Mudcat Café message #224847 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #21219   Message #224847
Posted By: Joe Offer
08-May-00 - 05:45 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: Ring-a-ring-of-roses
Subject: Ring around the rosy
I'm sure the Opies and I mean no offense to Rana, but we disagree with her comments about the plague. Let me put the scanner to work and post the rest of the article.
-Joe Offer-
Ring-a-ring o' roses,
A pocket full of posies,
A-tishoo! A-tishoo!
We all fall down.
The words of this little ring-song seem to be becoming standardized though this was not so a hundred years ago when Lady Gomme was collecting (ante 1898). Of the twelve versions she gathered only one was similar to the above. Although 'Ring-a-ring o' roses' is now one of the most popular nursery games - the song which instantly rises from the lips of small children whenever they join hands in a circle - the words were not known to Halliwell, and have not been found in children's literature before 1881. Newell, however, says that,
Ring a ring a rosie,
A bottle full of posie,
All the girls in our town,
Ring for little Josie,
was current to the familiar tune in New Bedford, Massachusetts, about 1790. The 'A-tishoo' is notably absent here, as it is also in other versions he gives, in which the players squat or stoop rather than fall down:
Round the ring of roses,
Pots full of posies,
The one who stoops last
Shall tell whom she loves best.
The invariable sneezing and falling down in modern English versions has given would-be origin finders the opportunity to say that the rhyme dates back to the days of the Great Plague. A rosy rash, they allege, was a symptom of the plague, posies of herbs were carried as protection, sneezing was a final fatal symptom, and 'all fall down' was exactly what happened. It would be more delightful to recall the old belief that gifted children had the power to laugh roses (Grimm's Deutsche Mythologie). The foreign and nineteenth-century versions seem to show that the fall was originally a curtsy or other gracious movement of a ring game (see I. and P. Opie, The Singing Game). A sequel rhyme which enabled the players to rise to their feet again was in vogue in the 1940s:
The cows are in the meadow
Lying fast asleep,
A-tishoo! A-tishoo!
We all get up again.