The Orwellian Mother Goose

Curious Chapbooks & Hysterical Histories

THE AUTHOR OF 1984 and Animal Farm -- a Mother Goose for the new millennium? Don't miss this fully illustrated collection of his Poetry of the Proletariat. Preview it below.

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Seesaw Margery Daw
Sold her bed and lay upon straw.
Wasn't she a silly slut
To sell her bed and lie upon dirt.

--From "Nonsense Poetry" [of Edward Lear]


It's a pity that Poppa has sold his soul,
It makes him sizzle at breakfast so
The money was useful, but still on the whole
It's a pity that Poppa has sold his soul
When he might have held on
Like the Baron de Coal,
And not cleared out when the price was low.
It's a pity that Poppa has sold his soul,
It makes him sizzle at breakfast so.

--From "As I Please" (Attributed to G.K. Chesterston)



Could George Orwell be the Mother Goose of the twenty-first century? The noted British essayist and author has been widely known for his trenchant political observations and journalistic prose, yet his penchant for nursery rhymes has sadly gone unnoticed. Could such verse as advertising jingles, refrains to popular songs, and rude graffiti be justly considered as candidates for inclusion in the canon of Mother Goose? Most certainly!

Orwell's voice as a writer was the voice of the proletariat. Mother Goose is the voice of the proletariat as well. "Mother Goose rhymes are a composite of ballads, prayers, rituals, jests, tongue twisters, games and historical facts," says Michael Teitelbaum, editor-in-chief of The Real Mother Goose. They are the evidence of daily life passed down through the centuries of the folk tradition.

Evidently Orwell felt the responsibility to pass along these verses to subsequent generations. Orwell writes, "Poetry, the art in which above all others England has excelled, has for more than a century had no appeal whatever for the common people. It is only acceptable when -- as in some popular songs and mnemonic rhymes -- it is masquerading as something else."

Something else than officially sanctioned writing, if it survives, eventually becomes the property of Mother Goose. Why? because fundamentally, Mother Goose is antiestablishment. These verses exist as a response to the politically correct and socially acceptable, or even the rationally sane. These various rhymes of no particular authorship create a compellingly real reflection of the world we inhabit. As Karl Marx considered that works of literature "apart from real history. . .[are] abstractions [that] have in themselves no value whatsoever. They can only serve to facilitate the arrangement of historical material, to indicate the sequence of its separate strata." So these popular verses remain as the best records of the daily life in the various submerged strata in the edifice of time, or as George Orwell would say, paraphrasing Marx, "All art is propaganda."


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