Friday, June 2

Home Again, Home Again

Whenever I return home from a long trip, I always think of the line “Home again, home again, jiggety jig.” It comes from the old English nursery rhyme, “To Market.” It reads:

To market, to market,
To buy a fat pig,
Home again, home again,
Jiggety jig.

To market, to market,
To buy a fat hog,
Home again, home again,
Jiggety jog.

To market, to market,
To buy a plum bun,
Home again, home again,
Market is done.

Almost all nursery rhymes were originally written to satirize certain political and cultural circumstances long ago in English history—making them anything but innocent nonsense poesy. So, for instance, “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” was probably written as a complaint against the hardships caused to the poor by the enclosures of land for sheep farming in the days of King Edward VI.

“Georgie, Porgie, Pudding and Pie” (a rhyme I wearied of hearing when I was a child) may have been written to poke fun at the Prince Regent (later, King George IV) because of his greed, his lust, his sloth, and his resistance to political reform.

“Hickory, Dickory, Dock” is said to refer to Richard Cromwell, who was unable to preserve the Commonwealth created by his father or to prevent the restoration of the Stuart monarchy.

“Humpty Dumpty” probably refers to the days when the barons struggled with King John at Runnymede and toppled him from his solitary seat of power by means of the Magna Carta.

“Jack and Jill” apparently mocks the ill-fated scheme to arrange an alliance between the royal houses of Scotland and France through the marriage of Mary Queen of Scots and Francis II.

“Little Boy Blue” is said to refer to Cardinal Wolsey who lost favor with King Henry VIII because he was unable to secure a Papal dispensation for the King’s divorce. Interestingly, Wolsey was the son of an Ipswich butcher, and as a boy, he looked after his father’s livestock.

“Little Jack Horner” supposedly satirizes the seizure of the church's lands during the dissolution of the monasteries.

“Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary” is said to be a lament for the persecution of the Protestant believers during the “killing years” of Queen Mary Tudor, who was thus known as "Bloody Mary."

On and on we could go. But, back to the rhyme at hand, the “jiggety jig” verse is traditionally said to be about the dubious consent Archbishop Cranmer gave to King Henry VIII to divorce Queen Catherine--as well as the even more dubious counsel of Thomas Cromwell to the king to take for himself treasures of the monasteries.

Given all that, I am not too sure how apt it is for me to sing this rhyme when I return home from a journey. But, "jiggety jig" is what I think of nevertheless.


larry white said...

Nevertheless, welcome back to blogdom, and thanks for the footnotes to "jiggety jig" and observations re the English nursery rhyme canon. During the hiatus I have dipped more deeply into the Grantium Florilegium archives and links, finding book lists and references galore.

Lawrence Underwood said...

Welcome home Dr. Grant. That rhyme is one that I can't even remember learning. It is burned into the motherboard of my brain. I've always wondered at its origin. And, alas, now I know that my brain has a virus! That explains a lot.

L. Mckinley Davis said...

Nursery Rhymes were always a part of my childhood. I suppose that's why, despite the political satire hidden at their roots, I will always love them.

I enjoyed your graduation address. It was quite inspiring, even to one, such as myself, that's not on the verge of going out into the world.

-Logan Davis

John said...

My late mother always used to say "Home again, home again, jiggety jig!" on arriving home from a journey.

I just arrived home and said it to myself, as I often do, and wondered where it came from. I googled it and thanks to your page, now I know!

Brought back fond memories,

Neil Robson... (my name is not John)

Bruce J said...

I imagine you know that the claims about the origins of "Mother Goose" rhymes are a mix of solid, speculative and nonsense. Do you have some solid resource(s) you recommend (e.g., the sources for the info you posted here)?

George Grant said...

Bruce: You're right. There are some very specious ideas afloat out there--as there always will be with legends. Just look at all the speculations that clog the blogosphere and twitterverse regarding Shakespearean authorship or Chaucerian intent. But, to answer your question directly, I have found the ruminations of three authors particularly helpful: A.N. Wilson, Peter Ackroyd, and Arthur Quiller-Couch.