Ring Around the Rosy

You are likely familiar with the well known children’s song, Ring around the Rosy. However, you are less likely to know its origin.

Humans have had a long standing tradition throughout multiple cultures to record major events through song, prose, limericks or some other format to enable it to withstand time and change. This child’s ditty has to do with the black death (Bubonic plague) that decimated Europe in the middle ages. People were quite sure the world was ending and that Christ was returning (at least those who believed in Christ). I will address each line and then explain what it means.

Ring around the rosy.  

This was the first sign that
you were infected. A red,
swollen boil like protrusion
began to appear all over the
infected individual. The
‘boil’ had a dark purplish
ring surrounding it.

Pocket full of Posies.

The stench of rotting flesh
saturated the air making
every breath horrific. People
carried flowers or heavily
perfumed hankies to mask
the vile stench.

Ashes, Ashes… 

This was originally “Achoo,
Achoo” prolific sneezing
signaling that the end was

We all fall down! 

If you think this morbid remember that things like this are dotted throughout all cultures/races/peoples. Another example is the limerick about Lizzy Borden, an American woman who was accused of killing her parents with an axe.

“Lizzy Borden took and axe

and gave her father 40 whacks.

When she saw what she had done

she turned around and gave her

mother 41!” 

These are not only a way of recording important or tragic events throughout human history they are also coping mechanisms.
In honor of International poetry day, I thought I would share a bit of history and poetry that many will be unaware of and likely have sung to their own children. I bet you will never look at that song the same way again!


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