The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The House That Jack Built

A Counting Song

Together with "A Kid" and "The Old Woman"

 Source: James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps (1820-1889), The Nursery Rhymes of England. Fifth Edition. (London and New York: Frederick Warne and Co., 1886). This text from Project Gutenberg, #32415

See: Twelve Days of Christmas - Notes on the Festival and the Carol

DXCIV.

1. This is the house that Jack built.

2. This is the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

3. This is the rat,
That ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

4. This is the cat,
That kill'd the rat,
That ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

5. This is the dog,
That worried the cat,
That kill'd the rat,
That ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

6. This is the cow with the crumpled horn,
That toss'd the dog,
That worried the cat,
That kill'd the rat,
That ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

7. This is the maiden all forlorn,
That milk'd the cow with the crumpled horn,
That tossed the dog,
That worried the cat,
That kill'd the rat,
That ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

8. This is the man all tatter'd and torn,
That kissed the maiden all forlorn,
That milk'd the cow with the crumpled horn,
That tossed the dog,
That worried the cat,
That kill'd the rat,
That ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

9. This is the priest all shaven and shorn,
That married the man all tatter'd and torn,
That kissed the maiden all forlorn,
That milked the cow with the crumpled horn,
That tossed the dog,
That worried the cat,
That kill'd the rat,
That ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

10. This is the cock that crow'd in the morn,
That waked the priest all shaven and shorn,
That married the man all tatter'd and torn,
That kissed the maiden all forlorn,
That milk'd the cow with the crumpled horn,
That tossed the dog,
That worried the cat,
That kill'd the rat,
That ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

11. This is the farmer sowing his corn,
That kept the cock that crow'd in the morn,
That waked the priest all shaven and shorn,
That married the man all tatter'd and torn,
That kissed the maiden all forlorn,
That milk'd the cow with the crumpled horn,
That tossed the dog,
That worried the cat,
That killed the rat,
That ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

[The original of 'The house that Jack built' is presumed to be a hymn in _Sepher Haggadah_, fol. 23, a translation of which is here given. The historical interpretation was first given by P. N. Leberecht, at Leipsic, in 1731, and is printed in the 'Christian Reformer,' vol. xvii, p. 28. The original is in the Chaldee language, and it may be mentioned that a very fine Hebrew manuscript of the fable, with illuminations, is in the possession of George Offer, Esq. of Hackney.]

1. A _kid_, _a kid_, my father bought,
For two pieces of money:
A kid, a kid.

2. Then came _the cat_, and ate the kid,
That my father bought
For two pieces of money:
A kid, a kid.

3. Then came _the dog_, and bit the cat,
That ate the kid,
That my father bought
For two pieces of money:
A kid, a kid.

4. Then came _the staff_, and beat the dog,
That bit the cat,
That ate the kid,
That my father bought
For two pieces of money:
A kid, a kid.

5. Then came _the fire_, and burned the staff,
That beat the dog,
That bit the cat,
That ate the kid,
That my father bought
For two pieces of money:
A kid, a kid.

6. Then came _the water_, and quenched the fire,
That burned the staff,
That beat the dog,
That bit the cat,
That ate the kid,
That my father bought
For two pieces of money:
A kid, a kid.

7. Then came _the ox_, and drank the water,
That quenched the fire,
That burned the staff,
That beat the dog,
That bit the cat,
That ate the kid,
That my father bought
For two pieces of money:
A kid, a kid.

8. Then came _the butcher_, and slew the ox,
That drank the water,
That quenched the fire,
That burned the staff,
That beat the dog,
That bit the cat,
That ate the kid,
That my father bought
For two pieces of money:
A kid, a kid.

9. Then came _the angel of death_, and killed the butcher,
That slew the ox,
That drank the water,
That quenched the fire,
That burned the staff,
That beat the dog,
That bit the cat,
That ate the kid,
That my father bought
For two pieces of money:
A kid, a kid.

10. Then came _the Holy One_, blessed be He!
And killed the angel of death,
That killed the butcher,
That slew the ox,
That drank the water,
That quenched the fire,
That burned the staff,
That beat the dog,
That bit the cat,
That ate the kid,
That my father bought
For two pieces of money:
A kid, a kid.

The following is the interpretation:

1. The kid, which was one of the pure animals, denotes the Hebrews.

The father, by whom it was purchased, is Jehovah, who represents himself as sustaining this relation to the Hebrew nation. The two pieces of money signify Moses and Aaron, through whose mediation the Hebrews were brought out of Egypt.

2. The cat denotes the Assyrians, by whom the ten tribes were carried into captivity.

3. The dog is symbolical of the Babylonians.

4. The staff signifies the Persians.

5. The fire indicates the Grecian empire under Alexander the Great.

6. The water betokens the Roman, or the fourth of the great monarchies to whose dominions the Jews were subjected.

7. The ox is a symbol of the Saracens, who subdued Palestine, and brought it under the caliphate.

8. The butcher that killed the ox denotes the crusaders, by whom the Holy Land was wrested out of the hands of the Saracens.

9. The angel of death signifies the Turkish power, by which the land of Palestine was taken from the Franks, and to which it is still subject.

10. The commencement of the tenth stanza is designed to show that God will take signal vengeance on the Turks, immediately after whose overthrow the Jews are to be restored to their own land, and live under the government of their long-expected Messiah.

"An old woman was sweeping her house, and she found a little crooked sixpence. 'What,' said she, 'shall I do with this little sixpence? I will go to market, and buy a little pig.' As she was coming home, she came to a stile: the piggy would not go over the stile.

"She went a little further, and she met a dog. So she said to the dog, 'Dog! bite pig; piggy won't go over the stile; and I shan't get home to-night.' But the dog would not.

"She went a little further, and she met a stick. So she said, 'Stick! stick! beat dog; dog won't bite pig; piggy won't get over the stile; and I shan't get home to-night.' But the stick would not.

"She went a little further, and she met a fire. So she said, 'Fire! fire! burn stick; stick won't beat dog; dog won't bite pig,' (_and so forth, always repeating the foregoing words_.) But the fire would not.

"She went a little further, and she met some water. So she said, 'Water! water! quench fire; fire won't burn stick,' &c. But the water would not.

"She went a little further, and she met an ox. So she said, 'Ox! ox! drink water; water won't quench fire' &c. But the ox would not.

"She went a little further, and she met a butcher. So she said, 'Butcher! butcher! kill ox; ox won't drink water,' &c. But the butcher would not.

"She went a little further, and she met a rope. So she said, 'Rope! rope! hang butcher; butcher won't kill ox,' &c. But the rope would not.

"She went a little further, and she met a rat. So she said, 'Rat! rat! gnaw rope; rope won't hang butcher,' &c. But the rat would not.

"She went a little further, and she met a cat. So she said, 'Cat! cat! kill rat; rat won't gnaw rope,' &c. But the cat said to her, 'If you will go to yonder cow, and fetch me a saucer of milk, I will kill the rat.' So away went the old woman to the cow.

"But the cow said to her, 'If you will go to yonder haystack,1 and fetch me a handful of hay, I'll give you the milk.' So away went the old woman to the haystack; and she brought the hay to the cow.

"As soon as the cow had eaten the hay, she gave the old woman the milk; and away she went with it in a saucer to the cat.

"As soon as the cat had lapped up the milk, the cat began to kill the rat; the rat began to gnaw the rope; the rope began to hang the butcher; the butcher began to kill the ox; the ox began to drink the water; the water began to quench the fire; the fire began to burn the stick; the stick began to beat the dog; the dog began to bite the pig; the little pig in a fright jumped over the stile; and so the old woman got home that night."

Footnote:

1. Or haymakers, proceeding thus in the stead of the rest of this paragraph:--"And fetch me a wisp of hay, I'll give you the milk.--So away the old woman went, but the haymakers said to her,--If you will go to yonder stream, and fetch us a bucket of water, we'll give you the hay. So away the old woman went, but when she got to the stream, she found the bucket was full of holes. So she covered the bottom with pebbles, and then filled the bucket with water, and away she went back with it to the haymakers; and they gave her a wisp of hay."

Note:

The same notes are found in The Second Edition of 1843.

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