Mama Lisa's World
International Music & Culture
Ring A-Ring O' Roses
(English Circle Game)

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Ring A-Ring O' Roses has many versions. This is the version that seems to be the most popular in England…

Ring A-Ring O' Roses
Circle Game

Ring A-Ring O' Roses - English Children's Songs - England - Mama Lisa's World: Children's Songs and Rhymes from Around the World, Intro Image


Ring a-ring o' roses,
A pocketful of posies.
A-tishoo! A-tishoo!
We all fall down!
 
Listen
Brownie Troop 282 sang the American version of the song Ring A Round the Rosie for us. You can hear it below...

Notes

Many people think the lyrics of Ring A-Ring O'Roses allude to the plagues that struck Europe in the middle ages. But the earliest version seen in print is from 1881, in Kate Greenaway's Mother Goose. According to The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (1951), edited by Iona and Peter Opie, and The Annotated Mother Goose, edited by William and Ceil Baring-Gould (1962), such a late date for the first published appearance of the song makes it highly unlikely that it could actually have originated all the way back in medieval times. Here's the Kate Greenway version...

Ring-a-ring-a-roses,
A pocket full of posies;
Hush! hush! hush! hush!
We're all tumbled down.

*****

Here's what Steven wrote to me in 2005. It shows what most people believe about this song:

"I notice that your site has some great, obscure rhymes on it from England but is missing one of the best known and (to me) historically interesting: Ring-a-ring o' Rosies...

Ring-a-ring o' rosies
Pocket full of posies
A'Tishoo A'Tishoo
We all fall down

I find it interesting because it dates from the time of the Great Plague (1665) and is about what happens to people who catch it. They get a ring of spots or inflammation (the ring of rosies), try to stop catching or passing it on by carrying a "pocket full of posies", start to sneeze ("A'Tishoo A'Tishoo") and then "fall down" dead.

Hope that helps somehow. Thanks for your efforts.

Steven (Oxford, England)"

Thanks to Steven for sending me his version and comments about this song. It's an interesting part of the history of this song, that most people believe it's connected to the plague. I used to think it was too!

*****

Tisha sent this version from the UK:

Ring-A-Ring O' Roses
A Pocket Full Of Posies
A'Tishoo A'Tishoo
We All Fall Down
Fishies In The Water
Fishies In The Sea
We All Jump Up
1..2..3

*****

This version below is from Percy B. Green's book, A History of Nursery Rhymes (printed in London in 1899):

Ring a ring a rosies,
A pocket full of posies.
Hush!-The Cry?-Hush!-The Cry?
All fall down.

Green noted, "Ring A-Ring O' Roses, is known in Italy and Germany. In the northern counties of England the children use the words, 'Hushu! Hushu!' in the third line."

*****

Viola Dollar wrote:

"When my daughter was in nursery school in a village in Oxfordshire, England in 1977 she sang a second verse to 'Ring around the rosie, pocket full of posies, ashes, ashes, we all fall down!'. It went:

'Ashes on the water, ashes on the Sea, we all jump up with a one, two, three!'

Somewhere I heard/read that the first verse referred to the plague and ensuing death implied in the 'all fall down', the second verse referred to resurrection after the death.

*****

Mike wrote:

Hi Lisa love the site,

I Downloaded a copy of an American version of Ring a Ring a Rosie and the lyrics said Rosie and ashes ashes we all fall down?

The song is of the black Death

Ring a ring a roses (wreath)

a pocket full of posies (To take the smell off the corpse) A tissue a tissue we all fall down (The symptoms started with sneezing then they die)

Please disregard if you know but it's bugging me they sing the wrong one and remove the warning children need to learn to stay away from sneezing people haha and history is learned this way better than reading.

Mike Hebblethwaite

*****

Dave wrote:

Ring a Ring of Roses
A pocket full of posies
Atishoo Atishoo
We all fall down.

The plague in Britain lasted well into the 17th Century So this version seems to refer to it. Posies and nosegays were carried as a defence against catching plague. Sneezing was the first symptom, after that you quickly died (fell down)!

Dave

*****

Here's a version from Penelope:

Hello,

I was just browsing your site and noticed you don't seem to have the second verse of Ring a Roses. Or perhaps you haven't yet posted it! Anyway, this is how we used to do it (and speaking to others from around Britain) they all did the same:

(dancing in a ring as usual)
Ring a ring a rosies
A pocket full of posies
Atishoo! Atishoo!
We all fall down (crouch down)

(chanting) Down at the bottom of the deep blue sea
Catching fishies for my tea
A-one, a-two, a-three! (jump back up on three)

Penelope

p.s. nice site : )

*****

Jessie wrote:

I found your web site looking for the words to To Bed to bed said sleepy head and then I just started to browse. I then looked up Ring-a-round the Rosies I was taught to say and sing it by my mother as the following:

Ring around the Rosie
A pocket full of Posie
Husha Husha
We all fall down.

My mother was born in 1921 and she was taught her nursery rhymes by her mother and she in turn taught me. I was born in 1964. Our family was originally from Northern Scotland. And settled in rural Manitoba, Canada. And I was taught in Winnipeg Manitoba Canada.

J.K.Thomson

*****

Here's the version from The Real Mother Goose (1916), illustrated by Blanche Fisher Wright:

Ring a ring o' roses,
A pocketful of posies.
Tisha! Tisha!
We all fall down.

*****

Here's the version from The Little Mother Goose (1912), illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith:

Ring-a-round-a roses,
A pocket full of posies;
Hush-hush-hush-
We'll all tumble down.

*****

Jessie Prince wrote:

I noticed you only have 1 verse of Ring a Rosie listed. I learned the second verse as:

The cows are in the meadow
Eating buttercups
A-Tishoo A-Tishoo
We all jump up.

The actions are the same except in reverse. The ring is danced in a squat and on the last line you spring back to your feet, ready to repeat it again.

Rosie agreed with Jessie:

Hi Lisa
I've always loved this nursery rhyme, because it has my name in it :)

I learned this nursery rhyme as a child in Australia in the 1990s. We usually sang the traditional English version:

Ring a ring o' rosies
A pocketful of posies
A-tishoo! A-tishoo!
We all fall down

However, sometimes a second verse was added:

The cow are in the meadow
Eating buttercups
A-tishoo! A-tishoo!
We all jump up

I have no idea where this version came from but in the circle game, everyone gets up again on the last line.
Hope this is helpful!

Rosie

*****

Michael Huxley wrote:

The version I was taught

Ring o'ring O'roses ( a ring of ring of roses – represent the sores around the mouth)
A pocket full of poses ( to keep the smell away)
Ah tissue, ah tissue (or ah tew, ah tew, the sound of sneezing)
We all fall down (dead)

Ashes in the water ( ashes were all around after the Great Fire of London)
Ashes in the sea
Please pick me up
With a 1 , 2 , THREE ( 3 was shouted loudly and we stood up.)

The relevance of the ashes were from the cremation and burial of bodies, or so the story goes. Although in reality most were buried and not burnt. The ashes in the water were because they dead were affecting the drinking water causing a different sickness and the king had a huge fresh water fountain built so that people could get clean water to drink from within the city of London.

Also I heard the ashes in the water ashes in the sea represents that the great fire of London 1666 had burned down most of London which was the beginning of the end of the great plague so the pick me up with a 1 , 2 , 3 meant it was safe again.

Game Instructions

All of the kids hold hands and go around in a circle singing the song. On the last line, "We all fall down" everyone falls to the ground.

Photos & Illustrations

Ring A-Ring O' Roses - English Children's Songs - England - Mama Lisa's World: Children's Songs and Rhymes from Around the World, Comment Image

Ring A-Ring O' Roses - English Children's Songs - England - Mama Lisa's World: Children's Songs and Rhymes from Around the World 1

Comments

The 1st illustration above was done by Leslie Brooke and the second was done by Kate Greenaway. The 3rd illustration is from The Little Mother Goose (1912), illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith.

Wikipedia said the following about Ring Around the Rosie, "It first appeared in print in 1881; but it is reported that a version was already being sung to the current tune in the 1790s."

Thanks and Acknowledgements

Thanks to everyone who sent another version or commentary! I welcome more versions! -Mama Lisa

Many thanks to Brownie Troop 282 for singing Ring A Round the Rosie (the American version of the song) for us! If any children from Great Britain would like to sing one of the British versions for us, please email me to send an mp3 or wav recording of it.

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