresistible. Second, stories are often told by advocates for specific places.Travel blogs spreading the story of Eyam, duringThe Londoner “celebrates London and everything that happens there”.supporters foreducation, medicineand even forsanitary sewerageused the song’s alleged association with disease to suggest that their specific expertise remains relevant to anyone who has heard the popular tune. After all, there are many people who love horror, and nothing is more unsettling than the idea of little children playing to represent epidemics and death.
However, our love of the plague story runs deeper than the agenda of some interest groups.Even professors know that’s not truecouldn’t resist telling it! Folklorists know better than anyone the fascination with things older than they seem and with “Extraordinary origin of everyday things. “Some founders of the folklore discipline advocatetheory of survival, which states that cultural documents such as rhymes that contain information from the past have been forgotten. For these theorists, a piece of pottery, a jigsaw puzzle, or a child’s tune can hold the key to deciphering the myths of the distant past, and the folklorist’s task is to interpret or decipher the cryptic messages in these fragments. Indeed, the irony is true that the plague story does not entirely agree with 19th-century folklorists’ interpretation of the rhyme, but contemporary folklorists often express displeasure at the persistence of the story. Maybe it reminds us too much of ourselves.
In any case, we understand its appeal: in the marketplace of ideas, a good story often outweighs mere fact.
Do you know an interesting story about a children’s song that you’re curious about? Leave us a comment below!
Some of the books cited above with links to Library of Congress catalog entries are also available elsewhere as free electronic resources. The Library of Congress cannot always guarantee the quality of reproduction, the accuracy of the text, or the beauty of the presentation, but they can be helpful to our readers. These articles are in the public domain:
Mother goose or old nursery rhymes, illustrated by Kate Greenaway
Ring O’Roses, by Leonard Leslie Brooke
Year of the Plague magazine, by Daniel Defoe
Diary of Samuel Pepys, 1659-1669, edited by Henry B. Wheatley