Ring around a rosey,
A pocket full of posey
We all fall down!
This short poem has been passed on for generations. Children often hold hands in a circle while singing this short rhyme; at the last verse “we all fall down!” the children fall to the ground. Ring Around the Rosey, at first this children’s nursery rhyme and game appears to be innocent. However, it originates from the historical event of the Black Plague.
Each line contains dark imagery of the horrific events that were witnessed during the Great Plague of London:
“Ring around the rosey”: The first visible signs of infection of the Bubonic Plague were red rings surrounding a rosy bump which were found all over the victim’s body.
“Pocket full of posy”: A common belief at the time was that the plague was air borne on ‘foul air’. Many people would try to protect themselves from the ‘bad air’ by keeping flowers (posy’s) in their pockets. This also helped individuals deal with the smell of death that emanated from the numerous Bubonic Plague deaths.
“Ashes, ashes”: This line is in reference to “Ashes to ashes, dusk to dusk”. This refers to the mass cremations that took place due to the amount of fatalities.
There is also another variation on this verse, “ah-tishoo, ah-tishoo”. This variation of the verse refers to the terminal phase of the disease, in which victims would be hemorrhaging internally which would trigger sneezing due to irritated breathing passages. Often victims in a weakened state would sneeze out their lungs.
“We all fall down”: This quite literally represents death. The Black Plague spread rapidly throughout London taking many fatalities. The child’s game emulates falling down and dying.
This short rhyme dissected represents a very dark part of history. It imagery pertains to a gruesome part of history which was developed into a child’s nursery rhyme.