“Jack Sprat”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1659 (Howell's Proverbs, or old Sayed Sawes & Adages, according to Opie-Oxford2)
Keywords: food husband wife

Description

"Jack Sprat could eat no fat, His wife could eat no lean, And so between the two of them They licked the platter clean."

Notes

This is probably only a nursery *rhyme*, and not a nursery *song*, and so properly does not belong in the Index. But Tony and Irene Saletan recorded it as part of their version of "Hail to Britannia" (which includes many nursery rhymes), so I decided to play it safe and include it.

The Baring-Goulds believe that the hero of this song was initially the dwarf "Jack Prat."

Katherine Elwes Thomas, who proves that scholars can produce tall tales as well as any entertainer, believes that this refers to Charles I of England (executed 1649) and his Catholic wife Henrietta Maria of France (died 1666). The events she attributes to some of Charles's early troubles with his parliaments. - RBW

References

  1. Opie-Oxford2 264, "Jack Sprat could eat no fat" (1 text)
  2. Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #52, p. 63, "(Jack Sprat)"
  3. BI, BGMG052