Two Little Dickie Birds

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"Two Little Dickie Birds"
Nursery rhyme
Published c. 1765

"Two Little Dickie Birds" is an English language nursery rhyme and fingerplay. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 16401.

Lyrics[edit]

Modern versions of the lyrics include:

Two little dickie birds sitting on a wall
One named Peter, one named Paul.
Fly away Peter! Fly away Paul!
Come back Peter! Come back Paul![1]

Origins[edit]

The rhyme was first recorded when published in Mother Goose's Melody in London around 1765. In this version the names of the birds were Jack and Gill:

There were two blackbirds
Sat upon a hill,
The one was nam'd Jack,
The other nam'd Gill;
Fly away Jack,
Fly away Gill,
Come again Jack,
Come again Gill.[1]

These names seem to have been replaced with the apostles Peter and Paul in the 19th century.[1]

Hand actions[edit]

The adult, out of sight of the child, will mark in some conspicuous way the nail of the index finger of one hand and the nail of the second finger of the other hand. Both hands are then shown to the child as fists (folded fingers downwards) with the two fingers with marked nails pointing forward – these represent Peter and Paul. As the rhyme is recited, the hand actions are:

Line Action
Two little dickie birds sitting on a wall Both of the exposed, marked, fingers are wiggled to attract attention
One named Peter Wiggle one marked finger, Peter, to attract attention
One named Paul Wiggle other marked finger, Paul, to attract attention
Fly away Peter The Peter hand is quickly drawn back alongside the adult’s head. As part of the movement the adult folds the marked finger and sticks out the second finger of the same hand and drops the hand back down to the original position. The child sees that the marking, Peter, is no longer there – it has flown away
Fly away Paul The action is repeated with the other hand
Come Back Peter The action is reversed to make Peter reappear
Come Back Paul The action is reversed to make Paul reappear

In popular culture[edit]

  • A pop version was recorded by Petula Clark in 1951, titled "Fly Away Peter, Fly Away Paul".
  • On Marvin, Welch and Farrar's eponymously titled debut album, released in 1971, the fifth track, the environmental protest song, "Silvery Rain," employs the line "Fly away Peter, Fly away Paul, repeatedly in its chorus.
  • Guitarist Jimmy Page laughingly states, "Fly away Peter, Fly away Paul," to summarize the events leading to the break-up of the English rock band, The Yardbirds, in an interview track (Disc 4, Track 22) appearing on a 5-disc compilation entitled "Glimpses" (c.2011 Easy Action).
  • On the 1975 album Minstrel in the Gallery by Jethro Tull song One White Duck / 010 = Nothing At All, makes a reference to the nursery rhyme: "So fly away Peter, and fly away Paul, from the fingertip ledge of contentment".
  • The nursery rhyme was included in Sesame Street, adding more birds in different places (sparrows, doves, robins and crows)
  • Arthur Askey's "Seagull Song" makes reference to "Fly away Peter, Fly away Paul".
  • Part I of the Red Riding Trilogy makes reference to the rhyme.
  • The 1936 novel Fly Away Paul by Victor Canning has characters Peter Gabriel and Paul Morison who are lookalikes and change identities.
  • The title of 1982 novel Fly Away Peter by David Malouf, is a direct reference to the rhyme.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd edn., 1997), p. 147.