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Doctor Foster (nursery rhyme)

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Wikipedia article

'"Doctor Foster"' is an English language nursery rhyme that has appeared in many anthologies since the nineteenth century. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 19288.

The rhyme

The rhyme was first published in its modern form in 1844, although the rhyming of 'puddle' with 'middle' suggests that it may have originally been the archaic 'piddle' for a stream and that the verse may therefore be much older.I. Opie and P. Opie, 'The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes' (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd edn., 1997), p. 173. The first recorded text was:

Origins and meaning

It was suggested by Boyd Smith (1920) that the rhyme may be based on a story of Edward I of England travelling to Gloucester, falling off his horse into a puddle, and refusing to return to the city thereafter. There is a rhyme published in 'Gammer Gurton's Garland' (1810) with a similar form:

This variant and the late date of recording suggest that the medieval meaning is unlikely.

Two other explanations have been proposed.

1. That Doctor Foster was an emissary of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, who visited Gloucester with instructions that all communion tables should be placed at the east end of the church instead of their post-Reformation or Puritan position in the centre of the chancel: but that he had not been able to reach Deerhurst because the Severn was in flood.[http://www.gloshistory.org.uk/reprints/gh199402.pdf Brown, P. (1994), 'Who was Doctor Foster?' Gloucestershire History No. 8.]

2. That it refers to an incident in the play 'Doctor Faustus' by Christopher Marlowe wherein he is referred to as 'Doctor Fauster' by a person whom he caused to get wet crossing a river by conjuring a straw into a horse which changed back to the straw in the middle of the river.[https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=_SHMwoj9DVsC&pg=PA346 Keefer, M. (Ed.), 'The tragical history of Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe: a critical edition of the 1604 version' (Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 2008), page 346.]



Category:English folk songs

Category:English nursery rhymes

Category:English children's songs

Category:Songs about physicians

Category:Songs about fictional male characters

Category:Traditional children's songs

Category:1844 songs

Category:Songwriter unknown

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