Ring Around the Rosy

Ring around the rosy
A pocketful of posies
Ashes, Ashes,
We all fall down!



Kate Greenaway’s 1881 edition of Mother Goose:

A pocket full of posies;
Hush! hush! hush! hush!
We’re all tumbled down.


1790 version:
Round a ring of roses,
A bottle full of posie,
All the little girls in our town,
Ring for little Josie....

The Great Plague

The most common interpretation of this nursery rhyme claims it to refer to the Great Plague that struck the Kingdom of England from 1664 to 1666, and was particularily grave in August and September 1665 when in London alone 70,000 people died.


This interpretation, however, is based on no evidence and it didn’t appear to be mentioned until after the Second World War. In addition to this, the words on which the plague interpretation relays, did not exist in the earlier versions.

Singing Game

Therefore, we may forget about the palgue and take this nursery rhyme just as a beautiful singing game which it originally undoubtedley was. The “fall” in the rhyme was not to be taken literally, but rather as a bending movement., which were quite common in such singing games at that time.