About the Nursery rhymes

They are considered as poems for children. These traditional poems are very enjoyable to read, even for grown-ups. We put together a list of Nursery rhymes. The list is far from complete. There are so many examples to choose from. This is About the Nursery rhymes.

The Oxford Nursery Rhyme BookHistory

Before we start with a short list of the rhymes we consider to be special or beautiful, let’s start with some history about the Nursery Rhymes.

The oldest versions of these rhymes are actually lullabies. They were meant to get children to sleep. Every culture in the world has these lullabies and some of them are known in more than one language. The oldest examples date back to the Romans. But, the evidence isn’t that clear. There is not clear evidence, that these lullabies were first sung in Italy or any other part of the Roman empire.

In the Middle ages, these lullabies turned religious in Western-Europe, with many references to the baby Jesus. In the centuries that followed, more and more – what we now know as – Nursery rhymes were written down. In most cases, these rhymes contained a sort of moral lesson, that could be learned from them.

By the nineteenth century, Nursery rhymes were sort-off a booming business one might say. Many of the rhymes (some of them songs) we today still know, were written during this century. In some cases, the writers weren’t that original. Jane Taylor joined some music of the eighteenth century with the classic lyrics of Twinkle twinkle little star. As far as Taylor, she is remembered as the writer. But it wouldn’t be fair, to mention the French Ah! vous dirai-je, maman. For sure, she wasn’t the only one to use the music. Even Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart used the music in Twelve Variations on “Ah vous dirai-je, Maman.”

Many of the rhymes we today still know, were “born” between 1700 and 1900. Making these rhymes timeless.

The examples

So, now it’s time to show you some examples of Nursery rhymes. The list isn’t complete. If you want to read more, the book written by Iona and Peter Opie is a good starting point. They summarized the most influential rhymes in their 1950’s book The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes or The Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book. We used this last book as a reference.

Jack be nimble

Jack be nimble,
Jack be quick,
Jack jump over
The candlestick

 

The mischievous raven

1
A farmer went trotting upon his gray mare,

Bumpety, bumpety, bump!

With his daughter behind him so rosy and fair,

Lumpety, lumpety, lump!

 

A raven cried croak! and they all tumbled down,

Bumpety, bumpety, bump!

The mare broke her knees, and the farmer his crown,

Lumpety, lumpety, lump!

 

The mischievous raven flew laughing away,

Bumpety, bumpety, bump!

And vowed he would serve them the same the next day,

Lumpety, lumpety lump!

 

1 – Also known as The farmer and the raven

London Bridge
The introduction of “London Bridge” from Tommy Thumbs Pretty Song Book (1744).
Source: Wikimedia Commons.

London Bridge

London Bridge is broken down,
Broken down, broken down.
London Bridge is broken down,
My fair lady.

 

Build it up with wood and clay,
Wood and clay, wood and clay,
Build it up with wood and clay,
My fair lady.

 

Wood and clay will wash away,
Wash away, wash away,
Wood and clay will wash away,
My fair lady.

 

Build it up with bricks and mortar,
Bricks and mortar, bricks and mortar,
Build it up with bricks and mortar,
My fair lady.

 

Bricks and mortar will not stay,
Will not stay, will not stay,
Bricks and mortar will not stay,
My fair lady.

 

Build it up with iron and steel,
Iron and steel, iron and steel,
Build it up with iron and steel,
My fair lady.

 

Iron and steel will bend and bow,
Bend and bow, bend and bow,
Iron and steel will bend and bow,
My fair lady.

 

Build it up with silver and gold,
Silver and gold, silver and gold,
Build it up with silver and gold,
My fair lady.

 

Silver and gold will be stolen away,
Stolen away, stolen away,
Silver and gold will be stolen away,
My fair lady.

 

Set a man to watch all night,
Watch all night, watch all night,
Set a man to watch all night,
My fair lady.

 

Suppose the man should fall asleep,
Fall asleep, fall asleep,
Suppose the man should fall asleep?
My fair lady.

 

Give him a pipe to smoke all night,
Smoke all night, smoke all night,
Give him a pipe to smoke all night,
My fair lady.

 

Humpty Dumpty
Source

Humpty Dumpty

2

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses, and all the king’s men,
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

2 – The original version dates back to 1803.

Old mother Hubard and her dog
Old mother Hubard and her dog
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Old mother Hubard and her dog

3

Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard,
To give the poor dog a bone;
But when she came there
The cupboard was bare,
And so the poor dog had none.

 

She went to the baker’s
To buy him some bread;
When she came back
The dog was dead!

 

She went to the undertaker’s
To buy him a coffin;
When she came back
The dog was laughing.

 

She took a clean dish
to get him some tripe;
When she came back
He was smoking his pipe.

 

She went to the alehouse
To get him some beer;
When she came back
The dog sat in a chair.

 

She went to the tavern
For white wine and red;
When she came back
The dog stood on his head.

 

She went to the fruiterer’s
To buy him some fruit;
When she came back
He was playing the flute.

 

She went to the tailor’s
To buy him a coat;
When she came back
He was riding a goat.

 

She went to the hatter’s
To buy him a hat;
When she came back
He was feeding her cat.

 

She went to the barber’s
To buy him a wig
When she came back
He was dancing a jig.

 

She went to the cobbler’s
To buy him some shoes;
When she came back
He was reading the news.

 

She went to the sempstress
To buy him some linen;
When she came back
The dog was spinning.

 

She went to the hosier’s
To buy him some hose;
When she came back
He was dressed in his clothes.

 

The Dame made a curtsy,
The dog made a bow;
The Dame said, Your servant;
The dog said, Bow-wow.

 

This wonderful dog
Was Dame Hubbard’s delight,
He could read, he could dance,
He could sing, he could write;
She gave him rich dainties
Whenever he fed,
And erected this monument
When he was dead.

 

3 – From The comic adventures of Old mother Hubbard and her dog, first published in 1805.

Jumping Joan

Here am I, little jumping Joan;
When nobody’s with me,
I am always alone.

The carrion crow

A carrion crow sat on an oak,
Watching a tailor shape his cloak.
Sing heigh ho, the carrion cro,
Fol the riddle, lol de riddle, hi ding do .

 

The carrion crow began to rave,
And called the tailor a crooked knave.
Sing heigh ho, the carrion crow,
Fol de riddle, lol de riddle, hi ding do.

 

Wife, bring me my old bent bow,
That I may shoot yon carrion crow.
Sing heigh ho, the carrion crow,
Fol de riddle, lol de riddle, hi ding do.

 

The tailor he shot and missed his mark,
And shot his own sow through the heart.
Sing heigh ho, the carrion crow,
Fol de riddle, lol de riddle, hi ding do.

Wife, bring brandy in a spoon,
For our old sow is in a swoon.
Sing heigh ho, the carrion crow,
Fol de riddle, lol de riddle, hi ding do.

That’s all

There was an old man,
And he had a calf,
And that’s half;
He took him out of the stall,
And put him on the wall,
And that’s all.

About the Nursery rhymes

Indeed, that is all! We are curious, what is your favorite Nursery rhyme? Contact us, or write your comment under this article.

Title
About the Nursery rhymes
Article Name
About the Nursery rhymes
Summary
Read more about Nursery rhymes - history & examples. Written by Harm Jagerman.
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The Ministry of Poetic Affairs
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