There Was a Man of Thessaly
DESCRIPTION: "There was a man of Thessaly, And he was wondrous wise, He jumped into a thorn bush And scratched out both his eyes. And when he saw his eyes were out, With all his might and main, He jumped into another bush And scratched them in again."
EARLIEST DATE: c. 1744 (Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book, according to Opie-Oxford2)
KEYWORDS: injury healing
REFERENCES (3 citations):
Opie-Oxford2 498, "There Was a Man of Thessaly" (1 text)
Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #28, p. 40, "(There was a Man so Wise)"
Jack, p. 126, "The Man of Thessaly" (1 text)
cf. "Johnny Lad (I)" (lyrics)
NOTES: Katherine Elwes Thomas can always be counted on to produce a wild interpretation, but this one may set the record: According to the Baring-Goulds, she suggested that this is about the Rev'd. Dr. Hery Sacheverell (died 1724), who in 1709 preached a pair of sermons on church reform which produced riots and who was impeached then taken back into high favor with Queen Anne's government. As for any connection with Thessaly (or Nineveh, or any of the other places mentioned in versions of the song)... well, Dr. Sacheverell was quite learned, so presumably he'd heard of them....
The hypothesis seems much more reasonable that the song refers to Bellerophon, the Greek hero who slew the Chimera, came from Thessaly, and ended up falling off Pegasus, landing in a thorn bush, and becoming blind, although I don't know why there would be a nursery rhyme about him or why it would say he scratched his eyes in again. - RBW
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