What are the lyrics to 'Sing a Song of Sixpence'?

Did you know Shakespeare could have sung the nursery rhyme 'Sing a Song of Sixpence' during his childhood? Here are its famous lyrics

sing a song of sixpence lyrics
Published: May 6, 2022 at 2:39 pm

How old is the nursery rhyme 'Sing a Song of Sixpence'?

It is unknown who wrote the nursery rhyme 'Sing a Song of Sixpence' but it is believed to be at least 300 years old, if not older and was first published in 1744 in Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book. It could have even been around in Shakespeare's time as he referenced it in his play Twelfth Night where Sir Toby Belch tells a clown: "Come on; there is sixpence for you: let's have a song". The rhyme is also referred to in Beaumont and Fletcher's 1614 play Bonduca, 'Whoa, here's a stir now! Sing a song o' sixpence!'


What is the meaning behind the rhyme 'Sing a Song of Sixpence'?

It is believed that the song could have originated from the strange 16th century fashion of placing live birds in a pie so that when it is placed in front of the guests and cut up, the birds would fly out - probably in great panic.

However there are also a number of other theories equally curious and odd. One thought is that the queen symbolises the moon, the king the sun, and the blackbirds the number of hours in a day; or, perhaps the blackbirds represented monks during the period of the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII, with Catherine of Aragon representing the queen, and Anne Boleyn the maid.

No evidence for any of these theories have ever been found so we will probably never know the true origins of this rhyme

What are the lyrics to 'Sing a Song of Sixpence'?

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 his counting house,
Counting out his money;
The queen was in the parlour,
Eating bread and honey.

The maid was in the garden,
Hanging out the clothes,
When down came a blackbird
And pecked off her nose.

And shortly after that,
there came a little wren,
As she sat upon a chair,
and put it on again.


Illustration by Randolph Caldecott, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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