Additions to Mother Goose
Ring around the rosy
A pocketful of posies
"Ashes, Ashes" / “A-tishoo, A-tishoo”
We all fall down!
A nursery rhyme and child’s play inspired by the Great Plague of 1665. The ‘rosy’ refers to the rash that a patient would develop, the ‘posies’ a preventive measure for the smell, and the last line alludes to their eventual death. The third line that varies for many of us, refers to either the symptoms of the plague (a-tishoo to mimic a sneeze), or to the eventual cremation of people that lost their lives to this plague.
Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells,
With pretty maids all in a row.
A nursery rhyme depiction of Queen Mary I of England – a monarch who has been dubbed ‘Bloody Mary’ because of how ruthless her reign was. A firm believer of Catholicism, her reign is marked by the beheadings of countless Protestants, which is what the nursery rhyme alludes to. The ‘garden’ refers to her cemetery, and the ‘silver bells and cockle shells’ are supposedly torture devices.
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe,
Catch a tiger by the toe
If he hollers, let him go,
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.
The original version had a racial slur in place of the word ‘tiger’ and it is believed that the nursery rhyme depicts how slave owners would capture their slaves. In fact, an alternative version offers a different ending to the poem entirely: “If he hollers make him pay / Twenty dollars every day” – a cruel description of the racial oppression and ownership at the hands of a white man.
I shudder to think what my children will sing – what catchy rhymes and bouncy tune will paint over our atrocities and gloom as they’re sung in nursery classrooms; dictators in power sprinkling war and hunger over little children exploited as labor – a song about death and famine, about cushioning cushioned bottoms, about the earth stripped barren, and about all the colours of abuse, daintily illustrated in bedtime books as funny little cartoons – of how gods have been reduced to political pawns and prayer is reserved for funeral processions; of how we’re idly resting in shades of oppression with shackles so tightly wound – a song sung in any language without losing any truth; that leaders and heroes and gods have all bowed out; for we belong to a time where only privilege can save you.