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Curly-locks -- Traditional

This week's theme: poems you've been moved to memorise
(Poem #1686) Curly-locks
 Curly-locks, Curly-locks, wilt thou be mine?
 Thou shalt not wash dishes, nor yet feed the swine,
 But sit on a cushion and sew a fine seam,
 And dine upon strawberries, sugar, and cream!
-- Traditional
Minstrels member Bronson Stocker suggested a great idea for a theme - "Must
memorise poems". I decided to alter that slightly, to poems that people have
been actually moved to memorise themselves - surely the sincerest indication
that a poem is worth memorising! However, my enthusiasm soon ran into a
small snag - I've already *run* all the poems I felt compelled to memorise,
most of them in the first fine careless rapture of starting Minstrels, and I
daresay Thomas has done the same.

Happily, I remembered that I've been meaning to run another nursery rhyme
for a while now, and nursery rhymes are surely the canonical example of
poems that people have memorised. They're also wonderful examples of
memorable poetry, with strong rhythms, perfect rhymes (the wonders of an
oral tradition) and (unlike a lot of children's poetry) a vocabulary that
does not condescend to the reader.

Indeed, I've learnt a fair amount from nursery rhymes - what a dapple horse
was, and a tuffet, and comfits, the names of a good many historic churches
in London (taking what I mentally called the "Oranges and Lemons tour as a
college student was a wonderful combination of discovery and nostalgia),
that Thirty Days had September, and a lot of other things that seeped in by
osmosis when I was simply enjoying the sounds and shapes of the words.

And why this particular nursery rhyme? Simply because to this day I cannot
eat a strawberry without having the beautifully rhythmic phrase "and dine
upon strawberries, sugar and cream" running through my mind. Some poems
simply work their way into your brain with no effort on your part.


[Folk Process]

Another, and, I speculate, later version runs:

    Bonny lass! bonny lass! will you be mine?
    Thou shalt neither wash dishes, nor serve the wine;
    But sit on a cushion, and sew up a seam,
    And dine upon strawberries, sugar and cream.

(I suspect the "later" because the specific "curly-locks" has been replaced
by the more generic "bonny lass", and "feed the swine" to the more genteel
"serve the wine". I could well be wrong, though.)

In the nursery rhyme, I've seen the word 'dine' in the last line replaced by
"feed", "sup" and "feast" variously; I've chosen to run the version I learnt
as a kid. Line 2 is sometimes "Thou shalt not wash *the* dishes",
suggesting that the first foot changes from "thou SHALT" to "thou shalt
NOT", arguably a more sensible stressing, but the two unstressed syllables
in the start break out of the poem's rhythm. I've also seen "nor feed the
swine", which matches the "Bonny lass" version above, but doesn't scan as
satisfyingly as "nor yet feed the swine"


Two pages speculating on the poem's origins:
  [broken link]


To reiterate, we're running a theme on poems you've been moved to memorise -
do send your favourites in!


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