Sing a Song of Sixpence

Sing a Song of Sixpence

by Mother Goose

Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full 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 the 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.
Along came a blackbird
And snipped off her nose.

Summary of Sing a Song of Sixpence

  • Popularity of “Sing a Song of Sixpence”: This is one of the famous nursery rhymes written by Mother Goose. She is a famous imaginary author of French fairy tales and many nursery rhymes. Previously, George Steevens was attributed as a writer of the poem, who wrote a verse a pun on the poet Laureate Henry James Pye in 1790. However, later it was confirmed that the poem was first published in 1744 in Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book. Also, the earlier version had ‘naughty boys’ instead of ‘blackbirds’. The origin of the rhyme is unknown, and the only written evidence was found in 1780. There are a few other versions with a happier ending of the poem. However, the 18th-century version is commonly taught across the globe. The most common version also used ‘pecked’ instead of ‘snipped’.
  • “Sing a Song of Sixpence” As a Representative of Joy: Perhaps the singer was paid sixpence to sing the song. Hence, he sings about twenty-four blackbirds being baked in a pie. It contains a fantasy fiction element as, the birds never die even after they are baked, and they sing when the pie is opened. The speaker also talks about the king, the queen, and the maid; all are performing certain tasks. There are many theories associated with this poem. To some, blackbirds represent twenty-four hours of the day, the king stands for the sun and the queen represents the moon. The blackbird was also used as a code by the pirates to recruit crew members for prize hunting. Another theory states that the king and the queen in the poem were Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. The element of surprise starts from the first line and runs throughout the poem.
  • Major Themes in “Sing a Song of Sixpence”: Surprise and amusement are the major themes of this poem. The poem centers on the blackbirds and highlights their importance in the 16th century. The poem has always been considered as a pun to the noble and royal household because they are not worried about the escaped birds. Birds are probably symbolical to wealth. The queen and the king are taking care of their usual tasks, while the maid is pecked by the bird. Although this poem has fascinating themes and various historical events, yet for children, it is one of the best rhymes they love to sing.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “Sing a Song of Sixpence”

Literary devices are tools used by writers to convey the themes, their emotions, feelings, and ideas to the readers. Mother Goose has also used some literary devices in this poem. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been given below.

  1. Rhetorical Question: Rhetorical question is a statement used to make a point clear. Often it is used to start a discussion and ask confirmation from the listener. For example,

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

  1. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought or clause that does not come to an end at a line break; instead, it continues to the next line. For example,

The maid was in the garden
Hanging out the clothes.
Along came a blackbird
And snipped off her nose.”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to perceive things involving their five senses. For example,” A pocket full of rye”, “The maid was in the garden” and “Along came a blackbird.”
  2. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /ou/ in “Counting out his money.”
  3. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession. For example, the sound of /d/ in “Wasn’t that a dainty dish”, sound of /b/ “The birds began to sing” and the sound of /s/ in “Sing a song of sixpence.”
  4. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /d/ in “And snipped off her nose” and the sound of /g/ in “Sing a song of sixpence”.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Sing a Song of Sixpence”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this rhyme.

  1. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are four stanzas in this poem; each consists of four lines.
  2. Quatrain: A quatrain is a four-lined stanza used in Persian poetry. Here, each stanza is a quatrain.
  3. Rhyme Scheme: The poem followed ABAB rhyme scheme, and this pattern continues till the end.
  4. End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. For example, “rye/pie”, “money/honey” and “king/sing.”

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are suitable when teaching phonics to the children and the repetition of some consonant sounds. You may also use the rhyme to start a suspense story.

“Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds
Baked in a pie.”