There was an old woman
Lived under a hill;
And if she's not gone,
She lives there still.
Baked apples she sold,
And cranberry pies,
And she's the old woman
That never told lies.
This is called a "self-evident proposition", which was the popular humor of the times. It's self-evident because it's obvious the old woman is still there if she's not gone!
According to The Annotated Mother Goose (1962), this was printed in 1714 in The Academy of Compliments. It can also be found in The Only True Mother Goose Melodies (c. 1833). Their version is the same as above.
Some people only print the 1st verse of this rhyme.
Here's another version that can be found in Harry's Ladder to Learning (1850):
There was an old woman lived under a hill,
And if she ben't* gone she lives there still.
*Ben't seems to stand for be not, which would make this line, "And if she be not gone she lives there still."
Photos & Illustrations
Thanks and Acknowledgements
The 1st illustration can be found in Nursery Rhymes (circa 1920) illustrated by Claud Lovat Fraser (with some graphical editing of the above image by Lisa Yannucci). The 2nd illustration comes from Kate Greenaway's Mother Goose (1881). The 3rd illustration comes from The Only True Mother Goose Melodies (published and copyrighted in Boston in 1833 by Munroe & Francis).
Read by Allyson Hester of Athens, Georgia for Librevox.