Definitions

“hey diddle diddle”

Hey Diddle Diddle

Hey Diddle Diddle (also Hi Diddle Diddle), The Cat and the Fiddle, or The Cow Jumped Over the Moon is an English nursery rhyme.

Rhyme

(UK version)

Hey diddle diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed to see such fun,
And the dish ran away with the spoon.

(US version)

Hey diddle diddle,
The cat played the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed to see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon.
(Australian version, and alternate US version)

Hey diddle diddle
The cat and the fiddle
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed to see such a sight
And the dish ran away with the spoon.

(Canadian version)

Hey diddle diddle,
the mouse rhymed a riddle,
the dish ran away with the spoon,
the baby boy cried to see such a sport,
and the cow jumped over the moon!

Origins

Theories on the origin of "Hey Diddle Diddle" claim that this nursery rhyme is more than just a sequence of rhyming, not particularly meaningful, words

Elizabethan scandal

One theory is that this poem is a satire of a scandal during the time of Queen Elizabeth I. The cat is Elizabeth I and the dog is Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, whom she once referred to as her 'lap dog'. It is also speculated that the 'dish' is a server at the royal court, whereas the 'spoon' refers to a taste-tester. When these last two secretly eloped, Elizabeth had them captured and confined to the Tower of London.

Astronomy lesson

According to another theory, the rhyme is a lesson in astronomy, in which all, or nearly all "characters" in "Hey Diddle Diddle" are constellations visible only in the April night sky.

Hey diddle diddle, the Cat (Leo – the Lion) and the Fiddle (Lyra – the Lyre), the Cow (Taurus – the Bull) jumped over the Moon (the Moon); the Little Dog (Canis Minor – the Lesser Dog) laughed to see such sport, and the Dish (Crater – a dish shaped constellation) ran after the Spoon (Ursa Major – the Big Dipper).

It just so happens that April is the only month when all of these constellations can be seen in the night sky, and this was a signal to the early Europeans, mainly the English, that it was time to plant the crops.

Richard III's path to the throne of England

Another theory is that the poem depicts elements in the story of Richard III's path to the throne of England.

'Diddle diddle' was the way he got rid of Edward V. 'The cat and the fiddle' represent William Catesby and the pre-contract. A cow was the Neville emblem. The Nevilles eclipsed the Percys, whose emblem was a moon. Viscount Lovell was Richard's best friend, and his emblem was a dog. The dish was Richard himself, and the spoon was the anointing spoon at his coronation.

Tolkien's version

The rhyme is also depicted by J.R.R. Tolkien. The title of this version as given in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil is "The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late"; it also appears in The Fellowship of the Ring. He also wrote a companion poem titled "The Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon." This is included in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil.

In the musical Rent

In the Broadway musical Rent, Maureen Johnson (originally played by Idina Menzel) protests the destruction of a housing lot for the building of a cyber-arts studio. She uses imagery from this nursery rhyme in her protests, chronicling a twisted dream version of the rhyme in the number "Over the Moon".

References

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