Children's Songs

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Many of the nursery rhymes and game songs that we learn as children are traditional, in that they are old, with no known author, and seem by their nature to be timeless. Despite many peoples' attempts to assign historical significance to them, there is rarely much evidence to support the contentions, although there are exceptions which most scholars accept, such as Ring a ring a roses being derived from the Black Death of the 14th century. The way in which childrens' songs pass through the community, and the variations you find in different parts of the country, make a fascinating topic for study, and in this country the leaders in the field are Iona and Peter Opie, two of whose many books on the subject are:

  • The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren, I & P Opie, 1959 and 2001, NYRB
  • The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, I & P Opie, 1992, OUP

Traditional collections of Nursery Rhymes include:

  • Nursery Rhymes and Country Songs, M H Mason, 1909, Metzler & Co.
  • Popular Rhymes and Nursery Tales of England, James Orchard Haliwell, 1849, reprinted 1970, The Bodley Head