On a Nursery Rhyme

Scandinavian countries call it Lille Trille, the French Boule Boule. Germans have several names for it. During he Middle Ages, a phrase like it was often used to describe a clumsy person and also an ale and brandy concoction. And, like many children’s tales and rhymes, it has a meaning far deeper than simply the amusement of children in the nursery.

For example, some folklore experts (and, like many children’s stories and oral traditions, this is indeed folklore) say that the story retells the rise and fall of the humpbacked King Richard III of England who died in the Battle of Bosworth Field. His brutal death in that conflict as part of the War of the Roses entered the vernacular, these experts say, in the form of a simple rhyme that explained the terrible fate of what was the last English monarch to die in battle.

Or take the explanation by some military historians (as well as some local historians) regarding the depiction in the rhyme of a large cannon on the fortified wall of the English city of Colchester. When part of the wall beneath the cannon was destroyed in a siege during one of the many wars that came through that area in the 16th and 17th centuries, the large gun collapsed and was destroyed beyond repair.

Some religious historians in the UK argue that the poem describes the sad death and burial of Cardinal Wolsey, a contemporary and Catholic rival of sorts of English King Henry VIII. Wolsey died on the way to being arrested by Henry, and he was not buried in the tomb that had been prepared for him.

And so on.

But you get the idea. The rhyme, no matter the origin story behind it, is about loss and the inability to make something the way it used to be. Thus, it could be said that we are dealing with the simple human emotion of regret, that we cannot change what has happened and must deal with the present reality, no matter how devastating it may be.

But nowhere, and I mean nowhere, in the rhyme does it state that Humpty Dumpty was an egg.

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