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The Song of Sixpence

Updated on June 14, 2017


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 assumes.

Sing a Song of Sixpence is a nursery rhyme which actually has 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.


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 aimessly.

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 they '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.

So Blackbeard, was the 'King' his ship was the 'Queen', the 'maid' was the target ship. In the 'garden' was a specific place in the sea off South Carolina which had a wonderful Bay. By 'hanging out the clothes, it was under sail.

That is when the 'Blackbirds' (the crew) would snip of her 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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    • qeyler profile image

      qeyler 7 years ago

      Snopes is bull here.

    • profile image

      Swiss Mercenary 7 years ago

      You got owned ;)

    • qeyler profile image

      qeyler 7 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

      kaltopsyd 7 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 image

      qeyler 7 years ago

      Thank you

    • BJBenson profile image

      BJBenson 7 years ago from USA

      What a great read!