untitledI have started a new series inspired by  English nursery rhymes.  Even though these poems are used as childrens’ verses, when written they often had much darker meanings.  Also with these paintings will be a write up of what each one might mean.  Since most were written centuries ago the meanings are not always certain or even clear.

The first of this series is “Sing a Song of Sixpence”.

Sing a song of sixpence, a pocketful of rye

Four and twenty blackbirds, baked in a pie!

When the pie was opened, the birds began to sing

“Wasn’t that a dainty dish to set before the king?”

The king was in his counting-house, counting out his money.

The queen was in the parlor, eating bread and honey.

The maid was in the garden, hanging out the clothes.

Down came a blackbird, and pecked off her nose.

Henry VIII wanted to divorce Katherine of Aragon because she did not give him a male heir.  The Catholic church refused to allow the divorce, so Henry started the Anglican Church or Church of England, which he would be head and which would allow the divorce.  An added benefit, besides getting to marry Anne Boylen (the Maid), he also got all the lands of the Catholic church which gave him much more money to count in his counting-house.  It also told of the queen who sat around eating bread and honey, while the poor worked.

In an Italian cookbook of 1549 there is a recipe “to make pies so that birds may be alive in them and fly out when it is cut open.”  Some say these blackbirds were the old priests who taunted the king.  Another version tells of a former Catholic official sending a pie filled with deeds for manors which had been owned by prominent Catholics.  Additionally kings used to give the court clown sixpence to sing a song or tell a tale.  Nothing is as simple as it seems.