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The Song of Sixpence

Updated on April 29, 2021


We now know that many so-called "nursery rhymes" (as well as Christmas Carols) and 'innocent' songs have deeper meanings.

That many things that could not be said openly would be wrapped in what seemed a silly or childish jingle and the public would hear and repeat.

There were those who got the 'hidden meanings' quickly, others didn't. Of course, over time, many people would know that the jingle was saying something other than what appeared obvious.

On rare occasions it was obvious or semi-obvious that the words had 'secret' meanings.

If one scours history finding where and when the rhyme or song was created, the 'clues' reveal what was actually being said.

The 'sing song' simple lyrics of these rhymes covers a much more serious situation.

Sing a Song of Sixpence is a nursery rhyme which has a nefarious meaning and a real back story.

The Nursery Rhyme

Sing a Song of Sixpence
Pocket Full of Rye
Four and Twenty Black
Birds Baked in a Pie
When the Pie was opened
The Birds began to Sing
Wasn't that a dainty Dish To set
before the King?

The King was in the counting house
counting out his money
The Queen was in the Parlour
Eating Bread and Honey
The Maid was in the Garden Hanging
out the Clothes
When along came a Blackbird and
Snipped off her nose

The Meaning

In Port Royal, Jamaica, as well as Charleston, South Carolina, when that rhyme was sung, 'everyone' knew that Blackbeard was in Port, and looking for a crew.

They knew his ship;.Queen Anne's Revenge, was taking on supplies, and being readied for a raid.

Those that knew would be aware that the target ship was already selected, and under sail, in a specific part of the Atlantic Ocean.


That silly rhyme, 'sing a song of sixpence' , sung by an apparently drunken chap, was an advertising jingle.

It advertised that Blackbeard was in port, looking for a crew.

Blackbeard, the King, paid his pirates Six Pence a day. He was the only Captain to give daily pay in coins and in 'kind' with a 'packet' of rye (whiskey)

He usually used only about twenty four pirates (blackbirds) on the ship.

They would hide below deck (baked in the pie).

The Queen Anne's revenge was made to look derelict, just floating about aimlessly.

This was one of his ruses; that is have his men hide below deck, have the ship captured by the selected quarry and then, when the 'Pie' was opened the blackbirds would 'sing', (attack).

A few more definitions

What made Blackbeard so popular with pirates was the daily wage, plus a percentage of the plunder.

He was the King of Pirates, the only one who paid and shared. He never had much trouble gaining a willing crew.

Blackbeard, the 'King' , his ship, Queen Anne's Revenge was the 'Queen', and his crew were the 'Blackbirds'.

The 'maid' was the target ship.

The target ship was In the 'garden', a specific place in the sea, often off the Coast of South Carolina.

'Hanging out the clothes', meant it was under sail.

Hence, people who wanted to be potential Pirates and work with Blackbeard, would hear the jingle and race to where the Queen Anne's Revenge was docked to sign on.

They knew the drill.

They knew that when the Queen Anne's Revenge reached a certain point, it would lower the sails and everyone would hide under the deck, waiting to be boarded by the crew of the Maid.

Armed and ready, the Blackbirds would fly out, and 'snip' off the maid's nose.

So The Next Time

The Next Time you sing this silly little nursery rhyme, appreciate that it was an
advertising jingle for Blackbeard the Pirate.

Appreciate, that in those old days people knew how to disguise their intentions, how to create an 'innocent' sounding set of terms.

Sing a Song of Six pence is not a nonsense rhyme.


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