Since having Charlie, my astronomically intelligent and colossally cute seven-month-old, (this is an opinion column for a reason), I’ve been groovin’ to the sounds of nursery rhymes and bible songs on CDs and internet radio stations rather than my typical preference for Pearl Jam and Lynyrd Skynyrd beats.
I made the switch to the toddler aged tunes so Charlie wouldn’t be exposed to foul language or develop the rocker finger / air guitar syndrome this early in life. I will say that while I was pregnant he’d have an interutero mosh pit party anytime rock music was played. But I digress; this column wasn’t intended to be about the greatness that came out of my womb.
The thoughts that have been plaguing (foreshadowing alert) me are children’s nursery rhymes and their maniacal meanings. How we all haven’t grown up to become masochists or serial killers after having those lyrics drilled into our brains is beyond my understanding.
Have you ever really stopped and listened to or read over the words in a nursery rhyme or fairy tale? Many of the older ones are pretty dark and often have historical undertones.
One of the more common psycho rhymes, I mean nursery rhymes, is Ring around the Rosy. The meaning of this four line literary work is often said to be about the Great Plaque (told you) of London dating back to 1665 (the bubonic plague). The symptoms of the plague included a rosy red rash in the shape of a ring. People carried around flowers and sweet smelling herbs in their pockets to mask the stench of rotting flesh since the belief was that smells transmitted the disease. The ashes, ashes line refers to the cremation of the dead bodies, as the death rate was more than 60 percent. So why exactly is it okay for little children to sing this song?
A really sadistic song is Goosey Goosey Gander. For those of you unfamiliar with the lyrics, let me enlighten you:
“Goosey Goosey Gander where shall I wander
Upstairs, downstairs and in my lady’s chamber
There I met an old man who wouldn’t say his prayers
So I took him by the left leg and threw him down the stairs”
The first time I heard this song as an adult I about fell down the stairs. Is this the sort of poem that was read to Jack the Ripper and Charles Manson as wee infants?
The origin of the rhyme is believed to date back to a time in 16th or 17th century when protestants who were totally against the Catholic religion were persecuting Catholic priests. The priests were forced to hide in secret rooms often found in higher-class homes. If caught both the priest and members of any family harboring them were ill treated and oftentimes executed. The goosey goosey gander lyrics are believed to come from soldiers doing the goose-step. The “wouldn’t say his prayers” verse is believed to refer to priests saying catholic prayers in latin rather than protestant prayers in english. The throw him down the stairs portion refers to the abuse that would occur if the hideouts were found.
The poem was used to remind people that they should report any disobedient priests hiding away. Talk about brainwashing with pizzazz!
Listening to then researching these singsongs made me wonder what children a few centuries from now will be singing. Will be a jaunty tune describing the economic crisis, Hurricane Katrina or some other tragedy? If songwriters follow suit it more than likely will be about some catastrophe.
So the next time you’re reading a fairy tale to your grandchild or pop in a nursery rhyme CD for your own child, pay close attention to the wording and say a little prayer that your precious one won’t turn into a Ted Bundy type.
The above opinions expressed represent those solely of Laurie Laine Coleman and do not reflect The Lafourche
Gazette publication or staff. Readers can express their opinions by writing a letter to the editor. To suggest a topic to Laurie Laine Coleman email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted on Thu, May 24, 2012
by Laurie Laine Coleman, Opinion Columnist