17 May 2007

Stop telling me lies, students!

We all know the old children's chant...
Ring around the rosies
Pocketful of posies
Ashes, ashes
They all fall down
"The deadly outbreak of bubonic plague, also known as the "black death," that struck Western Europe in 1347 wiped out more than a third of the population. An event such as that was destined to be immortalized in the cultural consciousness, and many of the lines in the nursery rhyme do seem to correlate to the situation (people did think flowers could ward off disease). However, there is little evidence to support this theory. The rhyme did not appear in print until 1881, more than 500 years after the fact, rendering it highly unlikely to have originated during the time of the plague. There are also several recorded variants of the rhyme, most of which do not include the same apparent references to the disease."1

It is a possibility that the chant came about as a remembrance of the bubonic plague, but as a part of the actual history of the black death, the answer is no.

I'm officially tired of students including this information in their papers on the bubonic plague.

1
From Discovery Channel, Busting Myths quiz on Flowers.

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