Little Bo Peep

Little Bo-Peep has lost her sheep,
And can’t tell where to find them;
Leave them alone, and they’ll come home,
Wagging their tails behind them.

Little Bo Peep

Longer version:
Little Bo-Peep has lost her sheep,
And doesn’t know where to find them;
Leave them alone, and they’ll come home,
And bring their tails behind them.

Little Bo-Peep fell fast asleep,
And dreamt she heard them bleating;
But when she awoke, she found it a joke,
For they were still a-fleeting.

Then up she took her little crook,
Determined for to find them;
She found them indeed, but it made her heart bleed,
For they’d left their tails behind them.

It happened one day, as Bo-Peep did stray
Into a meadow hard by,
There she espied their tails side by side,
All hung on a tree to dry.

She heaved a sigh and wiped her eye,
And over the hillocks went rambling,
And tried what she could, as a shepherdess should,
To tack each again to its lambkin.


The Symbol of Carelessness

Little Bo Peep, as she lost her sheep, is today sometimes used as a symbol of carelessness and irresponsibility. The rhyme dates back to the beginning of the nineteenth century, but the name Bo Peep is much older and was a Medieval children’s game. The game is also mentioned in Shakespeare’s play King Lear:

Then they for sudden joy did weep,
And I for sorrow sung,
That such a king should play bo-peep,
And go the fools among.
Prithee, nuncle, keep a schoolmaster that can teach
thy fool to lie: I would fain learn to lie.


Smugglers’ Helper

bo peep sheep

Most likely this nursery rhyme does not refer to any actual historical event or person. It’s an old children’s game that has been put into a nursery rhyme just for the art’s sake and first published as such in 1805.
There is, however, in a village in East Sussex, England, a legend that there once lived a shepherd whose name was Bo Peep. Ninfield, the place in question, is located by the English Channel and was once in the Middle Ages an open port for smaller vessels and—one of the major smuggling centers. Bo Peep grazed her sheep by the sea and used them to eliminate the footprints of the smugglers. Thanks to her the untaxed goods exchange with France flourished undisturbed.


Sheet music