The Traditional Children's Games of England Scotland
& Ireland In Dictionary Form - Volume 2

With Tunes(sheet music), Singing-rhymes(lyrics), Methods Of Playing with diagrams and illustrations.

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The occurrence of this rhyme suggests that there is some sort of divination in the oldest form of the game, and it appears to me that the origin of the game must be sought for among the ancient practices of divination. An example is found among the customs of the children of Glamorganshire during the cowslip season. The cowslip heads are strung on a piece of thread and tied into a " posty," and the play is to throw it up a tolerable height, catching it on the distended palm with a blow that sends it up again, while the player sings:— Pisty, posty, four and forty, How many years shall I live ? One, two, three, four, &c. Of course, if it falls to the ground uncaught, or even if caught in the clenched hand, there is an end of the player's u life." There is a good deal of emulation amongst the children as to who shall live the longest (Notes and Queries, 3rd ser., iii. 172). Miss Burne (Shropshire Folk-lore, p. 530) mentions the same custom, giving the rhyme as—
Toss-a-ball, toss-a-ball, tell me true How many years I've got to go through, and she says the cowslip is thence called a " tissy-ball." In this custom we have no artificial aids to form a game, but we have a significant form of divination from natural flowers, accompanied by a rhyming formula exactly parallel to the rhymes used in the Leicestershire game of u Shuttlecock," and I conclude therefore that we have here the true origin of the game. This conclusion is confirmed when it is found that divina-tory verses generally accompany the popular form of the game.
At Wakefield the children playing " Battledore and Shuttle­cock " take it in turn, and say the following sentences, one clause to each bat, and repeated until the shuttlecock falls:—
1st. This year, next year, long time, never.
2nd. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
3rd. Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man, poor man, beggar-man, thief.
4th. Silk, satin, cotton, rags.
5 th. Coach, carriage, wheelbarrow, donkey-cart.—Miss Fowler

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