Did You Know


All About Mother Goose
That Loosey, Goosey Mother


In the year 1454, the Duke of Burgundy was surprised at the Feast of the Pheasant by 24 musicians—all held inside a huge pie. The event was later commemorated in the Mother Goose rhyme "Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds." Here are some other famous—and not so famous—rhymes from Mother Goose that make reference to food or cooking. Some of the endings are quite surprising and not for the faint of heart. The good mother also had attitudes toward women that would today be most politically incorrect.



(Note: The custom of placing live birds in a dish and covering them with a pie shell was indeed practiced in England a few centuries ago. The purpose was to see the birds fly away as the lord surprisingly opened his pie.)

Sing a song of sixpence,
   A pocket full of rye:
Four and twenty blackbirds
   Baked in a pie.

When the pie was opened
   The birds began to sing:
Was not that a dainty dish
   To set before the king?

The king was in his counting-house
   Counting out his money;
The queen was in the parlor
   Eating bread and honey.

The maid was in the garden
   Hanging out the clothes,
Along came a blackbird
   And nipped off her nose.


If all the world were apple pie,
And all the seas were ink,
And all the trees were bread and cheese,
What would we have for drink?


Taffy was a Welshman,
   Taffy was a thief;
Taffy came to my house,
   And stole a piece of beef.

I went to Taffy's house,
   Taffy wasn't home;
Taffy came to my house,
   And stole a mutton bone.

I went to Taffy's house,
   Taffy was not in:
Taffy came to my house,
   And stole a silver pin.

I went to Taffy's house,
   Taffy was in bed;
I took up a poker
   And flung it at his head.


A man in the wilderness asked me,
How many strawberries grow in the sea?
I answered him, as I thought good,
As many as red herrings grow in the wood.


A woman, a spaniel, and walnut tree,
The more you beat them the better they be.


Johnny Armstrong killed a calf,
Peter Henderson got half,
Willy Wilkinson got the head,
Ring the bell, the calf is dead.


There was a little woman,
   As I have heard tell,
She went to market
   Her eggs for to sell;
She went to market
   All on a market day,
And she fell asleep
   On the king's highway.

There came by a pedlar,
   His name was Stout,
He cut her petticoats
   All around about;
He cut her petticoats
   Up to her knees;
Which made the little woman
   To shiver and sneeze.

When this little woman
   Began to awake,
She began to shiver,
   And she began to shake;
She began to shake and she began to cry,
   Lawk a mercy on me,
This is none of I!

But if this be I,
   As I do hope it be,
I have a little dog at home
And he knows me;
   If it be I,
He'll wag his little tail,
   And if it be not I
He'll loudly bark and wail!

Home went the little woman
   All in the dark,
Up starts the little dog,
   And he began to bark;
He began to bark,
   And she began to cry,
   Lawk a mercy on me,
   This is none of I!


This page first published in 1998.

Copyright © 1998, 2007, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.

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