Saturday, April 2, 2016

Bobbily-Boo and Wollypotump

When my sister and I were little girls, our dad used to read us a short bedtime story each night. Many came from a 1950s collection of nursery rhymes, and one stuck with me.

Bobbily-Boo, the king so free,
He used to drink the mango tea.
Mango tea and coffee, too,
he drank them both 'til his nose was blue. 

Wollypotump, the queen so high,
She used to eat the gumbo pie.
Gumbo pie and gumbo cake,
she ate them both 'til her teeth did break.

Bobbily-Boo and Wollypotump
each called the other a greedy frump.
And when these terrible words were said,
They both sat and laughed until time for bed.

These verses stayed in my head, and at some point I began to recite them for friends, trying without success to find someone else who remembered them.

About ten years ago, I googled the names. I got nowhere, so I googled gumbo pie. And after I scrolled past a few recipes, there was the rhyme, credited to one Laura E. Richards, in a nursery rhyme collection from the 1800s! But there's one difference. The original version is much darker. No more laughing:

They both sat and cried until they were dead. 

I don't think my grandkids were even born yet, but I immediately bought the book that contained this and other old nursery rhymes. I just knew it would be a great conversation piece some day. And it would be right now, if only I could find it. Both kids have a great sense of point-of-view and mood-setting and "darkness" and other aspects of things they read. (Given the adults in their lives, that was inevitable.)

Today I googled again and was directed to four different collections including The Nursery, Volumes 19-20, edited by John L. Shorey, published in 1876. I'm pretty sure it's the one I bought, and it's now available free as an e-book. I'm still going to try to find my copy.

This rhyme comes to mind almost daily in the past few months, since Abby bought us some wonderfully high quality teas, including green tea with mango. Every time I brew that one, a voice in my head says, with much delight, "Mango tea and coffee too, She drank them both til her nose was blue."

My nose is still fine, thanks.


Far Side of Fifty said...

I hope you find your copy of the book! I have not heard this rhyme before. How lucky were you to have your Dad read to you!!
I search antique shops for A Little Golden Book called Happy Birthday Baby as our daughter memorized it since we read it to her so often. :)

joeh said...

I love it!

When I used to read "The Little Engine That Could" to my daughter,for some reason I always started with "The Little Engine That Could" Watty Piper.

I keep thinking someday she will be on a quiz show and be asked who wrote "The Little Engine That Could" and she will send some of her winnings.

Great that your Dad switched the ending so you could sleep tight.

Terra said...

Oh the original ending was very dark and sad, nice you heard the happier version. Glad to know your nose is not turning blue.

DJan said...

You reminded me of a poem that my sister and I both knew from our Childcraft books and we still know it by heart. It starts out, "Her name was Diliiki Dolliki Dinah/Niece she was to the Empress of China/Fair she was as a morning in May/When Hy Kokolorum stole her away."

It has a good ending, though, in contrast to your poem. Thank you for the upbeat version! I loved it. :-)

troutbirder said...

What a neat memory and set me to thinking about the rhymes my mom read to me. As a parent I read the stories of Dr. Seuss to my sons who new them by heart and then began to change the words as I read to their utter consternation and protests...:)

stephen Hayes said...

Be careful. Don't want you coming down with a nasty case of blue nose.

Deb Shucka said...

I hope you didn't get rid of the book in all your clearing out. What a sweet and light-hearted post - even with the darker undertones. So many fairy tales and nursery rhymes are dark and pretty scary.

Jeanie said...

Isn't it amazing how we can remember things like that -- but don't ask us about what we did a month ago? It's a great rhyme and I love that you found the book. I have one from the way-back zone I treasure of fairy tales -- some of which were rather dark! But oh, those illustrations!

Rian said...

It's true. So many nursery rhymes have a dark undertone. I heard the kids at the mall singing "Ring around the rosy" the other day and now knowing the real meaning of the rhyme, it no longer took on a happy note. But my brother used to read to me from "Uncle Wiggily" and few people remember that story book in this day and age.

Vagabonde said...

I have never heard the nursery rhymes you mention but I like them and will also try to find the book to read to my grandchildren (9, 7, 5 and 3.) I missed out on English nursery rhymes as I was brought up in another language.

Anita said...

I seem to recall a few other nursery rhymes that are a bit morbid. I've never heard this one, but it's fun to read and say out loud.

Vapid Vixen said...

What the? I bought boyfriend The Annotated Brothers Grimm for Christmas one year. I knew they were kind of dark but I had no idea just how demented and dark they really were. I'm glad my Mom stuck with the fluffy stuff. Sure I'm a total wimp today but I'm good with it.

Midlife Roadtripper said...

What a lovely post. Interesting how what stays in mind from our past comes back to us. I will keep your not knowing exactly where that book went in mind as I head upstairs to go through all the "junk" from my kids lives I unloaded from the attic yesterday.

Jeanne Estridge said...

When I was a kid, we had a book called Best Loved Poems of the American People. It was full of wonders like this.

How great to have grandkids who have a critical appreciation of great nursery rhymes!

Sally Wessely said...

Charming ending to this post. I loved it. I'm glad your nose is not blue. I've never heard that nursery rhyme. Interesting rhyme indeed.

Kate said...

I just read your December, 2013 post about writing a book about the Carousel; did you do it? I posted photographs of it on my blog yesterday and read your comment about your involvement. I am very curious!!


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