Meaning of rhyme

Posted by Bruce Kahl on January 12, 2002

In Reply to: Meaning of rhyme posted by John on January 12, 2002

: Does anyone know the origin and meaning of this ryhme:
: Hark, hark the dogs do bark,
: The beggers are coming to town.
: Some in rags, and some in tags,
: and one in a velvet gown.

While not the whole nine on this nursery rhyme here are a few theories I found from various sources:

1---There is a suggestion that the rhyme speaks of the condition in Queen Elizabeth's day when wandering beggars were so numerous that they were becoming a menace to society.

2---A tradition states that the beggars were Dutchmen who accompanied King William III to England. 'Beggars' is believed to have been a common epithet for the Dutch at that time.

3---This verse strikes terror into the hearts of Welsh children, who are much afraid of beggars and tramps.
In many parts of Wales there are places called Beggar's Bush, Beggar's Field, or Beggar's Pound. The name, according to some authorities, is derived from the mendicant friars who probably took up their quarters on those spots, and there preached and begged alms for various religious purposes.

4---The rhyme is also said to be about the mob of Dutchmen that William of Orange brought over with him to England in 1688, with the "one in a velvet gown" being the Prince himself. Or else it is a reference to Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries, forcing monks to beg on the streets for a living.