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IN one of those moods of philosophical
pleasantry and erudite whimsicality in which
the worthy Archbishop of Dublin sometimes
relaxes from weighty affairs, he is reported to
have made the following quotation and comment:—

"Old Father Long-legs wouldn't say his prayers:
Take him by the right leg
Take him by the left leg
Take him fast by both legs
And throw him down stairs!"

"There!" said his Grace,"in that nursery
verse you may see an epitome of the history
of all religious persecution. Father Long-legs,
refusing to say the prayers that were
dictated and ordered by his little tyrants, is
regarded as a heretic, and suffers martyrdom."

The cruel and unprincipled things sung
or said to young children in so many of our
popular nursery rhymes and tales, the wanton,
reckless acts, no less than abominable reasons
adduced for them, or consequences drawn
from them, are something quite surprising. It
looks as if the great majority of those compositions
had been the work of one or more
of the wickedest of old witches ever heard of,
and with a direct intention of perverting, if not
destroying, the generosity, innocence, pure
imagination, and tender feelings of childhood
at as early a stage as possible. We say it
looks like this; and yet, no doubt, nothing of
the sort was intended; neither were these
nursery-poets and tale-writers influenced by
any bad or unkindly feelings. The songs
have probably originated chiefly with certain
old grandames among our ancestors, whose
ears possessed a tolerably euphonious muse
of doggrel versification, but whose heads were
not overburdened with understanding, and
whose sole object (such a thing as "infant
education" never at this time having been
dreamed of by any soul in the community)
was to quiet or amuse the child, by arresting
and holding its attention. To do this most
suddenly and successfully, they endeavoured
to produce an excitement of the child's imagination,
or its desires, without for one instant
considering whether the seeds they sowed of
these excitements and desires were of a kind to
grow and put forth good or evil fruits with the
progress of years. There are, no doubt, a
good many delightful and harmless nursery
songs and tales, and a few also which have the
best moral tendency; but it must be admitted
that the majority are either very equivocal, or
of the worst possible kind.

Take the song of "Little Jack Horner"—
does it not inculcate selfishness, or greediness?
or, at best, it causes those vices to be regarded
with leniency and levity;

"Little Jack Horner
Sat in a corner
Eating a Christmas pie!
He put in his thumb,
And he pull'd out a plum,
And cried, 'What a good boy am I!'"

It may be said that the view he takes of his
own goodness (or bravery) in this exploit, is
only meant to be humorous, and in a way that
children understand; and we have also heard
it suggested that Master Horner had, perhaps,
really been a good boy, and that this
pie, so renowned for its "plum," was the
reward of merit. Admitting all this as possible,
the fact of his sly and selfish greediness
in getting up into a corner to enjoy his pie
alone, is not to be controverted.

The act of stealing something, seems to be
one of the favourite points of humour and
good fun with our Nursery Witch:—

"Taffy was a WelshmanTaffy was a thief;
Taffy came to my house, and stole a leg of beef."

Here are two others

"Nanty, Panty, Jack-a-Dandy,
Stole a piece of sugar-candy,
From the grocer's shoppy-shop,
And away did hoppy-hop!"

"Tom, Tom, the piper's son,
Stole a pig, and away he run!"

The following is nothing less than the footpad's
"your money or your life," adapted to
the nursery. A boy with a broom sings,—

"Money I want, and money I crave!
If you don't give me money,
I'll sweep you to the grave!"

This is graced with an illustration in Halliwell's
"Nursery Rhymes of England."

In the following well-known song, theft is
made a very pleasant joke, and inculcated by