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Help: Political Satire in nursery rhymes

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In Mudcat MIDIs:
Willie Wastle


Metchosin 11 Dec 99 - 11:37 PM
Murray on Saltspring 12 Dec 99 - 01:29 AM
Metchosin 12 Dec 99 - 02:03 AM
Metchosin 13 Dec 99 - 04:51 AM
Murray on SS 14 Dec 99 - 03:47 AM
_gargoyle 14 Dec 99 - 11:43 AM
Bruce O. 14 Dec 99 - 01:21 PM
_gargoyle 14 Dec 99 - 11:28 PM
15 Dec 99 - 02:43 AM
Bruce O. 15 Dec 99 - 02:49 AM
Bruce O. 15 Dec 99 - 03:02 AM
Metchosin 15 Dec 99 - 04:14 AM
Ely 15 Dec 99 - 09:47 AM
T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird) 15 Dec 99 - 10:07 AM
Bruce O. 15 Dec 99 - 11:44 AM
Bert 15 Dec 99 - 12:17 PM
T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird) 15 Dec 99 - 12:21 PM
Bruce O. 15 Dec 99 - 12:58 PM
Bruce O. 15 Dec 99 - 01:06 PM
Bruce O. 15 Dec 99 - 01:35 PM
T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird) 16 Dec 99 - 08:02 PM
Bruce O. 17 Dec 99 - 02:17 PM
kendall 17 Dec 99 - 02:47 PM
Bruce O. 17 Dec 99 - 04:02 PM
Metchosin 17 Dec 99 - 04:48 PM
Slider 18 Dec 99 - 12:01 AM
Murray on Saltspring 18 Dec 99 - 01:32 AM
Metchosin 18 Dec 99 - 02:08 AM
Metchosin 18 Dec 99 - 02:22 AM
Metchosin 18 Dec 99 - 04:54 PM
Murray on Saltspring 18 Dec 99 - 08:43 PM
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Subject: Political Satire in nursery rhymes
From: Metchosin
Date: 11 Dec 99 - 11:37 PM

I brought up this ditty as a start of a thread on misheard words, or as I now know, Mondegreens, awhile back. As well as mishearing the words, I also think I had no understanding of the meaning until just now. I may still be wrong, but here is my take on what my Scottish grandmother was singing to me, with the following:

Wee Mcgregor
He's like a negger
His nose is painted red, white and blue,
He wears a tammy
To please his mammy
So what do you think of we McGregor noo?

This is a song about the repression and the abuse of the Scots by the English., hence the reference to Blacks The British owns the Scots a*s, hence the reference to painting his nose red white and blue. Was there a historic McGregor who collaborated with the British? And did he hide his collaboration under a false guise of patriotism? I'd be interested to hear from someone with some knowledge of the history behind this. Then again I could be totally off the rails regarding my take. I often am.


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Subject: RE: Help: Political Satire in nursery rhymes
From: Murray on Saltspring
Date: 12 Dec 99 - 01:29 AM

I suspect that the rhyme is a sort of nonce-verse based on the character "Wee Macgreegor" created by John Joy Bell around 1901 for the Glasgow Evening Times (- he died 1934). I suppose the book is still in print (my edition, Edinburgh, 1945).


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Subject: RE: Help: Political Satire in nursery rhymes
From: Metchosin
Date: 12 Dec 99 - 02:03 AM

Murray, it was actually a song that she sang to us. Would there be a reference to a tune for it in the book? Also hi! from a fellow islander.


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Subject: RE: Help: Political Satire in nursery rhymes
From: Metchosin
Date: 13 Dec 99 - 04:51 AM

Murray, as far as I could find out the book is out of print, but I have one ordered through the ABE.


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Subject: RE: Help: Political Satire in nursery rhymes
From: Murray on SS
Date: 14 Dec 99 - 03:47 AM

No, Metchosin, don't get the wrong idea. Bell's book has a few rhymes in it (real trad jingles familiar to many Scots), but the verse you're quoting isn't in there, and I can't find it anywhere else [I shudder to admit]--what tune did your grannie use?


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Subject: RE: Help: Political Satire in nursery rhymes
From: _gargoyle
Date: 14 Dec 99 - 11:43 AM

These two sites should give you good information. The first while weak in substance has an excellent Link Section at the bottom Nursery Rhymes History of Rhymes the explanation of Humpty Dumpty is interesting and it finally makes sense.

http://members.xoom.com/nur_rhymes/list.html http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/3041/


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Subject: RE: Help: Political Satire in nursery rhymes
From: Bruce O.
Date: 14 Dec 99 - 01:21 PM

A lot better information is in the Opie's 'The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes'. The Opie's don't buy the romantic nonsense unless there's evidence for it, and most of the stories about the personages in nursery rhymes come from overactive imaginations. One sees the same thing in folksongs. Spinster daughters of ministers seems to be best at locating some hidden religious mysticism in old songs that don't have a well connected narative.

I have an early transcript of "Willie Wastle". That in DT is by Robert Burns (from Scots Musical Museum, #376), and its tune (not in DT) is "Sic a wife as Willie had"


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Subject: RE: Help: Political Satire in nursery rhymes
From: _gargoyle
Date: 14 Dec 99 - 11:28 PM

Here are three examples from the second source cited. I could not locate an "on-line-version" of the Oxford text you note. For curiosity's sake....what does Oxoford say about these three?

(all are direct quotes from Nursery Rhyme History

Old King Cole

There was a British King by the name of Coel--his capital was Colchester. He married off Helena, his daughter, to a Roman general, and she became mother to the Emperor Constantine. Helena was declared a saint for her work in the spreading of Christianity. Coel's merry soul may relate to the peace in his Kingdom that was brought about by Helena's marriage.
This origin was contributed by Tracy Lightfoot. On a page called, Rhymes and Nonesense it is said that this rhyme first appeared in print in 1703. It also states that it refers to a 3rd century king.

Humpty Dumpty

During the English Civil War (1642-49) "Humpty Dumpty" was the name for a powerful cannon. It was mounted atop the St. Marys Wall Church in Colchester to defend the city against seige in the summer of 1648. (Colchester was a Parlimentarian stonghold but had been captured by Royalists and they held it for 11 weeks.) The church tower was hit by the enemy and the top was blown off. "Humpty Dumpty" fell off and tumbled to the ground. The King's men tried to fix him but to no avail. This origin is submitted by Tracy Lightfoot. She recieved her information from the East Anglia Tourist Board in England. As for the accuracy of this origin Tracy says it is still unsure. But, she has told me that St. Marys at the Wall Church was a stronghold during that seige. Also, there is a similar story in Glouchester, England. On the page, Accidents May Happen reference is made to this rhyme poking fun of a nobleman who had fallen from favor with the King. This king may have been Richard III (1452-1485) of England. From Scott comes the idea that this might refer to King Richard III. He states that: " Humpty Dumpty referred to King Richard III, the hunchbacked monarch. At the Battle of Bosworth Feild, he fell from his steed, a horse he had named 'Wall' (as dramatically rendered in Shakespeare's play 'Richard III:' 'A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!'). Richard was surrounded by enemy troops in the battle, and was butchered right there, his body being hacked to pieces. Hence the final part of the rhyme: 'All the King's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty together again.'" This mention of Richard III is not a new idea. And the dictionary defines "Humpty Dumpty" as being a person who is short, stout, kind of dumpy looking. If Richard had a hunchback, then he may have been called this.
According to "Encyclopedia Britannica" (1996) "As to the allegation...that Richard was a hunhback, neither portraits nor contemporary reports reveal such a deformity, although there is some indication that one of his shoulders was higher than the other. From Syd Dickenson we get a very different idea. He says he thinks that "Humpty Dumpty" refers to the tale of Charles I (Humpty Dumpty) of England. He was toppled by the Puritan majority in Parliment (the great fall). The King's army (Cavaliers) could not restore his power. Charles I was executed by the Roundheads* ("couldn't put back together again"). Since the World Book Dictionary states that "Humpty Dumpty" refers to a short, stout person this idea is very plausible.

*Roundheads as defined by the Dictionary of Phrase and Fable: "Adherents of Charles I. Those opposing Parliament party were called 'Roundheads.'"
This rhyme appears in Lewis Carroll's book "Through the Looking Glass." There is an allusion to this being a riddle, as well. RIDDLE IDEAS:

Kilkenny Cats

There was once two cats of Kilkenny
Each thought that there were two cats too many
So they fought and the fit,
And they scratched and they bit,
Till excepting their nails and the tips of their tails
Instead of two cats there weren't any.

According to the Dictionary of Phrase and Fable this rhyme came about because of a lie. In Ireland Kilkenny (a county and town) was invaded by Hessian soldiers. For fun these soldiers would tie together the tails of two cats then throw them across a clothes-line and watch them fight. One of the troopers, not liking this sport, snuck over and cut the tails off of the two cats. The cats fled the scene tailless. When an officer asked about the two bleeding tails still over the clothes-line the trooper told him that the cats devoured each other except for the tails.
From the "World Book Dictionary" I also learned that "Kilkenny Cats" is sometimes a phrase used to describe people who fight relentlessly.

This comes from Sadao Yasui. He states that the answer is an egg (Humpty Dumpty is always depicted as an egg in drawings). The basic question of the rhyme would be: "What is it that the King's men cannot put back together?"


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Subject: RE: Help: Political Satire in nursery rhymes
From:
Date: 15 Dec 99 - 02:43 AM

ODNR summarizes three theories as to who Old King Cole might have been, including the one above. Oldest text is of 1708-9, next, that from David Herd's MSS, c 1776. {see Han Hecht's 'Songs from David Herd's MSS')

Humpty Dumpty as the cannon is from David Daube, "in one of his spoof nursery-rhyme histories for 'The Oxford Magazine', 1956", which, it seems, has been take seriously by some. There are other theories, and the earliest text is of 1797.,

ODNR doesn't have "Kilkenny Cats"

[ODNR is stocked by Borders Bookstores]


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Subject: RE: Help: Political Satire in nursery rhymes
From: Bruce O.
Date: 15 Dec 99 - 02:49 AM

Sorry that last was me.


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Subject: RE: Help: Political Satire in nursery rhymes
From: Bruce O.
Date: 15 Dec 99 - 03:02 AM

According the the totally unreliable Geoffrey of Monmouth, who gives the only history of King Coel of Colchester (Penguin edition, p. 132), Coel died before his Daughter Helen married Constantius. Their son, Constantine, went to Rome. 'He captured the city and then was made overlord of the whole world'. Three of Helen's uncle subsequently appear, and were made Roman senators. I don't remember that from Gibbon's 'Decline and Fall...'.


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Subject: RE: Help: Political Satire in nursery rhymes
From: Metchosin
Date: 15 Dec 99 - 04:14 AM

Murray, I have never heard the tune for this rhyme used in conjunction with any other nursery rhyme, folk song or skipping song. Perhaps you or someone else may have, but I don't know how to post the tune. As you live fairly close by, I could sing it over the phone, if you want to hear it and maybe you might recognize it.

Also another idea that occurred to me after you told me about Bell, was that maybe it was directed at him by someone who didn't like his politics. If it is of any use, my grandmother arrived in Canada around 1908, was born in Dundee and her father and brother were coal miners.

Thanks Bruce and gargoyle for the interesting sites. One thing that seems to arise is that there appears to be conflicting opinions as to the meaning of some of the rhymes. I don't expect my Grandmother's rhyme to be on any site really, as I have never heard anyone else sing it and it certainly isn't appropriate or acceptable today.


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Subject: RE: Help: Political Satire in nursery rhymes
From: Ely
Date: 15 Dec 99 - 09:47 AM

I picked up a book at a garage sale called _the Annotated Mother Goose_. I don't know if it's still around, either (probably is, I don't think it was that old). Makes for interesting reading.


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Subject: RE: Help: Political Satire in nursery rhymes
From: T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird)
Date: 15 Dec 99 - 10:07 AM

I believe there is evidence (geneologies, I think) for a 5th century Coel (Coelestius ?) in the norhtern part of sub-Roman Britain, though I don't know of anything linking this Coel to the town of Camalodunum. Why did the English invaders renamed the city of Camalodunum after him, calling it "Colcester" ? I don't think anyone knows. T.


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Subject: RE: Help: Political Satire in nursery rhymes
From: Bruce O.
Date: 15 Dec 99 - 11:44 AM

The Opie's note that the naming of Colchester after Coel is wrong. Gibbon's 'Decline and Fall' confirms that Helen married Constantius, and their son became Constantine the Great. Gibbon doesn't think much of Geoffrey's history, and says Helen was the daughter of an innkeeper, not Coel, King of all the Britons (if there was such).


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Subject: RE: Help: Political Satire in nursery rhymes
From: Bert
Date: 15 Dec 99 - 12:17 PM

Warning! thread drift.

All this talk of Colchester and cannon reminds me of a story that was told to me years ago by an Essex historian named Harry Waylett.

He said that every morning at six o'clock they used to fire a cannon at Colchester Castle to wake the troops that were stationed there. The citizens of Colchester were not too happy with this tradition and complained about it for years.

Eventually the military decided to take heed of the complaints and agreed not to fire the gun any more. On the first morning that the gun wasn't fired, everyone in the city woke up with a start at six o'clock and said "What was that?"


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Subject: RE: Help: Political Satire in nursery rhymes
From: T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird)
Date: 15 Dec 99 - 12:21 PM

The Coel of the geneologies was not "King of all Britons", he was simply a magnate whom some medieval Welsh nobles claimed as an ancestor. His date (5th Century) is too late to make him the ancestor of Constantine the Great. In theory he could have had some connection with the British pretender Constantine III, but I don't know any evidence for this.

Geoffrey's "history" is thought by modern scholars to be a satire, a sort of 1066 And All That. The issues Geoffry writes about would be those which were discussed seriously in his time (otherwise there would be no joke), but nothing he says about them can be taken as history.

That the town of Camalodunum is now called Colchester is a fact. Since "Colchester" is an English word on its surface, it's reasonable to suppose that the English gave the town its present name. That doesn't mean the town was named after Coel or anyone else. At some point in the middle ages, Carcasonne in southern Gaul was thought to have been named after one "Carcas"; this seems to have been a ficticious individual invented to account for a name whose derivation was no longer understood. Assuming, arguendo, that Camalodunum wasn't renamed after Coel Hen leaves us with two possibilities: Perhaps "Old King Cole" is a ficticious person, unconnected to the 5th century Coel Hen, who was invented to account for the town's name. Or perhaps Coel Hen left a reputation behind him among the English, and this reputation later led to the story that the town had been named after him.

T.


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Subject: RE: Help: Political Satire in nursery rhymes
From: Bruce O.
Date: 15 Dec 99 - 12:58 PM

Geoffrey of Monmouth (Penguin Classics ed. p. 131) says "When Coel, King of the Britons, heard of the coming of Constantius,..". Camalodunum is a Roman name. Where do you find the Welsh geneologies, mentioning Coel? I don't have such and haven't even been able to find any of Rachel Bromwich's works. Cuel is mentioned (barely) in 'Culwych and Olwen', but what he was wasn't mentioned, except most, in the long list of notables there, were warriors.


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Subject: RE: Help: Political Satire in nursery rhymes
From: Bruce O.
Date: 15 Dec 99 - 01:06 PM

There probably a psychological term for it that I don't know, but it seems that some people require an answer to any question, and don't seem to be able to put up with no answer, so any answer that doesn't do violence to common knowledge will do, even if they have to make it up themselves (and then call themselves very clever to have figured it out).

King Cole was probably a fictional character.


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Subject: Lyr Add: KING COUL / KING COLE
From: Bruce O.
Date: 15 Dec 99 - 01:35 PM

[From Hans Hecht's 'Songs from David Herd's MSS, 1904. Slightly different in form than that contributed by Murray on Saltspring to DT, third version with notes, giving further identifications of King Cole.]

KING COUL

Old King Cowl was a jolly old soul,
And a jolly old soul was he,
Old king Coul he had a brown bowl,
And they brought him in fiddlers three,
And every fiddler was a very good fiddler,
And a very good fiddler was he,
Fidell-didell, fideiil-didell with the fidlers thee:
And therre's no a lass in all Scotland
Compared to our sweet Margarie.

[next verse, 'pipers', ending:]
Ha-didell, how-didell with the pipers,
Fidell-didell, fidell-didell with the pipers three etc.

[next verse, 'harpers three':]
Twingle-twangle, twingle-twangle with the harpers,
Ha-didell etc.
Fidell-didell etc.

[next, 'trumpeters three':]
Twerre-rang, twerre-rang with [the] trumpeters.

[next, 'drummers;:]
Rub-a-dub, rub-a-dub, withe the drummers,
Twerre-rang, twree rang with trumpeters,
Twingle-twangle, twingle-twangle with harpers,' Ha didell, ha didell with the pipers,
Fidell-didell, fidell-didell withe the fidlers three:
And there's no a lass in a' Scotland
Compared to our sweet Margarie.

[That it's a song with cumulative chorus is obvious. For another such see the 16th century "Derry's Fair/ Monaghan Fair" in Scarce Songs 1 on my website.]


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Subject: RE: Help: Political Satire in nursery rhymes
From: T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird)
Date: 16 Dec 99 - 08:02 PM

Bruce O.: A good reference (so I hear) for the medieval Welsh genealogies is called Early Welsh Genealogical Tracts, Cardiff, 1960, ed. A. W. Wade-Evans and P. C. Bartrum. I haven't managed to get this book on ILL yet, though; I only know of it from works that cite it. Like you, I haven't yet got hold of Rachel Bromwich's Trioedd Ynys Prydein, either.

T.


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Subject: RE: Help: Political Satire in nursery rhymes
From: Bruce O.
Date: 17 Dec 99 - 02:17 PM

Thanks, T in Oklahoma.


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Subject: RE: Help: Political Satire in nursery rhymes
From: kendall
Date: 17 Dec 99 - 02:47 PM

very interesting, thanks gargoyle


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Subject: RE: Help: Political Satire in nursery rhymes
From: Bruce O.
Date: 17 Dec 99 - 04:02 PM

Actually, truth is usually stranger than fiction, but a lot harder to find.


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Subject: RE: Help: Political Satire in nursery rhymes
From: Metchosin
Date: 17 Dec 99 - 04:48 PM

Well said Bruce, the best one I've head all day.


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Subject: RE: Help: Political Satire in nursery rhymes
From: Slider
Date: 18 Dec 99 - 12:01 AM

I've wondered for some time if the nursery rhyme,"Mary Had a Little Lamb" was some sort of a religious satire concocted during the "Age of Reason". If you go through the verses with the thought in mind that it is a criticism of religion in general and Catholicism in particular, the words take on quite a different meaning: Mary had a little lamb whose fleece was white as snow,etc. I won't go into details now, but it may be something to think about...


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Subject: RE: Help: Political Satire in nursery rhymes
From: Murray on Saltspring
Date: 18 Dec 99 - 01:32 AM

Dear Metchosin: try to get me at 537-5432. I'll have to have your rhyme if for no other reason than it'll fit into a project of mine, "Bairnsangs", being a collection of as many Scottish children's rhymes as poss.- a sort of Caledonian answer to the Opies. Most of it was delivered to Dick for the DT several years ago, but I keep fiddling with it. Cheers MS


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Subject: RE: Help: Political Satire in nursery rhymes
From: Metchosin
Date: 18 Dec 99 - 02:08 AM

Hi Murray, I just got back on line and its rather late so I will try to phone in the morning.


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Subject: Lyr Add: OWA DOWA, OWA DOWA DEE (COULTER'S CANDY)
From: Metchosin
Date: 18 Dec 99 - 02:22 AM

Murray, she also sang another version of Coulters Candy other than the ones in the DT, but my Mom can't remember if they just added the other part on and used the same tune.

OWA DOWA, OWA DOWA DEE (COULTER'S CANDY)

Chorus:
Owa Dowa, Owa Dowa Dee
Sittin' on her mammy's knee
Greetin' fur a bonnie bobbie,
Tae buy a sugar candy.

I know a man, a man indeed
Sowed his garden full of seeds
And when those seeds began to grow
Like a garden full of snow
And when that snow began to melt
Like a ship without a belt
And when that ship began to sail
Like a bird without a tail
And when that bird began to fly
Like a diamond In the sky
And when that sky began to roar
Like a lion at my door
And when that door began to crack
Like a stick across my back
Crack goes one
Crack goes two
Crack goes my hand over you.

I came to a river,
I couldn't get across
I paid ten shillings for an old blind horse,
I jumped on his back,
His bones gave a crack,
I played on the fiddle 'till the boat came back,
The boat came back,
We all jumped in,
The boat capsized and we all fell in,
Crack goes one,
Crack goes two,
Crack goes my hand over you.


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Subject: RE: Help: Political Satire in nursery rhymes
From: Metchosin
Date: 18 Dec 99 - 04:54 PM

Murray, I checked the DT and the last verse of Owa Dowa is not on the DT with the rest of your verses for Sandie Toy.

Susan


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Subject: RE: Help: Political Satire in nursery rhymes
From: Murray on Saltspring
Date: 18 Dec 99 - 08:43 PM

Thanks, Metchosin! Another entry for Bairnsangs. Your tune, did I tell you, is the same as I've heard for "Sandy Toy". I must say though that I'm curious as to how your grannie started off with a version of "Coulter's Candy". More investigation coming up! Cheers M


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