Not My Gift

Snark Bombs, Away!

Try your hand at parody or satire — take an article, film, blog post, or song you find misguided, and use humor to show us how. 


Honestly, I’m just no good at this sort of thing.  My humor doesn’t run to that ability, although I thoroughly enjoy the work of people for whom it just seems to flow.  So I’m going to take this in a little different direction.

When I was a little girl, I remember checking out a book of Mother Goose rhymes from the library.  I was just learning to read, and was fascinated by both the words and the pictures, although I truly puzzled over some of the poems.

For example, this one:

Made no sense to me at all. Why would the four-and-twenty blackbirds survive being baked in a pie?  Why would they sing?  Did the king eat them anyway? Feathers and all?

It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized that most nursery rhymes have an hisorical association.  It’s a fascinating study. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say”

Meaning and interpretations[edit]

Many interpretations have been placed on this rhyme. It is known that a 16th-century amusement was to place live birds in a pie, as a form of entremet. An Italian cookbook from 1549 (translated into English in 1598) contained such a recipe:[3] “to make pies so that birds may be alive in them and flie out when it is cut up” and this was referred to in a cook book of 1725 by John Nott.[1][4] The wedding of Marie de’ Medici and Henry IV of France in 1600 contains some interesting parallels. “The first surprise, though, came shortly before the starter—when the guests sat down, unfolded their napkins and saw songbirds fly out. The highlight of the meal were sherbets of milk and honey, which were created by Buontalenti.”[5]

In The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, Iona and Peter Opie write that the rhyme has been tied to a variety of historical events or folklorish symbols such as the queen symbolizing the moon, the king the sun, and the blackbirds the number of hours in a day; or, as the authors indicate, the blackbirds have been seen as an allusion to monks during the period of Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII, with Catherine of Aragon representing the queen, and Anne Boleyn the maid. The rye and the birds have been seen to represent a tribute sent to Henry VII, and on another level, the term “pocketful of rye” may in fact refer to an older term of measurement. The number 24 has been tied to the Reformation and the printing of the English Bible with 24 letters. From a folklorish tradition, the blackbird taking the maid’s nose has been seen as a demon stealing her soul.[6]

No corroborative evidence has been found to support these theories and given that the earliest version has only one stanza and mentions “naughty boys” and not blackbirds, they can only be applicable if it is assumed that more recently printed versions accurately preserve an older tradition.[1]

And here is an explanation of the term entremet:  It was used between courses, as a sort of rest and/or entertainment. The pie crust would have been baked ahead of time, with the live birds inserted before the crust was sealed. Imagine the surprise when the king or his guests  cut into the pie and all those birds flew out!

So there you have it.  One nursery rhyme explained.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s