Mudcat Café message #1477680 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #21219   Message #1477680
Posted By: GUEST,Muttley
04-May-05 - 05:49 AM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: Ring-a-ring-of-roses
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Ring-a-ring-of-roses
I'd like to support Rana on this one - being somewhat of a history student of Mediaeval times and earlier.

Ring O' Roses (the original title) has been a doggerel in many forms over the past 3-&-1/2 Centuries. It was indeed a childrens chant in the early 18th Century and referred to the Plague. However, the popular notion of it being the "Black Plague" is erroneous. It is actually a combination of two plagues evident in the 17th Century. The Black Death (Bubonic Plague) was accompanied by an even more insidious disease - The Pneumonic Plague - most Bubonic victims also got the latter as their bodily defences crumbled and then it was a race to see which version would carry off the sufferer first.

The "Roses" were the circular rash marks which preceded the 'Buboes' for which the Bubonic Plague was named.
The "Posies" were the bunches of herbs physicians carried to ward off the disease (it was believed that disease was spread by smell and that a 'posy' consisting of Thyme, Sage, Lavender and Rosemary would protect the 'good doctor' from contracting the malady from his patients
The "Atishoo" (sneezing, obviously) was a reference to the chest infections - frequently the announced arrival of the 'companionable' Pneumonic sidekick - which beset the victim in the plague's middle and lattter stages.
"We All Fall Down" referred to the death of the victim. It was done "as a group" because that is how the disease progressed - killing entire streets / "suburbs" / villages at a time.

The "Ashes, Ashes" reference to the second-last line was an American corruption of the English original and was recorded as such by "Mother Goose" Other cultures have their own versions - I know the French certainly do as my wife is French and her mother has chanted her "Southern French" version a few times in response to occasional conversations. As a (basically) peasant from the Provence region she is the inheritor of a rich oral history / folkloric tradition. Her interpretation is that the French version of this rhyme has come down to her over literally hundreds of years. (The South of France was also hit heavily - despite it "ruralness" - by both plagues; predominantly thanks to its unenviable (in this case) to the major fishing and trading ports of Marseille, Sete and (the only very slightly inland) Montpellier.


Go Rana - I still think you are correct