Jack Be Nimble

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"Jack Be Nimble"
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
Nursery rhyme
Published c. 1815

"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.

It is also a line in Lindsey Buckingham's song "Holiday Road", featured in National Lampoon's Vacation:

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick,
Take a ride on the West Coast kick.
Holiday road.

It is used in Welcome To The Void by the psychedelic rock band Morgen on their album Morgen in 1969:

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick,
Jack jump over the candlestick,
Ouch, said Jack as he touched the lighted wick,
My God, you know that fire burns.

It is used in "My Medicine" by Snoop Doog:

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick
Jacked up the spoon on the candlestick.

It also features in the song "Limbo Rock," by Chubby Checker:

Jack be limbo, Jack be quick.
Jack go under limbo stick.

The group Set It Off also uses it in his song Wolf in Sheep's Clothing.

Jack, be nimble, Jack be quick
Jill's a little * and her alibis are dirty tricks

The video game The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion contains a quest called "Boots of Springheel Jak" in which the player must retrieve a pair of boots with the same name. The owner of said boots is, in keeping with the popular image, a vampire by the name of "Jakben, Earl of Imbel". The quest and boots are a reference to the mythical Spring-heeled Jack, whereas the character is a reference to both Spring-heeled Jack and "Jack Be Nimble".

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.