Ring Around the Rosie
The usually accepted story behind the rhyme is that this was about the black plague, where symptoms included circles around the eyes (ring around the rosies). The sores accompanying the plague also were circled by a red, raised scab. Ashes, ashes could refer to the dried blood that was coughed up or perhaps the fact that the bodies of he dead were burned in an effort to stop the spread of the disease. In Ireland, the usual third line is "atisshoo,' as in a sneeze, as sneezing was one symptom of the plague. The pocket full of posies could point to the old belief that the scent of flowers protected against the disease, or simply that flowers were carried to mask the bad smells of the dead and dying. It was believed that the bad odors odors coming from the victims helped to spread the plague. The last line about falling down simply recognizes that those who contracted the plague almost always did fall down dead. Or... maybe none of this is true. See http://www.snopes.com/language/literary/rosie.htm Who knows?
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