A simple childhood song:
Then someone tells me it’s about the black plague.
So, it looks like this either goes back to 14th or 17th century England. When the bubonic plague (also known as the black plague) hit, one of the symptoms was a rosy red rash in the shape of a ring on the skin, hence, the “ring around the rosie.”
Since no one knew anything about science, back then, folks thought that because things were smelling really badly with everyone dying and all, the way to avoid catching the plague was to carry around pleasant smelling items. Like posies. So, if you had a pocket full of posies, things were cool.
About a quarter of the population of England died of the plague in the 14th century. When it hit in 1348-1350, the death toll was about 1.5 million out of a population of four million. The later plague, around 1665, it killed 100,000 people, or about 20% of the population in London. In Europe overall, the plague of the 14th century and subsequent plagues through the 18th century killed about up to 60% of the population. Burial really wasn’t an option. So bodies were burned.
Ashes, ashes. We all fall down.
One of the “cures” of the black plague was the 1666 Great Fire of London, which killed most of the rats carrying the disease, but also wiped out the homes of 70,000 of the city’s 80,000 inhabitants. Seems kind of severe. When I worked in London, I used to pass the monument to the Great Fire daily, since I had to walk from the London Bridge train station to the office near St. Paul’s Cathedral. The monument, pictured above, is at the north end of London Bridge.
The plague has spread around the word, killing about 10 million people in India during the 19th and 20th centuries, and making an appearance in the western U.S. in the early 20th century and as late as 1995.
I’m sure this would make a pleasant bedtime story for all the kindergarteners singing this.