Enh/edu219: Secret History of Nursery Rhymes and Their Origins



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ENH/EDU219: Secret History of Nursery Rhymes

Nursery Rhymes and Their Origins

Research three nursery rhymes from the list provided and complete the following information using the template provided. Thank you.

NAME OF RHYME: Ring Around the Rosy or Ring a Ring o Rosies

HISTORICAL TIME/DATE: The historical period dates back to the Great Plague of London in 1665 (bubonic plague) or even before when the first outbreak of the Plague hit England in the 1300's.

HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE: Explains the spread of the bubonic plague
ORIGINAL LYRICS:

Ring around the rosy
A pocketful of posies
"Ashes, Ashes"
We all fall down!


INTERPRETATION OF RHYME/WHAT THE WORDS IN THE RHYME MEANT ORIGINALLY:

  • The symptoms of the plague included a rosy red rash in the shape of a ring on the skin (Ring around the rosy).

  • Pockets and pouches were filled with sweet smelling herbs (or posies) which were carried due to the belief that the disease was transmitted by bad smells.

  • The term "Ashes Ashes" refers to the cremation of the dead bodies! The death rate was over 60 percent and the plague was only halted by the Great Fire of London in 1666 which killed the rats which carried the disease which was transmitting via water sources.

  • The English version of "Ring around the rosy" replaces Ashes with (A-tishoo, A-tishoo) as violent sneezing was another symptom of the disease.

LATEST RECORDED VERSION OF RHYME:


Ring-a-Ring o'Rosies
A Pocket full of Posies
"A-tishoo! A-tishoo!"
We all fall Down!


SITE NAMES AND URLs WHERE YOU FOUND THE INFORMATION: Nursery Rhymes – Lyrics and Origins!
ANY OTHER INTERESTING FACTS:

The connection between this rhyme was made by James Leasor in 1961 in his non-fiction book The Plague and the Fire.

  • Some people are sceptical of the plague interpretations of this rhyme, many stating that words in the rhyme cannot be found in Middle English.

  • The sceptics must be referring to the later version of the rhyme, possibly with American origins, the English version is "Ring a ring o' rosies" using the Middle English "o" as a shortening of the word "of."

  • The written word " posies" is first mentioned in a poem called 'Prothalamion or A Spousal Verse' by Edmund Spenser (1552-1599). We believe that this addresses the views of the sceptics.

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~rbarstac -> Mechanics -2 96/108 Great! Schlosser, S. E. Traditional Literature: American Tall Tale Birth of the Jersey Devil
~rbarstac -> American Tall Tales. New York: Viking Press, 1966. Summary
291fall08 -> Enh/edu291: History of Nursery Rhymes Assignment (link to assignment) View Nursery Rhyme PowerPoint here
291fall08 -> Examine an information book published before 1960 with an informational book on the same subject published after 1990. Critique the books, focus on the perceived differences between these two texts
291fall08 -> Type of Book: Historical Fiction Grade Level


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