As a classic children’s English nursery rhyme, to which we all have grown up knowing ‘ Ring-A-Ring-A- Roses’ there’s more to the meaning than the fun we might have enjoyed whilst playing as a child. But how many of us actually know what is the history and meaning of it? Let’s find out!
‘Ring-a-ring-a-roses A pocket full of posies A tissue, a tissue We all fall down, ’
The seemingly bright and light-hearted song is in fact telling us about death and suffering from another pandemic Plague, which is also known as The Black Death, that had hit London and other parts of Europe in the 17th century. The Plague that had begun in the middle of the 1300s had never really ended for hundreds of years.
As stated by author James FitzGerald, published in the Londonist, the ‘ring-a-ring-a-roses’ was written sometime in the 17th century in London, most probably during the great plague of London that caused in over 70,000 deaths in the city within a year between 1665-66.
He writes that the famous ‘roses’ in the rhymes actually are a euphemism for deadly red rashes that were related to the patient’s suffering from the bubonic plague. On the other hand, the ‘poises’ must have been some preventative measure. Now coming to the ‘A -tissue‘ part, this clearly points to the sneezing symptoms and the last line of ‘ we all fall down ‘ represents everyone’s fast approaching death.
Although the poem might have found its origins in the death and misery of a global pandemic, it has been extensively adapted and remade through the years.
Now, what would you think about the rhyme on the current pandemic?