‘Jack and Jill went up the hill’: we all know these words that call earlier our early childhoods so vividly, yet where did lock come from and also what does this rhyme mean? It can be attention to try to probe or analyse the an interpretation of nursery rhymes also deeply – lot like analysing the nonsense verse of Edward Lear or Lewis Carroll, us are most likely to come ~ above a hermeneutic dead-end. Yet ‘Jack and Jill’ is so popular that a closer look at its meaning and beginnings seems justified.

You are watching: To fetch a pail of water

Jack and Jill went increase the hillTo bring a pail the water;Jack dropped down and broke his crown,And Jill come tumbling after.

Up Jack got, and also home walk trot,As quick as he could caper,To old Dame Dob, who patched his nobWith vinegar and also brown paper.


Is this the complete rhyme the ‘Jack and also Jill’? That depends on as soon as you read it, or where. The very first stanza is by much the oldest, and also seems to have actually been the sum total of the ‘Jack and Jill’ luck in the eighteenth century, once it’s very first recorded. The second stanza showed up in the at an early stage nineteenth century once the vogue because that chapbooks – quick illustrated publications containing expanded versions of famous nursery rhymes – arose. (The chapbook for ‘Old mom Hubbard’, because that instance, was a substantial bestseller in the first couple of decades the the nineteenth century.)

The native ‘crown’, through the way, practically certainly describes Jack’s head (or the an extremely top of it), rather than saying royal connotations (e.g. Jack is a prince or showing a king of some sort). Jack and also Jill are just an plain boy and also girl (or young man and also young woman, potentially).

If girlfriend read among these old chapbook versions, you conference a ‘Jack and also Jill’ rhyme the is a lining fifteen stanzas long:

Then JILL came in,And she go grin,To view JACK’S document plaster,Her mother put her,A fools cap on,For laughing in ~ Jack’s disaster.

This do JILL pout,And she ran out,And JACK did conveniently follow,They speak dog Ball,Jill got a fall,How Jack did laugh and also hollow.

The DAME come out,To recognize all about,Jill claimed Jack made she tumble,Says Jack okay tell,You exactly how she fell,Then judge if she need grumble.

And so it goes top top for another ten now-thoroughly-forgotten stanzas.

Thankfully for our functions here, the most acquainted version for modern-day readers is the two-stanza calculation quoted above. (Many readers will certainly be acquainted with an alternate version of the penultimate line, i beg your pardon reads ‘He checked out bed to repair his head / with vinegar and brown paper.’ Don’t worry, we’ll come to ‘nob’ in early out course.)


But although it was first written down in the eighteenth century, the original rhyme that Jack and Jill might be the a substantially older vintage. Iona and Peter Opie, in your endlessly informative and illuminating The Oxford dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford dictionary of Nusery Rhymes)

, Roberts draws attention to the surprising visibility of words ‘nob’ in the second stanza the the nursery rhyme, or at least the variation cited through the Opies (and the one we’ve reproduced above).

‘Nob’ has meant ‘head’ due to the fact that the seventeenth century (a ‘nob-thatcher’ to be a wigmaker, although the sounds favor some kind of euphemism or slur), but as a slang indigenous it’s an ext often applied to another part of the male anatomy. Why it need to need patching by Dame Dob through vinegar and also brown record afterwards isn’t clear, and also this interpretation is, again, interesting however not necessarily persuasive.

But climate what is ‘Jack and Jill’ about? Sadly, we will most likely never recognize for sure – assuming, the is, the the rhyme ever before had an yes, really ‘meaning’. Many nursery rhymes originated together counting or dancing songs to be sung while children played a video game together. But the fact that the nursery rhyme has actually attracted these two really different interpretations claims something around our desire come understand and also interpret this timeless children’s rhymes. But as for an ultimate meaning? That continues to be as elusive together ever.

About nursery rhymes

For many of us, nursery rhymes are the very first poems we ever before encounter in life. They can teach us about rhythm, and about constructing a story in verse, and, occasionally, castle impart essential moral lessons come us. Sometimes, though, they do no feeling at all, and should be took pleasure in purely as ‘nonsense’, as a forerunner come the victorian nonsense verse so expertly practised by Edward Lear and also Lewis Carroll.

Some nursery rhymes appear to have arised as simple rhymes to accompany counting or dancing gamings played through children. Sometimes, very specific historical subtexts for renowned nursery rhymes have actually been propose (many of castle relating to the English reformation of the 16 century, as soon as King Henry VIII broke with the roman inn Catholic Church and established the Church the England).

Many of these origin-myths rotate out come be simply that: myths, or retreat attempts to discover a depths ‘meaning’ come rhymes i beg your pardon are, after all, children’s songs to be sung or chanted throughout play. For instance, the idea the the luck ‘Ring a Ring o’ Roses’ was written around the bubonic plague has been thoroughly debunked, as has actually the concept that ‘Humpty Dumpty’ to be originally about a cannon in the English polite War.

Discover the story behind much more classic nursery rhymes through our analysis of ‘London bridge is fallout’s Down’, our commentary on the small Bo Peep rhyme, and also our write-up delving right into the history of the ‘Mary had actually a tiny Lamb’ nursery rhyme.

See more: Help With Ps Vita Could Not Copy Some Content Items, Cannot Copy Some Of The Selected Items

The writer of this article, Dr Oliver Tearle, is a literary critic and lecturer in English in ~ Loughborough University. The is the author of, among others, The mystery Library: A Book-Lovers’ Journey with Curiosities the History

and The an excellent War, The waste Land and also the Modernist lengthy Poem.