Posted by Marjorie Ainsborough Decker text© 2011 on May 20th, 2013
Greetings once again Dear Friends of the Fellowship of the Blog,
Looking into the background of ancient nursery rhymes, I realize it’s quite surprising to many readers to find the strange history and legends surrounding some of them. To quote two of the world’s best scholars of nursery rhyme – Peter and Iona Opie… “It can be safely stated that the overwhelming majority of nursery rhymes were not in the first place composed for children; in fact many are survivals of an adult code … strikingly unsuitable for those of tender years.”
Yet, later on, in the 19th century we find a few really sweet nursery rhymes such as “Mary’s Lamb” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
Then, in 1978, Christian Mother Goose appears, “Rhyming with Christ.” There we find little Jack Horner memorizing Scripture and learning the way to Heaven.
The power of rhyme for remembering is known to us all. It’s humorous that even in the heat of British parliamentary debate, no less a statesman than Winston Churchill fell victim to nursery rhyme parody when he was verbally thumped to be as a Humpty Dumpty! The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Secretary of the Treasury in Whitehall, London) took a low blow in being called “Little Jack Horner.” (Do I hear,”Order! Order! Gentlemen!”)
There’s a fascinating legend, both believed and refuted, attached to the old “Jack Horner” rhyme. Horner was steward to Richard Whiting, Abbot of Glastonbury (1539) the richest abbey in the Kingdom under Henry VIII. Horner was sent to see Henry VIII, along with a Christmas pie containing the deeds to twelve manor houses. Whiting hoped they would appease the King and prevent Henry’s seizing the abbey. On the way to London, Horner pulled out a “plum” – the deed to Mells Manor – kept it, and his descendants continue living there to this day.
One of my favorite hobbies when I’m back in England is visiting legendary churches, castles, and manor houses. I’ve discovered many mysteries and quaint stories in those ancient places. A thatched cottage we once passed is 500 years old and still rents for the same annual lease: one pig and two chickens! And they’ve never heard of Fannie Mae! I’ve always wondered, “Who lives there?”
Which brings me back to America and a fun story of car drives and house dwellers from our own town in Hotchkiss Colorado.
Our story begins with Grace, who was like a meek little bird. She was married to George, an impatient sort, with easily ruffled feathers. He was the Postmaster of our small town who ruled his Post Office roost next door to our Decker Jewelry Store.
Every Sunday afternoon George took Grace and her friend, Marge, for a long drive to the Ragged Mountains (Marge shared with me Part One of this story.) As the threesome meandered through the alpine landscape, whenever they passed a farm house, Grace would ask, “Who lives there, George?” – every Sunday, every time, at every house…and George’s ruffled feathers kept molting.
Then, one Sunday afternoon, the last of George’s feathers fell out, as he exploded with, “Before starting out, if you ask me one more time, ‘Who lives there, George?,’ I’ll never drive you anywhere again!”
Grace slouched down in the back seat, silent and wistful as each farm house came into view. Not a word came from her meek lips all the way up to the turn-around. (So far, so good.) Then the drive home began. At the first house they passed, Grace timidly risked a few words, “Do those same people still live there, George?“…. Dear reader, you can guess the rest.
But, hark! Part Two: Poetic justice was in store; or, rather, was in the two bags of Grace’s groceries she told me about. After shopping, Grace saw two similar black sedans parked outside the Post Office where George worked (which was near the grocery store). So Grace put her groceries in the one she thought was George’s. Then she walked home. When George came home, she asked for the groceries. He didn’t have them. “You put them in the wrong car,” he fumed, and raced out to find the other car containing Grace’s groceries. When he came back, he tossed the groceries on the table, puffing in frustration. Grace meekly smiled before saying gently, “But these are not our groceries, George.” (Indeed, “A soft answer turneth away wrath.” )
Secretly, I wanted to say, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the last laugh.” But Matthew 5:5 is far better.
Now, as I leave you with little Jack Horner’s last line: “Jesus is the way to Heaven,” I’m adding Psalm 23′s last line: “and I will dwell in the house of The Lord forever. ”
As for THE LORD’S HOUSE, if you should ask, “Who lives there?”- take it on the authority of God’s Word: those same people who love Him here. Come and go with me to my Father’s House. (He’s left the “LIGHT” on for you, too!)
Cheerio, and with Blessings in Jesus,
Christian Mother Goose®
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