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The North Wind Doth Blow -- Anonymous

(Poem #646) The North Wind Doth Blow
 The north wind doth blow,
 And we shall have snow,
 And what will the robin do then,
 Poor thing?

 He'll sit in a barn,
 To keep himself warm,
 And hide his head under his wing,
 Poor thing.
-- Anonymous
One of the several nursery rhymes I learnt at my mother's knee (hi mum!).
This one has always been one of my favourites, possibly helped by the
wonderful illustrations that accompanied it in a number of children's poetry
books. Like many other nursery rhymes, this one has an associated tune - as
much chanted as sung, as is also typical of the genre, and rather dolorous,
as befits the poem.

Note: It practically goes without saying that there are several minor
variants of the poem, with no one version laying claim to definitiveness.
This is merely the wording I like best.

On Mother Goose:

  fictitious old woman, reputedly the source of the body of traditional
  children's songs and verses known as nursery rhymes. She is often pictured
  as a beak-nosed, sharp-chinned elderly woman riding on the back of a
  flying gander. "Mother Goose" was first associated with nursery rhymes in
  an early collection of "the most celebrated Songs and Lullabies of old
  British nurses," Mother Goose's Melody; or Sonnets for the Cradle (1781),
  published by the successors of one of the first publishers of children's
  books, John Newbery. The oldest extant copy dates from 1791, but it is
  thought that an edition appeared, or was planned, as early as 1765, and it
  is likely that it was edited by Oliver Goldsmith, who may also have
  composed some of the verses. The Newbery firm seems to have derived the
  name "Mother Goose" from the title of Charles Perrault's fairy tales,
  Contes de ma mère l'oye (1697; "Tales of Mother Goose"), a French folk
  expression roughly equivalent to "old wives' tales."

  The persistent legend that Mother Goose was an actual Boston woman,
  Elizabeth Goose (Vergoose, or Vertigoose), whose grave in Boston's Old
  Granary Burying Ground is still a tourist attraction, is false. No
  evidence of the book of rhymes she supposedly wrote in 1719 has ever been
  found. The first U.S. edition of Mother Goose rhymes was a reprint of the
  Newbery edition published by Isaiah Thomas in 1785.

        -- EB

Links: has a
large collection of nursery rhymes

I'd hoped to list a site that explained the stories behind some of the
nursery rhymes, but was unable to find one I liked. Suggestions welcomed.

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature on Nursery Rhymes


35 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Ylfnogard614 said...

Thanks for the memories.
Happy Holidays!

Norman Page said...

Re your Christmas Day poem, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, ed.
Iona and Peter Opie, Oxford, 1951, is a mine of information. The one you
give contains no particular historical allusions, of course, but rhymes
like Mary, Mary, quite contrary and Humpty Dumpty are another kettle of

Norman Page

Stephen Elliott said...

I'm looking for some Mother Goose nursery rhymes written in French. Any ideas?

Steve Elliott

acroanb said...

When the north wind doth blow as it is blowing now, my mind goes back many years to this little poem. I think I learned a lesson in compassion for God's little feathered creatures from this poem.,

Glyn Nicholas said...

I was glad to find this little poem on your web page when I looked it up this morning. With winter on its inexorable way, these lines have been in my head, but I couldn't recall the beginning of the second verse.
My father used to recite this to me when I was a young child in Cornwall, England, eighty years ago, but he always said, "What will Robin do then, poor thing?". This gave everything much more pathos and Robin the endearing character of a familiar friend, rather than the more abstract nature implied by 'the'. I didn't know this was from Mother Goose. It would be interesting to check the original.
Anyway, thank you.
P.S. The English robin is much smaller and has, possibly, a larger place in the people's heart and folklore than our larger American counterpart.

Linton Hall said...

Does anybody know the tune? My mother used to sing it but I can't quite

Gretchen Markin said...

On this April morning, I awoke to about three inches of snow on the ground. It reminded me of long ago springs when I was little, I used to worry about the birds when we had a late snow like that. My grandfather would quote that little nursery rhyme to me. It comforted me to know that they could take shelter in the barn. I used to think it was just something he made up, he was a great storyteller. So I thought I would look it up this morning, just to see, and find out that it is in fact a nursery rhyme. It was nice to see, and also to know that he quoted it exactly as you wrote it.


My introduction to Robin was in Kansas when I was a boy. One of my teachers
recited only the first verse and it was up to us to decide his future. I'm
glad to know he came to a comfortable end. Ray - rcbandy @

John Howard Wolf said...

You bring back memories from my kindergarten years 1941-43 in Philadelphia, Pa when we would sing this song, but not with ´the robin´ but ´poor birdy´, which fits the metrics better - from John Wolf, now in Portugal

Anonymous said...

Thank you for having the of my favorites....saved me hours searching old books. This being late Feb., in Maine, the poor robin came to mind: flocks of robins now here (on way to Canada?) and "we shall have snow" tomorrow and more later. They will certainly have heads under wings, as will I.
S.Dunn, Maine, USA

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