DESCRIPTION: "Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. Threescore men and threescore more Cannot place Humpty Dumpty as he was before." (Or, ... All the kings horses And all the king's men Couldn't put Humpty together again.)
EARLIEST DATE: 1810 (Gammer Gurton's Garland)
KEYWORDS: death riddle
FOUND IN: Britain(England,Scotland(Aber))
REFERENCES (6 citations):
GreigDuncan8 1681, "Humpty Dumpty" (1 text, 1 tune)
Opie-Oxford2 233, "Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall" (1 text)
Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #670, pp. 268-269, "(Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall)"
Jack, p. 80, "Humpty Dumpty" (1 text)
Dolby, p. 51, "Humpty Dumpty" (1 text)
Newell, #70, "Humpty Dumpty" (description of the game only; it is not clear it uses this rhyme)
NOTES: These days, we all know this from Lewis Carroll -- though, interestingly, we don't use his last line ("Couldn't put Humpty Dumpty in his place again," which Alice correctly notes doesn't scan). It's found in the chapter "Humpty Dumpty" in Through the Looking Glass. But the first form quoted here is that found in Gammer Gurton's Garland, which according to the Baring-Goulds is the first appearance of the rhyme in print.
They claim, however, that the rhyme is much older as a riddle (presumably it ended with a question asking who Humpty was, the answer being "an egg"). The Opies, p. 10, cite a version from Saxony in which Humpty becomes Humpelkin-Pumpelken (with umlauts on the u's) and a Danish version about Lille Trille.
Jack claims that this dates back to the English CIvil War and the Royalist defense of Colchester, in which a cannon named Humpty Dumpty played a role. The defense failed when the cannon fell from the walls. Possible, of course, but Jack cites no source. - RBW
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