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Friday, December 31, 2010

One for Sorrow (Nursery Rhyme) magpies

Published C. 1780
Written in England

"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.[1] 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.[1]
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![1]
On occasion, jackdaws, crows, and other Corvidae are associated with the rhyme, particularly in America where magpies are less common.[2] Blackbirds have also been used in place of magpies (probably due to their coloring), though they belong to the family Muscicapidae.

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.[3]
The rhyme was quoted for counting crows in the 1989 film Signs of Life.[3]
The band Counting Crows took their name from the version in the film Signs of Life.[3] 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".

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