Limericks, Rated G

Jack Sprat

Between Jack Sprat and his wife
There’s never been a moment of strife
About their roles eating beef,
But they give each other grief
In all other aspects of life.

According to Wikipedia, the Jack Sprat nursery rhyme was first published in 1639 in John Clarke’s book of sayings. Reprinted in Mother Goose about 25 years later, it reached a larger audience and has remained a favorite ever since:

Jack Sprat

Jack Sprat could eat no fat,
His wife could eat no lean,
So, between the two of them,
They licked the platter clean.

There’s a whole origin story that claims the poem is about King Charles I (1625-1649) and Queen Henrietta Maria (1609-1669), the dissolution of Parliament, illegal taxation to finance a war with Spain, and other tales of actual political intrigue in seventeenth-century England. An interesting idea, but perhaps irrelevant to most modern audiences. Either way, it’s still a fun little piece that has endured the passage of time, even if common knowledge of its inspiring events has been lost.

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