Infants' Rhymes

John Johnson Marshall
Chapter XIII

If grown-ups have their rhymes and sayings much more so have children, whose youthful imagination can conjure up scenes and happenings in the magic land of Make-Believe, within whose enchanted portals those who have attained to years of maturity may not pass.

Who were the original authors of these rhymes? Were they composed by children more gifted than their fellows, or were there nameless Lewis Carrolls who preferred to remain unknown to fame and to be satisfied with the reward of having afforded a new pleasure to the little ones. We ask, but the question remains unanswered, and we are never likely to know the names of the laureates of the playground.

Here is a rhyme often repeated by nurse or mother, as she puts the tiny shoe or slipper on some little toddler’s chubby foot:—

“Jack Smith of Munterlony,

Can you shoe this pony?

Yes, indeed, that I can

As well as any other man;

Here’s a nail and there’s a prod,

Now, your pony’s well shod.”

There is a variant of the two first lines:—

“Jack Smith, filly fine,

Can you shoe this horse of mine?”

Another Irish nursery rhyme owes its origin to the disbanded soldiers and younger sons of gentlemen who had lost their means of living after the putting down of the rebellion of 1641. These men took to the woods and maintained themselves by the spoil of law-abiding subjects, hence they were called Tories.

“Ho! brother Teig, what is your story?

I went to the wood and shot a Tory;

I went to the wood and shot another,

Was it the same, or was it his brother?

I hunted him in, I hunted him out,

Three times through the bog, out and about,

Till out of the bush I spied his head,

So I levelled my gun and shot him dead.”

An account of the Tories and Tory hunting will be found in the writer’s “History of Charlemont Fort and Borough,” Chap. XIV.

Another rhyme used to quiet a fractious child is:—

“I have a wee puppet I keep in my pocket,

I feed it on corn and hay—

There came a wee man and swore by his sowl

He would steal my wee puppet away—

Nor you, nor you, nor you,”

pointing to members of the household about,

“But a nice wee boy like you.”

The trouble however, is likely to recommence when the child wants the puppet to be produced.

Another rhyme of the nursery class is:—

“I went to the fair of Dungannon

And bought a three-halfpenny pig—

I carried it home in my apron,

And danced a swaggering jig.”