There was an old lady who swallowed a fly.
I don't know why she swallowed a fly.
Perhaps she'll die.
Really? A children's song about a woman's possible choking death? I can't have that right.
Little Man absolutely hates getting his diaper changed and isn't so fond of getting dressed either, but when I sing, he stops crying right away. (I'm not a good singer, so rest assured it has nothing to do with my voice. He just loves music!)
So I started digging nursery rhymes out of the depths of my brain during diaper changes, and presto! No more tears. Except I couldn't remember most of the words. Like when I tried to sing the old lady and fly song--was I remembering that correctly? Was it really about a woman dying? Seemed too morbid to be true.
Goo.gle to the rescue, and holy hell. The song actually is about a woman dying! Here's a link to the full lyrics. It's a long song that ends with the terrible lines:
"There was an old lady who swallowed a horse. She's dead--of course."What the what?? This is totally morbid! And then I started looking up lyrics to others.
And folks, there are a lot of really ridiculous nursery rhymes out there.
Take the sweet song of Clementine. It's usually belted out by children with a country twang Loretta Lynn would envy--
"Oh my darlin'.
Oh my darlin'.
Oh my darlin' Clementine!"
Well, that song is about beautiful little Clementine, who drowns to death, and her miner father's mourning and eventual suicide. And then the song goes on to tell how her dead body fertilizes roses and that the man who loved Clementine wasn't into necrophilia, and finally, the moral of the story--if the miner father knew artificial respiration, he could have saved her and avoided all this tragedy.
Seriously! Read for yourself HERE.
Turns out that many of these really old nursery rhymes are are from the way back olden days and have quite a meaning to them. They often tell of events in history, such as "Ring Around the Rosy" which suggested to be a recanting of the bubonic plague! (However, snopes.com calls that theory bunk, and suggests the song refers to the Protestant's religious ban on dancing in the 19th century.)
Often they are about free speech or political satire at a time when such commentary would mean execution. "Three Blind Mice" is about devout Catholic, Queen Mary I, who had three Protestant noblemen burnt at the stake.
Some are less obvious. "Jack and Jill" is about King Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, who fell from power and were both beheaded in 1783.
This whole thing is quite fascinating to me. Who knew that those innocent little ditties we sang as children weren't quite so innocent. Of course, I still don't know the words to most of them, so I guess if I make up my own, they might be less gruesome than the real thing.
If you want to know more, check out these fantastic sites:
Nursery Rhymes--Lyrics, origins and history
The Hidden History of Nursery Rhymes
24 Terrifying, Thoughtful and Absurd Nursery Rhymes
Lullaby Lyrics-A primer