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Our cradle stands in the grave....

P is for Plague.....

 "Ring around the rosy,
Pocket full of posies,
Ashes, ashes,
We all fall down."

Whether this rhyme is a direct result of the black plague or not, one can't help but note the extremely close parallels.

The rosy rings which often developed at the onset of the infection.

The pocket full of posies, probably very similar to the collection of herbs and fragrant blossoms that plague doctors often stuffed in the end of their 'bird-like' masks which was thought to filter the disease from the air they inhaled.

Ashes, Ashes--- At least two separate explanations have been proposed. The first that the original wording was actually A'choo, A'choo, where fits of sneezing marked the final stages of the disease. And the second, that Ashes was not a mutilation of the word A'choo, but the intended word all along, as in the burning of the plague victims' bodies.

And, of course, We all fall down, speaks of the falling down of the dead.

Strange, the ominous tales that come from the rhymes of children...


  1. I'd heard the same explanation for the lines in the rhyme. I suspect those were tailored to suit later. They fit so neatly, I find them suspect.

    But it's unsettling, regardless.

    Awesome art to illustrate your points, as always. Nicely done!

    q: quarter 'til midnight

  2. Years ago I saw a PBS program that took you through history and all the developments that then inspired still more inventions. It was a great show. One of them said that there were con artist that went around selling posies as a cure for the plague. Interesting to think that all those years ago there were con artist and what a terrible thing to promise desperate people.
    N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium.

  3. @ Joe--- I agree, the parallels are TOO close, but it is chilling to think that we all learn the rhyme innocently as children, never knowing what it has been tailored on....

    @ N.R.--- Alas, as con artists don't spring from the mud, (though I honestly think they should) we can be assured they have and always will be around. If for no other reason than to take advantage of desperate people, who will give anything to get their cure....

  4. I'd heard that the rhyme stemmed from the plague, but I'd never gotten a line-by-line breakdown before. Thanks for sharing!

    Of course, I shouldn't be surprised at the unseemly origins of children's rhymes, knowing the earlier controversial version of Eeny Meeny Miny Moe, not to mention all Grimm's original fairy tales, which were oh so pleasant.

  5. It is amazing what we learn as children, so innocently. I'm still floored every time I find out something else that I learned in the past that was no where near innocent...

  6. I am fascinated by these childhood rhymes, possibly because they were handed down as a reminder of the illnesses before literacy was widespread and as people became more literate less rhymes were remembered or the real meanings of them were lost xx

  7. Yes, the meanings behind so many of these rhymes have fascinated for years. I do hate that they are often lost, for they seem the perfect way to help modern people remember what happened to our ancestors....


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