Ring a Ring O Roses - Chords, Lyrics and Origins

Origins

Growing up in twentieth century Britain, Ring-a-Ring o’ Roses was ubiquitous (I assume it still is).  Like all of my contemporaries, I knew the words off by heart (not difficult, as there aren’t many of them!).  At some point in my teenage years, I came across the theory that the nursery rhyme embodied a folk memory of the plagues that ravaged Britain and Europe in medieval and early modern times (one example being the Great Plague of London that raged in 1665 and 1666).  The “ring o’ roses” were the red marks that appeared on sufferer’s skin, the ‘pocket full of poses’ referred to the sweet smell perceived by the afflicted shortly before death (or it might have been an allusion to herbs kept about the body in an attempt to ward off the disease).  And of course the words, “We all fall down” were a reference to mortality itself.

It turns out, however, that this interpretation is unlikely to be correct.  Firstly, there is no record of it prior to the twentieth century.  Secondly, there are several (probably earlier) versions of the lyrics in which the connections with the plague are not so clear.  And lastly, you could dispute whether the lyrics accurately describe plague symptoms - for example ‘fall down’ may be a reference to a curtsey rather than to literally falling over .  You can find out more in this Wikipedia article.  In short, interpreting the rhyme as a folk-memory of the plague is probably a fairy recent interpolation.

Chords

D
Ring-a-ring o' roses,

D
A pocket full of posies,
       
D

A-tissoo! A-tissoo!

     A7       D
We all fall down.

Lyrics

Ring-a-ring o' roses,
A pocket full of posies,
A-tishoo! A-tishoo!
We all fall down.

Other Nursery Rhymes and Children's Songs