“Ring a ring a roses,
Pocket full of posies,
We all fall down!”
How many times have you seen children gathering round in a circle, recite this rhyme gleefully and then fall to the ground with a thud at the end of it? You have also probably smiled to yourself and muttered under your breath, “How cute!”
The children surely look cute while reciting this rhyme. But is the rhyme in itself ‘cute’?
Let us find out!
According to legends, the origin of this poem dates back to the Victorian Era.
And it is believed that the rhyme recalls the tragedy of either the Bubonic Plague (Black Death) that swept across Europe in 1346-53 or the Great Plague of Britain that took a toll on the English people during 1665s.
During the Bubonic Plague, red rings would form around the mouths of the people suffering from the disease. Here’s where the first line of the poem derives its words from.
People suffering from Plague would carry posies in their pockets to ward off the smell that would emanate from their bodies. That part forms the second line of the rhyme…
The Bubonic Plague which was spread across Europe eliminated at least one-third of the population. Dead people were burnt to and just ashes left, right and center! “Ashes! Ashes!”.
Last came Death. Black Death. The death that marked the fall of a civilization.
The Great Plague of London was also reported to have inspired this poem. The Plague only came to an end after the Great Fire of London that resulted in a huge urban area being burned down, turning almost the whole of the city into ashes and killing loads of civilians.
Whatever the origin of this rhyme, I am pretty sure that the next time you will see children falling down on the ground happily; it won’t be a smile that will spread on your lips. Perhaps, it will be a frown making its appearance on your forehead due to the dark origins of the rhyme crossing your mind.