Blackbirds in a Pie Nursery Rhyme History and Origins
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This song was believed to parody the relationship between King Henry VIII of England and his second wife Anne Boleyn.
Sing a song of sixpence a pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie:
In preparation for a visit by the King to the home of Anne Boleyn, Hever Castle during their courtship, 'netters' were sent out into the fields of the estate with rye in their pockets to spread around to catch a mass of blackbirds. Two dozen blackbirds, feathers still on, were baked into a massive, pie that looked beautiful on the outside.
When the pie was opened the birds began to sing,
Oh wasn't that a dainty dish to set before the king?
But when the pie was cut open the smell was terrible '...began to sing' is a funny, way of referring to this in English slang. The 'dainty dish' was highly sarcastic.
The king was in his counting house counting out his money,
This referred to the great wealth amassed by the King following the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
The queen was in the parlour eating bread and honey:
This was in reference to the Queen, living a life of luxury, while poor people suffered. Anne Boleyn was hated by the English people as she had replaced the previous popular Queen, Katherine of Aragon.
The maid was in the garden hanging out the clothes:
Henry was a womaniser. Anne Boleyn had been a Maid in Waiting to Queen Katherine when he took a fancy to her. Jane Seymour became a Lady in waiting to Anne Boleyn when she became Queen. These ambitious women encouraged the King in his attentions making sure they made their charms very obvious and appealing (hanging out their clothes).
When down came a blackbird and pecked off her nose!
The blackbird symbolises those who are tempted by carnal pleasures. Anne Boleyn was eventually beheaded and Jane Seymour died following the birth of her son.
Additional Information about the
Sing a Song of Sixpence Nursery Rhyme History
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