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History of Ring Around the Rosie, the Child's Nursery Rhyme

By Edited Oct 27, 2013 3 3

Ring Around the Rosie is a cute, well known little old nursery rhyme, that children still sing today and have sang for hundreds of centuries. The most commonly seen playground act while singing the song would be children standing in a circle, holding hands and skipping in one direction. The children fall down, in a heap or pile, with intention, at the end of the nursery rhythm. "Ring Around the Rosie, A pocket full of posies, Ashes, Ashes, We all fall down" is the most common lyrics to the nursery rhyme in the United States of America.

In the fourteen century, the notorious and unfortunate Black Plague brought death to over twenty-five million people and the folk tale belief is that the happy little, plague inspired nursery rhyme is originated from the Black Plague. A round, red rash was one of the first symptoms of the disease, called the Black Plague. This actually is believed to refer to the first line in the popular nursery rhyme titled Ring Around the Rosie.

People would gently place posies around the people that were infected with this disease. They would also put posies in the pockets of those sick with the Black Plague. They believed that placing the flowers around the ill person would possibly bring protection and prevent others from becoming ill with the plague. Often times, people would carry these flowers around just incase they were to encounter a person infected with the Black Plague. Due to this, many infected people died with a pocket full of posies. This act is said to relate to the second line of the nursery rhyme, a pocket full of posies.

Often times, you would hear a person sneezing that was infected with the Black Plague. Sneezing was one of the more common symptoms of the wide spread plague. This is folk believed to be where the third line of the cute little, plague inspired, nursery rhyme of Ring Around the Rosie comes from, Ashes, Ashes.

Since over twenty-five million people died from the Black Plague, they would have mass burials or mass cremations of the dead bodies. This act is said to refer to the final line to the nursery rhyme, that children merrily sing, the line is, we all fall down. Many people also believed that the Black Plague would eventually wipe out the entire civilization, and this is another thought reason for the last line of the nursery rhyme, we all fall down.

There are several versions of this cute little nursery rhyme, which differs by region, that many children can be heard singing and dancing to in playgrounds and all over the world.

United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, and South Africa the nursery rhyme is usually sung:

Ring a ring o roses, A pocketful of posies, a tissue, a tissue, We all fall down.

New Zealand and Austria the playground song is usually sung:

Ring a ring a Rosie, A pocketful of posies, a tissue, a tissue, We all fall down.

India the nursery rhyme is usually sung:

Ring a Ring a roses, Pocket full of poses, Husha, Busha, We all fall down.

Louisiana and Southeast Texas the song, the Ring around the Rosie song is usually sung:

Ring around the Rosie, Pocket full of posies, Upstairs, downstairs, We all fall down.


Hundreds of people dispute this theory as to where the meaning of the nursery rhyme song derives from. Some people believe that this theory is just other people trying to make sense of non sense. They believe that others are just seeking to find order in randomness, when the nursery rhyme really has no particular meaning. With so many variations of the plague inspired, Ring Around the Rosie song, it would require quite a feverish imagination to make all the variations relate directly to the notorious Black Plague. Other people believe that the different lyric versions of the song have just changed over time, as all things change over time. Since the actual record of this nursery rhyme first being written down was not until 1881 in Kate Greenway's Mother Goose or the Old Nursery Rhymes many dispute the meaning of the song, the origin of the rhyme and the relationship to the notorious Black Plague. Still, many people believe that the nursery rhyme has been passed down for hundreds of years and many centuries only by word of mouth, and that no one actually felt the song worthily enough to write down until 1881.

I have never actually read a book with this rhyme in it, but have heard the plague inspired nursery rhyme recited a few hundred times during my lifetime. My parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles have all taught me this nursery rhyme and that it was plague inspired, as I have taught my children. It is likely that my children will teach their children and their children's children the Ring Around the Rosie nursery rhyme with which ever origin of the song they choose to believe to be the correct version and lyric.

No one really knows when the rhyme was written, and it very well could have been recited and passed on by word of mouth from one generation to the next without being wrote down. There is no actual proof or evidence that the nursery rhyme's origin can be supported by either theory. It is perfectly possible to argue an endless argument as to where the lyrics really came from. Regardless of the origin of the nursery rhyme children have enjoyed and will continue to enjoy singing and dancing to the lyric for many centuries to come. Some people will continue to firmly believe that the only correct theory of origin is the origin in which they choose to believe. Others will simply ignore the entirety of the dispute or the nursery rhyme and enjoy the children's song for the potential of having fun. Regardless of the history and/or origin of Ring Around the Rosie, the song will be known for many future centuries to come.



Sep 8, 2009 12:38pm
Interesting story of the history behind Ring around the Rosey
Sep 9, 2009 7:24pm
Nice story edie, very well written.
Nov 28, 2009 1:14pm
wow! i don't let my daughter sing that song. thanks for letting people know the history behind that song.
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