user_mobilelogo


Many people have grown up knowing One For Sorrow, Two For Joy, the popular magpie nursery rhyme where the number of birds counted at any one time will determine whether you have bad luck or good luck.

Magpie

Probably the most well known version recited is as follows:

One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret,
Never to be told.

However, there are a number of alternative versions and a longer rhyme which is local to Lancashire counts up to 13 magpies with an additional 6 lines:

Eight for a wish
Nine for a kiss
Ten a surprise you should be careful not to miss
Eleven for health
Twelve for wealth
Thirteen beware it’s the devil himself.

The earliest version of the rhyme was recorded in 1780 in a note in John Brand's Observations on Popular Antiquities. John Brand was an English antiquarian and Church of England clergyman who was appointed Secretary to the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1784. The phrase "popular antiquities" later became known as folklore, a term coined by William John Thoms in 1846. It was a much simpler version with just 4 lines:

One for sorrow,
Two for mirth,
Three for a funeral
And four for birth.

In 1846 the rhyme was added to in Proverbs and Popular Saying of the Seasons by Michael Aislabie Denham, an English merchant and collector of folklore.

Five for heaven
Six for hell
Seven for the devil, his own self.

Yet, another longer version is to be found in Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable:

One's sorrow,
Two's mirth,
Three's a wedding,
Four's a birth,
Five's a christening,
Six a dearth,
Seven's heaven,
Eight is hell,
And nine's the devil his old self.

Another version was written for the popular children's TV programme Magpie which ran from 1968 to 1980 and replaced many of the older regional variations of the rhyme. The theme tune was composed and played by the Spencer Davis Group under the alias The Murgatroyd Band, just after Steve Winwood had left to join the supergroup Blind Faith with Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Ric Grech.



Eight for a wish,
Nine for a kiss,
Ten for a bird,
You must not miss.

The song started off similar to original rhymes but had an additional tenth bird that was not to be missed; in this case that was of course the next episode of the series.

Although all these songs and rhymes are most often associated with magpies, they can also be used to count other corvids such as jackdaws, ravens and crows, particularly in America where magpies are not as common.

Do you know any other variations of the magpie rhyme? We'd love to hear from you and you can get in touch with us here.

About British Bird Lovers

Information

It's Good To Talk

For More Inspiration

Social
Fatbirder's Top 1000 Birding Websites