Yesterday on Facebook, I wrote: I've never really figured out why Humpty Dumpty sat on that wall in the first place.
That prompted all kinds of comments, which led to a little bit of research – and a whole lot of information.
I had always heard that the nursery rhyme was posed as a riddle, and that “an egg” was the answer.
Perhaps that is the case, but nothing in the rhyme says Humpty Dumpty was an egg, although that is the picture usually used.
According to zelo.com, England’s East Anglia Tourist Board provided this interpretation:
Humpty Dumpty was a powerful cannon during the English Civil War (1642-49). It was mounted on top of the St Mary's at the Wall Church in Colchester defending the city against siege in the summer of 1648. (Although Colchester was a Parliamentarian stronghold, it had been captured by the Royalists and they held it for 11 weeks.) The church tower was hit by the enemy and the top of the tower was blown off, sending "Humpty" tumbling to the ground. Naturally the King's men tried to mend him but in vain….The "men" would have been infantry, and "horses" the cavalry troops.
On-line source Wikipedia shares another verse which precedes the familiar nursery rhyme we know today:
In Sixteen Hundred and Forty-Eight
When England suffered the pains of state
The Roundheads lay siege to Colchester town
Where the king's men still fought for the crown
There One-Eyed Thompson stood on the wall
A gunner of deadliest aim of all
From St. Mary's Tower his cannon he fired
Humpty-Dumpty was its name
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall...
Yet, Wikipedia reports that the above verse wasn’t written until 1956 by Professor David Daube “as a spoof for the Oxford Magazine.”
The much-revered Oxford English Dictionary’s definitions of Humpty Dumpty include these two: the name of an ale-and-brandy drink of the late 17th century; a short clumsy person of either sex.
Whatever the origin, the first printed version of the nursery rhyme showed up in 1810, but it was a little different from today’s version, according to straightdope.com:
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,
Threescore men and threescore more
Cannot place Humpty Dumpty as he was before.
I still don't know why Humpty Dumpty got up on that wall in the first place!
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(Tomorrow: Jack and Jill)