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.


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