The Folk-Lore Journal/Volume 7/Dorsetshire Children's Games, &c

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By J. S. Udal, F.R.Hist. Soc. (of the Inner Temple.)

WHILE the late Rev. W. Barnes (better known as “the Dorset Poet,” the author of those delightful idylls of rural life which have made him the Burns of England) was lying on what proved to be his death-bed,[1] I more than once discussed with him various matters of local folklore and antiquarian interest common to us both, an occupation in which he was ofttimes fond of indulging.

At that time he had recently, at my request, written an introduction to a contemplated work on Dorsetshire Folklore upon which I had for some time been engaged (and which I hope some day may yet see the light), and at one of these interviews he put into my hands a scrap-book of printed and manuscript folklore jottings, amongst which I found the account of several games and rhymes, with the directions or rules under which each was played by Dorsetshire children. Besides these the scrap-book contained a long letter written to Mr. Barnes early in 1874 by Mr. Amos Otis, of Yarmouth, Mass., U. S. A., a gentleman who evidently took a great interest not only in the folk-lore of New England, but in that of the old country as well, in which he acknowledged the receipt of some three or four games which the Dorset poet would seem to have sent him, and in which he pointed out the similarity to several in his own country. To these games I shall presently refer in the body of this paper. With this letter was a cutting from the Yarmouth Register of February, 1874, containing a paper contributed by Mr. Otis to that journal, in which an account of those games appeared, together with some interesting observations on the general subject of the folklore and children’s games of Dorsetshire and New England. At this time I had myself collected some few items of a similar nature, which I had intended to weave into the larger subject of Dorset folklore generally, but the placing of this new material at my disposal immediately decided me to form a separate chapter upon “Children’s Games and Rhymes.”

This I have now endeavoured to do under the spur of an invitation by the Folklore Society to read a paper on this subject before its members.

Although it may be true, as Mr. Otis says in the paper before mentioned, that the fairy stories, the charms, and the games that pleased the children of the Pilgrims, now delight not only the children of New England, but of Dorsetshire and many other counties in Old England; that in our out-door sports no change seems to have occurred; that ball, hail-over, hide-and-hoop, or hide-and-seek, prison, prison-bar, pitch-fork, pins, I espy, or hide-and-hoop with tag to it, bunch of maggots,[2] and many other games, have come down to the present time with little or no change from a remote antiquity; and that the same may be said of the charms, the dances, and games in which the girls take a part—still I have found no little trouble in obtaining exact information as to what the games of our country children are at the present day, and how they are played. The children nowadays seem to me to be more shy and more reluctant to afford information on the subject than they were in former days, and ofttimes when one comes suddenly upon a party of them playing at their games in a country lane or corner of a field (especially if you happen to belong to the class known as “gentry”) they will either break off their game altogether, or, if they continue it, they do so in a subdued and half-hearted kind of way that shows to you more eloquently than words that your room would be far more preferable than your company. In short, it is rapidly becoming as difficult to get satisfactory information out of children as it is to elicit by an artfully-veiled cross examination anything from “the oldest inhabitant” of a parish, who you have every reason to believe is the store-house of many a tale of superstition or witchcraft.

It may be that the greater facilities of communication that railways have now established between so many of the larger towns and the country districts have brought new and noisier games in the place of the simpler and old-world amusements of our grandparents’ days, for one hears it frequently said that “them gëames is a-dien out a’together,” and, in the words of a critical elder (as told by a correspondent), that “them childern, seemin’ to I, döan’t play nothen the gëames we user’t to do when I wer to schoöal!” I cannot help thinking, however, that the rapid spread of education and the institution of Board Schools in the country districts have much to do with this bashfulness and shyness on the part of the school children with regard to their games. They are beginning to think there is something almost to be ashamed of in their old-fashioned ways and sayings; and I verily believe that if it were not for the school-treats, where the restraint of personal supervision of the teachers is to a great extent relaxed or altogether removed, school children would soon be the last, instead of the first, to whom one should go for study and information on this interesting subject. I am told that in some parts of Germany, school-teachers (who are a-head of us in this as in most other things) are instructed to call upon the children in their classes to recount any stories of folk-tales which they may happen to know, and such tales when told, you may depend upon it, are carefully noted down and stored up for future tabulation. Could not some such system be brought to bear in our English country schools, whereby the games and pastimes of the young might be collected and preserved? If not taken out of their play-hours, I do not think the time covered by this inquiry would be grudged even by the children themselves. But, if this is to be done, it must be done quickly; it is more than probable that their children will have none to tell!

I have myself endeavoured to follow somewhat the principles of this plan, by obtaining the assistance of one or two ladies who have been in the habit of giving more or less of their time to visiting the cottagers in their homes, and who would therefore know more of their families and their habits and modes of life than would the ordinary residents in a parish. The children, it is only reasonable to suppose, would be more likely to confide in those—although of a higher station in life—whom they frequently see about them, and would not hesitate, I think, to make some little return, such as I have suggested, to those who have shown by their actions that they take more than ordinary interest in the homes and in the lives of the poor.

The result of my experiment in my own particular district of West Dorset has been, on the whole, fairly satisfactory, and is responsible for several of the games or their variants which appear in the following pages.

When I had collected my materials the classification of them was the next difficulty, and for some time I was at a loss how to proceed on this score, but finally decided upon following that used by Miss Burne in her excellent and exhaustive work on Shropshire Folklore (the first part of which was published in 1883), and adapted it, so far as I was able, to my own materials.

Under this arrangement the games are divided into: (i.) Choral; (ii.) Dramatic; (iii.) Games of skill; (iv.) Christmas and indoor games; (v.) Rhymes, which I have again subdivided into (α) Rustic, (β) Nursery or Domestic, (γ) Counting out or “lot” rhymes; and (vi.) Riddles.

To Miss Burne also I am principally indebted for the resume of the special characteristics that belong to the first four sections at all events.

In treating of what may appear to some such a trivial subject as Children’s Games, I make no apology to an audience composed of members of the Folklore Society and their friends. They at all events see in them more than the mere idle amusements and pastimes of the day. At the same time, whilst I have omitted many games that are obviously known to be common to every county, and which are to be found in every book dealing with the subject of games, I fear I cannot claim for those I have recorded any absolute originality or peculiarity to my own county, for, as we know, these games or their variants are largely spread over many counties. Like many other branches of folklore they are not to be confined within the area of geographical or other artifical limitations. On the other hand, were we to discard everything that is to be found beyond the boundaries of one particular county, a large mass of most interesting material would be left unchronicled altogether. By these games children keep up the continuity, so to speak, of a phase of social life the value of which is only beginning to be understood. In the words of Miss Burne, “They imitate the doings of their elders; and they even keep alive in the strangest manner things practised by their elders in former generations, but long since dropped by them as foolish and idle, if not superstitious, customs. The children’s games of to-day show us, as in a mirror, the occupations and manner of life of our forefathers. They had their origin in the festive songs and dances of rustic pagandom, in the early beginnings of masque and drama, and in the obscure rites of divination and magic which attended the ancient popular assemblies.” Viewed from such a standpoint, the study of children’s games and rhymes no longer appears trivial or unworthy the attention of serious persons, and believing as I do that such a study cannot but prove not only interesting and amusing, but useful and instructive to the intelligent inquirers after the manners and customs of their fore-elders, I will now proceed to discuss in detail the various sections of the games I have been able to collect,


These are played out-of-doors by parties of boys and girls, though inasmuch as boys are very often nowadays kept distinct from the girls during play-hours, they are usually played by girls only. There is nothing, as Miss Burne says, of the game, properly so called, about them; nothing, that is to say, of winning or losing. They consist for the most part of circular dances, accompanied by songs, in which one player is called out after another, desired to choose a lover, kissed or embraced, and promised all kinds of good fortune.

(i.)—The first of these is the well-known Sally Water (or Walker). A party of children forms a circle, in the middle of which one of them, a girl, kneels alone; the rest, taking hands, slowly move round and sing:

“Sally, Sally Water,
 Sprinkle in the pan;
 Rise, Sally, rise, Sally, (she rises.)
 And choose a young man.
 Choose [or bow] to the east,
 Choose [or bow] to the west,
 And choose [or bow to] the pretty girl [or young man]
 That you love best.”

Another version has :

“Choose for the best one,
 Choose for the worst one,
 Choose for the pretty girl
 That you love best.”

The girl in the centre then selects her favourite, who is taken by her within the circle, where they kiss each other, the rest moving round in a circle the while. In some parts of Dorset they here sing:

“And now you’re married I wish you joy;
 First a girl and then a boy;
 Seven years after son and daughter;
 And now, young people, jump over the water.”

The one that first knelt down now rejoins the circle, leaving the one she had chosen in the centre, who in turn, in response to the same invitation by the chorus, chooses his or her favourite. This is repeated until the whole party have had their turn, or are tired out before. (Symondsbury.)

(ii.)—Little Girl of mine.

This is similar to “Sally Water,” and played in the same way.

Chorus: “Here’s a pretty little girl of mine,
    She’s brought me many a bottle of wine;
    A bottle of wine she gave me too;
    See what this little girl can do.
    On the carpet she shall kneel
(Here the child must kneel.)
    As the grass grows on the fiel’;
    Stand upright on your feet;
(Here the girl rises up.)

    And choose the one you lore so sweet.”

Here the girl must select her favourite from the ring and lead her to the centre, whilst the others, moving round, continue their song:

“Now you are married I wish you joy;
 First a girl and then a boy;
 Seven years after, son and daughter;
 Pray, young couple, kiss together.”

Here the two must kiss and separate; the first girl going to form part of the ring, whilst her companion takes her place in the centre, and the game goes on as before. Boys and girls often play this together, and then the words are changed to suit the circumstances. (Symondsbury.)

The following somewhat peculiar variant of this last was contributed by Miss M. G. A. Summers, of Hazelbury Bryan, to the Dorset County Chronicle, in April last:

“I had a bonnet trimmed wi’ blue.
 Why dosn’t weäre it? Zo, I do;
 I’d weäre it where I con,
 To teäke a walk wi’ my young mon.
 My young mon is a-gone to sea,
 When he’d come back he’ll marry me.
 Zee what a purty zister is mine,
 Doan’t ’e think she’s ter’ble fine,
 She’s a most ter’ble cunnèn too,
 Just zee what my zister can do.
 On the carpet she can kneel,
 As the grass grow in the fiel’.”

The sister kneels in the centre of the circle, and they all dance round her, saying:

“Stand upright upon thy feet
 And choose the prettiest you like, sweet.”

She chooses one, and after she has caught her they go through the game again.

The game of “Sally Water” is common to many counties. Conf. variants in Miss Burne’s Shropshire Folklore, p. 509; see Folklore Record, vol. v. p. 88, for a contribution from a Surrey source, and Folklore Journal, vol. i. p. 385, for a Derbyshire one.

(iii.)—What are you weeping for?

The children form a ring, and one of them (a girl) is chosen to stand in the centre, and pretends to cry, whilst the rest move round her singing:

“Pray, Sally, what are you weeping for—
 Weeping for—weeping for?
 Pray, Sally, what are you weeping for,
 On a bright shiny day?”

The girl in the middle answers:

“I am weeping for a sweetheart—
 A sweetheart—a sweetheart.
 I am weeping for a sweetheart,
 On a bright shiny day.”

The chorus replies :

“Pray, Sally, go and get one—
 Go and get one—get one.
 Pray, Sally, go and get one.
 On a bright shiny day.”

Here the girl in the centre must choose a boy (or girl if she prefers), the others still circling round and singing:

“Pray, Sally, now you’ve got one—
 You’ve got one—got one;
 Pray, Sally, now you’ve got one,
 On a bright sunny day.”

The pair then kiss or embrace each other, as the others continue:

“One kiss will never part you—
 Never part you—part you;
 One kiss will never part you,
 On a bright sunny day.”

The game then recommences as before, with a different girl in the middle.

(iv.)—Rosy Apple, Lemon, and Pear.

The children form a ring, and one of them is chosen to stand in the middle, as in the last game, whilst the rest circle round and sing:

“Rosy apple, lemon, and pear,
 A bunch of roses she shall wear;
 Gold and silver by her side,
 Choose the one shall be her bride.

“Take her by her lily-white hand,
   (Here the one in the centre chooses one from the
     ring to stand by her.)
 Lead her to the altar;
 Give her kisses, one, two, three,
 To old mother’s runaway daughter.”

On these last words being uttered, the one who was first standing in the middle must run away and take a place in the ring as soon as she can. The second one remains in the centre, and the game is repeated over and over again until all have been chosen. (Symondsbury.)

(v.)—Here we go round the Mulberry[3] Bush.

The children form a ring, and, taking hands and slowly moving or dancing round the while, sing:

“Here we go round the mulberry bush—
 The mulberry bush—the mulberry bush;
 Here we go round the mulberry bush,
 Of a cold and frosty morning.”

The children then unloosen hands, and, pretending to wash their faces with their hands, sing:

“This is the way we wash our face—
 Wash our face—wash our face;
 This is the way we wash our face,
 Of a cold and frosty morning.”

They then quickly take hands again, and dance round, singing as before:

“Here we go round the mulberry bush,” &c.

They next make pretend they are brushing their clothes as they sing:

“This is the way we brush our clothes—
 Brush our clothes—brush our clothes;
 This is the way we brush our clothes,
 Of a cold and frosty morning.”

A similar pantomime is gone through to represent brushing their boots, combing their hair, or any other act that may happen to strike their childish fancy, each verse ending with the refrain :

“Here we go round the mulberry bush,” &c.

The two last verses are generally those describing their going to and their coming from school, the former being signified by covering their faces with their hands, and the latter by unbounded skipping and jumping, testifying to the exuberance of their joy, during which the ring is broken up, and, as often as it is thought desirable, the game recommenced.

This game, of course, is by no means peculiar to Dorset.

Another version, which has the appearance of a fragment merely, is as follows:

“All round the mulberry bush,
 Maidens all together,
 Give a kiss and take a kiss,
 And curtsey all together.” (Symondsbury.)


In order to play this universally popular game a ring is formed, and one of the players (usually a girl), carrying a handkerchief, commences to walk slowly round the outside of the ring, repeating these words:

“I sent a letter to my love,
 And on the way I dropped it;
 And one of you has picked it up
 And put it in your pocket.”

Touching each one with her handkerchief as she passes, she says, “Not you,” “not you,” “not you,” &c., &c., till the favoured individual is reached, when it is changed to “But you!” and his or her shoulder lightly touched at the same time. The first player then runs round the ring as fast as she can, pursued by the other, who, if a capture is effected (as is nearly always the case), is entitled to lead the first player back into the centre of the ring and claim a kiss. The first player then takes the other’s place in the ring, who in turn walks round the outside repeating the same formula.

(vii.)—Drop the Handkerchief.

A variant under this title, commenced in the same way as the last, is as follows :

“I wrote a letter to my love;
I carried water in my glove;
And by the way I dropped it—
I dropped it, I dropped it, I dropped it,” &c.

This is repeated until the handkerchief is stealthily dropped immediately behind one of the players, who should be on the alert to follow as quickly as possible the one who has dropped it, who at once increases her speed and endeavours to take the place left vacant by her pursuer. Should she be caught before she can succeed in doing this she is compelled to take the handkerchief a second time. But if, as it more usually happens, she is successful in accomplishing this, the pursuer in turn takes the handkerchief, and the game proceeds as before.[4] (Symondsbury.)

In this last it will be noticed there is no kissing, and I am assured by several persons who are interested in Dorset Children’s Games that the indiscriminate kissing (that is, whether the girl pursued runs little or far, or, when overtaken, whether she objects or not) with which this game is ordinarily associated, as played now both in Dorset and in other counties, was not indigenous to our county, but is merely a pernicious after-growth or outcome of later days, which had its origin in the various excursion and holiday fêtes, which the facilities of railway travelling had instituted, by bringing large crowds from the neighbouring towns into the country. I am told that thirty years ago such a thing was unknown in the country districts of Dorset, when the game then usually indulged in was known merely as “Drop the Handkerchief.”

(viii.)—My little Dog Buff.

This game, which is but a variant of the last, and seems to partake somewhat of the nature of a “counting out” rhyme,[5] is best played by a party consisting of as many boys as girls, who must join hands and form a ring.

The eldest boy or girl must choose whom he or she likes to go out- side the ring, who must thereupon go round the circle carrying a handkerchief, with which he or she touches each one in passing, and saying or singing the following lines:

“Mr. Monday was a good man,
 He whipped his children now and then,
 When he whipped them he made them dance,
 Out of Scotland into France;
 Out of France into Spain,
 Back to dear old England again.
 O. U. T. spells ‘out,’
 If you please stand out.

“I had a little dog and his name was ‘Buff,’
 I sent him after a penn’orth of snuff,
 He broke the paper and smelled the stuff,
 And that’s the end of my dog ‘Buff.’

“He shan’t bite you—he shan’t bite you—he shan’t bite you, &c., &c.—he shall bite you all over.”

This is so arranged that on coming round to the one he or she loves best the handkerchief is thrown upon that one, and with the words “he shall bite you all over” the speaker runs away, pursued by the other as soon as the handkerchief is secured. The pursuit is kept up until the first one is caught, when the two return to the centre of the ring and kiss each other. The pursuer then takes the place of the captive in the ring and goes round singing as before.

The game is repeated until all have had their turn or have had enough of it.

(ix.)—Cat after Mouse. Sometimes called Threading the Needle.

This game, which may he said to come under the same category as the last two, is played by children forming a ring, with their arms extended; one—the “mouse”—goes outside the circle and gently pulls the dress of one of the players, who thereupon becomes the “cat,” and is bound to follow wherever the mouse chooses to go—either in or out of the ring—until caught, when he or she takes the place formerly occupied in the ring by the “cat,” who in turn becomes “mouse,” and the game is recommenced.

(x.)—Green Gravel.

A party of boys and girls join hands and form a ring. A boy or girl stands in the middle and says or sings this verse:

“Green gravel, green gravel, the grass is so green,
 The fairest young lady that ever was seen;
 Ah! Mary, ah! Mary, your true love is dead;
 I send you a letter to turn round your head.”

As soon as the boy or girl has sung this verse, and called out the name of one of the ring, the one so called upon must turn his or her back to the inside of the circle, and, still holding hands as before, continue the game facing outwards; and so on until all have been called upon and have their backs to the centre, when the whole ring dances round in a chorus.

In some parts of Dorset the game is called “Silly Gravels,” and the girl is called upon as:

“Oh! Silly, oh! Silly, your true love is dead,[6]
 I send you a letter to turn round your head.”

This was one of the games Mr. Barnes had sent an account of to Mr. Amos Otis, as I have already mentioned, and in Mr. Otis’s reply he says it is called the “Needle’s Eye” in New England.


This is a similar game to the last, and is a very popular one at the present day. The children form themselves into a ring, and as they dance round say or sing:

“Wally, wally, wall-flower,
 A-growen up so high,
 All we children be sure to die,
 Excepting (naming the youngest),
 ’Cause she’s the youngest.
 Oh! fie! for shame! fie! for shame!
 Turn your back to the wall again.”

The youngest child now turns round, still retaining the hands of her companions, but with her face in an opposite direction to theirs. This is gone through again until all have their faces on the outside of the circle, when they reverse the order, and gradually resume their old positions.”[7] Another version is as follows:

“Wall-flowers, wall-flowers, growing up so high,
 We are all living, and we shall all die,
 Except the youngest here, (naming her).
 Turn your back to overshed” (?)

(This last line is repeated three times.) (Symondsbury.)


These too are games which are principally played by girls out of doors. The players are not called by their own names, but personate characters, such as a mother and her daughter, dukes, knights, fox and geese, hen and chickens, &c. Their ditty is a dialogue, not a song; and a great deal of dramatic effect is often given to their acting. Instead of dancing in a ring, they form lines, facing each other. We still have nothing of winning or losing, except in those games of this class where, as in the case of “Oranges and Lemons,” the game ends by one party or side pulling the other over a boundary or division line.

(i.)—Oranges and Lemons.

This is a very favourite game with Dorset children, and can be played with any large number of them. Two of the tallest of the party are chosen to be “Orange” and “Lemon”; but the rest must not know which child is “Orange” and which is “Lemon.” The two stand facing one another, and taking each other hold by both hands (the right hand of the one taking the left of the other, and vice versâ) raise them as high as their shoulders. The rest of the party then form into a line or string, one behind the other, holding only the frock or jacket of the one immediately in front of them, and in this form pass once round “Orange” and “Lemon,” who are standing erect in the midst. They then creep underneath their raised arms, singing meanwhile:

“Oranges and Lemons,
 Say the bells of St. Clemen’s.
 I owe you five farthin’s
 Say the bells of St. Martin’s.
 When shall I pay you?
 Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,
 Thursday, Friday, Saturday,
 Or Sunday?”

It should be so arranged that the end of the line should be about to pass under the improvised archway just when they come to the word “Sunday,” then the raised arms drop and enclose within their grasp the last one of the line. This one they keep fast whilst the others pass on still singing as before. The captive then is asked which she will have, “Orange or Lemon?” (This should be asked and the answer given in a whisper so that none of the others can hear.) On her making her choice she is told to go behind the one she has selected and clasp her round the waist. By this time the rest of the children ought to be ready to pass under again, and again the last one of the line is caught as before at the word “Sunday.” This is repeated until all are caught. The new captives in turn select their favourites—Oranges or Lemons—and take up their positions behind their leaders according as they have chosen. Then begins the tug-of-war between the Oranges and Lemons, each still holding on firmly by the waist of the one in front. Whichever side pulls the other over wins the game. (Symondsbury.)

A variant of the rhyme which obtained at Broadwinsor many years ago is as follows:

“I owe you five farthings.
 When will you pay me,
 To-day or to-morrow?
 Here comes a candle to light you to bed;
 Here comes a chopper to chop off your head.”[8]

(ii.)—Fox and Goose.

One of the party called the “Fox” takes one end of the room or corner of a field (for the game was equally played indoors or out); all the rest of the children arrange themselves in a line or string, according to size, one behind the other, the smallest last, behind the tallest one, called “Mother Goose,” with their arms securely round the waist of the one in front of them (as in the last game), or sometimes by grasping the dress.

The game commences by a parley to this effect:

Mother Goose (to Fox): “What are you after this fine morning?”
Fox: “Taking a walk.”
M. G.: “With what object?”
Fox: “To get an appetite for a meal.”
M. G.: “What does [will] your meal consist of?”
Fox: “A nice fat goose for my breakfast.”
M. G.: “Where will you get it?”
Fox: “Oh! I shall get a nice morsel somewhere; and as they are so handy, I shall satisfy myself with one of yours.”
M. G.: “Catch one if you can.”

A lively scene follows. The Fox and Mother Goose should be pretty evenly matched; the “mother” with extended arms seeking to protect her “brood,” whilst the Fox, who tries to dodge under, right and left, is only allowed in case of a successful foray or grasp to secure the last of the train. Vigorous efforts are made to escape him, the “brood,” of course, supplementing the “mother’s” exertions to elude him as far as they are able, but without breaking the link. The game may be continued until all in turn are caught.

This game was sometimes called “Hen and Chickens.” A good illustration of the way in which it was played may be obtained from the charming picture, bearing this title, by G. D, Leslie, R.A., which was exhibited in the Royal Academy in 1881.[9]

(iii.)—When first we went to School.

The children form a circle, and moving round and round to the right, sing:

“When first we went to school—to school—to school—
 How happy was I!
   (Each girl here takes the side of her dress or shirt by
    the right hand and just lifts it, singing the while:)
 ’Twas this way, and that way,
 How happy was I!

“Next I went to service—to service—to service—
 How happy was I!
   (The dress is now let go, and sometimes an imitation
    of scrubbing or sweeping with a long broom is
    introduced, as they sing:)
 ’Twas this way, and that way,
 How happy was I!

“Next I had a sweetheart—a sweetheart—a sweetheart—
 How happy was I!
   (Here they break the ring, and walk round in couples,
 ’Twas this way, and that way,
 How happy was I!

“Next I got married—got married—got married—
 How happy was I!
   (Still walking round in couples.)
 ’Twas this way, and that way.
 How happy was I!

“Next I had a baby—a baby—a baby—
 How happy was I!
   (Here their arms swing to and fro as they walk
    round, as if nursing or trying to quieten a baby.)
 ’Twas this way, and that way,
 How happy was I!
   (At the conclusion of this verse the circle is re-formed.)

“Next my husband died—he died—he died—
 How sorry was I!
   (Here they put their pinafores to their eyes, crying.)
’Twas this way, and that way,
How sorry was I!

“Next my baby died—she died—she died—
 How sorry was I!
   (Still crying.)
 ’Twas this way, and that way,
 How sorry was I![10]

(iv.)—Garden Gate.

One girl is chosen from the group to represent the mother, and the rest, as her daughters, stand in front of her. The eldest of them is selected to address the mother.

Daughter: “Mother, mother, may I go to play?”
Mother: “No! daughter, no! for fear you should stay.”
D.: “Only as far as the garden gate,
  To gather flowers for my wedding day.”
M.: “Make a fine curtsy, and go your way.”

Upon this they all curtsy and scamper off, appearing delighted at being allowed to go, and before out of hearing of the mother exclaim, “Now what shall we do?” and proceed to plan some mischief or game to play as soon as they are out of sight. Presently they return to the mother looking rather crestfallen, pretending they have stayed away too long; then the mother asks them sharply:

“Now where have you been?”
D.: “Up to Uncle John’s.”
M.: “What for?”
D.: “Half a loaf, half a cheese, and half a pound of butter.”
M.: “Where’s my share?”
D.: “Up in cupboard.”
M.: “ ’Tisn’t there then!”
D.: “Then the cat eat it.”
M.: “And where’s the cat?”
D.: “Up on the wood.” (i.e. the faggots.)
M.: “And where’s the wood?”
D.: “Fire burnt it.”
M.: “Where’s the fire?”
D.: “Water douted it.” (i.e. put it out.)
M.: “Where’s the water?”
D.: “Ox drank it.”
M.: “Where’s the ox?”
D.: “Butcher killed it.”[11]
M.: “And where’s the butcher?”
D.: “Behind the door cracking nuts, and you may eat the shells of them if you like.”

Here the mother becomes very indignant and runs after her daughters, endeavouring to catch them, which they use strenuous efforts to avoid.

(v.)—The following version, called “May I go out to play?” is very similar to the last and is played in much the same way.

The Daughter says: “Please may I go out to play?”
Mother: “How long will you stay?”
D.: “Three hours in a day.”
M.: “Will you come when I call you?”
D.: “No.”
M.: “Will you come when I fetch you?”
D.: “Yes.”
M.: “Make then your curtsies and be off.”

The girls then scamper off as before, and as they run about the field keep calling out, “I won’t go home till seven o’clock,” “I won’t go home till seven o’clock.” After they have been running about for some five or ten minutes the mother calls Alice (or whatever the name may be) to come home, when the one addressed will run all the faster, crying louder than before, “I won’t go home till seven o’clock.” Then the mother commences to chase them until she catches them, and when she gets them to any particular place in the field where the others are playing, she says:

“Where have you been?”
D. “Up to Grandmother’s.”
M. “What have you done that you have been away so long?”
D. “I have cleaned the grate and dusted the room,”
M. “What did she give you?”
D. “A piece of bread and cheese so big as a house, and a piece of plum cake so big as a mouse?”
M. “Where’s my share?”
D. “Up in higher cupboard.”
M. “It’s not there.”
D. “Up in lower cupboard.”[12]
M. “It’s not there.”
D. “Then the cat have eat it.”
M. “Where’s the cat?”
D. “Up in heath?”
M. “Where’s the heath?”
D. “The fire burnt it.”

The rest is the same as in the last. The mother then chases the daughters as before.

(vi.)—The Duke of Rideo.

In this game the children stand in a group; one is chosen for the Duke, and he must stand opposite to and at some little distance from the rest of the party, who say or sing:

“Here comes the Duke of Rideo—
 Of Rideo—of Rideo—
 Here comes the Duke of Rideo,
 Of a cold and frosty morning.”

The Duke answers:

“My will is for to get married—
 To get married—get married—
 My will is for to get married,
 Of a cold and frosty morning.”


“Will any of my fair daughters do—
 Fair daughters do—daughters do-o-o?
  (The word “do” must he said in a drawling way.)
 Will any of my fair daughters do,
 Of a cold and frosty morning?”


“They are all too black or too proudy.
 They sit in the sun so cloudy,
 With golden chains around their necks,
 That makes them look so proudy.”

Chorus (indignantly):

“They’re good enough for you, Sir!
 For you, Sir! for you, Sir!
 They are good enough for you, Sir!
 Of a cold and frosty morning.”

Here the Duke steps forward and says or sings:

“I’ll walk the kitchen and the hall,
 And take the fairest of them all;
 The fairest one that I can see
 Is Miss ———— (naming her)
 So Miss ———— come to me.”

The one chosen then becomes a Duke, and the game is repeated, the chosen ones, each in turn, becoming Dukes, until there is only one of the party left, when they sing:

“Now we’ve got this pretty girl—
 This pretty girl—this pretty girl—
 Now we’ve got this pretty girl,
 Of a cold and frosty morning,”

Whilst singing this last verse they come forward and claim the last girl, and embrace her as soon as they get her over to their side. (Symondsbury.)

(vii.)—The following variant of this last game, called “A Young Man that wants a Sweetheart,” was one of those that Mr. Barnes sent an account of to Mr. Otis, and appeared in the Yarmouth Register (Mass.) for February, 1874, before alluded to.

The players consisted of a dozen boys standing hand in hand on one side, and a dozen girls standing in a row facing them. The Boys commence by singing as they dance forward:

“There’s a young man that wants a sweetheart—
 Wants a sweetheart—wants a sweetheart—
 There’s a young man that wants a sweetheart,
 To the ransom tansom tidi-de-o.

“Let him come out and choose his own—
 Choose his own—choose his own—
 Let him come out and choose his own—
 To the ransom tansom tidi-de-o.”

The Girls reply:

“Will any of my fine daughters do—
 Daughters do—daughters do?
 Will any of my fine daughters do,
 To the ranson tansom tidi-de-o?”


“They are all too black and brawny,
 They sit in the sun uncloudy,
 With golden chains around their necks,
 They are too black and brawny.”


“Quite good enough for you, Sir!
 For you, Sir—for you, Sir!
 Quite good enough for you, Sir!
 To the ransom tansom tidi-de-o.”


“I’ll walk in the kitchen, and walk in the hall,
 I’ll take the fairest among you all,
 The fairest of all that I can see,
 Is pretty Miss Watts, come out to me.
 Will you come out?”


“Oh, no! oh, no!


“Naughty Miss Watts she won’t come out—
 She won’t come out—she won’t come out;
 Naughty Miss Watts she won’t come out.
 To help us in our dancing.
 Won’t you come out?”


“Oh, yes! oh, yes!”[13]

(viii.)—Gathering Nuts away.

The players should be divided into two equal divisions (each from eighteen to twenty in number if possible), and between them should be drawn a mark or boundary line upon the ground. The two parties stand opposite one another, and the one on the right-hand side, joining hands, advances up to the line and retires again, singing:

“Here we come gathering nuts away—
 Nuts away—nuts away;
 Here we come gathering nuts away,
 On a bright and sunny morning.”

On the conclusion of this verse, the opposite party, which had been standing, hand in hand, perfectly still and silent, now advances in turn to the boundary line and retires again, singing:

“Pray, who will you send to fetch them away—
 To fetch them away—fetch them away?
 Pray, who will you send to fetch them away,
 On a cold and sunny morning?”

The first party, who in the meanwhile had remained quiet and silent in its turn, now advances again as before, singing:

“I’ll send Miss Bishop to fetch them away—
 To fetch them away—fetch them away;
 I’ll send Miss Bishop to fetch them away,
 On a bright and sunny morning.”

As soon as this verse is finished the other party says, “Will you come?” and on their opponents replying “Yes,” the first girls on either side stand up to the boundary line, and taking each other’s right hand commence to pull against each other, assisted by those behind, much in the same way as in “Oranges and Lemons” (ante), and the side which succeeds in pulling the other over the mark wins the game.

(ix.)—A variant of this game, called “Here we come gathering Nuts to-day,” in which two children named in the verse are deputed to pull each over instead of the whole sides contending, is played by the school children at Symondsbury, in West Dorset, and as there are other interesting variations in it, I give it in full.

Two leaders are chosen, who proceed to pick their sides by alternately selecting them from the group of children till all have been chosen. Then the two parties, with their leaders at the end, each holding hands, stand in a line facing each other, with a distance of two or three yards between them. One party, still holding hands, advances towards the other, singing the while:

“Here we come gathering nuts to-day—
 Nuts to-day—nuts to-day;
 Here we come gathering nuts to-day,
 So early in the morning.”

On its retirement, the other line advances and retires in the same way, singing :

“Pray, whose nuts will you gather away—
 Gather away—gather away?
 Pray, whose nuts will you gather away,
 So early in the morning?”

Before the first line advances again, an understanding has to be arrived at as to whose nuts are to be asked for from the opposite party, when it again approaches and retires, singing:

“We’ll gather Miss A———’s nuts away—
 Nuts away—nuts away;
 We’ll gather Miss A———’s nuts away,
 So early in the morning.”

To this the other party, again advancing and retiring as before, replies:

“Pray, who will you send to take them away—
 To take them away—take them away?
 Pray, who will you send to take them away,
 So early in the morning?”

Again a consultation must be held in the ranks of the first party as to which of their number is considered fairly equal in strength to endeavour to draw or pull over Miss A———, and when one has been decided upon they once more advance, singing:

“We’ll send Miss B——— to take them away—
 To take them away—take them away;
 We’ll send Miss B——— to take them away,
 So early in the morning.”

Thereupon A. and B., the two children before named, now advance, and clasping each other by the right hand, each endeavours to pull or draw her opponent over to her own side, a boundary line having generally been drawn at equal distances between the contending parties. As soon as one is drawn over, she has to be “crowned’ immediately (by the conqueror putting her hand on her head); for if this is not done at once the captive is at liberty to return to her own party. On the crowning taking place, the captured one takes up her position at the end of the line, and henceforth is considered to belong to the side of her conqueror. The game is now recommenced in the same way as before; but the second line advances first this time, and so on alternately until one side has drawn all the others over to it, or one has become too weak to continue the game.

Another version runs:

“Here we come gatherin’ nuts away,
 Here we come gatherin’ nuts away,
 On a could and frasty marnen.”
         (Hazelbury Bryan.)

(x.)—The Lady of the Land.

An account of this game, which for want of a better appellation I call by the above title, is contained in the Somerset and Dorset Notes and Queries, vol. i. part v. pp. 133, 134 (1889). In this two girls are chosen, the one to represent a lady and the other a mother, who is supposed to be taking her children out to service. She has one or more of them in each hand, and leads them up to the lady, saying or singing:

“Here comes the Lady of the Land,
 With sons and daughters in her hand;
 Pray, do you want a servant to-day?”

The lady answers:

“What can she do?”

The mother replies:

“She can brew, she can bake,
 She can make a wedding cake
 Fit for you or any lady in the land.”

The lady then says:

“Pray leave her.”

The mother then leaves her child, and says:

“I leave my daughter safe and sound,
 And in her pocket a thousand pound,
 And on her finger a gay ring,
 And I hope to find her so again.”

This is repeated until all are similarly disposed of. A few days are supposed to pass, after which the mother calls to see her children, when the lady tells her she cannot see them. At last she insists upon seeing them, and the children are all “sat down” behind the lady, and the mother asks one child what the lady has done to her; and she tells her “that the lady has cut off her nose, and made a nose-pie and never give her a bit of it.” Each one says she has done something to her and made a pie, and when all have told their tale “they all turn on her and put her to prison.”

(xi.)—The following variant was contributed by Miss M. G. A. Summers, of Hazelbury Bryan, to the Dorset County Chronicle (April, 1889), to whom I am also indebted for the next two games.

One child takes seven or eight others whom she pretends are her children. Another child, presumably a mistress in want of servants, stands at a distance. The first child advances, holding the hand of her children, saying:

“There camed a lady from other land,
With all her children in her hand—
Please, do you want a sarvant, marm?”

The supposed mistress answers:

“Leave her.”

The mother before retiring says:

“I leaves my daughter zafe and zound,
 And in her pocket a thousan pound,
 And on her finger a goulden ring,
 And in her busum a silver pin.
 I hopes when I return,
 To see her here with you.
 Don’t’e let her ramble; don’t’e let her trot;
 Don’t’e let her car’[14] the mustard pot.”

Just as the woman and her children are supposed to be out of hearing the mistress says:

“She shall ramble, she shall trot,
 She shall carry the mustard pot.”

This is gone through again until the mistress has engaged all the children as her servants, when she is supposed to let them all out to play with the mustard pots, which are represented by sticks or stones, in their hands.

(xii.)—Queen Anne.

A large party of children form themselves into two ranks; to one of these parties is given a ball. The rank to whom the ball is entrusted all hold their hands behind their backs, so that the opposite party should not know who has the ball in her possession.

The first rank advances and retires, saying:

“Queen Anne, Queen Anne,
 She sot in the sun;
 So fair as a lily,
 So white as a nun;
 She had a white glove on,
 She drew it off, she drew it on.”

Those in the second rank, who have nothing in their hands, say:

“Turn, ladies, turn.”

The opposite party turns round, saying:

“The more we turn, the more we may,
 Queen Anne was born on Midsummer Day;
 We have brought dree letters from the Queen,
 Wone of these only by thee must be seen.”

The other party replies:

“We can’t rëade wone, we must rëade all,
 Please (naming some one), deliver the ball.”

If they guess the right person, they change sides and go through the game as before.[15]

(xiii.)—An Old Woman from the Wood.[16]

This is also called “Dumb Motions.

Here again the children form themselves into two ranks, as in the last game.

The first rank says:

“Here comes an old ’oman from the wood.”

The second party answers:

“What cans’t thee do?”

First Party:

“Do anythin’ ”

Second Party:

“Work away.”

This the children proceed to do, some by pretending to sew, some to wash, some to dig, some to knit, without any instruments to do it with. If the opposite guess what they are doing they change sides.

These last two games, Miss Summers believes, are very old ones, and have been played by several generations in the village of Hazelbury Bryan.

(xiv.) How many Miles to Gandigo?

This is another of the games mentioned in the Yarmouth Register (ante) as having been sent to Mr. Otis by Mr. Barnes. It is played by as many as like standing, two and two, opposite each other, each of them taking with the right hand the right hand of the other; then the two that are the king and queen say or sing:

“How many miles to Gandigo?”

The others answer:

“Eighty-eight, almost or quite.”

The king and queen reply:

“Can I [we] get there by candle-light?”


“Yes, if your legs are long and light.”

King and Queen:

“Open the gate as high as the sky,
 And let the king and his queen go by.”

Then all the other pairs hold up their hands as high as they can, and the king and queen run through the archway and back again, and so on with the next pair, and other pairs in turn.

According to Mr. Otis this game is known as the “Quaker’s Dance” in New England, where the last line runs:

“And let King George and his queen go by.”[17]

(xv.) Basket.

In this game the children all follow one who is styled the “mother,” singing:

“I’ll follow my mother to market,
 To buy a silver basket.”

The mother presently turns and catches or pretends to beat them.


These are usually played by boys; and here the element of loss or gain comes uppermost, though sometimes something of a dramatic form may still be traced. The use of implements of play, such as bats and balls, comes in here for the first time. The governing principle of this class of games is doubtless to be found in young men’s natural delight in sportive trials of strength and skill. In the following game these two qualities are predominant.

(i.) Lamploo.

The following account of this game, which was a favourite school-boy amusement in the west country half a century ago, is contributed by a corrrspondent to the Somerset and Dorset Notes and Queries, vol i. part iv. p. 186 (1888).

A goal having been selected and bounds determined, the promoters used to prepare the others by calling at the top of their voices:

“Lamp! Lamp! Laa-o!
 Those that don’t run shan’t play-o!”

Then one of the “spryest” lads is elected to commence, thus: first touching the goal with his foot or leaning against it, and clasping his hands so as to produce the letter W in the dumb alphabet, he pursues the other players, who are not so handicapped, when, if he succeeds in touching one without unclasping his hands, they both make a rush for the goal. Should either of the other boys succeed in overtaking one of these before reaching that spot, he has the privilege of riding him home pick-a-back. Then these two boys (i.e. the original pursuer and the one caught) joining hands, carry on the game as before, incurring a similar penalty in case of being overtaken as already described. Each successive boy, as he is touched by the pursuers, has to make for the goal under similar risks, afterwards clasping hands with the rest, and forming a new recruit in the pursuing gang, in whose chain the outside players alone have the privilege of touching and thus adding to their numbers. Should the chain at any time be broken, or should the original pursuer unclasp his hands, either by design or accident, the penalty of carrying a capturer to the goal is incurred and always enforced. Of course a great deal of mirth is caused by a big boy capturing a little one, and having to ride him home; by cleverly dodging a fast runner, as a hare does a greyhound; and by other events in a game, success in which is the result of superior agility.

In West Somerset the pursuing boys after starting were in the habit of crying out the word “brewerre” or “brewarre;” noise appearing to be quite as essential to the game as speed.

About twenty years ago the game was common in some parts of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, where it was sometimes called “Chevy Chase;” and amongst English boys even in Brussels.[18]

Another correspondent to the same periodical (i. v. 204) says that an almost identical game was played at the King’s School, Sherborne, some fifty years ago. It was called “King-sealing” and the pursuing boy was obliged by the rules to retain his hold of the boy seized until he had uttered:

“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten,
 You are one of the king-sealer’s men.”

If the latter succeeded in breaking away before the coup saw finished the capture was incomplete.


The ancient game of “nine men’s morris” is yet played by the boys Dorset. The boys of a cottage, near Dorchester, had a while ago carved a “marrel” pound on a block of stone by the house. Some years ago a clergyman of one of the upper counties wrote that in the pulling down of a wall in his church, built in the thirteenth century, the workmen came to a block of stone with a marrel’s pound cut on it. “Merrels” the game was called by a mason. (Barnes’s Additional Glossary.)

I have been unable to find out from any Dorsetshire source how this game was played, but probably it was much in the same way as it is described to have been played in the Midlands in Brand’s Popular Antiquities (ed. 1813, vol. ii. p. 297), where we are told that the shepherds and other boys dig up the turf with their knives to represent a sort of imperfect chess-board. It consisted of a square, sometimes only a foot in diameter, sometimes three or four yards. Within this was another square, every side of which was parallel to the external square; and these squares were joined by lines drawn from each corner of both squares and the middle of each line. One party, or player, had wooden pegs, the other stones, which, placed by turns in the angles, and playing alternately, they moved in such a manner as to take up each other’s “men” as they were called; and the area of the inner square was called the “pound,” in which the men taken up were impounded. He who could play three in a straight line might then take off any one of his adversary’s where he pleased, till one, having lost all his men, lost the game. These figures were by the country people called “nine men’s morris,” or “merrils,” and were so called because each party had nine men. These figures were cut upon the green turf, or leys, as they were called, or upon the grass at the end of ploughed lands, where in rainy season it never failed to happen that, in the words of Shakespeare (Midsummer Night’s Dream, act ii. sc. 2.),

“The nine men’s morris is filled up with mud.”[19]


This is a very curious amusement. You must bend as though about to sit on a very low stool; then spring about with your hands resting on your knees.


The common game of “tip-cat” was so called by Dorset children. The long stick represented the “cat” and the small pieces the “kitten.”

The following interesting account of schoolboy games in a middle-class day-school in Dorset at the beginning of the present century formed the subject of a paper called “School Days in a Country School” in Longman’s Magazine for March, 1889, contributed by Mr. Edmund Gosse, from the unpublished papers of his father, the late Mr. Philip H. Gosse, F.R.S., depicting the latter’s childhood at school in Poole in 1818.

“Slight as they are,” says Mr. Edmund Gosse, “and desultory, they give very realistically and vividly a sketch of conditions which are extinct to-day as the dodo is, and almost as remote; nor am I aware that there exists any similar trivial record of life among boys of a country day-school at the beginning of the present century.”[20]

The following extracts from this very interesting paper fittingly find a place in a record of Dorset children’s games.

“We played games in the streets as well as in the play-ground. The thoroughfares of Poole were not so crowded with passengers as to make this practice any public nuisance. Scourge-tops, peg-tops, and humming-tops were all patronised; the last-named, however, chiefly within doors.

“Marbles of course upon the pavement; of these we used chiefly three sorts. The most highly prized were the ‘alleys’ of veined white marble, highly polished, the purest having often pink veins. Those of a yellow sort were called ‘soap-alleys.’ Others, made of a compact blue or grey limestone, went by the name of ‘stoners.’ There was also an inferior sort rudely moulded out of red and white clay, and baked, which were named ‘clayers.’

“A game called ‘Long-galls’ (? goals) was a favourite with the boys, but I never heard of it elsewhere than in Poole. I never cared for it; it was something like ‘prisoner’s base.’ Another, named ‘ducks off,’[21] consisted in setting on a large flat stone a round stone as big as one’s fist, which from a certain distance one strove to knock off by bowling at it a stone of similar size. Two boys or more did this in turn, with certain conditions and results determined by rules.

“Birds-nesting, egg-stringing, squalling at birds, flinging stones at anything or nothing, throwing a flat stone across water to produce ‘ducks and drakes,’ these of course were common. We used the term ‘jellick’—no doubt a corruption of ‘jerk’—to denote a mode of projecting a stone as the arm came suddenly against the ribs, or, by a more fantastic trick still, against the thigh of the lifted right leg.

“Saturday afternoon was our only holiday, and in summer bathing in the sea was in vogue on these occasions. We never used the word ‘bathe’ however, but invariably ‘get into water,’ and this strange periphrasis never seemed strange to me until after I had left Poole.”

A correspondent of the Dorset County Chronicle for this present month of May sends a list of games which he had seen the children play in their village playground, but from want of space no details were given. They were: “Orange and Lemon,” “Stag,” “Last Tat,” “Cross Tag,” “Dibs,” “Cobb,” “Hop-Scotch,” “Fool, fool, go to School,” “Cat and Dog,” “High Cock-a-lorum,” “Cat in Hole,” “Puss in the Corner,” “Pat Back,” “Poor Mary’s a-weeping,” “Here comes a Duke a-riding,” “Who’s that walking round my Sheepfold?” The above were more often played by the girls than the boys, whose games were played all over the country. He says that the following games he had seen played by the village lads in such a hearty manner as only country boys could: “Hockey,” which he believes was sometimes called “Bantey” (? Bandy), “Prisoner’s Base” (sometimes called “Chivoy,” or “Chevy,” or “Courage”), this being a capital game to bring out a boy’s mettle, “Leap-frog,” “Blind Man’s Buff,” “Duck-stone” “Follow the Leader,” and last but not least “Marbles” and “Tops.” The boys used string-tops, not whip. Of course the nobler games of “Cricket” and “Fox and Hounds” ought to be mentioned, though “Cricket” was too slow for the village lads, who much preferred the more dashing game of “Tip and Run.”

Of the above games several of them will be found in detail in this paper, some of them under other names; for the rest, especially those which may be uncommon or curious, I can only regret that fuller and better particulars of them are not forthcoming.


The class of games known as indoor games was generally played at Christmastide or in the long winter evenings, but occasionally these games were played at other seasons of the year, and sometimes, when the weather permitted, even out of doors. It is this difficulty which prevents one from classifying children’s games absolutely into “out-door” and “in-door.” In these a distinctly mirthful character predominates, and in many of them the element of winnnig and losing has so strongly asserted itself that humorous penalties are ofttimes imposed on the losers. Those games with forfeits attached to them are, Miss Burne thinks, a decidedly later stage of development. Many of these games have a word-formula attached to them.

(i.)—Mending the Shoe.

A party of children, thirty or forty in number if possible, must sit in a ring or half-circle on the floor (or, if the weather admit of it, on the grass) as closely as they can together, with both their hands hidden under their legs, so as to be able to pass the shoe from one to the other without being noticed. One of the party, who carries a shoe or slipper, is selected to go round and ask one of the group sitting in the ring, “Please can you mend my shoe?” who answers, “Yes.” The shoe is then handed over, and the first one proceeds: “When can I have it again?” to which the other replies, “To-morrow, about twelve o’clock. The inquirer then says, “Thank you, good morning, and I’ll be off,” and leaves for a moment, but presently, having counted “one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve,” returns and asks the one who had received the shoe to be mended if her shoe is done, when the girl will say in answer, “I passed it to my next-door neighbour.” The inquirer then goes to the next person and says, “If you please I am come for my shoe,” and will be told by each one she asks that “my next-door neighbour has got it.” If the questioner is not very sharp and manages to detect by the movement of the arms where the hidden shoe is, she may have to go round the ring five or six times, or even more, in quest of it. If any one is detected with the shoe in her possession she will have to take the place of the girl in the middle and go through the same formula. This is a very favourite game with children, and is sometimes kept up with great spirit for an hour or more.

(ii.)—A very similar game is called “The Cobbler,” and is played in much the same way. One of the party says:

“Cobbler, cobbler, mend my shoe,
 And get it done by half-past two.”

Then as the rest sit in a ring on the floor or grass, she leaves her shoe and goes outside the circle, calling once or twice to know if the shoe is finished.

After being told two or three times that the shoe is not quite finished, the owner of the shoe gets impatient and demands it, but it cannot be found, as those seated are secretly passing it from one to another. A scramble ensues, and the one that is discovered with the shoe has to take the other’s place outside the ring.

It is also, and perhaps more commonly, known as “Hunt the Slipper.”[22]

(iii.) Truckle the Trencher.

This used to be a standard game for winter evenings. A circle was formed, and each one was seated on the floor, every player taking the name of a flower. One player stood in the midst and commenced to spin the trencher round on the floor as fast as possible, at the same time calling for one of the flowers represented by the other players seated in the ring. The bearer of the name had to rush forward and seize the trencher before it fell to the ground, or else pay a forfeit, which was redeemed in the usual manner at the close of the game.

This game was entered into with the greatest vivacity by staid and portly individuals as well as by their juniors.

(iv.) Buff.

The players in this game sit in a circle, and the one who is selected to commence takes a stick or poker and knocks on the floor, when the person who is sitting next to him or her on the left-hand side exclaims:

“Who’s there?” or “Who is it?”

The first player answers:


2nd Player:

“What says Buff?”

1st Player:

“Buff says ‘Buff’ to all his men,
 And I say ‘Buff’ to you again.”

2nd Player:

“I think Buff smiles.”

1st Player:

“Buff neither laughs nor smiles,
 But gives the staff to you again.”

And suiting the action to the word, “Buff” hands the stick or poker to the next player, who is bound to receive it, and becomes “Buff” in turn. Should the first player, however, at any time during the foregoing dialogue smile before the staff is actually handed over, a forfeit is incurred.[23]

(v.) Forfeits.

Playing forfeits was a very favourite amusement with Dorset folk during the long winter evenings, and more particularly at Christmastide, when the family circle had generally more than its usual complement. There should be if possible twenty or thirty present to play forfeits properly, who arrange themselves round the room as conveniently as possible, and should be careful to be provided with some trifling article wherewith to pay forfeits should any be incurred. In some places the players sit in two lines opposite each other, each holding in his or her hand a piece of paper, or pencil, or thimble, or some such slight article wherewith to pay their forfeit in case they should make a mistake in answering.

A common form of playing forfeits was that of a game which involved a question and answer. Two persons sat in front of the party, one of whom says as follows: “Here’s a poor old sailor just come from sea, pray what have you got to give him?” Whoever is called upon to answer the question must be careful not to mention the word “red,” “white,” “blue,” or “black,” or even sometimes give the name of any colour at all, and must not say “yes” or “no,” in default of which he or she will have to pay a forfeit. The questioner then passes on to the next one, and says, “Here’s a poor old sailor just come from sea, pray what have you got to give him?” The one questioned must be careful only to answer, “Nothing at all.” The other replies, “Nothing at all!” and with an insinuating attempt to obtain an answer that will subject the speaker to a forfeit will add, “Not a red coat?” or “Not a blue hat”? On the person interrogated persisting in replying, “Nothing at all,” the other moves on, in the hope of getting a more favourable response out of another player, and so on until the questioner has gone all round. After this has been done, any forfeits that may have been obtained have to be redeemed by those persons who have been so unfortunate as to incur them.

Another form of playing forfeits was called “Yes, No, Black and White;” these being the four words that must not be mentioned in the answer. In this game any kind of question was permitted.

The redemption of the forfeits takes place in the following way. Two persons, as before, remain in front of the others, the one sitting in a chair facing the party, the other kneeling down and laying his or her head in the lap of the other, with the face downwards. The person sitting in the chair will hold the forfeited article that is about to be redeemed over the bent head of the person kneeling in front of her, and will say as follows: “Here’s a thing, and a very pretty thing! What must the owner of this pretty thing do to redeem it again?” or, “What must the owner do to receive it again?” Whatever the person who has his or her head in the other’s lap (and who of course cannot see what or whose is the article held up) says, the owner of that article must do, or the forfeit cannot be redeemed, let it never be so much prized. The penalties of redemption sometimes oblige the ordeal of crawling up the chimney, or at least attempting to do so; or giving a sweetheart’s name; or she or he may be told to “run the gauntlet” or “to go through purgatory,” both of which have specific penalties attached to them by Dorset players; or to sing in one corner of the room, cry in another, laugh in another, and dance in another. Sometimes the task imposed is either something which is apparently impossible to perform, such as being told “to bite an inch off the poker,” or “to put yourself through the key-hole,” or else it is designed to make the victim ridiculous, as when he is made to lie on his back on the floor and say:

“Here I he,
 The length of a looby,
 The breadth of a booby,
 And three parts of a blockhead.”[24]

There are many ways and means suggested by which the forfeits may be redeemed, and much amusement is frequently caused before the forfeited articles can be reclaimed. The game is often kept up with spirit for several hours.

A favourite form which the game of forfeits will sometimes take is that of making persons in turn repeat in their proper order various lines of a jingle or rhyme, when, if it were not correctly rendered, a forfeit was claimed.

The following is an example:

One of the company who knows the game (all being seated round the fire) commences by saying:


And this having gone the circuit of the company, he or she begins the second round with:

“Not Ragged-and-tough, but Huckem-a-buff,
 First cousin to Ragged-and-tough.”

This being duly honoured, he or she begins again:

“Not Ragged-and-tough, nor Huckem-a-buff, first cousin to Ragged- and-tough, but Miss Grizzle, maiden-aunt to Huckem-a-buff, first

cousin to Ragged-and-tough.”
This is continued through the following rounds:

“Not Ragged-and-tough,
 Nor Huckem-a-buff, first cousin, &c.
 Nor Miss Grizzle, maiden-aunt, &c.
 But Goody Gherkin, grandmamma to Miss Grizzle, &c.

“Not Ragged-and-tough,
 Nor Huckem-a-buff, first cousin, &c.
 Nor Miss Grizzle, maiden-aunt, &c.
 Nor Goody Gberkin, grandmamma, &c.
 But little Snap, favourite dog of Goody Gherkin, grandmamma, &c.

“Not Ragged-and-tough,
 Nor Huckem-a-buff, first cousin, &c.
 Nor Miss Grizzle, maiden-aunt, &c.
 Nor Goody Gherkin, grandmamma, &c.
 Nor little Snap, favourite dog, &c.
 But the Whip that tickled the tail of little Snap,
 Favourite dog of Goody Gherkin,
 Grandmamma of Miss Grizzle,
 Maiden-aunt of Huckem-a-buff,
 First cousin to Ragged-and-tough.”

Each person, in turn, has to repeat this jingle, gradually increasing in length, going backwards through the list, a new character being introduced each round; so that by the time the last lines have been reached, some one’s memory is sure to become confused and a mistake be made in the repetition, for which, amidst general laughter, a forfeit is claimed.

Another form the game would sometimes take was that of a “word puzzle,” when an outlandish single word, or curiously involved sentence, had to be repeated so many times (seven or nine was the usual number) without a mistake, on failure of which a forfeit was exacted.

The following is a specimen of such a word:


And this of a sentence:

“Of all the saws I ever saw saw, I never saw a saw saw as that saw saws.”
      (To make this intelligible the tool “saw” should be understood.)

Another form of a rhyme or jingle is the following, which is repeated in the same way as “Ragged-and-tough”:

“A gaping, wide-mouthed, waddling frog.
 Two pudding-ends won’t choke a dog.
 Three monkeys tied to a log.
 Four mares stuck in a bog.
 Five puppy-dogs and our dog “Ball,”
 Loudly for their breakfast call,
 Six beetles on a wall,
 Close to an old woman’s apple-stall.
 Seven lobsters in a dish,
 As good as any heart could wish.
 Eight cobblers, cobblers all,
 Working with their tools and awl.
 Nine comets in the sky,
 Some are low and some are high.
 Ten peacocks in the air,
 I wonder how they all got there—
 You don’t know, and I don’t care.
 Eleven ships sailing on the main,
 Some bound for France and some for Spain,
 I wish them all safe back again.
 Twelve hunters, hares, and hounds,
 Hunting over other men’s grounds.”[25]

Here is another similar rhyme of an alliterative character, repeated in the same way:

“One old ox opening oysters.
 Two toads totally tired trying to trot to Tewkesbury.
 Three tame tigers taking tea.
 Four fat friars fishing for frogs.
 Five fairies finding fire-flies.
 Six soldiers shooting snipe.
 Seven salmon sailing in Solway.
 Eight elegant engineers eating excellent eggs.
 Nine nimble noblemen nibbling nonpareils.
 Ten tall tinkers tasting tamarinds.
 Eleven electors eating early endive.
 Twelve tremendous tale-bearers telling truth.”[26]

The following Christmas lines were contributed by the late Mr. Barnes to the Dorset County Chronicle in February, 1882.

   “The first day of Christmas my true love sent to me:
 (i.) The sprig of a juniper tree.
   The second day of Christmas, &c.
  (ii.) Two turtledoves (and No. 1).
   The third day, &c.
 (iii.) Three French hens (and Nos. 2 and 1).
   The fourth day, &c.
  (iv.) Four coloured birds (and Nos. 3 to 1).
   The fifth day, &c.
 (v.) Five gold rings (and Nos. 4 to 1).
   The sixth day, &c.
  (vi.) Six geese a-laying (and Nos. 5 to 1).
   The seventh day, &c.
 (vii.) Seven swans a-swimming (and Nos. 6 to 1).
   The eighth day, &c.
(viii.) Eight hares a-running (and Nos. 7 to 1).
   The ninth day, &c.
  (ix.) Nine bulls a-roaring (and Nos. 8 to 1).
   The tenth day, &c.
 (x.) Ten men a-mowing (and Nos. 9 to 1).
   The eleventh day, &c.
  (xi.) Eleven dancers a-dancing (and Nos. 10 to 1).
   The twelfth day, &c.
   Twelve fiddlers a-fiddling.
   Eleven dancers a-dancing.
   Ten men a-mowing.
   Nine bulls a-roaring.
   Eight hares a-running.
   Seven swans a-swimming.
   Six geese a-laying.
   Five gold rings.
   Four coloured birds.
   Three French hens.
   Two turtledoves.
   And the sprig of a juniper tree.”[27]

The last should be said all in one breath.

A version of the following lines was claimed by Mr. G. C. Boase in Notes and Queries (6th Series, xii. 484) as being a carol sung in East Cornwall at Christmastide. Miss E. H. Busk, however (Notes and Queries, 7th Series, i. 96), mentioned that she had heard an almost identical one sung in Wiltshire at harvest-time, and I myself showed (i. 315), that it was also sung by children in Dorset in their games. Neither am I aware that it was used at any particular time, though no doubt this kind of game-rhyme or forfeits would prevail more largely at Christmas time than at any other. At the last reference I stated that I had had the music or score of the refrain or burden of the song or low chant (as it almost sounded on the piano) given me in MS. together with two versions of the libretto, which varied in detail from those given by Mr. Boase and Miss Busk. These latter I now reproduce, adding in brackets the words where one version differs from the other.

First voice :

“Come and I will sing to you.”

Second voice :

“What will you sing to me?”

First voice :

“I will sing you one-o.”

Second voice :

“What may [will] your one-o be?”

First voice :

“One and one are [is] all alone,
 And evermore shall be so.”

These lines are repeated at the commencement of every verse, with the alteration of “one-o” into “two-o,” &c., &c., and as each succeeding verse is reached, the preceding ones are gone through again until the twelfth and last is arrived at. Then the whole song or carol becomes complete as follows:

“Twelve are the twelve apostles.
 Eleven and eleven go to heaven.
 [Eleven the eleven that went to heaven.]
 Ten are the ten commandments.
 Nine and nine are the brightest shine [so bright that shine].
 Eight are [the] Gabriel angels [gable-rangers].
 Seven are the seven stars in the sky.
 Six are the six bold waiters.
 [The other version is wanting here.]
 Rive are the flamboys [framboises] under the brow [bough].
 Four are [the] gospel preachers.
 Three of them are drivers [thrivers].
 Two of them are little [lily] white babes,
 A-clothed all in green-o.
 One and one are [is] all alone,
 And evermore shall be so.”

Some of the allusions in the lines are pretty well evident, and in a version that used to be sung at Oxford suppers more than thirty years ago, and may sometimes still be heard in London, some of the more mystic allusions are said to be referable to Talmudic legends.

(See editorial note to Mr. Boase’s reference.)

Another version beginning “Sing all over” is given in Somerset and Dorset Notes and Queries (I. v. 213), the allusions in which are evidently intended to describe events in the life of our Lord, and vary considerably from those given above.[28]

It is to be noted that these illustrations of forfeit rhymes or jingles are very similar in their cumulative or backward repetition or refrain to the widely known The House that Jack built, a system of games or rhymes to which we may fairly attach considerable antiquity, if we believe that the original of our old friend (in the style of the well-known Old Woman and her Pig) is to be found in the Chaldean language, and that another of the same is in existence in a Hebrew MS.[29]

(vi.)—Christmas Mummers.

Chief amongst the dramatic games of Dorset lads was the spirited play in which the “mummers” or “guisers” indulged at Christmastide. The performance, however, was not merely confined to lads as such. Only a few years ago I witnessed and welcomed in my own hall at Symondsbury in West Dorset three distinct classes of performances of mummers at one Christmas season by (i.) quite small boys of the village, (ii.) by full-grown lads of the neighbourhood, and (iii.) by a more highly-organised party from Bridport and its vicinity, which contained several grown-up men. If I remember rightly, the play in each case contained some interesting variations.

Generally, however, the party would consist of a set of youths who went about at Christmas time, and would act in the houses of those who would like to receive them a little drama, mostly, though not always, representing a fight between St. George and a Mohammedan leader, and commemorative therefore of the Holy wars. One of the characters with a hump-back represented Old Father Christmas, who sometimes appeared mounted on a wooden horse covered with trappings of dark cloth, from which the old man is generally more than once thrown. The character of his wife, Old Bet, was taken by a boy with a shrill voice dressed as a very old woman in a black bonnet and red cloak. The rest of the party was decked out as befitted the character each was intended to assume, garnished with bows and coloured strips of paper, caps, sashes, buttons, swords, helmets, &c.

The representation of the play concluded with a song or songs.

The libretto of the play is much too long to reproduce here, but as I treated this subject rather exhaustively in a paper I read before the Folklore Society in April, 1880—in which I gave two different versions of the Mummer plays—I will now merely refer such of my readers who may be interested in this subject to the print of that paper in the Folklore Record, vol. iii. p. 87.


These I have subdivided into (α) Rustic, (β) Nursery or Domestic, (γ) Counting out or “Lot” rhymes.

The first were sometimes used merely as a rhyme or jingle attached to a game or trick; sometimes as a means of divination by which children—both boys and girls—would attempt to foretell their future life, or to gain a peep into their matrimonial future; sometimes by way of invocation to or apostrophe upon some object of natural history in which they were interested, or upon which they were experimenting; and sometimes apparently without reference to any special subject or object.

Those of the second class appear to be mostly confined to very young children, and nearly all that I have come across were applicable to the case of the mother or nurse and the infant on her knee.

The third class—the “counting-out,” or “lot” rhymes, as they are called in Dorset,[30] were commonly used by country children as a means of selecting by chance or lot those of their number upon whom is first to fall the burden or honour of playing a disagreeable or a distinguished part in their games. I would refer those who are interested in comparing the counting-out rhymes of various countries to Mr. H. C. Bolton’s exhaustive work on the subject, called The Counting-Out Rhymes of Children (published in New York in 1888), from which I gather that variants of several of those I give here are common in the United States of America, and especially in New England; a circumstance which perhaps it is only natural to expect from the large share that Dorset is supposed to have had in contributing to the early settlers of that colony.


It is the custom in agricultural districts for boys and men to keep birds off cornfields until the seeds are up, and the stalks high enough for protection. For this purpose an old gun is sometimes provided, or sometimes “clackers,” but more often the “bird-keepers” have to depend solely upon their own vocal powers. At such times songs or rhymes sung in a loud voice are frequently indulged in, and the following, heard by a passer-by in the neighbourhood of Halstock, is given as a specimen:

“Vlee away blackie-cap,
 Don’t ye hurt meäster’s crap,
 While I vill my teätie-trap,
 And lie down and teäk a nap.”[31]

In the rural districts of Dorset the country folk have a great affection and veneration for the robin and the wren, and the following couplet affords proof of this:

“The robin and the wren
 Are God Almighty’s cock and hen.”

To which is sometimes added:

“The martin and the swallow
 Are God Almighty’s bow and arrow.”

In some parts of Dorset the poor people say:

“If ’twere not for the robin and the wran,
 A spider would overcome a man.”

Children sometimes catch large white moths or “millers,” and, having interrogated them on their taking of toll of flour, make them plead guilty and condemn them in these words:

“Millery, millery, dousty poll,
 How many zacks hast thee a-stole?
 Vow’r-an’-twenty, an’ a peck—
 Hang the miller up by’s neck”

This has been said to have reference to the unfair way in which the monkish owners of tithes exacted their dues of corn or flour; or to the exorbitant charges they made in granting permission to the people to grind their own corn at the monastery or abbey mill.

Children often catch lady-birds, and, placing them on the tips of their fingers, encourage them to fly away by the following words:

“Leädy-bird, leädy-bird, vlee away home,
 Your house is a-vire, your children wull burn [roam].”

The supposed virtues of plants and flowers for purposes of weather prognostications, or for foretelling future events or fortunes, are widely known and believed in amongst our country children, and abundant scope is afforded them by the flowery hedgerows of Dorset for indulging in the harmless amusements connected with these beliefs. The kernels or pips of pomaceous fruit are often playfully shot from the thumb and forefinger, as the young folks repeat:

“Kernel, come, kernel, hop over my thumb
 And tell me which way my true love will come.
 East, west, north, or south,
 Kernel, jump into my true love’s mouth”

Sometimes the pips are placed in the fire, when the children, as they anxiously watch the effect, exclaim:

“If you love me, pop and fly;
 If you hate me, lay and die.”

The pimpernel, called the poor man’s weather-glass, is often apostrophised as follows:

A ball consisting of cowslip blossoms tied in a globular form called a “tissty-tossty,” is often used by children as a means of divining their future, when the following lines are repeated whilst they play with it:

“Tissty-tossty, tell me true,
 Who shall I be married to?

The names of A. B. C., &c., are mentioned until the ball, which is being tossed about, drops. And again:

“Tissty-tossty, four and foarty,
 How many years shall I live hearty?”

The numbers one, two, three, four, &c., &c., are called out until the ball drops as before.

In addition to pretending to tell the time by blowing off the seeds of the dandelion—each puff counting as an hour—children, and especially girls, seek to divine their future prospects of marriage by pulling off the petals of a flower or a flowering stalk of grass, whilst repeating some variant of the well-known lines:

“Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor,
 rich man, poor man, beggarman [or gentleman], thief.”

The following lines were often used by children in the endeavour to charm snails out of their holes:

“Snail, snail, come out of your hole,
 Or else I’ll beat you so black as a coal.”

It was customary when a crow or rook was seen to shout:

“Crow, crow, get out of my sight,
 Or else I’ll have your liver and light,”

and it was always thought that however far off the bird might be it would immediately obey.

The following rhyme is used by children who have occasion to make a division of anything whilst they hide the article behind them and say:

 Which hand will you have?”

It is also used as a formula inviting a small wager, when a child hides a marble or other trifle in one hand, and holds out both fists, then if the other guesses right he wins the marble, or if wrong he pays one.[32]

The following rhyme was often heard among school children, sung to a particular tune:

“Went out in garden.
 Picked up a pin,
 And asked if any one was in.
 No one in, and no one out,
 Out in the garden walking about.”

The same, with the following :

“Turn about, and wheel about,
 And do just so,
 And every time we turn about,
 And jump Jim Crow.”

Few children would at first recognise in the following queer couplet that the sweet woodruff (Asperula odorata), called by the rustics “woody-ruffy,” was intended:

“Double u, double o, double d, e,
 R, o, double u, double f, e.” (Woodderowffe.)

That rhymes were as common in the amusements of schoolboys as in that of girls we may learn from the following account of some rhyme games given by Mr. Gosse from the same source I have before stated. He there states that rude doggerel rhymes were repeated on occasions among the boys and learned from one another. Thus a boy would come suddenly behind another, and seizing him by the shoulder proceed to dig his knee into the posterior of the other, at every line of the following:

“I owed your mother
 A pound of butter;
 I paid her once—
 I paid her twice—
 I paid her three times over,”

the last line accompanying a kick of double vehemence.

The word FINIS at the end of books was turned into the following poetic flight:

“F for Finis,
 I for Inis,
 N for Nuckley Bone,
 I for Johnny Waterman,
 S for Samuel Stone.”

And the variant I have heard is :

“F for Fig,
 I for Igg,
 N for Nickle bones (Nickley Boney),
 I for John the Waterman,
 S for Sally Stones (Stoney).[33]

The next the boys no doubt learnt from their little sisters, since the imagery, as Mr. Gosse says, is of a decidedly feminine cast:

“My needle and thread,
 Spells Nebuchadned;
 My bodkin and scissors
 Spells Nebuchadnezzar;
 One pair of stockings and two pair of shoes
 Spells Nebuchadnezzar the king of the Jews.”

One boy meeting another would address him with these queries, the other giving the replies :

“ ‘Doctor, Doctor, how’s your wife?’
  ‘Very bad upon my life.’
  ‘Can she eat a bit of pie?’
  ‘Yes, she can as well as I.’ ”[34]

Having gathered a tuft of the shepherd’s purse (thlaspi bursa pastoris), so abundant by waysides, a boy would invite his unsuspecting fellow to pull off one of the triangular capsules. Then he would immediately cry:

“Pick-pocket, penny nail,
 Throw the rogue into gaol,”

suiting the action to the word by catching him hold and dragging him off.

There were certain tricks or catches that could be practised on the same person only once. Of this kind were two insidious verses always held in reserve for a fresh boy. One of the initiated would attack the newcomer with an invitation to play at a petty game, saying:

“Now I’ll begin: I one my mother.”

The other is to reply :

“I two my mother,”

And they run the cardinals in alternation till the unsuspecting urchin comes to:

“I eight my mother.”

Immediately the artful tempter shouts:

“Here’s a wicked footer! He says he hates his mother!”

Or the device would be varied thus. The dialogue would run down the alphabet, beginning:

“I’ll go to A,”
“I’ll go to B,”

till the stranger in due course comes to

“I’ll go to L,”

when as before a cry of affected surprise is raised:

“Lor’! What do you think? He says he’ll go to hell!”

In both cases the trifling difference of the absence of the aspirate is considered as being of no moment.

A similar catch which I give from another source is attempted by the questioner beginning:

  “I went up one stair.”
Ans: “Like I.”
  “I went up two stairs.”
   “Like I.”
    (And so on to the sixth stair.)
  “I went into a room.”
   “Like I.”
  “I looked out of the window.”
   “Like I.”
  “I saw a monkey”——

Here of course the answer is still desired to be “Like I,” but if the boy that is being practised upon be not taken unawares, he turns the tables on his questioner by replying “Like you.”[35]

Here is another similar catch:

 Question. “I am a gold lock.”
 Answer.  “I am a gold key.”
 Q. “I am a silver lock.”
 A. “I am a silver key.”
 Q. “I am a brass lock.”
 A. “I am a brass key.”
 Q. “I am a lead lock.”
 A. “I am a lead key.”
 Q. “I am a monk lock,”
 A. “I am a monkey!”[36]

or Q. “I am a don lock.”
 A. “I am a donkey!”

(β)—Nursery or Domestic.

The rhymes which children indulge in, in their nursery games and amusements, are of great variety, and range from lines which are intended to represent a story, or a series of questions and answers, such as I have first mentioned, to a mere collection of nonsense verses, from which it is impossible to evolve any connected thread or idea whatever.

The following is often said by boys and girls as a general rhyme, but in some districts of Dorset it is adopted as a nursery one, when the nurse or other person on taking off a child’s boots pretends to knock nails into its foot, saying:

“ ‘[John Smith] fellow fine,
  Can you shoe this horse of mine?’
  ‘Yes, good sir, that I can,
  As well as any other man.
  Here’s a nail and here’s a prod,
  And now, good sir, your horse is shod.’ ”[37]

The next is common, with its variants, to many countries:

“One, two,
 Buckle my shoe;
 Three, four,
 Open the door;
 Five, six,
 Pick up sticks;
 Seven, eight,
 Lay them straight;
 Nine, ten,
 A good fat hen;
 Eleven, twelve,
 Let them delve;
 Thirteen, fourteen,
 Maids a-courtin’;
 Fifteen, sixteen,
 Maids a-kissin’;
 [Maids in the kitchen;]
 Seventeen, eighteen,
 Maids a-waitin’;
 [I’m a-waitin’;]
 Nineteen, twenty,
 My stomach’s empty;
 Please, mother, give me some dinner.”[38]

Also the following:

“Rain, rain, go away.
 Come again another day,
 —— and I want to play.”
 [A—— B—— wants to play.]

“Great A, little a,
 Bouncing B,
 The cat’s in the cupboard,
 And can’t see me.”

A common amusement is to tap the forehead of a young child whilst saying:

“Knock at the door,
 And peep in;
   (Pulling lip the eyelids.)
 Lift up the latch,
   (Raising up its nose.)
 And walk in.”
   (Putting a finger into its mouth.)

Sometimes it is repeated in this form :

“Knock at the door.
   (Tapinng the forehead.)
 Ring at the bell,
   (Pulling a lock of hair, or sometimes an ear.)
 Lift up the latch,
   (Raising the nose.)
 And walk in.
   (Putting a finger in the mouth.)
 [or, Peep in.]
   (Lifting up the eyelids.)

A similar and equally common amusement practised on a young child or infant to its invariable and infinite delight, was to take hold of its toes, one by one, beginning at the big toe, and say:

“This little pig went to market.
 This little pig stayed at home,
 This little pig had roast beef,
 This little pig had none,
 This little pig cried, wee! wee! wee! all the way home.”

Sometimes the nurse, having taken off the little one’s shoes and socks, would turn its feet to the fire and say:

“Shoe the little horse, and shoe the little mare,
 But let the Httle colt go bare, bare” (touching each foot).

Another well-known way of amusing a little child is to pat its hands or feet, and repeat:

“Pat a cëake, pat a cëake, bëaker’s man,
 Mëake me a cëake as fast as you can,
 Pat it and prick it, and mëark it with T,
 And put it in oven for [baby] and me.”

An equally popular amusement was to seat a child on your crossed foot, and repeat:

“This is the way the little girl walks,
         (Moving the foot gently.)
 This is the way the little boy trots,
         (A little faster.)
 This is the way the lady canters,
         (Faster still.)
 This is the way the gentleman gallops.”
         (As fast as possible, and ending by tilting
           off the rider.)

The following variant has a more rustic sound.

“Little boys and girls walk, walk, walk,
 Farmers go trit trot, trit trot, trit trot,
 Ladies go canter, and canter, and canter,
 Gentlemen go gallop, and gallop, and gallop,
 And then they fall off.”
   (Here the action being suited to the words the infantile
     rider invariably comes to the ground.)

(γ)—Counting-out, or “Lot” Rhymes.

“These rhymes were especially in vogue in those games, Mr. Gosse says, in which one lad was set in antagonism to the rest, or had to be “he” as it was termed, such as the game of “touch,” where the individual was determined by all standing in a ring while one within repeated the following nonsense, touching a boy in succession at every word; and so going round and round the circle, when the one on whom the last word fell was “he.”

One-ry, oo-ry, ick-ry, an,
Bipsy, bopsy, Solomon San. 

[Little Sir Jan.]

Queery, quawry,
Virgin Mary,
Nick, tick, tolomon tick,
O. U. T. out,
Rotten, totten, dish-clout,
Out jumps ‘He.’ ”

The following are some further examples which I have obtained from various sources.

Hoky, poky, wangery, fum,
Polevee(?), kee, ky, balum, kum,
Wungery, fungery, wingery, wum,
King of the Cannibal Islands.”

One a zoll, zen a zoll, zig a zoll, zan,
Bobtail vinegar, tittle tol tan,
Harum scarum, Virgin Marum,


Onery, youery, ickery, Ann,
Phillisy, phollissy, Nicholas Jan,
Queeby, quanby, Irish Mary,


Onery, twory, Dickery, Davy,
Harry mo crackery, nickery, navy,
Usque(?) dandum, merry cum time,
Humbledy, bumbledy, twenty-nine.”

Hokey, pokey, winkey, wum,
How d’ye like your tëaties done?
All to pieces, that’s the fun—
Can’t ye now jest gie I wone?”

The following old favourite is well known:

“Dickory, dickory, dock,
 The mouse ran up the clock,
 The clock struck one, the mouse ran down,
 Dickory, dickory, dock.”

“Whippence, whoppence,
 Half a groat, want two-pence,
 More kicks than half-pence.”

A correspondent in the Dorset County Chronicle for last April said that many years ago a thoroughly Dorset rustic was heard singing to a little child the following curious conglomeration of nonsense verses, which seem to form a collection of counting-out rhymes in themselves:

“Oon, two, dree, vour,
 Bells of Girt Toller (Great Toller),
 Who can mëake pancëake
 ’Thout fat or vlour?”

“‘Gargy, Pargy, how’s yer wife?’
 ‘Very bad upon my life.’
 ‘Can she ait a bit o’ pie?’
 ‘Ees, sa well as you or I.’ ”[40]

“Zee zaw, Margery Daw,
 Swold her bed an’ laid in straw,
 Wadden she a dirty slut,
 Da zell her bed and lay in dirt?”

“’Pon my life an’ honner!
 As I was gowine to Toller,
 I met a pig a’thout a wig,
 ’Pon my life an’ honner!”


Very much akin to the tricks or catches before mentioned under “Rustic Rhymes” (ante), and often quite as amusing, are the riddles that children especially are so fond of asking each other, particularly those which contain a catch in themselves.

The following is a thoroughly rustic but somewhat coarse example, which as in the other cases is generally attempted to be played upon children upon first going to school.

(i.) “Which would you rather have, a rusty rag, a sunburnt cake, or a
   blackbird under the bush?”

To the initiated, these alternatives signified a rusty piece of bacon, a piece of dried cow-dung, and the devil! Great merriment was caused should the unsuspecting urchin choose either of the two latter.

(ii.) “As white as milk, an’ ’tisn’ milk;
   As green as grass, an’ ’tisn’ grass;
   As red as blood, an’ ’tisn’ blood;
   As black as ink, an’ ’tisn’ ink?

(Answer: The four stages of a blackberry.)

(iii.) “Long legs, crooked thighs,
    Little head, and no eyes?”

(Answer: A pair of tongs.) [Common.]

(iv.) “There is a little house; and in that little house there is a little room; and in that little room there is a little shelf; and on that little shelf there is a little cup; and in that little cup there is something I would not take all the world for?”

(Answer: The heart’s blood.)[41]

(v.) “There was a thing just four weeks old,
   And Adam was no more;
   Before that thing was five weeks old,
   Adam was fourscore.”

(Answer: The moon.)

(vi.) “There was a king met a king

    In a narrow lane;
    Said the king to the king,
    ‘Where have you been?’
    ‘I have been a-hunting
    The buck and the doe.’
    ‘Will you lend me your dog?’
    ‘Yes, I will do so.
    ‘Call upon him, call upon him.’
    ‘What is his name?’
    ‘I have told you twice,

    And won’t tell you again.’ ”

(Answer: “Bean.”)[42]

(vii.) “Little Miss Etticott,
    In a a white petticoat,
    And a red nose;
    The longer she stands.
    The shorter she grows.”

(Answer: A candle.)

(viii.)—The answer to the following riddle or puzzle is to be found by altering the punctuation, when it will be seen that the whole sense is completely changed.

“I saw a fish-pond all on fire,
 I saw a house bow to a squire,
 I saw a parson twelve feet high,
 I saw a cottage near the sky,
 I saw a balloon made of lead,
 I saw a coffin drop down dead,
 I saw two sparrows run a race,
 I saw two horses making lace,
 I saw a girl just like a cat,
 I saw a kitten wear a hat,
 I saw a man who saw these too,
 And said though strange they all were true.”[43]

I think I cannot do better in closing this last section of Dorsetshire children’s games and rhymes than quote at length a humorous poem by the late Mr. Barnes, called “Riddles,” which contains very fair specimens of that kind of ingenious word-puzzling which affords so much amusement to the peasant youth of both sexes and in most countries.


Anne an’ Joey a-ta’ken.

A. A plague! thease cow wont stand a bit,
  Noo sooner do she zee me zit
  Ageän her, than she’s in a trot,
  A runnen to zome other spot.

J. Why ’tis the dog do sceäre the cow,
  He worried her a-vield benow.

A. Goo in, Ah! Liplap, where’s your tail![45]

J. He’s off, then up athirt the rail
  Your cow there, Anne’s a-come to hand
  A goodish milcher.

A.       If she’d stand;
  But then she’ll steäre an’ start wi’ fright
  To zee a dumbledore in flight.
  Last week she let the païl a flought,
  An’ flung my meal o’ milk half out.

J. Ha! Ha! But Anny, here, what lout
  Broke half your small païl’s bottom out?

A. What lout indeed! What, do ye own
  The neäme? What dropp’d en on a stwone!

J. Hee! Hee! Well now he’s out o’ trim
  Wi’ only half a bottom to en;
  “Could you still vill en’ to the brim
  An’ yit not let the milk run drough en?”

A. Aye, as for nonsense, Joe, your head
  Do hold it all so tight’s a blather
  But if ’tis any good, do shed
  It all so leäky as a lather.
  Could you vill pails ’ithout a bottom,
  Yourself that be so deeply skill’d?

J. Well, ees, I could, if I’d a-got em
  Inside o’ bigger woones a-vill’d.

A. La! that is zome’hat vor to hatch!
  Here answer me theäse little catch.
  “Down under water an’ o’ top o’t
  I went, an’ didden touch a drop o’t,”

J. Not when at mowèn time I took
  An’ pull’d ye out o’ Longmeäd brook,
  Where you’d a-slidder’d down the edge
  An’ zunk knee-deep bezide the zedge,
  A-tryèn to reäke out a clote.[46]

A. Aye I do hear your chucklèn droat
  When I athirt the brudge did bring
  Zome water on my head vrom spring.
  Then under water an’ o’ top o’t,
  Wer I an’ didden touch a drop o’t.

J. O Lauk! What thik wold riddle still,
  Why that’s as wold as Duncliffe Hill;
  “A two-lagg’d thing do run avore
  An’ run behind a man.
  An’ never run upon his lags
  Though on his lags do stan’.”
  What’s that? I don’t think you do know.

A. There idden sich a thing to show.

J. Not know! Why yonder by the stall
  ’S a wheel-barrow bezide the wall,
  Don’t he stand on his lags so trim,
  An’ run on nothèn but his wheel’s wold rim.

A. There’s horn vor Goodman’s eye-zight seäke;
  There’s horn vor Goodman’s mouth to teäke;
  There’s horn vor Goodman’s ears, as well
  As horn vor Goodman’s nose to smell.
  What horns be they, then? Do your hat
  Hold wit enough to tell us that?

J. Oh! horns! but no, I’ll tell ye what,
  My cow is hornless, an’ she’s knot.[47]

A. Horn vor the mouth’s a hornèn cup.

J. An’ eäle’s good stuff to vill en up.

A. An’ horn vor eyes is horn vor light,
  Vrom goodman’s lantern after night;
  Horn vor the ears is woone to sound
  Vor hunters out wi’ ho’se an’ hound;
  But horn that vo’k do buy to smell o’
  Is hart’s-horn.

J.         Is it? What d’ye tell o’
  How proud we be, vor ben’t we smart?
  Aye, horn is horn, an’ hart is hart.
  Well here then, Anne, while we be at it,
  ’S a ball vor you if you can bat it.
  “On dree-lags, two-lags, by the zide
  O’ vowr lags, woonce did zit wi’ pride,
  When vowr lags, that velt a prick,
  Vrom six-lags, het two lags a kick,
  An’ two an’ dree-lags vell, all vive,
  Slap down, zome dead an’ zome alive.

A. Teeh! heeh! what have ye now then, Joe,
  At last, to meäke a riddle o’?

J. Your dree-lagg’d stool woone night did bear
  Up you a milkèn wi’ a peair;
  An’ there a six-lagg’d stout[48] did prick
  Your vow’r-lagg’d cow, an meäke her kick,
  A-hettèn, wi’ a pretty pat,
  Your stool an’ you so flat’s a mat.
  You scrambled up a little dirty,
  But I do hope it didden hurt ye.

· · · · · ·

  1. He died in the autumn of 1886, a period of the year at which in one of his poems he beautifully expressed a wish that it might be his lot to die.
  2. Many of these games I think do not exist in Dorset at the present day, at all events under these names.
  3. Sometimes called the gooseberry bush, as in a variant in the Folklore Record, vol. iv. p. 174, from a West of Scotland source.
  4. Conf. a Shropshire variant in Miss Burne’s book, p. 512.
  5. As to which see post p. 257.
  6. Conf. the Shropshire variant in Miss Burne’s book, p. 510. See also Folklore Record, vol. v. p. 84, for a Surrey one.
  7. Conf. Shropshire Folklore, p. 513.
  8. Conf. no doubt a London version:

    “Oranges and Lemons,”
     Said the bells of St. Clement’s;
    “You owe me five farthings,”
     Said the bells of St. Martin’s;
    “And when will you pay me?”
     Said the bells of Old Bailey;
    “When I grow rich,”
     Said the bells of Shoreditch;
    “When will that be?”
     Said the bells of Stepney;
    “I do not know,”
     Said the big bell of Bow.

    See also Folklore Record, vol. v. p. 86, for a Surrey variant; the Folklore Journal, vol. i. p. 386, for a Derbyshire one. Also Halliwell’s Nursery Rhymes, No. cclxxxi.

  9. See Folklore Journal, vol. 1. p. 386, for a variant from a Derbyshire source.
  10. Conf, several Shropshire variants in Shropshire Folklore, p. 514.
  11. A great deal of this is similar to the widely-known story of the “Old Woman and her Pig.”
  12. Conf. similar lines in my paper on “Christmas Mummers in Dorsetshire” in Folklore Record, vol. iii. p. 109.
  13. Mr. W. W. Newell, in his Games and Songs of American Children (New York, 1884), reviewed in Folklore Journal, vol. ii. p. 243, says that the “Knights of Spain,” which he gives as the American variant of this game, is still acted, not only throughout England and the United States, but also in Spain and Sweden, in Italy and Ireland, among the Baltic Finns and the Moravian Sclavs. He believes that it was originally based on the idea of a courtship conducted in the strictly mercantile spirit which probably pervaded the next stage of marriage-making after the primitive carrying off of the bride. Conf. also two variants in Shropshire Folklore, pp. 516, 517, called “The Knights of Spain,” and “Here come three Dukes a-riding.” See also Folklore Record, vol. iii. p. 170, for an Essex variant, and vol. v. p. 89, for a Welsh one. Also Halliwell’s Nursery Rhymes, No. cccxxxiii.
  14. Carry
  15. See Folkore Record, vol. v. p. 87, for a variant from a Surrey source. Conf. also Halliwell’s Nursery Rhymes (ed. 1846), No. ccxxxvi.
  16. Called in Sussex “A Man across the Common.”
  17. Conf. a variant in Shropshire Folklore, called “How many Miles to Barley Bridge?” which is played more in the manner of “Oranges and Lemons,” ending in one party pulling against the other. See Folklore Record, vol. v. p. 88, for a Welsh variant. Also Halliwell’s Nursery Rhymes, No. cccxxviii. (ed. 1846), No. ccxxx.
  18. See Shropshire Folklore, p. 523, for a very similar game called “Stag-warning.”
  19. See Strutt’s Sports and Pastimes (ed. 1831), p. 317, where the game is ully described, and an engraving of a “merelles” table also appears.
  20. Mr. E. Gosse must have forgotten William Howitt’s delightful Boys’ Country Book, published in 1839, giving most charming scenes of schoolboy life in the beautiful Derbyshire Peak district.
  21. Still played, Mr. Thomas Hardy tells me, as “cobbs off” in the interior of the county. (Note by Mr. E. Gosse.)
  22. And “The Lost Slipper” in Shropshire Folklore, p. 525.
  23. Conf. variant in Shropshire Folklore, p. 526.
  24. See Shropshire Folklore, p. 527.
  25. Conf. a slight variant in Halliwell’s Nursery Rhymes (ed. 1846, No. ccli.).
  26. Conf. a very different variant in Halliwell’s Nursery Rhymes (ed. 1846), No. ccxxvii.
  27. Conf. a variant in Halliwell’s Nursery Rhymes (ed. 1846), No. ccl.
  28. Conf. various readings given in Western Antiquary, vol. vii. pp. 214-215, 239-240, and 267, where the above references in Notes and Queries are noticed.
  29. Conf. a variant in Halliwell’s Nursery Rhymes, No. ccxl. See also notes to No. cccxcix. (ed. 1846), where the interpretation of the symbols of the various animals introduced is given.
  30. Called “chapping out” or “titting out” in Scotland.
  31. See Notes and Queries (2nd Series, vii. 313).
  32. This infantine form of gambling, says Miss Burne (Shropshire Folklore, p. 530), is alluded to as “handy-dandy” in Piers Plowman, and also in King Lear.
  33. Conf. Shropshire Folklore, p. 575.
  34. Conf. variant of this given amongst “counting out” rhymes, post, p. 259.
  35. Conf. similar version in Halliwell’s Nursery Rhymes (ed. 1846), No. ccx.
  36. See Halliwell’s Nursery Rhymes (ed. 1846), No. cci.
  37. Conf. two variants of this rhyme in Gregor’s Folklore of North East of Scotland.
  38. Conf. similar lines in Gregor’s Folklore of North East of Scotland, p. 20. Also Halliwell’s Nursery Rhymes (ed. 1846), No. xxxv.
  39. Conf. a Romany variant of this one quoted in Mr. Bolton’s book (ante).
  40. Conf. ante, p. 253.
  41. Nos. iii. and iv. are also to be found in Shropshire Folklore.
  42. These last two riddles, with slight variations, are to be found in Gregor’s Folklore of North East Scotland.
  43. For another specimen of the same kind see Halliwell’s Nursery Rhymes (ed. 1846), No. cccclxxxv.
  44. This is taken from the first complete edition of Mr. Barns’s poems—that of 1879—as it contains several riddles which are not to be found in the previous editions of 1859 and 1863, in which this poem appeared.
  45. To ask a dog where his tail is, is considered to cast the greatest indignity or reproof upon him.
  46. The yellow water-lily (Nuphar lutea).
  47. A term used to signify a hornless cow.
  48. The local name for the gad-fly or cow-fly (Tabanus bovinus