Origins and variations
Originally the lyrics were:
- Georgie Porgie, pudding and pie,
- Kissed the girls and made them cry,
- When the girls came out to play,
- Georgie Porgie ran away.
These appeared in The Kentish Coronal (1841), where the rhyme was described as an "old ballad" with the name spelled "Georgy Peorgy". That version persisted through most of the 19th century and was later illustrated by Kate Greenaway in 1881. It was also quoted by Rudyard Kipling in the story named after it, published in 1891.
James Orchard Halliwell did not record the words in his collection of The nursery rhymes of England, but in the fifth edition of 1853 he included a variant:
- Rowley Powley, pumpkin pie,
- Kissed the girls and made them cry;
- When the girls begin to cry,
- Rowley Powley runs away.
But by 1884 a version had appeared in which the third line read "When the boys came out to play", and it was this reading which Peter and Iona Opie chose to perpetuate in their day in The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (1951). They also mentioned there various unsubstantiated conjectures that link the character Georgie Porgie to British historical figures, including King George I and George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, claims that have been copied in other works of reference to this day.
Among children the verse has been used as a rhyming taunt for boys called George, or else of fat boys. It is also used to harass a boy who is considered not sufficiently manly, either because he is thought to fancy a girl, or (with a switch of sexes in line two) who is accused of being homosexually inclined. It can also be used to tease a girl who fancies a boy, where, with other appropriate changes, she is addressed as "Rosie Posie".
The rhyme was included in National Nursery Rhymes (London, 1870), a volume illustrated by George Dalziel and Edward Dalziel, where the words were set to music by James William Elliott. And in 1885 they were set as a part song by the Canadian composer Joseph Gould under his musical pseudonym, Spencer Percival.
- The Kentish coronal, original prose and poetry by persons connected with the county of Kent, ed. by H.G. Adams, p.44
- Barbara A. Kissinger, Mother Goose of Yesteryear, Pelican 2008, p.21
- Life's Handicap: Being Stories of Mine Own People, Macmillan and Company (1891), p.60
- Section 14, Love and Matrimony, rhyme 488, p.248
- Thomas Darlington, The Folk-speech of South Cheshire, English Dialect Society (1887), p.12
- Nursery numbers, a new book of old rhymes, Marcus Ward & Co, 1884 p.35
- The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford University Press, 2nd edition, 1997), pp.185–6
- N. G. N. Kelsey, Games, Rhymes, and Wordplay of London Children, Palgrave Macmillan 2019, pp.501-2
- I. Kroupova, IS MU diploma thesis 2015, p.10
- Online copy available at the University of Florida, p.61
- The score is preserved at McGill University
- A modern performance on Good Night, Good Night, Beloved! and other Victorian part songs, Atma Classique 2012