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Origins: Ring around the Rosy / Rosey

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JUMP ROPE CHANTS
THREE SIX NINE


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GUEST,adavis@truman.edu 20 Jul 02 - 12:35 AM
Nerd 20 Jul 02 - 01:16 AM
Genie 20 Jul 02 - 05:06 AM
Nigel Parsons 20 Jul 02 - 06:23 AM
masato sakurai 20 Jul 02 - 07:36 AM
GUEST 20 Jul 02 - 07:53 AM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 23 Jul 02 - 03:35 PM
Snuffy 23 Jul 02 - 07:14 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 23 Jul 02 - 07:55 PM
Peter K (Fionn) 23 Jul 02 - 08:26 PM
Peter K (Fionn) 23 Jul 02 - 08:29 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 23 Jul 02 - 10:16 PM
Nerd 24 Jul 02 - 01:22 AM
IanC 24 Jul 02 - 05:00 AM
masato sakurai 29 Jul 02 - 05:07 AM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 29 Jul 02 - 05:36 PM
masato sakurai 30 Jul 02 - 12:02 PM
Declan 31 Jul 02 - 10:53 AM
GUEST,Ewan McVicar 31 Jul 02 - 05:06 PM
GUEST,misspriss137@hotmail.com 11 Sep 02 - 03:31 PM
Malcolm Douglas 11 Sep 02 - 07:53 PM
GUEST,Lydia 22 Oct 02 - 12:58 AM
banjoman 22 Oct 02 - 06:31 AM
Nerd 22 Oct 02 - 04:59 PM
GUEST,help 22 Oct 02 - 05:02 PM
GUEST 22 Oct 02 - 05:39 PM
DMcG 23 Oct 02 - 07:16 AM
banjoman 24 Oct 02 - 07:37 AM
Malcolm Douglas 24 Oct 02 - 07:53 AM
Bagpuss 24 Oct 02 - 08:01 AM
Nerd 24 Oct 02 - 05:20 PM
GUEST,Bman 24 Oct 02 - 09:19 PM
GUEST,Q 24 Oct 02 - 09:37 PM
Nerd 25 Oct 02 - 12:16 PM
GUEST,Q 25 Oct 02 - 12:50 PM
Nerd 25 Oct 02 - 01:00 PM
Shields Folk 25 Oct 02 - 01:24 PM
masato sakurai 14 Nov 02 - 09:05 AM
Hester 14 Nov 02 - 05:43 PM
GUEST,Q 14 Nov 02 - 06:16 PM
rea 14 Nov 02 - 06:26 PM
Hester 14 Nov 02 - 07:20 PM
Hester 14 Nov 02 - 07:23 PM
Malcolm Douglas 14 Nov 02 - 07:49 PM
GUEST,Q 14 Nov 02 - 08:45 PM
GUEST,Q 14 Nov 02 - 08:50 PM
Malcolm Douglas 14 Nov 02 - 08:57 PM
Hester 14 Nov 02 - 09:29 PM
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GUEST,Q 14 Nov 02 - 11:09 PM
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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: GUEST,adavis@truman.edu
Date: 20 Jul 02 - 12:35 AM

Masato's got a good question. If we take the plague-origin-theory not as a historical proposition, but as folklore itself, then we can forget about whether it's accurate (a substantial wing of folklorists regard origins as never completely recoverable, therefore uninteresting. I never quite followed the "therefore" part). So the question becomes, "what's the attraction of believing this?" or "what function does it serve for those who tell it?" As a first guess, I'd venture that it's an antidote to the romantic view of children to imagine them cheerfully singing songs about something so horrible -- it reminds us that they have to cope with some pretty hhorrible stuff.

Best,

Adam


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: Nerd
Date: 20 Jul 02 - 01:16 AM

Adam,

I agree with you and Masato, actually, that a very interesting question is "why would the plague theory develop without evidence." The answer, I think, has to do with how folklore has been defined and studied, and (in the end) involves your second point about origins and the folklorist.

"Folklore" (originally "folk-lore") was coined as a "good Saxon compound" to replace the term "Popular Antiquities." Antiquarians were interested in studying old stuff. Early theorists of folklore held that the truly important meanings were almost never known to the holder of the lore, but had to be ferreted out by the folklorist, because scraps of lore were really the detritus of Mythological or Historical materials that had been forgotten. Early folkorists thus had a vested interest in connecting any scrap of lore they collected to Mythology or history, the older the better. Of course, it's ironic that folklorists seeking origins essentially ended up constructing "creation myths" of their own!

This attitude has long been discarded by folklorists in academia, but there is still, I think, a fascination with old historical and mythological origins among laypeople who have read some of the classic conjectural works of folklore/myth scholarship, like Graves's The White Goddess and Frazier's The Golden Bough. It is a form of interpretation that has a sturdy tradition behind it, though it is mostly discarded by professionals today. I would guess you need look no further than the enthusiastic readers of books like those to find the source of the Plague interpretation.

As to why folklorists have largely given up studying origins as such, I think it's because the kind of work that developed out of origins-seeking, Historic-Geographic analysis, came to seem both fruitless and pretty boring. After a long, extremely laborious process, the folklorist would conclude "it appears my best guess is that the story of X originated in India in the 7th Century, though I may be wrong about this." To which most younger folklorists in the 1960s began to ask "so what?"

I agree that origins and conjecture can be interesting, but in the end if I'm going to believe any origin story, I need some evidence.


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: Genie
Date: 20 Jul 02 - 05:06 AM

Very interesting thread, folks. Too sleepy to digest it now, but seems like there's a lot to mull over. I kind of like Mark C.'s hypothesis, but I'll have to check out all these links.


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 20 Jul 02 - 06:23 AM

Sorry to disappoint everyone, but "ring around the roses" is much older than any of the sources currently being quoted.
I have incontravertable evidence of this, from a primary source.
A man, who was "Born ten thousand years ago" claims he "Saw Peter Paul & Moses playing Ring Around The Roses"

I trust that this helps the situation

Nigel


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: masato sakurai
Date: 20 Jul 02 - 07:36 AM

Thanks, Nigel, I didn't notice that.

I was born about ten thousand years ago,
There ain't nothin' in this world that I don't know,
I saw Peter, Paul and Moses playin' ring around the roses
And I'll whip the guy that says it isn't so.
(John A. Lomax & Alan Lomax, Best Loved American Folk Songs, Grosset & Dunlop, 1947, p. 30, stanza 1)

It can't be "Peter, Paul and Mary", which doesn't rhyme, and I don't like to be whipped.

~Masato


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Jul 02 - 07:53 AM

See Nonsense Songs, Type A - Brags (i.e., lies), in the introduction to the the Scarce Songs 1 file at www.erols.com/olsonw, and click on 'Brags' in the table of contents to see several earlier songs of the same type.


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 23 Jul 02 - 03:35 PM

In loking for the origin of "Ashes," I found the rhyme in "Lavender's Blue, 1954, book of nursery rhymes, compiled by Kathleen Lyons and Harold Jones, Oxford Univ. but as:
Ring-a-ring o' roses,
A pocket full of posies,
A-tishoo, a-tishoo!
We all fall down.

No information yet on who started the plague interpretation.


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: Snuffy
Date: 23 Jul 02 - 07:14 PM

Dicho - that's the version that is common in Britain. It's the only one I've ever heard or seen.


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 23 Jul 02 - 07:55 PM

Oh? Kate Greenway's Mother Goose (1881) said Hush! Hush! Hush! Hush! Has that one died out?
According to the linked websites, A-tischa could have come from Shropshire (1883). Also from England, Ashes! Ashes! - which is the one I would like to trace to its origin.


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: Peter K (Fionn)
Date: 23 Jul 02 - 08:26 PM

It seems to me incontrovertible that the last two lines in Dicho's last post, if not all four, refer to some plague or pestilence. My own theory is that they were spawned/accreted or whatever in some relatively recent period when for some reason such a plague was a topic of conversation.

Mudcatters will recall how the Ken Burns film revived interest in the American Civil War, and how Di Caprio et al reawakened interest in the Titanic. Is there any way of researching whether a film about the black death might have been showing in New England around 1790?


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: Peter K (Fionn)
Date: 23 Jul 02 - 08:29 PM

Well Dicho's penultimate post by the time I posted. Slow down, Dicho *G*


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 23 Jul 02 - 10:16 PM

But do you know of a book or article with the "Ashes, Ashes"? That is what I would like to find.
As Masato said, "How and why was the plague theory born in spite of the non-existence of evidence?" In other words, "Who done it?" Since it is late 19th or early 20th century, the culprit(s) should be identifiable.


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: Nerd
Date: 24 Jul 02 - 01:22 AM

I don't think it's incontrovertible at all that "a-tishoo a-tishoo we all fall down" refers to a plague or pestilence. We are dealing with a play-party song (or a children's dancing song for English folks) where "all falling down" is just part of the game. You might as well say "you put your right foot in, you take your right foot out, you put your right foot in and you shake it all about" must be a song about epilepsy!

That's why the plague interpretation is so funny. It takes things that have perfectly easy meanings in that context ("ring around the rosy" or "ring a ring a roses" being an actual ring of children dancing around an actual or imagined rosebush), and gives them new meanings to suit a farfetched interpretation. The line with a-tishoo in it is just as likely to be a nonsense syllable as a sneeze--and anyway, sneezing isn't a symptom of the Black Death! Meanwhile, the things you'd expect to see in a song describing the plague are absent--The actual prominent symptom was not a rash on the cheek, but giant festering boils or buboes under the armpits and elsewhere. Of course, it'd be tough to rhyme that...


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: IanC
Date: 24 Jul 02 - 05:00 AM

I wonder how often people ask those who perform these things what they think the words mean. After all, it's the fact that people keep on doing certain things which is the reason that rhymes, songs etc. are traditional.

I played "ring a roses" (atishoo version) for years as a child, without any assumptions that it was anything other than a game with quite pretty words. Of course children are unlikely to know what they're doing. There's bound to be a meaning to these things that the fools who perform them can't possibly understand ...

By the way, we often seem to fall into simple dating traps like assuming prior printing to imply earlier versions of things. For folk activities, printing depends on collection. Something can go on for years and not be collected. It won't be printed. Doesn't mean that it's later than something that was printed centuries before. Concrete evidence can only ever give a latest date. It can't be used as evidence of an earliest date.

;-)
Ian


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: masato sakurai
Date: 29 Jul 02 - 05:07 AM

Earlier collectors and commentators alike (Newell, Gomme, Greenaway) didn't mention its connection with the plague at all. Henry Bett, in The Games of Children: Their Origin and History (1929; Singing Tree Press, 1968), says nothing of the plague:

"There cannot be much doubt that games like Buff and Dump and Ring-a-Ring-o'-Roses, in which a laugh or a sneeze is the climax, originated in this range of quaint notions as to the uncanny significance of laughing and sneezing, and the betrayal, or the danger, or the deliverance, which these things may indicate." (p. 98)

Although Urban Legend Reference Pages: Ring Around the Rosie says "[T]he first known mention of a plague interpretation of 'Ring Around the Rosie' didn't show up until James Leasor published The Plague and the Fire in 1961," the date seems to have been earlier, because the Opies apparently had tried to debunk the theory in The Dictionary (first published in 1951). Later in 1985, they devoted a few pages to this problem in The Singing Game (Oxford, pp. 220-227):

"This story [of its being a relic of the Great Plague of 1665] has obtained such circulation in recent years it can itself be said to be epidemic. Thus the mass-circulation Radio Times, 7 June 1973, gave it a double-page headline, to advertise a documentary programme on the plague-village of Eyam (although a 1909 guide book to Eyam does not mention the rhyme); lectures at medical schools have repeated it as fact both in Britain and America (men of science are notoriously incautious when pronouncing on material in disciplines other than their own); and we ourselves have had to listen so often to this interpretation we are reluctant to go out of the house. Those infected with the belief seem unperturbed that no reference to 'Ring a Ring o' Roses' appears in Pepys's careful record of hearsay during the long months of the Plague; or that Defoe's brilliant evocation in A Journal of the Plague Year does not indicate that either sneezing or redness of spots was on men's minds at that time; or that two recent studies, Philip Ziegler's The Black Death (1969) and Professor J.F.D. Shrewsbury's History of the Bubonic Plague in the British Isles (1970), give no support to the theory, unless, that is, Thomas Vincent's observation in God's Terrible Voice in the City, 1666, is thought relevant, that roses were then neglected, since 'People dare not offer them to their noses, lest with their sweet savour that which is infectious should be attracted." (p. 221)

Their conclusion is: "Thus in 'Ring a Ring o' Roses' we have, or so it seems, a spray from the great Continental tradition of May games, that preserves the memory, however faintly, of the rose as the flower of Cupid, the wreath of roses with which Aphrodite crowned her hair, the chaplet of roses that a lover presented to his lady or with which, if she spurned him--and he followed Ovid's advice--he adorned her gatepost, the emblem that passed naturally into the social ceremony of the Middle Ages as in Chaucer's The Romaunt of the Rose...." (p. 226)

~Masato


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 29 Jul 02 - 05:36 PM

I thought that perhaps I could find out when the the plague nonsense entered children's books at the Library. I received a bit of a shock. Books by Greenaway and Opie, Lavender's Blue and other standards of my children's days and mine are no longer on the shelves. The oldest collection of rhymes, songs and play rounds was newly assembled and copyright in 1987: Christine Allison, "I'll Tell You a Story" (but she didn't). Only about half-a-dozen had rhymes of Rosie; there were two with Ashes, Ashes and the rest were a-tischoo or similar (no squats).
One definitely stated the plague source: June Yolen's Mother Goose Songbook, 1992, Carleton House. The others had no comment.
I couldn't check the books for the smallest children; paperback and plastic, they were binned in no order and packaged in transparent bags for easy pick-up by parents; it would have taken too much time and earned me too many disaproving looks to have tried to go through them.
I remember when classics like Winnie the Pooh and the Beatrix Potter and Burgess stories were reprinted over and over. Now, they have either been rewritten by Disney authors or dropped altogether.


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: masato sakurai
Date: 30 Jul 02 - 12:02 PM

In 1962 William S. Baring-Gould & Ceil Baring-Gould wrote, in The Annotated Mother Goose (Bramhall House), as note to the Greenaway version of "Ring-a-ring-a-roses":

"As recently as November 1961, Mr. James Leasor was writing in his book The Plague and the Fire (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., Inc.) that this rhyme 'had its origin in the [Great Plague]. Rosey [roses] refers to the rosy rash of plague, ringed to signify the tokens; the posies were herbs and spices carried to sweeten the air; sneezing [the third line is often given as 'A-tishoo! A-tishoo!'] was a common symptom of those close to death.' And 'We're all tumbled down' was in a way exactly what happened. "This is an interesting theory, but 'If you consult The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes' (as Charles Poore noted in his New York Times review of The Plague and the Fire), 'you will find, in place of corroboration, the somewhat frosty notation that: "The invariable sneezing and falling down in modern versions has given would-be origin-finders the opportunity to say that the rhyme dates back to the days of the Great Plague."' Actually--surprising in a rhyme that has become the accompaniment to one of our most popular nursery games--'Ring-a-ring-a-roses' first appeared in print as late as 1881, Kate Greenaway's Mother Goose." (p. 252)

Lina Eckenstein, Comparative Studies in Nursery Rhymes (Duckworth, 1906) did not discuss or mention the rhyme, while Gloria T. Delamar's comment in her Mother Goose: From Nursery to Literature (McFarland, 1987, pp. 38-40) is based on the Opies (quoted almost verbatim HERE). Lucy Rollin (Cradle and All: A Cultural and Psychoanalytic Study of Nursery Rhymes, University Press of Mississippi, 1992) doesn't say anything on the rhyme.

Kate Greenaway's Mother Goose has been reprinted lots of times (my copy is the 1985 Chancellor Press edition). Her manuscript sketchbooks (now in the New York Public Library) was published as Kate Greenaway's Mother Goose or Old Nursery Rhymes: The Complete Facsimile Sketchbooks (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1988); "Ring a Ring a Roses" is on p. 61.

~Masato


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: Declan
Date: 31 Jul 02 - 10:53 AM

Allan Denehy,

"Dublin City in the rare old times" was written by Pete St John some time in the last thirty years and is a nostalgic look back at Dublin in the 1930s and 40s when a number of theatres and cinemas mentioned in the song were still open in Dublin - "The pillar and the Met have gone, the Royal long since pulled down". The Met was the Metropole Cinema in O Connell Street which was still there in at least the early 1970s (When it was replaced by a horrible British Home Stores building).

Incidentally the line in Pete's song is Ring-a-ring-a-rosie which is how I learned this rhyme in the (very) early sixties in Dublin.

Total thread creep but I met a lot of people who lived in Dublin "in the rare oul' times" who don't look back on it with much nostalgia. Life was pretty tough for most people here in those days.


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: GUEST,Ewan McVicar
Date: 31 Jul 02 - 05:06 PM

Very interesting thread. Startled that paperback reference books like the Opies are not on the shelf of everyone who chats in Mudcat. I often think of the remark about being afraid to walk out of their door for fear of someone else pressing the Black Death notion on them. Mind you, there are other hidden Black Death references in our songs - Black Is The Colour Of My True Love's Hair, in which 'hair' was formerly 'face' - the ballad 'What did I do to be so black ond blue?' - and of course Orchy Chorni!


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: GUEST,misspriss137@hotmail.com
Date: 11 Sep 02 - 03:31 PM

I wanted to know about the history of Ring Around the Rosey? Where it came from? Who wrote it? And anything else there is to know about it. Thank You. Jennifer


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 11 Sep 02 - 07:53 PM

Which is exactly where we came in, back in July. Read this discussion, Jennifer, and you'll have all the information we are able to give. But don't believe all of it...


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: GUEST,Lydia
Date: 22 Oct 02 - 12:58 AM

There is a web site that I found because I heard of this rhyme was also caused by the Black Death.

The site I found was: www.fascinatingearth.com
It tells a little of the history, whether it is true or not I am still not sure.

www.fascinatingearth.com


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: banjoman
Date: 22 Oct 02 - 06:31 AM

This children's nursery song originated in the village of Eyam in Derbyshire during the time of the great plague, when the local elders virtually sealed of the village to prevent the disease spreading to Eyam. The ring of roses refers to the characteristic marks on the faces of plague victims, and the falling down after sneezing to the initial symptons of a @fle like condition. The village still exists and is well worth a visit. The game is still played there by local children tho' I doubt many know of its sinistre origins.


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: Nerd
Date: 22 Oct 02 - 04:59 PM

banjoman, did you not bother to read the rest of this thread? The Eyam history was clearly made up at a time later than 1909, when the guidebook to Eyam made no reference to the rhyme. There is no good evidence that this rhyme has anything to do with the plague, or with Eyam. To ask who wrote it is a bit silly, since as with most folk rhymes the origin is unknown. But it is unlikely to be as old as 1665.

PLEASE, read threads before posting to them!


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: GUEST,help
Date: 22 Oct 02 - 05:02 PM

whats the name of the song with the line "ill take the high road" or whatever


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: GUEST
Date: 22 Oct 02 - 05:39 PM

Anyone who read the threads know that the black death got attached to the nursery rhyme sometime after 1900, probably after 1930. People still insist on taking the word of unsubstantiated websites.

Guest Help, here we go. "Ill take the high road," is from the medieval song "Banks of Loch Lomond," which means that the ill are taking the high road to Heaven. Tosspots take the "low road" because they are on the low road to Hell. The "Banks of Loch Lomond" is an ancient Scottish appelation for Purgatory. Centuries later, some semi-literate Scot tried to make a song of parting out of it, but he was too drunk at the time to make sense and only succeeded in obscuring the Biblical warnings implicit in the original words, now partly lost.


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: DMcG
Date: 23 Oct 02 - 07:16 AM

You forgot to mention that the medieval song "Banks of Loch Lomond" was originally Irish. There is some evidence, although not fully substantiated, that it was originally written for a lost instrument called the Bán Jo.


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: banjoman
Date: 24 Oct 02 - 07:37 AM

NERD - I kno0w the village of Eyam pretty well and the surrounding area. The ridiculing of the "Eyam Link" was directly as a result of certain so called knowleagable historians who could not accept that such a song could have emanated form one of the remotest parts of the country and so began the discussion. Yes I do read thro' the threads before considering making a contribution which is more than can be said for some of the piffle that is posted from some. Incidentally you may wish to know that the pocket full of "roses" not "Posies" as in some versions, refers to the bunches of rose petals carried to ward of the smell of decay


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 24 Oct 02 - 07:53 AM

There is, however, no evidence at all that this interpretation of the rhyme is anything other than 20th century mythology; unless perhaps you can quote us some of which the Opies were unaware? A documented tradition of the use of the rhyme in Eyam, perhaps, pre-dating its appearances in print as detailed above? What is the earliest date at which it can be demonstrated unequivocally that the rhyme was known in Eyam? What is the earliest date at which it can be demonstrated unequivocally that the rhyme was considered in Eyam to be connected to the Plague?


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: Bagpuss
Date: 24 Oct 02 - 08:01 AM

A bit off topic I know, but some researchers now believe that the Black Death was caused by bubonic plague at all, but by a virus similar to Ebola. This Article also mentions that there might be a link between survivors of the black death and resistance to HIV infection.

Bagpuss


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: Nerd
Date: 24 Oct 02 - 05:20 PM

Banjoman,

It sounds far more likely to me that a remote area like Eyam takes the rhyme as a point of pride and therefore perpetuates the myth, than that historians have a hard time believing that Eyam could be the source of a nursery rhyme. There are two reasons for this:

1) historians don't care who originated nursery rhymes, because they don't care about nursery rhymes at all. No hoity-toity historian will waste his or her time making detailed arguments on points like this.

2) The only historians who DO care about nursery rhymes, social historians, are precisely the ones committed to the idea that remote and low-status areas of the country DO have historical importance.

A third point:

3) folklorists, who are the most interested in Nursery Rhymes, would LOVE to be able to argue that this one came from a remote village hundreds of years ago.

But pretty much every scholar in every discipline has rejected the plague explanation, regardless of their academic ideology, because there is NO EVIDENCE FOR IT beyond the word of a few people in the late 20th century. No evidence from the 1600s, No evidence from the 1700s, NO evidence from the 1800s, NO evidence until the 1950s or thereabouts--and even then, the "evidence" is just a claim.

Finally, a guidebook to Eyam in 1909 dos not mention the rhyme, which suggests rather strongly that no one in Eyam at the time thought the rhyme was associated with the plague or the town either; otherwise why wouldn't they include this remarkable cultural legacy of their town in the book?

Sorry, Banjoman, none of it washes....

As Malcolm says, find some evidence, not just more assertions.


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: GUEST,Bman
Date: 24 Oct 02 - 09:19 PM

Thanks, y'all, for a fine thread. Thoroughly enjoyed it. regards, Bman


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 24 Oct 02 - 09:37 PM

As they say, it ain't over 'til it's over. I expect more to show up. We need someone to blame and send to the stake for inventing the plague tail (er tale). Probably a nice little old lady from Brooklyn or Wode-Upon-Wiggle who had a children's radio program.


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: Nerd
Date: 25 Oct 02 - 12:16 PM

Guest Q,

No need to blame anyone. One of the nice things about this kind of claim is that it is itself folklore; it is folklore about folklore, which folklorists have called "metafolklore" and "oral literary criticism."

People become very attached to claims like this, partly because of personal or local connections (eg. Eyam), and partly because there is just something fulfilling about the thought that such a common nursery rhyme is so old and so connected to historical events of great importance. But why blame anyone? Every single one of us is probably personally attached to at least one proposition that happens to be wrong. This mistake is no worse than many of mine!


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 25 Oct 02 - 12:50 PM

Nerd, I have, on occasion been accused of invented a story myself. All lies, of course.


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: Nerd
Date: 25 Oct 02 - 01:00 PM

Q,

this could spiral down into that age-old paradox:

"This statement is a lie!"

figure that one out :-)


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: Shields Folk
Date: 25 Oct 02 - 01:24 PM

Heres a version popular around Sellafield Cumbria:

Ring a ring of protons
A pocket full of neutrons
A fision a fusion
We'll all fall down


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: masato sakurai
Date: 14 Nov 02 - 09:05 AM

From the lyrics of "The Sidewalks of New York" (Click here for the 1894 sheet music; also in the DT):

cho: East side, west side, all around the town,
The tots sang "ring-a-rosie," "London Bridge is falling down."
Boys and girls together, me and Mamie O'Rourke
Tripped the light fantastic
On the sidewalks of New York.

~Masato


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Subject: RE: May Games, Rose, and Betley Window
From: Hester
Date: 14 Nov 02 - 05:43 PM

Someone mentioned meta-folklore -- and yes, pieces of folk custom with obscure origins do tend to generate their own aetiological myths.

Here's a case in point. Masato quoted [if I'm following his citations correctly] the Opies in _The Singing Game_ (1985)

>>>Their conclusion is: "Thus in 'Ring a Ring o' Roses' we have, or so it seems, a spray from the great Continental tradition of May games, that preserves the memory, however faintly, of the rose as the flower of Cupid, the wreath of roses with which Aphrodite crowned her hair, the chaplet of roses that a lover presented to his lady or with which, if she spurned him--and he followed Ovid's advice--he adorned her gatepost, the emblem that passed naturally into the social ceremony of the Middle Ages as in Chaucer's The Romaunt of the Rose...." (p. 226)<<<

So, the Opies have just finished "debunking" the Great Plague theory, but they replace it with their own aetiological speculations, which, to be judgemental, seem even more romantic and implausible.

The May Games are a particular interest of mine, since I like to believe that all things folkloric revolve around Robin Hood. Well, the May Games had definitely had nothing to do with Cupid or Aphrodite (that's just classical allegory being churned out from the minds of the Opies themselves).   However, the May Queen did wear a chaplet of flowers [at least in 19th century May Day revivals]. The flower most clearly associated with May Day however, was not the rose, but the hawthorn (i.e. the mayflower). May Games involved much of the same imagery as May Day, but seemed to taken place generally a bit later, around Whitsun, and thus sometimes even into June, when the rose may have in fact been in bloom.

And we might perhaps see a parallel between the ring dance of the rhyme and the Morris, which had definitely become part of May Game celebrations by 1559 [David Wiles, _Early Plays of Robin Hood_, 1981, p. 5-6). The mid-15 century stained glass window at Betley depicts Morris Dancers around a Maypole. And, indeed the "Lady" (often identified with Maid Marian) holds a rose in her hand.

However, a rose does not appear to have been a key aspect of the Morris and does not figure in any textual descriptions of the dance from the 15th and 16th centuries, when the May Games were celebrated. Nor does a rose appear in the 19th century Morris Dances recorded by Sharpe.

So, if we have a link between the May Games and Ring around the Rosie, it is one that involves a 300-year gap in the continuum, with the Betley window as the only piece of corroboratory evidence (that I'm aware of) for even this spurious association.

Cheers, Hester


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 14 Nov 02 - 06:16 PM

The 1790 date for the American version rests on a claim by Newell. There does not seem to be any support for his claim. Or is there? I think it is just anotherspeculation, like all the nonsense about the "Drinking Gourd."

The song may be the result of the May Day revivals (the maypole was also revived in American schools) mentioned by Hester. It would not be difficult to write a scholarly paper supporting that origin. There! A Master's thesis topic for a college student.


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: rea
Date: 14 Nov 02 - 06:26 PM

Thanks Masato!!!!!

I was going to refrence the same article - I just didn't know it was on the web. Read it when it was published on (gasp!) paper in 1997.

So people have already put in buckets of pennies to make up my 2 cents. oh, well...


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: Hester
Date: 14 Nov 02 - 07:20 PM

My apologies, the Betley window is (at best estimates) mid-16th, not 15th century.

Thanks for mentioning that May Day also had a revival in America, Q. I didn't realize that. (Was this also in the 19th century?)

I'm afraid your hypothetical college student wouldn't get too far with that thesis topic, though, unless the maypoles used in the American revival were somehow associated with roses.

Cheers, Hester


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: Hester
Date: 14 Nov 02 - 07:23 PM

... my point from the previous post being that 19th century American school children and their revivalist teachers would be unlikely to have been aware of the Betley window and the association in its imagery of the maypole and the rose.

Cheers, Hester


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 14 Nov 02 - 07:49 PM

With respect, Hester, you seem to have mistaken a vague generalisation from the Opies as some kind of statement of fact. The bulk of their work was done 50 years ago, of course. The question to consider now would perhaps be whether or not any subsequent, verifiable research has turned up any new information. Even if roses made an appearance in recorded instances of ceremonial dance, that is not evidence of any connection with the nursery rhyme.


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 14 Nov 02 - 08:45 PM

But the Maypole is American, isn't it? At least they took it over and made it big (he, he, he!). The 17th century New England Puritan, William Bradford complained that the Maypole was danced to "wanton ditties." And the modern Maypole was invented by John Tiller ca. 1900 (later famous for the Rockettes of New York). Look at these children winding the Maypole (mostly in Kansas). Maypole .If you click on the Maypole stereoview from England, notice the roses at the top of the Maypoles. There were always roses atop the American Maypole as well. The English tradition in America probably was reinforced by immigrant German colonies (a large one came to central Texas in the 1850s). The Maypole practice in America apparently was continuous from the 17th century to the present.
The Maypole dance was a central feature of May Day celebrations at the famous (in America, anyway) old Davenpost Hotel, Spokane, Washington (recently renewed to its former splendor. Go to WWW.thedavenporthotel.com and work through this interesting site. Note the flowers at the top of the post.
At Trinity College, Washington, DC, the Maypole dance is always a feature of Founders Day, beginning in 1901. Nowadays, they "top off" by welding the last beam in place (must be gargantuan).
Here is one at an American hospital for the insane, 1897 Maypole insanity

In Latin America, the Maypole Dance associated with the "Moros" and performed since the 16th century or earlier is dying out. I remember one performed near Santa Fe, New Mexico about 1933 when I was ten and the Matachines may still perform in some of the more traditional villages in Mexico-New Mexico. I heard the last one died out in Guatemala. The tradition is still carried on at Pascua Village, Tucson, Arizona, by the Yaqui Indians. Yaqui Maypole


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 14 Nov 02 - 08:50 PM

If the maypole performances have anything to so with ring-around the rosey, I haven't the vaguest idea. I think I am just adding to the confusion.


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 14 Nov 02 - 08:57 PM

They almost certainly have nothing whatever to do with it; and yes, you probably are just adding to the confusion. Nevertheless, what you say is interesting; so it was worth saying.


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: Hester
Date: 14 Nov 02 - 09:29 PM

>>>With respect, Hester, you seem to have mistaken a vague generalisation from the Opies as some kind of statement of fact.<<<

With RESPECT, Malcolm, you have misread my post entirely. I have argued AGAINST the Opies' "vague" generalization, not accepted it as fact.

>>>Even if roses made an appearance in recorded instances of ceremonial dance, that is not evidence of any connection with the nursery rhyme. <<<

Which, precisely, IS my point. Re-read my original post Malcolm, but this time without letting your assumptions about me get in the way of your comprehension.

Sigh, Hester


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: Hester
Date: 14 Nov 02 - 09:45 PM

Hi, Q:

Thanks for that historical background on the Maypole in American. I don't think you are adding to the confusion at all. Additional information can only help clarify the topic. I definitely see flowers atop the maypoles in your pics and agree that this was a feature of early British and European poles as well. However, from what I remember of my background reading on the topic, these adornments were traditionally of flowers and greenery in general, not limited to roses, and with the rose in particular having no special significance above the other types of flowers used. Indeed, I recall no specific references to "roses" in the texts I have read describing early maypoles.

Cheers, Hester


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Subject: RE: Ring Around The Rosey's History??
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 14 Nov 02 - 11:09 PM

"Roses....no special significance." I agree entirely, I was mainly trying to show that May Day has long featured the Maypole in America. Roses were often used because there are many early varieties and they are colorful and large. Whatever significance the custom had, it was just a case of "The flowers that bloom in the Spring, Tra-la," the love of the good weather and a chance to get together to celebrate and have outdoor picnics and all that. Organizers of May Day had to have a theme, and something for people to participate in. The observance might become ritualized, but no one worried about significance.


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