goose inspired mini rant

More than I hate Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater:

Peter, Peter pumpkin eater,
Had a wife but couldn’t keep her;
He put her in a pumpkin shell
And there he kept her very well.

And almost as much as I hate I Had a Little Hen:

I had a little hen, the prettiest ever seen,
She washed up the dishes and kept the house clean.
She went to the mill to fetch us some flour,
And always got home in less than an hour.
She baked me my bread, she brewed me my ale,
She sat by the fire and told a fine tale!

I LOATHE As I Was Going to St. Ives:

As I was going to St Ives
I met a man with seven wives
Each wife had seven sacks
Each sack had seven cats
Each cat had seven kits
Kits, cats, sacks, wives
How many were going to St Ives?

I hate it because it’s a BAD RIDDLE. I think I am scarred from some irritating adult explaining the “answer” when I was a kid: Mwah ha HAAA! The answer is ONE! Because everyone else was LEAVING St. Ives!

Which I found deeply unsatisfying then, as now.

We ALL know that, if someone were travelling with all those wives and a bazillion cats, the going would be much slower than with just a single person. I always have read this as the “I” overtaking this big caravan of man, wives, and cats, but all going in the SAME DIRECTION. Even if the driver were some mad polygamist tailgater with a huge fuel tank, there would have to be a lot of bathroom breaks involved in that contingent.

Besides, Mother Goose rhymes all are set before the advent of motor vehicles, right? – and if this crew were on foot, it’s not even an issue. They could totally be poking along, on the way to St. Ives, with yowling cats and bickering wives and weird cult-y husband, and be met by a much speedier and unencumbered solo traveller who is also on the way to St. Ives.

Which is why I have made it a point to skip this rhyme throughout my parenting career, unless the kids specifically point it out and beg for it (enticed, no doubt, by bizarre pictures of hydra cats sprouting kittens and smiling Stepford wives in a row.) I want to spare them this inner turmoil.

Just turn that page right on over and move on.

***edited to add: In case you’re interested, the total number of persons and felines involved in the rhyme is 2,802.


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