Jack and Jill (song)


Jack and Jill (song)

Jack and Jill is a classic nursery rhyme of the English speaking world. The origin of the rhyme is obscure and there are several theories that attempt to interpret the lyrics. The rhyme is known to date back to at least the eighteenth century. The song is sometimes titled Jack and Gill, particularly in early versions.

Lyrics

There are several variants of Jack and Jill (many of them parodies), all sharing the same first rhyme::Jack and Jill went up the hill:To fetch a pail of water. :Jack fell down and broke his crown,:And Jill came tumbling after.

The second verse of the rhyme is less commonly performed::Up Jack got and home did trot:As fast as he could caper;:And went to bed and covered his head:In vinegar and brown paper.

There is also an alternative to the third and fourth and fifth lines of this second verse:http://eclipse.rutgers.edu/goose/rhymes/jill/vv.aspx Lists alternate verses and printed references for these] :Then up Jack got and home did trot:As fast as he could caper;:To Old Dame Dob who patched his nob:With vinegar and brown paper.

There is an even rarer third verse, as follows::When Jill came in how she did grin:To see Jack's paper plaster;:Mother vexed, did whip her next,:For causing Jack's disaster.

And a fourth::Now Jack did laugh and Jill did cry:But her tears did soon abate;:Then Jill did say that they should play:At see-saw across the gate.

Origin and interpretation

The origin of the rhyme is obscure and therefore theories as to origin abound. The earliest publication of the lyrics was in the 1760s [Cullinan, B and Person, D.G. "The Continuum Encyclopedia of Children's Literature " (Continuum, 2003) pg 561] in John Newbery's "Mother Goose's Melody". [http://library.ox.ac.uk/ The Bodleian Library holds an American edition from 1785.] As a result of inclusion in this compilation of English nursery rhymes, Jack and Jill are considered part of the canon of "Mother Goose" characters. As is common with nursery rhyme exegesis, complicated metaphors are often said to exist within the lyrics of Jack and Jill. Although these theories of meaning appear to make perfect sense it does not follow that they are in fact the original meaning of the song. ["The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes" by Opie & Opie (OUP, 1997) debunks many misheld nursery rhyme origin stories] This is corroborated by the fact that the Newbery publication predates some of the common origin stories. These include:

*In Norse mythology, Hjúki and Bil, a brother and sister (respectively) who, according to the 13th century Prose Edda book "Gylfaginning" written by Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson, were taken up from the earth by the moon (personified as the god Máni) as they were fetching water from the well called Byrgir, bearing on their shoulders the cask called Saegr and the pole called Simul. Many tales and figures from the Prose Edda date from a much earlier date, recorded from Skaldic poetry that was transmitted orally, much of which related to stories rooted in the Germanic paganism of the Germanic peoples.
*The village of Kilmersdon in Somerset has a long tradition of association with the nursery rhyme and the hill featured in the rhyme is said to be one near this village. It has been suggested that the surname Gilson originated in this area and could have been derived from 'son of Jill'.
*Jack is the 15th or 16th century Cardinal Wolsey and Gill is Bishop Tarbes who attempted to arrange the marriage of Mary Tudor to the French king. Their failure to negotiate this peace with France led to tax raises and thus the Jack and Jill protest song. [http://hcl.chass.ncsu.edu/garson/ps201/ch14.htm Brief summary of this theory]
*Marking the event in English history, when, in the 17th century, King Charles I tried to reform the taxes on liquid measures. He was blocked by Parliament, so subsequently ordered that the volume of a Jack (1/2 pint) be reduced, but the tax remained the same. This meant that he still received more tax, despite Parliament's veto. Hence "Jack fell down and broke his crown" (many pint glasses in the UK still have a line marking the 1/2 pint level with a crown above it) "and Jill came tumbling after". The reference to "Jill", (actually a "gill", or 1/4 pint) is an indication that the gill dropped in volume as a consequence. A variant of this is that liquids (specifically alcoholic beverages) were watered down; hence, "fetch a pail of water."
*Jack and Jill are the 18th century Louis XVI of France, who was deposed and beheaded (lost his crown), and his Queen, Marie Antoinette (who came tumbling after). The words and lyrics were made more palatable for the nursery by giving it a happy ending.
*Jack and Jill were forms of currency referring to dollars and cents, respectively. The rising value of Jacks and Jill caused them to "go up a hill" until a plague caused a lack of water, causing a drop in the values of this currency (falling down and breaking his crown). [ [http://www.namespedia.com/index.php?title=Jill&redirect=no Jill - Namespedia - Names Meaning and Origins ] ]

A Jack and Jill reference appears in William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at the end of act three: "Jack shall have Jill; Nought shall go ill". There is no evidence of any specific connection between this and the nursery rhyme and it is probable that the Jack and Jill here are used in a general representative sense for man and woman, lad and lass (such as John and Jane may be). A similar reference occurs in Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost near the end of the play: "Our wooing doth not end like an old play; Jack hath not Jill".

A. E. Housman created a parody of the poem in his "Fragment of a didactic poem on the Latin grammar" : "So, up the steep side of the rugged hill, //Companions in adventure, Jack and Jill // With footing nice and anxious effort hale //To the moist pump the necessary pail".

Uses in popular music

* British Glam-rock band Slade used a reference to this rhyme on their song "Did yer mama ever tell ya".
* In 1978, the pop group Raydio had a hit song entitled "Jack and Jill" in which Jack sneaked down from the hill to get "love he couldn't get from Jill". Another Raydio song, "A Woman Needs Love (Just Like You Do)" (1981) provided an apparent continuation of the earlier song by saying that when Jack returned up the hill, "somebody else had been loving Jill".

* The Louis Prima song "Jump, Jive an' Wail" featured in the album "The Wildest!" contains a reference to the rhyme.

* The Dresden Dolls song "Half Jack" also contains references to the rhyme.

* The Can song "Pauper's Daughter and I" from the album "Out of Reach" also contains part of the rhyme in its lyrics.

* Two music groups have adopted names from this nursery rhyme: Jack N' Chill and Jack Off Jill

* The Caravan song "Jack and Jill", from the 1976 album "Blind Dog at St. Dunstans" suggests an interpretation of the original rhyme, presenting it as a romantic encounter, told from Jack's point of view.

* English Ska artist Judge Dread references Jack and Jill in his song "Big Seven", singing "Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a roll of cheese, Jack came down with a beaming smile and the trousers around his knees."

* The Kim Richey song "Jack and Jill" references the classic rhyme.

Notes


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