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Origins: It’s Raining, It’s Pouring

From GrandmasNurseryRhymes.com

It’s raining, it’s pouring,
The old man is snoring.
He went to bed and bumped his head
And he couldn’t get up in the morning.

Another relatively modern rhyme, It’s Raining, It’s Pouring was copyrighted by one Freda Selicoff in Indiana, 1944. The tune appears earlier in a songbook by modernist composer Charles Ives, and though it is likely to have existed beforehand – Ives often drew upon traditional songs and hymns in his compostions – no earlier publications of the rhyme in full have been found.

The beginning of the rhyme appears in 1909 in weekly newspaper The Outlook, for which Theodore Roosevelt was once an associate editor, as follows;

It’s raining – it’s pouring – old men are snoring –

in what appears to be a short story. Though it is unusual no reference is made to the rhyme between 1909 and 1939 it is by no means unlikely. I suspect, though, that other references do occur and have yet to be discovered.

The rhyme is a short but complete narrative, but the reason for the old man’s inability to get up is not made clear. It seems likely it is related to his bump on the head, suggesting either a concussion or, more morbidly, death.

2 responses »

  1. I just read that this rhyme comes from Ireland. The raining and pouring refers to the genocide of the Irish people, and the old man is a reference to Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, and the hope that he die. I have no idea if it’s true; I’m trying to find more information about it now.

    Reply
    • Because this rhyme doesn’t appear in any records before 1939, it’s unlikely it refers to events taking place in 1649-53, especially since the woman who we can (currently) most reasonably credit with the lyric lived in the mid-twentieth century.

      Even when rhymes are orally transmitted, it’s extremely unusual for them not to appear *somewhere* in print, often in an early anthology like Gamer Gurton’s Garland [1784]).

      Thanks for commenting!

      Reply

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