Nursery Rhymes Outside the Nursery

I’ve been burning the candle at both ends.  Been waking up much earlier than usual (anything before 8 am is early for me) and going to bed well after midnight.  It’s catching up with me.  I’m tired all the time and it’s not just the fibromyalgia. Nowadays, it seems the flames are higher . . .  maybe my jump is lower?

Right now as I type it just hit me that I’m the one lighting the candle.  When I originally wrote Jack be nimble it was just “for fun”.  Like most creative expression, however “trivial” it has meaning and messages far beyond the obvious.

Jack be nimble
Jack be quick
Jack  jump over the candle stick
Just take care
Not to tire
Let down your guard
And catch on fire.

Above version by Judy

Origins and meaning, Wikipedia

The rhyme is first recorded in a manuscript of around 1815 and was collected by James Orchard Halliwell in the mid-nineteenth century.[1] Jumping candlesticks was a form of fortune telling and a sport. Good luck was said to be signaled by clearing a candle without extinguishing the flame.[1]

Origin and History to the words of Jack be nimble,
The most commonly agreed origin for the Jack be nimble rhyme is the connection to Black Jack, an English pirate who was notorious for escaping from the authorities in the late 16th century hence Jack be nimble… The words of the Jack be nimble rhyme cannot be further analysed due to the brevity of the text of the lyrics but could be associated with the old tradition and sport of ‘candle leaping’ which used to be practised at some English fairs.

Lace Makers and Candle Leaping?
The tradition of candle-leaping originated from an old game of jumping over fires. This dangerous game was banned and replaced by the far less dangerous sport of Candle leaping. In Wendover there were lace-making schools ( a good excuse for using children as slave labour). Here it was traditional to dance around the lace-makers great candlestick and this led to jumping over the candlestick. Due to the cost of candles some employers only allowed the use of candles during the darkest months of the year and centred around Candlemas Day, known as the candle season. It is interesting to note that Jack be nimble is now being referred to as Jack b nimble – the influence of the modern day practise of texting! The first publication date for Jack be nimble is 1798.

Original Nursery Rhyme:

Jack be nimble!
Jack be quick!
Jack jump over the candle stick!

Check out  Gooseberry for more!

3 comments on “Nursery Rhymes Outside the Nursery

  1. Nursey rhymes do have an interesting history. Some were political satire when “naming names” could get you in trouble — ie. losing your head!
    Ring around the rosy is supposedly linked to the great plague: describing the skin legions, carrying flowers to “protect” from the disease, (and no doubt the smells), and the end result: we all fall down.
    Thanks for sharing Jack’s history!


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