DESCRIPTION: "Jack Sprat could eat no fat, His wife could eat no lean, And so between the two of them They licked the platter clean."
EARLIEST DATE: 1639 (John Clarke's _Paroemiologia Anglo-Latina_, according to Opie-Oxford2)
KEYWORDS: food husband wife
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Opie-Oxford2 264, "Jack Sprat could eat no fat" (1 text)
Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #52, p. 63, "(Jack Sprat)"
Jack, p. 93, "Jack Sprat" (1 text)
Dolby, p. 72, "Jack Sprat" (1 text)
NOTES [177 words]: This is probably only a nursery *rhyme*, and not a nursery *song*, and so properly does not belong in the Index. But Tony and Irene Saletan recorded it as part of their version of "Hail to Britannia" (which includes many nursery rhymes), so I decided to play it safe and include it.
The Baring-Goulds and the Opies believe that the hero of this song was initially the dwarf "Jack Prat."
Katherine Elwes Thomas, who proves that scholars can produce tall tales as well as any entertainer, believes that this refers to Charles I of England (executed 1649) and his Catholic wife Henrietta Maria of France (died 1666). The events she attributes to some of Charles's early troubles with his parliaments.
Even that is perhaps more sane than the story in Albert Jack, who has a story which refers this to the imprisonment of King Richard I and the attempts in England to raise his enormous ransom, which "licked the platter clean." Of course, RIchard I reigned 1189-1199, which was still early in the Middle English period; the rhyme could not have been composed then. - RBW
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