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Nursery Rhymes and Poems



Old London Bridge from the-magician.co.uk

London's burning, London's burning
Fetch the engine, fetch the engine!
Fire, fire! Fire, fire!
Pour on water, pour on water!
The above nursery rhyme describes the Fire of London, 1666. More about the London's Burning rhyme.

London Bridge is Falling Down

London Bridge is Falling Down

 The oldest known version of the rhyme from England goes like this:
London Bridge is broken down,
Dance over the Lady Lea;
London Bridge is broken down,
With a gay lady (la-dee).
The subsequent verses began with the lines, with lines in italics above repeated between them:

Then we must build it up again.
What shall we build it up withal?
Build it up with iron and steel,
Iron and steel will bend and break.
Build it up with wood and stone,
Wood and stone will fall away.
Then we must set a man to watch,
Suppose the man should fall asleep?
Then we must put a pipe in his mouth,
Suppose the pipe should fall and break?
Then we must set a dog to watch,
Suppose the dog should run away?
Then we must chain him to a post.

More about London Bridge

Ladybug, Ladybug

Ladybug, Ladybug, fly away home....
your house is on fire, and your children will burn. 
Except little Nan, who sits in a pan,
weaving gold laces as fast as she can!

In Medieval England, the farmers would set torches to the old Hop vines after the harvest, to clear the fields for the next planting. The poem was a warning to the aphid-eating Ladybugs, still crawling on the vines in search of aphids.  The Ladybugs' children (larvae) could get away from the flames, but the immobile pupae (Nan) remained fastened to the plants (laces) and couldn't escape.

More about  Ladybug, Ladybug

St. Clement's Church, London

The Bells of St. Martins

St Martin Ongar church, situated in Martin Lane was destroyed along with many other churches named in this rhyme in the Great Fire of London in 1666. Only the bell tower, complete with the original bell, has survived in the rectory of St Clements. "You owe me five farthings" relates to the moneylenders who traded nearby.

Gay go up and gay go down
To Ring the Bells of London Town
"Oranges and Lemons" say the
Bells of St. Clements

"Bullseyes and Targets" say the
Bells of St. Margaret's

"Brickbats and Tiles" say the
Bells of St. Giles

"Halfpence and Farthings" say the
Bells of St. Martin's
"Pancakes and Fritters" say the
Bells of St. Peter's
"Two Sticks and an Apple" say the Bells of Whitechapel
"Maids in white aprons" say the
Bells at St. Katherine's
"Pokers and Tongs" say the Bells of St. John's
"Kettles and Pans" say the
Bells of St. Anne's "Old Father Baldpate" say the slow Bells of Aldgate
"You owe me Ten Shillings" say the
Bells of St. Helen's

"When will you Pay me?" say the
Bells of Old Bailey "When I grow Rich" say the Bells of Shoreditch
"Pray when will that be?" say the
Bells of Stepney

"I do not know" say the
Great Bell of Bow Gay go up and gay go down
To Ring the Bells of London Town


More about The Bells of St. Martins

Audio from The Museum of Childhood

Poems

Old Mother Leary

Matilda Who Told Lies by Hilaire Belloc

Armies in the Fire by Robert Louis Stevenson

More history and rhymes in: Andrew Lang's Nursery Rhyme Book