Humpty dumpty full rhyme

What are the origins of ‘Humpty Dumpty Sat on a Wall’, and what do the lyrics mean?

30 July 2021, 09:40

What are the origins of ‘Humpty Dumpty Sat on a Wall’, and what do the lyrics mean? Picture: Alamy

By Rosie Pentreath


We explore the origins, history and lyrics of one of the most popular children’s songs in the English-speaking world.

Humpy Dumpty sat on the wall is one of the nation’s most enduringly popular nursery rhymes.

But who was Humpty Dumpty? What brought him to that wall? And how did he fall off?

We unpack the origins, history, lyrics and meaning of one of the most well-known children’s songs in the English-speaking world.

Read more: ‘Old MacDonald Had a Farm’ reworked in the style of Beethoven is a stroke of genius

What are the origins of ‘Humpty Dumpty Sat on a Wall’?

In 1870, a chap called James William Elliott included ‘Humpty Dumpty’ when he collected together a load of English nursery rhymes and songs, set them to music, and published them in a volume called Mother Goose’s Nursery Rhymes and Nursery Songs Set to Music, with beautiful engravings by London engravers, The Brothers Dalziel.

Before that, the rhyme can be traced back to the 18th century, and variations in lyrics (see below) have been recorded over time. It’s not clear who originally conceived the four-line poem.

Who was Humpty Dumpty?

Humpty Dumpty is the protagonist of the English nursery rhyme, ‘Humpty Dumpty Sat on a Wall’.

Perhaps due to his fragility revealed in the fall, he has often been portrayed as an egg – including by actor George L. Fox in his Broadway pantomime Humpty Dumpty, and by Lewis Caroll in his weird and wonderful Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Read more: There are lyrics to ‘Happy Birthday’ that you literally never knew about

What is the meaning behind the nursery rhyme?

There are other theories around the meaning of ‘Humpty Dumpty’. Some historians believe Humpty Dumpty was simply a device for a riddle around breakable things.

Others have suggested that Humpty Dumpty is King Richard III of England, who is supposed to have been humpbacked and who was defeated at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

We could assume Humpty Dumpty is the King, the wall is his reign and fight to preserve power, the fall is his defeat, and ‘All the king’s horses and all the king’s men’ the army that failed to prevail.

Another theory is that Humpty is actually a cannon. During the English Civil War, history says, a one-eyed gunner named Thompson managed to get a cannon – colloquially called ‘Humpty Dumpty’, to the top of the tower of St Mary at the Walls church and wreak untold destruction on the forces below, before return cannon fire dislodged the pair of them. Hence “had a great fall”.

Alice meets Humpty Dumpty. Picture: Alamy

A professor David Daube once had a fourth theory to add. In 1956, he posited that ‘Humpty Dumpty’ might have been reference to an armoured siege engine that was deployed unsuccessfully in the 1643 Siege of Gloucester during the English Civil War. This one was soon dismissed as a bit of a spoof by academics – but not before English composer Richard Rodney Bennett took the plot and ran with it for his children’s opera, All the King's Men.

Interestingly, Francis Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue from 1785 – we’re totally imagining this as the Urban Dictionary of its time – defines ‘Humpty Dumpty’ as “a short clumsy person of either sex; also ale boiled with brandy”, so the rhyme could have derived from either meaning.

Although – we have a bit of a chicken or the egg dilemma here: what came first? ‘Humpty Dumpty’ the Grose definition as chicken, or ‘Humpty Dumpty’ the egg? Take a look at the lyrics, and see what you think...

Humpty Dumpty Sat on a Wall – full lyrics

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men,
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

Humpty Dumpty – oldest known lyrics (1797)

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
Four-score Men and Four-score more,
Could not make Humpty Dumpty where he was before.

Behind the Meaning of ‘Humpty Dumpty’, the Nursery Rhyme

It’s a refrain we learn as children:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

But just because we’re aware of something, doesn’t mean we know much about it.

Where did this nursery rhyme come from and what does it mean, exactly? Who is Humpty Dumpty and why was he sitting on a wall, to begin with?

Answering these questions is precisely the point of this feature. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the meaning behind the song, “Humpty Dumpty.”

Origins of Humpty Dumpty

The main character of the little song, or nursery rhyme, is an egg named Humpty Dumpty. The song, which has origins in England, most likely began as a riddle. The first recorded version of the rhyme dates back to 1797 and the song was written in 1870 in James William Elliot’s book, National Nursery Rhymes and Nursery Songs.

In the United States, the story was made popular by the Broadway actor George L. Fox in the pantomime musical of the same name, which ran from 1868 to 1869 with a total of nearly 500 performances.

In 1871, Humpty Dumpty was referred to in Lewis Carroll’s 1871 book, Through the Looking-Glass, which was a sequel to Alice in Wonderland. In that book, Humpty Dumpty was described as an egg. And author James Joyce used Humpty as a metaphor for the fall of man in the novel Finnegans Wake.

Rhyme Structure

Today, the nursery rhyme is delivered as a single “quatrain,” or four-line effort, which follows the AABB rhyme scheme. The melody commonly associated with the rhyme was first recorded by composer and nursery rhyme collector, James William Elliott.

However, the earliest version of the rhyme comes from 1797 and looks and sounds much different compared to the more commonly known version and meaning today. Those lyrics go:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
Four-score Men and Four-score more,
Could not make Humpty Dumpty where he was before.

Further, in 1810 a different version was recorded with slightly different wording and meaning:

Humpty Dumpty sate on a wall,
Humpti Dumpti had a great fall;
Threescore men and threescore more,
Cannot place Humpty dumpty as he was before.

Later, other versions popped up, though they didn’t have as long a shelf-life, if you will, as the more commonly known versions today.

The Oxford English Dictionary

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, in the 17th century, the term “humpty dumpty” referred to a drink made of brandy boiled with ale. The term also was an 18th-century bit of slang for a short and clumsy person.

The Egg, The Riddle

Originally, the nursery rhyme may have been more of a riddle to recite—perhaps in bars as people drank their brandy in ale.

The riddle may have had an answer for the question: what might sit on a wall and, when it falls, can’t be put back together again? Answer: an egg.

Now, though, the answer is baked into the riddle and verse because it is so well known.

Others have suggested that Humpty Dumpty is, in fact, a reference to King Richard III of England who was depicted as a humpback in several places, including in Shakespeare’s play.

Others have suggested Humpty was a reference to a Cardinal or even a tortoise.

More recently, Humpty has shown up more and more in pop culture. The pop band AJR even wrote a song named after the famous egg, using him as a metaphor for keeping secrets.

Ultimate Conclusions

“Humpty Dumpty” remains one of the most famous nursery rhymes ever. Because it’s short, it’s fun and it’s concise, largely.

But also because it’s mysterious. Reciting the rhyme, one can’t help but wonder: what does this mean?

Perhaps it’s a metaphor for things breaking. Once an egg is shattered this is no putting it back together, not for you, not for the king’s men.

Or, maybe, more than a metaphor for a shattered vase, it’s a reference to a fallen king or monarch. Once a leader falls, there is no going back.

Another theory is that a “Humpty Dumpty” was a slang term for a cannon that was managed to get atop a tower wall and fire down below. Really, though, it could mean anything. A cannon, a king, an egg, a vase, a short person, a drink, an idea.

In the end, that’s the point. Humpty Dumpty can be anything.

Even us.

Illustration by Sir John Tenniel 19th Century Illustration /

Mother Goose Rhymes


Mother Goose
Jumped across the field
Mother Goose
Lost feathers.

We will collect feathers
Let's collect in baskets,
And sew pillows
And sew feather beds.

To fly dreams,
Came at night,
So that dense forests
Seen firsthand.

In the meadows in the wild
On the blue hills,
Rides to us across the field
Mother Goose.


Mother goose,
And also a gander,
Went out for a walk
Just for the night.

But they called the birds
To the Queen soon,
So that the royal daughter
Take over the sea.

And on the towers - flags,
Soldiers drink grog…
On a tramp's hat
Gray pen.

Daughter dropped,
Leaving into the distance…
And she said: Dear -
Together, never.

Royal Pie

Arthur was a glorious king,
He was merciful and strict,
He stole three bags of flour
For a birthday cake,

I put plums in the stuffing,
Cinnamon, sugar, salt,
And bacon in the hand with a thickness of
That's why he is the king!

With the whole yard he ate a pie,
Bay with a jet of wine,
And what I couldn’t finish eating that night,
Wife fried.

King Pepin

King Pepin was very small,
But he built a palace,
From the wall cake ordered
And the roof is a lollipop,

They made an oven out of marshmallow,
And the palace was ready,
And keep it from mice
They put the cats.


Led for the crown mortal combat with a lion unicorn
A lion chased a unicorn along city roads,
Who gave them black bread, and who gave them a pie.
And then they were driven under the drum over the threshold.


Lady Tambourine
Cooked the broth,
Invited guests to dinner,

But this broth is
Lady Tambourine
Stole the Jack of the Cross

King Tambourine
Learned about broth
And he ordered to catch the thief,

There was immediately broth
Back returned,
And they decided to execute the thief.


Five bags of wheat,
Golden Castle!
Twenty Two Crows
Baked in a pie,

Baked, cut,
The king is being carried,
And the crows croak -
Songs are sung.

And the king is in the closet
Guards money,
Well, the Queen
Drinking beer in the bedroom,

And her maid
Out in the cold,
Her crow immediately,
bit off nose


The French king climbed the mountain
And with him forty thousand soldiers
The French king left the mountain
And didn't come back.

Key to the kingdom

Here is the key to the kingdom,
In the kingdom city,
And in the city - street,
And on the street there is a yard,
There is a high house in the yard,
This house has a bedroom,
Cradle in the bedroom,
In the cradle of lilies of the valley,
Full basket,
Lily of the valley,
Lilies of the valley
Full basket.

Lilies of the valley - in a basket,
Basket in the cradle,
Cradle in the bedroom,
A bedroom in the house,
The house stands in the middle of the yard,
The yard faces the street,
A street in the city,
City in the kingdom.
Here is the key to the kingdom,
Key to the kingdom. nine0005


I am a king. Here is my palace.
And you are a bum and a scoundrel.


At the King and his Queen,
There were three daughters, young virgins,
All three royal daughters lived
Not in the palace, but under the gutter - in a barrel,
Overturned and cracked barrel,
The daughters fell out of the barrel. And point.
Be this barrel a little stronger
The song about daughters would be longer


Humpty - Dumpty sat on the wall,
Humpty - Dumpty fell down in a dream
And all the royal cavalry, and all the royal army
Can't Humpty, Can't Dumpty,
They cannot collect Humpty-Dumpty.

Three gifts

Half a dozen pins
I present to you,
And be my wife
I humbly ask you.
I hope you go dancing with me, with me0007 And you will be my wife.

Half a dozen pins
I will not accept from you
Half a dozen pins
Need you yourself
You will not dance with me, with me, with me.
And I will not be your wife.

Crystal bell,
I give you, my friend
When you wake up at night,
Wake up your servants,
I hope you will go dancing with me, with me,
And you will be my wife. nine0005

Crystal Bell,
I will not take from you,
Your stupid bell
Nothing for me at night.
You will not dance with me, with me, with me.
And I will not be your wife.

I brought you a ring -
Love is the last gift.
Diamond ring
And a velvet case,
I hope you will go dancing with me, with me,
And you will be my wife.

I like the ring,
It burns like heat,
Leave me a ring
And a velvet case,
Can I let you dance with me, with me,
And I agree to be your wife.

Half a dozen pins
I brought it for the first time,
And very upset,
Hearing your refusal,
Crystal bell,
Then I brought you,
You brought me to tears with your refusal,
Now brought a ring,
Love is the last gift,
You accepted the ring
And a velvet case,
And you agree to marry this time...

Yes, I will not marry you.


This news to you,
I'll tell you a secret,
Bridge over Lamand collapsed,
Yes - yes, my joy,
Yes - yes, my joy,
He took it and suddenly collapsed.

If from logs
It was built,
The logs must have rotted,
Yes - yes, my joy,
Yes - yes, my joy
They took it and simply rotted,

And if he was
Built from stones,
The stones must have worn out,
Yes - yes, my joy,
Yes - yes, my joy
They took it and just got worn out.

And if from steel
He was erected,
That rust ate this steel. nine0007 Yes - yes, my joy,
Yes - yes, my joy
I took it and just ate it.

But I know the way!
And I suggest
From gold we build a bridge
Yes - yes, my joy,
Yes - yes, my joy
From gold to take and build,

And so that everyone knows
And they didn't steal,
You need to put a cannon on the bridge,
Yes - yes, my joy,
Yes - yes, my joy
Place a soldier and a cannon,

And so that the guard
Stayed up all night,
Give a soldier wine and a pipe,
Yes - yes, my joy,
Yes - yes, my joy
A girl, a barrel and a pipe.


- How many miles to Babylon?
- Miles, that way fifty.
- Can I get there in the morning?
- You're still coming back.

Kohl live at night go
And don't count the crows,
You can go anywhere,
Not like in Babylon.

Three trappers

Three brave trappers
Hunted in the woods,
Over them a full month
Shined in heaven,
- Look, it's a month,
Yawning, said one,
Another said: - Plate!
And the third shouted: - Damn!

Three brave trappers
Wandered all day
And in the evening towards
A deer ran towards them.
One said: - Not a word!
Deer in the bush!
Another said: - Cow!
A third shouted: - Stump!

Three brave trappers,
Sitting under a bush,
And someone on the birch
Wagged his tail.
One exclaimed: - Squirrel!
Shoot what you see!
Another said: - Dog!
And the third shouted - Mouse! nine0005


One day twenty-five tailors
Engaged in battle with a snail
In the hands of each of them
There was a needle and thread,

But barely legs carried away
Tailors from the enemy,
When seen in the distance
Snail horns.


Dogs bark, into the city in darkness
There is a beggar flock
Who is in torn clothes,
Who is in a tattered matting,
Who is in velvet and ermine.


- Hey, well done blacksmith,
My stallion limped.
You kick him again.
There was a needle and thread,

- Why not shoe
Here is a nail, here is a horseshoe.
One-two and done..


Barber, barber,
Sheared the pig for us.
And how many bristles
Will he go for a wig?

He will take fifty
Pig's bristles,
And an excellent
will come out Wig for the judge.

B start

Page 2

Mother Goose Rhymes Book - read online for free, author Collection

Mother Goose Rhymes

Mother Goose Rhymes is a famous collection of poems, songs, riddles, rhymes, teasers, lullabies and other funny things. Perhaps there is not a single child in English-speaking countries who does not know this book. Her characters have become an integral part of our lives. This is Humpty Dumpty, and the inseparable Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and the Queen of Hearts, and Jack, who built the house, and the Crooked Legs Man, and many others. Some of the poems from this collection are familiar to our readers from the translations of Korney Chukovsky and Samuil Marshak. This book is the most complete in existence. The author of excellent translations is Rodin Igor Olegovich, a writer, publisher, playwright and translator. All translations are truly masterful and imbued with sparkling, real English humor. The book is bilingual, that is, a bilingual publication. Parallel to the Russian translation is the English text. nine0005

Rhymes of Mother Goose

Mother Goose and her funny rhymes

English children's poetry has a very long and rich history. In different eras, poems appeared, both composed by adults for children, and invented by the children themselves so that the games they played were more fun and exciting.

By the time the first large collection of children's English poems (XVIII century) appeared in print, there were a huge number of such works. The Opie spouses selected the most interesting works from this gigantic amount and compiled a book, which they called "Mother Goose Rhymes" - after one of the popular characters in nursery rhymes. The variety of works that make up this collection is truly amazing. There are poems, and songs, and counting rhymes, and teasers, and fairy tales, and lullabies, and much more. nine0005

Since then, the collection has been supplemented, expanded, corrected and sold around the world in a huge number of editions. Perhaps there is not a single child in English-speaking countries who does not know this book. Her characters have become not only an integral part of culture, but also entered as characters in the works of many authors. The most striking example is the famous books about Alice by Lewis Carroll, which are literally “stuffed” with quotes from Mother Goose Rhymes. This is Humpty Dumpty, and the inseparable Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and the Lady of the Crosses, and many others. nine0005

There are characters from "Mother Goose Rhymes" in Pamela Travers's well-known books about the wonderful nanny Mary Poppins, and in "Winnie the Pooh" by Alexander Milne. Under its influence, the work of one of the greatest English poets, the founder of the "poetry of the absurd" (or "nonsense") Edward Lear, whose follower and admirer was Lewis Carroll, took shape.

The translation of "Rhymes" into Russian began in the 19th century, but the real acquaintance of the Russian reader with these works took place after the appearance of translations by Korney Chukovsky and Samuil Marshak. Although they translated only a few verses from this book, these translations immediately gained great popularity. About Humpty-Dumpty, even the British wrote that Marshak "made him Russian" with his translation. The same can be said about the poems “What are boys only made of . ..”, “Poodle” (translated by Marshak), “There lived an old man with crooked legs in the world ...”, “Barabek” (translated by Chukovsky) and many others. nine0005

It is quite difficult to translate poems from the collection “Rhymes of Mother Goose”: after all, with all their outward simplicity, it is necessary to achieve the same simplicity in Russian. Yes, and to be funny, it also does not interfere. All these translations were made by me for more than 15 years. How it happened is for the reader to judge. In addition, the book will be of interest not only to those who are interested in English poetry, but also to those who study English.

I. Rodin


Old King Cole

Old King Cole
Was a merry old soul,
And a merry old soul was he.
He called for his pipe,
And he called for his bowl,
And he called for his fiddlers three.

Every fiddler, he had a fiddle,
And a very fine fiddle had he.
Twee, tweedle, dee,
Tweedle, dee, dee,
Went the fiddlers.
Oh there's none so rare
As can compare,
With King Cole and his fiddlers three.


Hector Protector

Hector Protector was dressed all in green;
Hector Protector was sent to the Queen.
The Queen did not like him,
No more did the King;
So Hector Protector was sent back again.


Sing a Song of Sixpence

Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye;
Four-and-twenty blackbirds
Baked in a pie.

When the pie was opened
The birds began to sing.
Was not that a dainty dish
To set before the king? nine0005

The king was in his counting-house,
Counting out his money;
The queen was in the parlour,
Eating bread and honey.

The maid was in the garden,
Hanging out the clothes;
‘Long came a blackbird
And snapt off her nose.


"A carrion crow sat on an oak..." a tailor shape coat. nine0007 Sing heigh ho, the carrion crow,
Fol de riddle, lol de riddle, hi ding ho.

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