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Tag Archives: Gammer Gurton’s Garland or The Nursery Parnassus

Origins: Pat-a-Cake, Pat-a-Cake

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Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man,
Bake me a cake as fast as you can.
Pat it and prick it, and mark it with ‘B’
And put it in the oven for baby and me.

Though Pat-a-Cake (sometimes known as patty-cake or pattycake) first appeared in the form we know it in Gamer Gurton’s Garland in 1784, it is rather older.

In Mother Gooses Melody (1765) the rhyme appears as:

Patty Cake, Patty Cake, Bakers’ Man,
That I will Master, As fast as I can
Prick it and prick it, And mark it with a T
And there will be enough for Jackey and me.

The rhyme was certainly known in the late 1690s, too. From Opie,

[Pat-a-cake] was portrayed as an infants’ ditty as early as 1698. In [Thomas] D’Urfey‘s comedy The Campaigners the ‘affected tattling nurse’ murmers endearments as she suckles her charge.
‘Ah Doddy blesse dat pitty face of myn Sylds, and his pitty, pitty hands, and his pitty, pitty foots, and all his pitty things, and pat a cake, pat a cake Bakers man, so I will master as I can, and prick it, and prick it, and prick it, and prick it, and throw’t into the Oven’.

It is unclear when this less popular second verse was added;

Patty cake, patty cake, baker’s man.
Bake me a cake as fast as you can;
Roll it up, roll it up;
And throw it in a pan!
Patty cake, patty cake, baker’s man.

It may be that the rhyme refers to the baking of bread in a communal oven, a practice common in England in the middle ages and early modern era. Websters Online Dictionary describes the tradition;

 The family (usually the woman was in charge of breadmaking) would bake on a fixed schedule, perhaps once a week. The starter was saved from the previous week’s dough. The starter was mixed with the new ingredients, the dough was left to rise, then a piece of it was saved (to be the starter for next week’s bread). The rest was formed into loaves which were marked with the family sign (this is where today’s decorative slashing of bread loaves originates from), and taken to the communal oven to bake. These communal ovens over time evolved into what are known today as bakeries, when certain people specialized in bread baking, and with time enhanced the process so far as to be able to mass produce cheap bread for everyone in the village.

This is, as is so often the case, an educated guess.

Origins: Hark! Hark!

1914 Propaganda map utilising Hark! Hark! (clicking for bigger is recommended)

Hark! Hark! The dogs do bark!
The beggars are coming to town,
Some in rags, and some in jags,
And one in a velvet gown.

1688 William III came to England. It is supposed by some that Hark! Hark! refers to this event. ‘Beggars’, supposedly, is a slang term for the Dutch, with the ‘one in a velvet gown’ being William himself.

According to the Opies,

The theory is perhaps supported by a song in Westminster Drollery (1672) called A Dialogue between a man (in Garrison) and his wife (with her company) Storming without’, the first verse of which goes,

Hark, hark, the Doggs do bark,
My wife is coming in
With Rogues and Jades,
And roaring blades,
They make a devilish din.

Opie, p. 179

Other theories suggest the rhyme refers to the Dissolution of the Monasteries, where the beggars are ejected monks, scratching a living on the streets, or, more likely, that the rhyme was a taunt frequently chanted at vagrants.

First appearing in print in Gammer Gurton’s Garland in 1784 (with the last line as ‘And some in velvet gowns’), some sources date the rhyme to the 13th century, but this claim has not been substantiated.

Origins: Goosie Goosie Gander

'I took him by the left leg / and threw him down the stairs'

'I took him by the left leg / and threw him down the stairs'

Goosie goosie gander,
Wither shalt thou wander?
Upstairs and downstairs
And in my lady’s chamber.
There I met an old man
Who wouldn’t say his prayers;
I took him by the left leg
And threw him down the stairs.

Ah, religious intolerance. Many songs and poems have been penned on the subject, and this is one of them. Thought this was an innocent rhyme about adulterous poultry? You were wrong, my friend!

Queen Elizabeth I, the last Tudor monarch, passed the Act of Uniformity in 1559, effectively outlawing Catholicism, introducing the Book of Common Prayer and demanding that every citizen attended church once a week else face a fine of 12 pence.

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