Goosey Goosey Gander

This nursery rhyme had many versions, the earliest may have been in The Nursery Parnassus published in London in 1784. As with so many nursery rhymes, their meaning remains a mystery to chanting children (which is probably for the best). This rhyme likely referred to the Catholic priests’ hiding places during their persecution by King Henry VIII, and later Oliver Cromwell. Literary references include C.S. Lewis‘s The Lion, the Witch, and the WardrobeAgatha Christie‘s novel, N or M? and the BBC series, Upstairs, Downstairs for its namesake reference in the lyrics.

Goosey goosey gander,
Whither shall I wander?
Upstairs and downstairs
And in my lady’s chamber.
There I met an old man
Who wouldn’t say his prayers,
So I took him by his left leg
And threw him down the stairs.

Some versions have the additional concluding lines:

The stairs went crack,
He nearly broke his back.
And all the little ducks went,
‘Quack, quack, quack’.

We’ll add an alternate set of lines so you can keep singing, which may have been added in 1780:

Old father Long-Legs
Can’t say his prayers:
take him by the left leg,
And throw him downstairs.


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