Jack Sprat


Version 1

Jack Sprat could eat no fat,
His wife could eat no lean;
And so between them both, you see,
They licked the platter clean.

Source: Songs the Children Love to Sing (1916)

Version 2

Jack Sprat could eat no fat
His wife could eat no lean
And so betwixt the two of them
They licked the platter clean

Jack ate all the lean,
Joan ate all the fat.
The bone they picked it clean,
Then gave it to the cat.

Jack Sprat was wheeling,
His wife by the ditch.
The barrow turned over,
And in she did pitch.

Says Jack, “She’ll be drowned!”
But Joan did not reply,
“I don’t think I shall,
for the ditch is quite dry.”

Source: Mother Goose’s Nursery Rhymes (1817)


Version 3

Jack Sprat he loved no fat,
and his wife she lov’d no lean:
And yet betwixt them both,
they lick’t the platters clean.

Source: Ray, English Proverbs (1670)



Historical Background

There are a number of historical interpretations of “Jack Sprat.” One theory claims that the rhyme refers to King Charles I (1625 – 1649) and his queen, Henrietta Maria (1609 – 1669). When Charles declared war on Spain, the parliament “left him lean,” failing to fund his cause. In result, the bitter King implemented an illegal war tax without Parliament’s consent “to get some fat.” Another analysis connects the rhyme to Richard I, also known as Richard the Lionheart (1157 – 1199), and his younger brother King John (1166 – 1216). John was married to Joan, the greedy daughter of the Earl of Gloucester (“Joan ate all the fat”). When Richard was taken for ransom by Duke Leopold, John had to leave the country destitute in order to raise the money. Between John\'s desperation and Joan\'s greed, “they picked the platter clean”.

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