|Baa baa black sheep|
Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full,
One for the master, one for the dame,
And one for the little boy who lives down the lane.'
Although this rhyme was first published in 1744 it is believed to have been around for much longer. In fact, it is thought that it was written in the Middle Ages during the reign of King Edward II (1307 - 1327). This seemingly innocent children's nursery rhyme about a black sheep yielding three bags of wool actually has political undertones like many of the nursery rhymes from that era.
During the Middle Ages the wool industry in England was huge and wool was a very valuable commodity. England produced the best wool in Europe and peasants were required to pay their taxes in the form of sacks of wool. They gave a third to the King (the master), a third to the nobility (the dame) and they were allowed to keep the final third for themselves (the little boy who lived down the lane). To be honest, taxes nowadays don't seem quite so bad when you think about it!
I find it amazing that this rhyme has survived for 700 years and that we are still teaching it to our children in the 21st Century.