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Nursery Rhymes Through Out the Years. I would like to start by saying that the Nursery Rhymes of Great Britain and England in particular were long standing English creations, that were written at times when their was considerable peasant dissatisfaction with the existing Royal Rule. These sometimes soothing, sometimes perky little rhymes had a truly far deeper meaning than their catching verses suggest. Those of us who were reared in the English language, were soothed to sleep or entertained in school with these delightful ditties, without the slightest idea of their deeper insidious significance. Today's dissidents and opponents of government tyranny any where in the world could learn well from these elegant ways of scorning our rulers without being subject to the scissors of the censor.
In the following essay I am going to speak about the history of nursery rhymes in the English history and about the political cartoons that appear to be the modern counterparts of the nursery rhymes that also depicts and critic the status quo. We have to remember that during a relatively long period in English history, the British citizen used various innocuous sounding nursery rhymes to transmit forbidden messages, sneering and making fun of the unpopular and objectionable antics of their royal rulers (Opie, 90). For instance one of the nursery rhymes speaks about the Queen of England who traveled to Banbury to see the new holy cross that has been put for worship. The fact is that Queen of England was not able to get up on the hill with all her horses and coach and thus needed a cockhorse (childs rocking horse) that would be used to lift the queen up the hill. it would not be proper for a queen to go up the hill on foot, thus there was childs horse on which she was supposed to sit while either the horses or people would pull this childs horse up the hill for the queen to see the cross that was created by people.
In other words, we see that the given nursery rhyme states that the queen was nothing but a facade in her representation (Mills, 153). England knows several nursery rhymes of lady Godiva, who made a bet with her husband that she would ride the horse naked around the town, if he imposed a new tax on the city. She basically did what she said and rode the white horse naked around the town in order to fight for her idea that the town does not need new taxes. The citizen on the other hand in order to support her and not humiliate, would put up the shutters on the windows at the time she rode (Schiller, 30). Another famous nursery rhyme that was very popular in England was directed against the unpopular monarch King Edward I, who traveled to the city of Gloucester in the middle of a rain storm. Yet, when the king got there, his horse slipped and fell, thus making both the horse and the king end up in a puddle of mud all dirty and wet.
I have to add here that it was rather pathetic and humiliating for the British king to be in such a situation sitting in the puddle (Opie, 93). One needs to remember that during that time, the townsfolk had to use branches of wood to rescue the king and then subsequently use new clothes to save the king from cold weather conditions. At the very same time King Edward I indeed started to hate the place and swore that he would never ever again come to Gloucester. The townsfolk on the other hand enjoyed such news and immediately created a nursery rhyme that would in a few lines make it memorable for people even today (Warren, 60).
Another historical episode that was pictured in nursery rhyme is the fight for power and influence on the territory of the Royal kingdom of Great Britain. One nursery rhyme pictures a bishop of Glastonbury who had heard that Henry XIII (king) wanted to appropriate Glastonbury. The bishop, thus, cooked a pie with twelve deeds and sent it to the king to appease him and thus save his property and land. Yet while on the way, the messenger, Jack Horner, retained the deed and kept it for himself which contributed to his gradual ownership of the land (Mills, 155).
Political cartoon, on the other hand is a type of drawing used to present opinions, comments, or criticisms of a situation, person, or event describing the status quo of things in the given country or in the world. Cartoons, indeed help us understand any information by presenting it in a visual and memorable way. Cartoonists use many different techniques to achieve their goals: Caricature - exaggerating one or more physical features - a large mouth to show someone who often speaks out on an issue. Caricatures are the most popular forms of cartoons used in the modern world to critique the situations and status quo (Opie, 98).
Symbols - using a recognizable item to communicate an idea - an elephant to represent the Republican Party, fat cat representing a democrat party, bear representing Russia, Uncle Sam representing the USA, moon representing islam, etc (Schiller, 34). Caption are used to make the characters speak or summarizing the message in a few words above or below the cartoon to present a fuller image of the situation described in the cartoon (Mills, 158). I should draw the readers attention to the fact that America's earliest cartoons, created mostly in the first 13 states were political in nature. I have to add here that the first cartoon appeared in Ben Franklin's newspaper The Pennsylvania Gazette on May 9, 1754 and it gave a push to the caricature development in the USA. I must note that this caricature appeared as part of an editorial by Benjamin Franklin commenting on 'the present disunited state of the British Colonies (Warren, 66).
Another famous cartoon that we need to speak about and that it is as seen in the woodcut drawing titled 'Join or Die' that pictures a snake cut in eight pieces representing as many existing colonial governments that would not work together for the common good of a snake (or the USA). One has to remember that the drawing of a snake shown in the cartoon was based on the popular superstition that a any snake that had been cut in two would certainly come to life if the pieces were joined before sunset. One should not forget that the drawing of the cut snake had immediately caught the public's fancy and was reproduced in other newspapers and thus promoted the urgency in the decision making with respect to the uniting the states before sunset (Schiller, 40). Another early cartoon, I am going to speak about in this essay was created by the Massachusetts Centinel newspaper on January 30, 1788. The cartoon was titled 'The Federal Superstructure, 's hows several pillars standing upright, with only one (that represented Massachusetts) being in the wrong position. One sees then the helping hand that assists Massachusetts in getting into the right position.
The Massachusetts Centinel newspaper, that promoted the existing new Constitution, observed that 'The Pillar of the Great Federal Edifice rises daily and one has to unite to survive. I also need to note here that the pillars that represented the states of DE, PE, NJ, GE, CT were shown in position 'having already ratified the new document'. The point of that cartoon was to draw the readers attention to the need for the Constitutional ratification (Opie, 100). One should always remember that while the style of all America's early political cartoons does differ from the cartoons that are produced by the modern day activists and news newspapers it certainly pictures things that are still of great importance to people of nowadays.
In conclusion I would like to note that nursery rhymes were the first early attempts of people to critique the status quo and the rulers without the need of openly face the punishment. The modern day political cartoons are but another form of public criticism that in the USA appeared in the XVIII century and that still is present today as a mean of quick opinion presentation in the visual form which unlike the written form is much easier to remember and much more accepted by the populace. After all one picture or cartoon says a thousand words. Bibliography: web Opie, Iona Archibald, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford Dictionary Nursery Rhymes, 2 nd Ed), McGraw Hill, 2001. Schiller, Pamela Byrne, The Complete Book of Rhymes, Songs, Poems, Fingerplays, and Chants: Over 700 Selections, Prentice Hall, 2000.
Warren, Jean, Nursery Rhyme Theme-A-Saurus: The Great Big Book of Nursery Rhyme Teaching Themes, Penguin books, 2002. Mills, Alice, The Random House Children's Treasury: Fairy Tales, Nursery Rhymes & Nonsense Verse, NY Random House, 2002.
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