By Wakeley Paul

Come on in,
The waters fine.
I'll give you
Till I count nine,
If you're are not
In by then,
Guess I'll have to
Count to ten.

With this ancient rhyme, I invite you to read this article with a
different twist. I hope you will find it to be both unique and fascinating.
Before launching into my main theme, I use two short  rhymes to show how
effectively they can be used to express opposite concepts with the use of
the same words, slightly altered

Early to bed, Early to rise,
Will make you healthy, wealthy and wise

James Thurber, the modern humorist, altered these words of wisdom by an old
stage to reflect how this should read in this day and age, with its long
working hours, intense ambitions to fulfill  and its accompanying  stress

Early to rise and early too bed
Will make you healthy, wealthy and dead

The Tamil community is at the present time awash with dissidents in EELAM,
in Sri Lanka and everywhere abroad. Press censorship in Sri Lanka knows no
bounds. The banning of the L T T E as a 'terrorist organization' by the Sri
Lankan government;  and other governments at the behest of the Sri Lankan
government;  was designed to discourage support for a Federal or Separate
state, for which this party stands and fights. This makes communication
between supportive dissidents vital to our cause. It is with this in mind,
that I revert to the long  period in English history, where dissidents used
the innocuous sounding nursery rhyme to transmit forbidden messages,
sneering and making fun of the unpopular and objectionable antics of their
royal rulers.

The Nursery Rhymes of England were long standing English  creations,
written at times when their was considerable peasant dissatisfaction with
Royal Rule. These sometimes soothing, sometimes perky little rhymes had a
far deeper meaning than their catching verses suggest. Those of us who were
reared in the English language, were soothed to sleep or entertained in
school with these delightful ditties, without the slightest idea of their
deeper insidious significance. Today's dissidents and opposers of government
tyranny could learn well from these elegant ways of  scorning our rulers
without being subject to the scissors of the censor

Let me commence with this galloping chime

Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross,
To see a white lady upon a white horse,
Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,
And she shall have music wherever she goes

This dancing melody depicts the story of the Queen of England who went to
Banbury to see a stone cross that had just been erected atop a steep hill.
On her arrival, a decorated rocking horse was attached to her coach by the
people, ostensibly to help her horses to pull the coach up the hill to reach
the cross. This was a sneering dig at her pomp and her power . With all of
her horses and her beautiful coach, she needed a child's rocking horse [
cockhorse] to make the approach. It did not stop there. The story went that
a wheel of the carriage broke, so she abandoned her coach and abandoned her
horses and had to ride up on the hill on the cockhorse alone.  [Ride a
cockhorse to Banbury Cross]   This  was like a modern day biting  cartoon
pooh pooping the pomp, the ceremony and pageantry of the Queen. [Rings  on
her fingers and bells on her toes; and she shall music wherever she goes]
Yet, she had to use a child's plaything to ride up the hill, to see a cross
made by the people. It depicted her pomp and pageantry  as a mere facade,
used to prop her up. The Royal censors would not be able to discover the
originator of the rhyme to punish him for his audacity. It was unacceptable
to mock the Queen and her power with such lack of respect.  If they did find
the culprit, the punishment was as bad as that inflicted by successive Sri
Lankan governments on our own Tamil dissidents, for their scathing contempt
and condemnation  of our Sinhala rulers

There is another version that attributes the origin to Lady Godiva, who
accepted her husband's [ Earl Leofric of Marcia's]  wager, that she would
ride through the streets of Coventry without any clothes, if he would remove
a punitive tax he had imposed. She rode a white horse, decked in only in
trinkets on her fingers and toes. The people put up their shutters while she
rode through the streets to fight their cause . A fine story of a noble lady
who resisted the unfair imposition of taxes  by her very own nobility. Ride
the cockhorse to Banbury Cross,  probably symbolized their refusal to
humiliate her by viewing this spectacle. They could not get to Banbury Cross
on a cockhorse to witness her humiliation. And she will have music wherever
she goes reflected the people singing their praises for ever thereafter to
honor her unselfish act in such a noble cause How could the censor suspect
their true intent.

The next rhyme by contrast, is a plaintive cry, which goes:

Bye Baby Bunting,
Daddy's gone a hunting,
Gone to get a rabbit skin,
To wrap his bay bunting in

Oh, what a grieving song of discontent. What the poor have to suffer to
provide the basic necessities for their loved ones, is a fate to cry over. 
Go hunting for clothing while leaving the poor little baby bunting behind. 
It is a sad, haunting plea to the people to make them realize the misfortune
of their fate and plight. They were obviously dealing with a complacent
population who has to be whipped up to take action to free themselves from
what they believed was their preordained destiny.  Tamil activists are more
than familiar with this malaise. This idea of a pre- ordained destiny is
even more deeply rooted in societies like ours, where the power of the
horoscope is all consuming.  It is hard to shake people out of their
complacency when they believe that their destiny is shaped by the stars 
rather than by their efforts. There are many who combine the influence of
the stars with a desire to accomplish the seemingly impossible, but usually,
  they are the activists, not the objects of the activist's exhilarating
exhortations.  Despite this apparent obstacle, the efforts of the activists
have not gone unheeded. The people have shaken off their previous destiny in
search of new horizons.

We next have the funny, jolly rhyme that laughed at King Edward I of
England who was made to look like a fool on one of his pompous regal trips
to parts of his kingdom

Dr Foster went to Gloucester
In a shower of rain,
He stepped in a puddle
Right up to his middle
And never went back again

King Edward I traveled to Gloucester in the middle of a rain storm. When he
got there. his horse fell; and the king and the horse wound up in s puddle
of mud. It was a pathetic and humiliating sight for  King to be in. The
townsfolk had to use planks of wood to rescue the king and his horse from
the utterly undignified situation he found himself in.  It certainly was not
a fate befitting a King. The King ranted and raved and swore he would never
return to Gloucester again.  The writer could not resist  spreading the news
of the Kings misfortune and awkward predicament all around. The King could
do little to refute the truth, while the people celebrated his fall by
singing this verse wherever and whenever they could.

I follow this with the verse which beckons Marjorie Daw to listen to what
they have to say about her husband Jackie. It opens with a swaying 
seductive plea of  a horn, addressing her,  and then spits out a sharp but
realistic revelation  with the precision, speed and  rhythm of a military
band. The sweet lilting start in contrast to the harsh but true message,
delivered with the swiftness of a military drum beat, adds pungency to its
significance. The drum beat was like a heart thumping anxiously as it
listened to this crippling news

See Saw, Marjorie Daw,
Jackie shall have a new master,
Jackie shall have but a penny a day,
Because Jackie can't work any faster

This  portrays the plight of the average fellow, the simple ordinary
working man.  It does not matter,  who his master is, for whoever he is,
what ever he's like, Jackie will always be the same helpless little pawn,
quite unable to better himself  His choice is no choice.  Where ever he
turned, he would always be spurned, and always returned, to the place he
once spurned. His was a cramped destiny, to stay still, with no where to go,
no hope or expectations of anything better to look forward to in the future.
By implication, this rhyme is intended as a clarion call to stir him to swim
out of  these still waters and into the open ocean with fresh horizons.
Heresy , Heresy, like those of us who proclaim separation or meaningful
Federalism as an answer to the Sri Lankan government's insistence on brow
beating  us and keeping us in our place,  never to rise; never to rule; and
always be ruled by them  through an their highly prized gift of an Unitary

The next rhyme is announced with the ringing of bells and changes
immediately into a pulsing drum beat.

Ding  Dong Bell
Pussy's in the Well.
Who put her in
Little Johnny Green,
Who pulled her out, What a naughty boy was that
Little Tommy Stout To try to drown a little pussy cat
Who never did him any harm
and killed the mice in his father's farm
An ingenious though much d[isputed explanation is that this tells the tale
of the forgotten farmer, who feeds his master with the foods he grows, but
is treated and disregarded as  if he did not exist. He was there because he
had to be. Even though he is needed for the masters sustenance, he is viewed
as something  distant and unimportant. This is the message being broadcast
to those poor feudal waifs and wretches who were born to serve their noble
masters, implying that they should assert themselves to change their fate,
as their masters could not survive without them This was not just a verse
about a thoughtless and cruel little boy. It had a deeper message, urging
the serf to recognize his potential and importance in life and not tolerate
being tossed around like the helpless little pussy cat who killed the mice
on his masters farm.

The next happy sing sing verse is loaded with messages and warnings that
are terse.

Sing a song of six pence,
A pocket full of Rye,
Four and Twenty black birds,
Baked in a pie

When the pie was opened,
The birds began to sing,
Isn't that a dainty dish
To set before the King

The King was in his counting house,
Counting out his money
The Queen was in the parlor,
Eating bread and honey;
The maid was in the garden,
Hanging out the clothes
When down came a blackbird
And pecked off her nose

A clever, but once again questioned version as to its origin is that Sing a
song of six pence highlights the contrasting plight of the poor hardworking
slob  with that of  their masters [ Royalty and the nobility in feudal
times]. Six pence and a pocket full of rye contrasted with four and twenty
black birds baked in a pie. There is the King in his counting house counting
out his money, the Queen in her parlor,  eating bread and honey, while the
unfortunate maid is outside in the garden, slaving away, only to be attacked
  by a cruel black bird, who pecks off her nose. The bird  represents her
superiors descending from their perch on high,  All she can expect for her
efforts is blame and criticism. What kind of a fate is that, the verse
queries. Certainly not one to be accepted in silence.  So you have the birds
that began to sing when the pie was open. This was the subtle warning that
the suppressed would rise and have their voices heard and their freedoms
achieved; a warning to an unsuspecting king,  who is delighted rather than
fore warned by this pleasing but insidious omen
There is a dull  but inexplicable more accepted version that says that this
refers to a time when live birds were put under the pie crust at the
banquets of the privileged; and added that the pocket full of rye may have
been an unit of measurement.  This does not account for the significance of
much of the rest of the verse, nor does it express surprise and innovation,
if it was the custom of the privileged to have live birds under the pie

Little Jack Horner
Sat in a corner,
Eating his Christmas pie
He put in his thumb
And pulled out a plumb,
And said what a good boy am I

This was a cutting satire on the power and influence of  dishonesty in the
Royal Kingdom. The Bishop of Glastonbury  heard that King Henry Xiii was
after the Glastonbury holdings. The Bishop , hurriedly sent his steward Jack
Horner with a Christmas pie filled with twelve deeds to other manorial , to
appease the King and save his lands. Not to be outdone, Jack Horner, while
on the way, pulled out and retained the deed to the plum of these lands, The
Manor of Mells and kept it for himself. [put in his thumb and pulled out a
plum] This irony of the dishonest feeding on the dishonest and pretending to
be saintly thereafter, [and said what a good boy am I], has a sharp and
telling edge to it. The saddest irony however, is  that the Horner family
owns and profits from this estate today, not something the authors

Ring a Ring a Roses
A pocket full of posies,
Agh Tissue, Agh Tissue
Ashes, Ashes [American alternative]
And we all fall down.

was a stark warning to the public of the onset of the plague. The plague was
associated with vile and pungent smells, so they recommended a pocket full
of roses to ward off this evil or else they would sneeze and sneeze and all
succumb to the disease. Ashes, Ashes signified the consequence of contacting
the plague.So the nursery rhyme was also used to broadcast  news of
impending disasters.

Rock a bye Baby,
On the tree top,
When the wind blows,
The cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks,
the cradle will fall
Down will come baby and cradle and all

This is hardly a soothing theme to lull a baby to sleep with. Here the
message passed along was, "All is quiet on the western front", but this is
the calm before the storm, and when the storm blows, the whole soothed and
contented royal regime will collapse. The King, the son of James II,  is the
spoiled and soothed baby in the cradle, resting peacefully till the storm
hits, the storm being the revolt of the people. Not a thought to be
tolerated by the Kings supporters. It had to be spread through the innocuous
means of the Nursery Rhyme. Talk of the Sinhalese losing power over us
through federalism or separation is anathema to them. The very mention of
these concepts is like heresy to their ears. They refuse to envisage such a
fall from grace; for theirs is the Kingdom; and so it will remain. The
Tamils will wait and wait for the fall,  with the hope and the patience that
governs them all. The time will come when the peace process breaks, and down
will come government and  President and all. The subtlety of the warning in
this rhyme is a masterpiece of deception.

An American version is that this was written by an original pilgrim who saw
the Wampanago Indian women hang the decorated cradles of their babies on the
branches of trees while they worked on the corn and maize fields. This had
no message and sounds like an American innovation and heartless distortion
off its true origin. made up asfter the nursery rhyme was well known.

Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
Here comes a chopper to chop off your head
This  seems somewhat self evident. Be warned, they come with flowers
concealing daggers. Do not be duped by sweet offerings and promises, they
are designed to do you in. One wonders whether the Kings retinue would not
have seen through this in a flash, but this was disguised with what went
before, which was

Oranges and Lemons
Say the Bells of St.Clement's

You owe me five farthings,
Say the Bells of St Martins.

When will you pay me
Say the Bells of Old Bailey

When I grow rich,
Say the Bells of Shoreditch

When will that be
Say the Bells of Stepney

I'm sure I don't know,
Says the great bell at Bow

They will come to get  you for the taxes you owe, they will come with a
candle to say its all legal,  and be ready to kill you when you owe them yet
more. The Old Bailey
and the Court at Bow Street are the King's higher and lower courts of
criminal law, through which punishments are imposed.

Baa Baa Black Sheep,
Have you any wool ?
Yes, Sir, Yes Sir,
Three bags full,
One for my master
One for my dame,
And one for the little boy,
Who lives down the lane

This was a sad lament on the inequity of the tax system in  the middle
The poor hard working peasant farmer, was left with only one third of his
earnings after taxes. A third went to his master [The King] ,  a Third  to
the Dame [ the nobility that owned the land] and just third was left for the
little boy [ the peasant],  who lives down the lane What an ingenious  way
of spreading the news of their exploitation and singing it aloud while
avoiding the harsh hand of the Royal censors, who probably also sang along
with them, without a thought as to the message being spread.  It adds to the
irony and power of the Nursery Rhyme as a way of firing up the wrath of the
community against the unacceptable status quo  without the authorities
realizing it.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,
All the Kings horses
and all the Kings men,
Couldn't put Humpty together again.

which symbolizes the final dream. Humpty Dumpty was a common nickname for a
fat slob in the 1400's The fat, obese King,  is compared to the fragile egg,
which, when cracked, like virginity, is lost for ever. The analogy is vivid,
with the equally vivid follow up. Once he falls, not all the Kings infantry
or all the King's cavalry could ever resurrect him again. This jaunty little
nursery rhyme told the story of the Kings unfortunate but much celebrated
destiny.  As a nursery rhyme it was sung with delight by the populace while
the censors probably listened serenely, not knowing that it celebrated their
extinction. This is supposed to refer to King Charles I, who was toppled by
a majority of the members of parliament and was ultimately executed. The
people prevailed over the King, even though the average man did not have the
right to vote at that time. It yet celebrated the the diminution of the
power of the Royal proclamation.. The "Puritans" had out voted him the King 
Parliament and finally ousted him from power.

Another well accepted version is that "Humpty Dumpty" represented a
powerful cannon the Royalists used to defend Colchester during the civil war
between the  Royalists and parliamentarians, in 1642-49 , The Royalists had
captured and controlled the parliamentary stronghold of Colchester for 11
weeks The cannon was mounted atop the tower of St Mary's church in
Colchester.. The parliamentarians succeeded in blowing the top of the tower
off and the cannon came tumbling down. Neither the King's cavalry or the
Kings infantry could put the cannon  back together again. It symbolized the
victory of the people's representatives over the King.  Even though the
average man did not have the vote at that time, it symbolized popular rule
over Royal decree.

There are many more, too many for an article of this length. I could add a
second follow up chapter if the readers are interested. "Georgie Porgy, 
pudding and pie"  Jack & Jill"  "The Old woman in a shoe" "Jack Sprat" to
name a few, all full of cutting political innuendo.

I end this article with a buoyant, cheery happy song which calls the world
out to play and enjoy themselves with whatever meager resources they have.
This in contrast to the others gives a happy twist to life, the kind of
uplift our fighting  forces and their stoic supporters in the Vanni so badly
need,  in these harshest of times. It tells them you can make do with what
you have to enjoy yourselves; and nothing should deter you.

Boys and girls come out to play,
The moon  doth shine as bright as day.
Leave your supper and leave your sleep,
And join your playfellows in the street.
Come with a whoop and come with a call,
Come with a good will or not at all.
Up the ladder and down the wall,
A half penny loaf will serve us all;
You find milk and I'll find flour,
And we'll having pudding in half an hour.

How much more joyous can one get ?  Especially in times of stress,  people
need to relax their flesh,  and dance and sing and have a good time, for
life is not just a tale of woe. It is a time to celebrate, with what ever is
there, to enjoy it with. One version says this celebrates the time when
children were treated as adults and could be out at night even after the
moon rose.

I am not urging today's dissidents to be copy cats and use the same modem
for making inspiring communications or sending happy tidings of joy.  It
would be a civilized and powerful weapon for dissidents to use a refined
alternative to this classic English medium to transmit biting criticisms of
government policy, or messages of hope or concern to others, without
indulging in the kind of crude discourse that now dominates the Sri Lankan
Parliament. May the Tamils proclaim their discontent in an ancient language
capable of the refined expression of the type and style we have witnessed

In conclusion, I will leave you with a riddle and ask you to figure out
what this puzzling nursery rhyme that meant

Hey diddle diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon;
The little dog laughed
To see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon

* There are other versions of origins not included here for reasons of