- One for Sorrow (nursery rhyme)
"One for Sorrow"
Written by Traditional Published c. 1780 Written England Language English Form Nursery rhyme
"One for Sorrow" is a traditional children's nursery rhyme about magpies. According to an old superstition, the number of magpies one sees determines if one will have bad luck or not. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 20096.
There is considerable variation in the lyrics used. The following is perhaps the most common modern version:
- One for sorrow
- Two for joy
- Three for a girl
- Four for a boy
- Five for silver
- Six for gold
- Seven for a secret, never to be told
- Eight for a wish
- Nine for a kiss
- Ten for a bird you must not miss
The rhyme has its origins in superstitions connected with magpies, considered a bird of ill omen in some cultures, and in England, at least as far back as the early sixteenth century. The rhyme was first recorded around 1780 in a note in John Brand's Observations on Popular Antiquitites on Lincolnshire with the lyric:
- One for sorrow,
- Two for mirth,
- Three for a wedding,
- And four for death.
One of the earliest versions to extend this was published, with variations, in M. A. Denham's Proverbs and Popular Saying of the Seasons (London, 1846):
- One for sorrow,
- Two for luck; (or mirth)
- Three for a wedding,
- Four for death; (or birth)
- Five for silver,
- Six for gold;
- Seven for a secret,
- Not to be told;
- Eight for heaven,
- Nine for [hell]
- And ten for the d[evi]l's own sell!
On occasion, jackdaws, crows, bluebirds, and other Corvidae are associated with the rhyme, particularly in America where magpies are less common. Blackbirds have also been used in place of magpies (probably due to their coloring), though they belong to the family Turdidae.
In popular culture
- A version of the rhyme was used as the theme music to the British TV programme Magpie in the 1960s and 70s.
- The rhyme was quoted for counting crows in the 1989 film Signs of Life.
- The band Counting Crows took their name from the version in the film Signs of Life. The rhyme itself is referenced in their song "A Murder of One", from the album August and Everything After.
- All of the preceding variations are used by different characters in Terry Pratchett's novel Carpe Jugulum, wherein the antagonists, a family of vampires, take the form of magpies.
- A version of the rhyme was partly used for Patrick Wolf's song "Magpie".
- A version of the rhyme was partly used for RebekkaMaria's song "Pica Pica".
- A version of the rhyme was partly used for Band Of Skulls's song "Patterns".
- A version of the rhyme was partly used for Corinne Bailey Rae's song "Choux Pastry Heart".
- A version of the rhyme was partly recited by the character Eric in The Crow.
- A version of the rhyme was recited by the character Ashe in The Crow: City of Angels.
- A version of the rhyme was recited by the character Eve in The Sandman: Parliament of Rooks, and later reprised by Delirium in The Sandman: The Wake.
- The rhyme is featured in the book The Seven Magpies by the late Monica Hughes, where it is a big part of the plot.
- Finnish melodic death metal band, Insomnium named their fifth studio album after the poem.
- Terry Pratchett uses the ryhme and a variant version in the book Carpe Jugulum.
- ^ a b c I. Opie and M. Tatem, eds, A Dictionary of Superstitions (Oxford University Press, 1989), pp. 235-6.
- ^ J. M. Marzluff, A. Angell, P. R. Ehrlich, In the Company of Crows and Ravens (Yale University Press, 2007), p. 127.
- ^ a b c D. Wilson, Rock Formations: Categorical Answers to How Band Names Were Formed (Cidermill Books, 2004), p. 21.
- Binney, Ruth (2004). Wise Words and Country Ways: Traditional Advice and Whether It Works Today. David & Charles. pp. 223. ISBN 0715318462.
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