Nursery rhymes…just harmless kids’ stuff… or something more insidious?

I still remember chanting them at home, in the street and in the school playground – Little Miss Muffet, Jack and Jill, Georgie Porgie… they were just another fact of life. As far as I know, they are still popular but I have done no research on the extent to which they are still chanted in homes, school playgrounds and maybe even in nursery school classrooms. What I do know is that my adult perceptions of these rhymes are very different from my childhood perceptions.
For instance, after falling down and breaking his ‘crown’, how did Jack manage to ‘trot’ home ‘as fast as he could caper’? And how was his head mended ‘with vinegar and brown paper’? And who was that Georgie Porgie who ‘kissed the girls and made them cry’, and then ran off when the other boys came out to play?
I found an interesting comment about Georgie Porgie via ‘Nursery Rhyme Lyrics and Origins’:
” Naughty Georgie Porgie of the Stuart Era.
The origins of the lyrics to ‘Georgie Porgie’ are English and refer to the courtier George Villier, Ist duke of Duke of Buckingham [1592-1628]. King James 1 took Villiers as his lover and nicknamed him ‘Steenie’ (a reference to St. Stephen, whom the Bible describes as having ‘the face of an angel’).Villier’s good looks also appealed to the ladies, and his highly suspect morals were much in question!”
According to the same source, Villiers also had a notorious affair with Anne of Austria, who was also the Queen of France and married to the French King Louis X111, but this was overlooked because James 1 ‘allowed Villiers many liberties’… but eventually…’…Parliament …lost patience and stopped the King intervening on behalf of ‘Georgie Porgie’.” So it sounds as though the ‘boys’ who ‘came out to play’ in the nursery rhyme were members of that Parliament!
So what do we tell the children if they ask, ‘Who was Georgie Porgie?’?? Sometimes I think that there is some truth in the saying ‘Ignorance is bliss’, and this is one such occasion. If I had known then what I know now, my answer to my children would probably have been, ‘I’ll tell you when you are a bit older.’
It seems ironic to me that children who are old enough to be taught nursery rhymes are not old enough (well, according to me) to be given realistic answers to some questions that they might ask about these rhymes.


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