“Sing a Song of Sixpence!”
(LWG prompt for 20-08-2019:)
“Sing a song of sixpence”
sang Simon’s sister, Sue.
“Four and twenty blackbirds
set out for Timbuktu.
“Alliteration and rhyme?” she queried;
“That will never do.”
“She sells seashells upon the seashore;
she has sold a lot of seashells,
but there are many millions more.
“I shouldn’t really rock the rhyme…
“But, bees and fleas all come in threes;
hoopoes and gnus are found in twos.”
Sue sighed sadly,
“Song, song blue, ev’rybody knows one;
bing bong boo, Benny bought a Bath bun.
Four and twenty blackbirds
waiting for a worm;
Four and nineteen blackbirds,
they fidget and they squirm;
one little blackbird,
I think his name was Spot,
was cool, calm and collected,
and he squirmed not a lot.”
One, two, buckle my shoe,
Three, four, ‘Knock! Knock!’
“Who’s there?” I had to stare
at the monster shyly standing there.
“Trit trot! A troll I’m not,
even though I seem one,
as I look like a fridge,
and live under a bridge,
I assure you, I’ve never been one.’
‘Troll sat alone on his seat of stone,
And munched and mumbled a bare old bone;
For many a year he had gnawed it near,
For meat was hard to come by.
Done by! Gum by!
In a cave in the hills he dwelt alone,
And meat was hard to come by.’
A sixpence is, or was, a coin of currency in England back in the days when England had an umpire – or was it when there were werewolves and vampires? Anyway, it was certainly a long time ago. I received my first sixpence in the reign of Elizabeth – the second, not the first – when it was worth the price of a bag of chips, a small haddock, named Ernie, and as many peas as you could mush. Nowadays, it won’t even even be enough to buy you a single pea (mushed or unmushed) – this is largely due to the invention of Decimalisation by ten Frenchmen called Frank back in 1000 AD. They decided that all measurements should be in multiples of dix. It wasn’t until the early 1970s – when the English translated an old document, from the time of Edward The Something, that it was realised how ‘beneficial’ a new currency would be.
Six ‘pence’ became two and a half ‘p’ and the humble sixpence was consigned to history. Six ‘p’ is not sixpence – and don’t let any Tom, Dick, or Harriet tell you that it is.
Back in the time of the sixpence proper, even musicals were written based upon this famous coin: ‘Six Brides for Sixpence’, Around the World in Eighty Days (for Sixpence), and ‘Half a Sixpence’; because, yes, the coins of the realm could be cut into pieces. A sixpence could be cut into six equal pieces, all worth one penny, or into halves, equalling two half of three pennies’ worth.
‘Half a sixpence, is better than half a thruppence, is better than half a penny, is better than half a farthing (a very small penny worth an eighth of a penny) is better than nothing at all’ so the song from the musical went.
This mnemonical phrase was taught in mathematics lessons up and down the country, all the way from Southwark to Camden from 1963 to 1971 – when it was dropped from the curriculum due to it’s umpirical leanings – remember, England now no longer had an umpire.
‘Sixpence, My Love’ is one of the most loved songs in the famous West End musical ‘Cabaret, English-Style’ where ‘Sixpence makes the world go round, the world, go round, the world go round;
Sixpence makes the world go round,
it makes the world go round!’
Yes, pop another Sixpence in the slot and the world shall revolve around its axis for a full three minutes – or one point eight Metric Minutes.
And, also, being a round coin, the Sixpence was exceptional useful if, for any reason, you needed to roll a coin – you try rolling a modern day twenty or fifty ‘p’ coin – even the pound coins have lost the ability to roll properly!
So, sing a song of sixpence in memory of the coin that gave us a gallon of petrol, a pint of beer, a ha’penny of starch, and still change enough for a ride on ‘tram.