Ring-a-Round the Rosie
Ring-a-Round the Rosy has many versions. This is the version I grew up singing in New York in the 1970's…
Ring-a-Round the Rosie
Ring-a-round the rosie,
A pocket full of posies,
We all fall down!
The earliest version found in print in the US comes from a novel from 1855 called, "The Old Homestead" by Ann S. Stephens. The author wrote, "...the little girls began to seek their own amusements. They played "hide and seek," "ring, ring a rosy," and a thousand wild and pretty games..." Here's the version in the book:
A ring-a ring of roses,
Laps full of posies;
Awake - awake!
Now come and make
A ring-a ring of roses.
Many people think the lyrics of Ring A Round the Rosie allude to the plagues that struck Europe in the middle ages. But the earliest version seen in print in its current form comes 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...
A pocket full of posies;
Hush! hush! hush! hush!
We're all tumbled down.
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."
Tonight I have been scouring the internet for historical mentions of Ring Around the Rosie and its many variations. Fascinating topic. In the early 1950's when I was a little girl growing up in the mountains of West Virginia, where many of the old people at the time were speaking a dialect that harks back to old English, this is the version of the song we sang:
Ring Around the Rosie
Pockets Full of Posie
We All Fall Down
There was none of that Ashes, Ashes stuff in our mountains!
"I also grew up in West Virginia and we sang it... 'Bluebirds, blackbirds, we all fall down!'" -Karen Holland
I'd love to hear how you learned Ring a Ring a Rosies as a child! Please email me to let us know! Please indicate where you sang your version. –Mama Lisa
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.
Many thanks to Brownie Troop 282 for singing Ring A Round the Rosie for us!
Thanks and Acknowledgements
The 1st illustration above is from The Little Mother Goose (1912), illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith. The 2nd illustration is by Leslie Brooke and the 3rd was done by Kate Greenaway for her book called Mother Goose. Thanks to Susan Curry for sending her childhood version of "Ring Around the Rosie" and to Karen Holland for writing about her version.