Happy May 1st! In honor of Mother Goose Day, I invited Mother Goose herself to sit down with me for an interview.
Mother Goose (hereafter MG): How do you do, and how do you do, and how do you do again? A dillar, a dollar, a ten o’clock scholar!
Me: Hello! Is that a greeting or a rhyme?
MG: I thought it might catch on as a greeting but people don’t seem to be taking to it.
Me: Probably because no one knows what a dillar is.
MG: Well the important part is that it sounds a little like “dollar.”
Me: Sure. Moving on—I think readers would like to know if you are actually a goose or a human or what.
MG: (Laughs) Oh I’m quite human. Though I often ride through the air on a very fine gander and fly up to the moon now and then.
Me: Ha ha. Wait, really?
MG: Haven’t you heard the rhyme?
Old Mother Goose,
When she wanted to wander,
Would ride through the air
On a very fine gander.
And Old Mother Goose
The goose saddled soon,
And mounting its back,
Flew up to the moon.
Me: Wow. I had never heard that before, but kudos to you, ma’am, for saddling a goose.
MG: Thank you.
Me: Do you go by “Old Mother Goose” then or just Mother Goose?
MG: Either is fine. “Old Mother” is just a really great way to start a rhyme. You say “Old Mother” and add a nonsensical word that rhymes with a common household object. It works with “Little Miss” too.
Me: Ah, so Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard. Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet…
MG: Little Nancy Etticoat with a white petticoat, Little Miss Tuckett sat on a bucket, Old Mother Shuttle lived in a coal scuttle…
Me: Ha ha ha. That’s taking it a bit far. Can I ask you what your advice is on parenting?
MG: Certainly. Children should always go to school. And then they should go to bed. After they put the kettle on and say their prayers. If you have a boy, his name should be John or Jack or my son John or little man Johnny. A girl, obviously, will be named Mary.
Me: Well, what about Jack and Jill?
MG: I was speaking of well-behaved children. Jack and Jill are miscreants who should be whipped.
Me: You advocate child whipping?
MG: Of course. “She whipped them all soundly and put them to bed,” remember?
Me: Whoa, isn’t that a little cruel?
MG: I take it you’ve never lived in a shoe with so many children you didn’t know what to do?
Me: Touché, Mother Goose. However, I can’t help but note that some of your rhymes seem a little bit dark.
MG: Really? Which one are you talking about? Is it
Three wise men of Gotham,
They went to sea in a bowl,
And if the bowl had been stronger,
My song would have been longer.
Me: Actually, no. That was funny.
MG: Well, how about
It’s raining, it’s pouring,
The old man is snoring;
Me: There’s nothing wrong with that one, actually—
MG: He got into bed
And bumped his head
And couldn’t get up in the morning.
Me: Oh wow. That actually is pretty dark.
MG: Of course, you have to remember that this was a different time. I mean, half of these rhymes are about livestock and porridge.
Me: Yeah. No one really says “pussycat” anymore.
MG: Really? How about “nimble” or “whither”? Victuals?
Me: Not really, no.
Me: Now, can we talk for a minute about the obsession you seem to have with the moon?
MG: Oh the moon! The moon!
I see the moon, And the moon sees me, And the moon sees somebody I want to see—
Me: Yes, but why—
MG: Hey diddle diddle, The cat and the fiddle, The cow jumped over the moon—
Me: I’ve wondered about that cow’s health ever since—
MG: There was an old woman tossed up in a basket, Nineteen times as high as the moon—
Me: Why nineteen? Nineteen seems pretty high. Like, excessively high.
MG: What’s the news of the day,
Good neighbor I pray?
They say the balloon
Is gone up to the moon!
Me: Yes, yes, we get it. You love the moon. Can I just ask why?
MG: Obviously because moon rhymes with so many things: swoon, spoon, noon, broom—
Me: Well, broom is debatable.
MG: (long stare)
Me: Okay, okay.
MG: And then there’s the old man in the moon. He’s such a charmer! Would you like me to put you in touch? His name is Aiken Drum and he lives somewhere in Norwich eating porridge, I believe…
Me: Actually, it’s about time to wrap up our interview. Can you share some parting words of wisdom with us?
MG: Certainly (clears throat).
If you are not handsome at twenty,
Not strong at thirty,
Not rich at forty,
Not wise at fifty,
You never will be.
Me: Er… yikes. That was depressing. Got anything cheerier?
MG: Let’s see. How about
When clouds appear like rocks and towers,
The earth’s refreshed by frequent showers.
Me: That’s actually quite nice. And on that note—
MG: Wait! I have another:
Touch blue, your wish will come true.
Those dressed in blue
Have loves true;
In green and white,
Me: Ha ha, you really like blue, don’t you? Well, it’s been a very interesting conversation. Good-bye, Mother Goose, and Happy Mother Goose Day!
MG: Hickory Dickory!