“A Frog He Would A-Wooing Go—-”
For centuries children all over the world have been delighted by these charming nonsense ditties.
But these little songs frequently held hidden messages covering a more serious saga of a political person embroiled in the throes of a scandal, or perhaps even a royal personage falling out of favor. More often than not though, they were simply humorous rhyming verse sung as an amusement to children.
The frog parable is the story of a young frog who went courting his lady-love, Miss Mousey, who in one version runs a neighborhood pub. They were married by her uncle Mr. Rat, and left on their honeymoon. Unfortunately, the merriment was interrupted by a prowling cat, who ate the rat, as Miss Mousey wisely hid under a nearby leaf. Poor Froggy quickly left for home, but on the way he was swallowed by a large white duck. (These little tales rarely ended happily.)
The marriage of the frog and the mouse was sung as early as 1714, with fragments being sung repeatedly through the years. It was prevalent during the Old Price Riots in Covent Garden in 1809, due to the rising prices of theater tickets. This was important because the Drury Theater had burned down and Covent Garden was the only theater left. The riots lasted for three months until the manager apologized and brought back the old prices.
Nursery rhymes were often used as rhythmic accompaniment to spinning, and as a family game to improve memory, due to their repetitive wording. They are found throughout the world, and included in “Nursery Songs From the Appalachian Mountains “ in 1906. The Frog story became an especial favorite in the U.S.A. with 40 versions of it found in various folk-lore societies.
A Gaping Wide-Mouthed Waddling Frog” was featured in “The Top Book of All” in 1760, and was a long 12 verse bit of cumulative nonsense reminiscent of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. It was often performed rapidly by singing it all in one breath.
Rhymes, songs and riddles have entertained people through the centuries, and perhaps lightened the sting of an ill-humored subject.