Jack Be Nimble

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This article is about the nursery rhyme. For the 1993 film, see Jack Be Nimble (Film).
"Jack Be Nimble"
Roud #13902
Jack Be Nimble 1 - WW Denslow - Project Gutenberg etext 18546.jpg
William Wallace Denslow's illustrations for Jack Be Nimble, from a 1901 edition of Mother Goose
Song
Written England
Published c. 1815
Language English
Form Nursery rhyme
Writer Traditional
Language English

"Jack Be Nimble" is an English language nursery rhyme. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 13902.

Lyrics[edit]

The most common version of the rhyme is:

Jack be nimble,
Jack be quick,
Jack jump over
The candlestick.[1]

Origins and meaning[edit]

Jack is a dog, in Denslow's version

The rhyme is first recorded in a manuscript of around 1815 and was collected by James Orchard Halliwell in the mid-nineteenth century.[1] Jumping candlesticks was a form of fortune telling and a sport. Good luck was said to be signalled by clearing a candle without extinguishing the flame.[1]

In other media[edit]

A variation of this rhyme is featured in the song "American Pie", by Don McLean in 1971, with a play on the title of the Rolling Stones song, "Jumpin' Jack Flash":

Jack be nimble,
Jack be quick
Jack Flash sat on a candlestick
'Cause fire's the devil's only friend.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd edn., 1997), pp. 226-7.