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This little jingle starts lilting through my mind about this time every year. I’ve been singing it since I was a child. Undoubtedly it was a part of my elementary education at the old brick elementary country school, Jeffries, southwest of Mt. Vernon.
A goose was standard culinary fare for the English and was often fed extra before Christmas to fatten them for the Christmas feast. A ha’penny is a half penny--a very, very old coin dating back to the Saxons and the 13th century.
The jingle has been called “the charitable lyrics nursery rhyme.” The credit of this poem/song goes to Edith Nesbit. She lived 158 years ago, born August 15, 1858, in Kennington, Surrey, England. Her occupation: poet and writer of children’s books.
Apparently Edith Nesbit felt that children’s books of the day were not addressing the needs of the child--something most of us can understand. The Alice in Wonderland fantasy did not hold many real-world truths.
Although some of Nesbit’s children’s books did include magic and fantastical world travel, the children were identifiably real. She published a prodigious number of children’s books, some of which have been made into movies. The Railway Children, The Story of the Treasure Seekers and The Wouldbegoods are three titles you may recognize.
Nesbit married Hubert Bland in 1877. Their marriage was an unusual one with Nesbit raising two of Hubert’s illegitimate children. Apparently, their ideals were matched for they helped found the Fabian Society, “a precursor of the Labour Party.” She saw much good in socialism and wrote and lectured to that end.
Nesbit remarried, after the death of Bland, Thomas Tucker. He was called “the skipper” being a ferry boatman engineer. Throughout her life, from childhood on, Nesbit lived in a variety of places, including numerous communities in France. She died in Kent, England on May 4, 1924.
The nursery rhyme’s message is real and imperative anytime and especially now during the Christmas season. “If you haven’t got a penny then a ha’penny will do…” We may not have the old coin, a half penny, but we have more. Helping the poor and needy is a call the Bible requests often of us. Deuteronomy 15:11 “For the poor will never cease out of the land: therefore I command you saying, You shall surely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and to your poor, in your land.”
Although the economic times may make it tight for us, thinking of a good deed you can bestow upon another this Christmas will gloriously brighten your holidays and that of another. Remember, “Christmas is a coming.”
Copyright ©Ann Rains
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