Baa Baa Black Sheep
DESCRIPTION: "Baa baa, black sheep, have you any wool?" The sheep replies that it does, and details what might be done with it
EARLIEST DATE: c. 1744 (Tom Thumb's Pretty Song Book)
KEYWORDS: animal sheep nonballad clothes
FOUND IN: US
REFERENCES (5 citations):
Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #16, p. 33, "(Bah, Bah a black Sheep)"
Opie-Oxford2 55, "Baa, baa, black sheep" (1 text)
Jack, p. 8, "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep" (1 text)
Dolby, p. 96, "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep" (1 text)
Fuld-WFM, pp. 593-594, "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star -- (ABCDEFG; Baa, Baa, Black Sheep; Schnitzelbank)"
LOCSheet, sm1871 10570, "Baa, baa, black sheep," G. D. Russell & Co (Boston), 1871; sm1881 04227, "Ba-a, ba-a, black sheep," Geo. Molineux? (unknown), 1881 (tune)
cf. "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" (tune)
NOTES [240 words]: Although the lyrics of this are older than "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," and indeed are older than the oldest known form of the music ("Ah! Vous Dirai-Je, Maman," published 1761), text and tune, according to Fuld, were not united until 1879.
The 1881 sheet music credits this to C. M. Wiske, but I would suspect that is the arrangement. The 1871 sheet music is credited to Charles Moulton, but it's a different tune (don't ask me why everyone suddenly got the idea to set this to be music)
According to the Baring-Goulds, Katherine Elwes Thomas (who could always be relied upon to find expansive explanations when simple ones would do) reads this as a complaint against the exactions of the English royalty and nobility. The Opies mention the taxes on the wool trade which began in 1275 -- and became one of the main sources of money for the Crown, so that might be the same reference. Albert Jacks also refer it to the reign of Edward I of England (1272-1307) and his 1275 imposition of a tax of six shillings and eight pence on a sack of wool. The argument is that one third of the price of the sack goes to the king ("master") and two-thirds to the church ("dame"), with none left for the actual growers of the wool ("the little boy who cries in the lane"). But to refer a poem seemingly first encountered in 1744 to a tax which was significant mostly in the period prior to the Reformation is something of a stretch, it seems to me. - RBW
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