BLTC Press Titles

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The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

A. Conan Doyle

Esoteric Buddhism

A. P. Sinnett

Knowledge of Higher Worlds and its Attainment

Rudolf Steiner

The Revolt of the Netherlands

Friedrich Schiller

Children's Rhymes, Children's Games, Children's Songs, Children's Stories

by Robert Ford


Having completed the verse, the child on whom the last word falls is said to be " out," and steps aside. At each repetition one in like manner steps aside, and the one who survives the ordeal until all the rest have been " chapped " or " titted " out is declared "it" or "takkie," and the game proceeds forthwith. Sometimes the formula employed in certain parts of Scotland, as I recollect, was for each boy to insert his finger into the leader's cap, around which all the company stood. The master of the ceremonies then with his finger allotted a word to each " finger in the pie." It might


Eenity, feenity, fickety, feg,
El, del, domen, egg,
Irky, birky, story, rock,
Ann, Dan, Toosh, Jock.

With the pronouncement of the word "Jock," the M.C.'s finger came down with a whack which made the one "chapped out" be withdrawn in a "hunder hurries." In some parts of America a peculiar method obtains. The alphabet is repeated by the leader, who assigns one letter to each child in the group, and when a letter falls to a child which is the same as the initial of his last name, that child falls out, and this is continued, observing the same plan, until only one child remains, who is "it." There are other forms, too, but none strikingly dissimilar. Where the little ones have been in haste to proceed with the game, and in no mood to waste time in counting out each one to the last, they have taken the sharper process of saying—

Red, white, yellow, blue,
All out but you,

and by the first reading fixed the relationship of parties. Now, a very important and interesting feature of these rhymes and their application, as I have said, is found in the fact that they prevail in a more or less identical form all over the world. When this is so, their common origin is placed almost beyond dispute. The question only, which perhaps no one can answer, is—Whence come they? It would not be hazarding too much to say, I think, that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in their turn as boys, with other boys of their time, each used a form of counting-out rhyme in the manner and for the purpose for which they are still in vogue by the boys and girls of the present day. Undoubtedly they found a precedent, if they did not actually themselves exercise a part, in the very ancient custom of casting lots, which prevailed among the heathen as well as among the chosen people of God in very early times. From sacred history we learn that lots were used to decide measures to be taken in battle; to select champions in individual contests; to determine the partition of conquered or colonised lands; in the division of spoil; in the appointment of Magistrates and other functionaries; in the assignment of priestly offices; and in criminal investigations, when doubt existed as to the real culprit. Among the Israelites, indeed, the casting of lots was divinely ordained as a method of ascertaining the Holy will, and its use on many interesting occasions is described in the Holy Scriptures. The simplicity of the process, and its unanswerable result, were appreciated by Solomon, who says: "The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty" (Prov. xviii. 18). In New Testament times, again, Matthias was chosen by lot to "take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas fell away" (Acts i. 24-26). The Babylonians, when about to wage war against another nation, were wont to determine which city should be attacked first by casting lots in a peculiar manner. The names of the cities were written on arrows. These were shaken in a bag, and the one drawn decided the matter (see Ezekiel xxi. 21-22). A like method of divination, called belomany, was current among the Arabians before Mahomet's rise, though it was afterwards prohibited by the Koran. By imitation of their elders, to which children are constantly prone—in the making of "housies," in nursing of dolls, etc. etc.—doubtless there came the countingout rhyme. What is not so easily understood is their existence in so many identical forms in so many widely distant lands. As an example of how cosmopolitan some of them are, let us track a familiar enough one for a fair distance and see how it appears in the national garb of the various countries in which it has found bed, board, and biding. All over Britain and America it goes:—

One, two, buckle my shoe,
Three, four, open the door,
Five, six, pick up the sticks,
Seven, eight, lay them straight,
Nine, ten, a good fat hen,
Eleven, twel', bake it well,

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