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The Song of Sixpence

Updated on September 13, 2018


There has been the realisation that some "nursery rhymes" (as well as Christmas Carols) and 'innocent' songs have deeper meanings.

On rare occasions it is obvious, in many cases one looks through the lens of history and after research, realises 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 on the ship, and they would hide below deck (baked in the pie) while the Queen Anne's revenge was made to look derelict, just floating about aimlessly.

This was one of his ruses; that is to hide below deck, have the ship captured by the victim, and then, the 'pie' would be opened, and the 'blackbirds' would attack.

A few more definitions

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

He was the King of Pirates, and didn't have much trouble gaining a willing crew.

Blackbeard, the 'King' his ship, Queen Anne's Revenge was the 'Queen'. The 'maid' was the target ship. The target ship was In the 'garden', a specific place in the sea off South Carolina which had a wonderful Bay.

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

Once Blackbeard's ship was under sail, the 'blackbirds', his crew would hide inside of the ship, 'the pie' and when the other ship came near, the 'blackbirds' would fly out of the open pie, and 'snip' off the nose of the Maid.

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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    • qeyler profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Snopes is bull here.

    • profile image

      Swiss Mercenary 

      8 years ago

      You got owned ;)

    • qeyler profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      You're welcome; it comes really clear when you know the Pirates who were involved and the names of things.

    • kaltopsyd profile image


      8 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

      How interesting. I never knew there was history behind that nursing rhyme. Thanks for educating me!

    • qeyler profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Thank you

    • BJBenson profile image


      8 years ago from USA

      What a great read!


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