Father’s Day Nursery Rhymes

Father’s Day Nursery Rhymes

Yes, it’s true! I got a book of nursery rhymes on Sunday 20th June 2021as a Father’s Day gift from one of our beloved daughters. And, no, I was not offended – I was thrilled because the subtitle indicated that I would be enlightened about their ‘Secret Meanings‘.

Here, for instance is ‘Ding, Dong, Bell‘:

Ding, dong, bell,

Pussy’s in the well.

Who put her in?

Little Johnny Flynn.

Who pulled her out?

Little Tommy Stout.

What a naughty boy was that

To try to drown poor pussy cat,

Who never did him any harm,

And killed all the mice in his father’s barn.


As Albert Jack comments, surely you’d think: ‘It would have been composed … for badly behaved children … to be more compassionate … to defenseless animals.’ However, he goes on to remind us that the poem is echoed by Shakespeare’s famous song from The Tempest (1610), albeit a drowned sailor (rather than a drowned cat):

Full fathom’s five they father lies …

Sea nymphs hourly ring his knell.

Hark! now I hear them – Ding, dong, bell”.’

In fact, ‘The refrain also appears in The Merchant of Venice‘ (1596 – 8):

“Let us all ring fancy’s knell;                                                                                                                    I’ll begin – Ding, dong, bell”.’

So, Jack concludes, this ‘makes it look as though Shakespeare was simply quoting … a well-known rhyme … Ding, dong, bell is a knell, a bell rung to mark a death. Little Johnny Flynn had actually succeeded in drowning the poor pussy cat.’

[Selah! I’ll pause to let readers who love cats wipe the tear from their eyes.]

The Joseph Saga

Although I could never hope to upstage the famous dream-coat musical, I offer here my new biblical ‘nursery rhyme’ about the well-known dreamer, bearing in mind that his social ‘death’ could not literally be broadcast by church bell, TV news bulletin or social media; “fake news” was conveyed using his blood-soaked, hated robe of privilege:

Sound his death knell!

Young Joseph’s down a well!

Why is he in?

For his ambitious dreams.

Though Reuben hoped spoiled Joe to save,

His brothers sold him as a slave.

How wicked are those shepherd boys

Who find Joe’s dream-life so annoys!

*     *    *    *

A future famine they’ll survive

When they discover Joe’s alive!

But a new nursery rhyme can never do justice to the Joseph biography. In his famous last words, the martyr Stephen told his hearers:

‘Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs. Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh … [who] made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace. … Then a famine struck … [When] Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our forefathers [there]. …. Joseph told his brothers who he was … [and] sent for his father and his whole family’ (see Acts 7:8-16, New International Version).

In summary:

[] The jealous forefathers of the twelve tribes of Israel sold Joseph as a slave,

[] because he’d told them his God-given dreams predicting that they would bow down to him.

[] But God rescued him, gave him wisdom and inspired Pharaoh’s goodwill.

[] Pharaoh made him ruler of all.

[] In the very lengthy world-wide famine the patriarchs came to Egypt,

[] and Joseph sent for his father and the entire, now reconciled, family of patriarchs.

* So, let us hold fast our God-given dreams throughout times of disappointing setbacks.


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