nursery rhyme

Verse customarily told or sung to small children. Though the oral tradition of nursery rhymes is ancient, the largest number date from the 16th, 17th, and (most frequently) 18th centuries. Apparently most rhymes were originally composed for adults, many as popular ballads and songs. The earliest known published collection is Tommy Thumb's (Pretty) Song Book (1744), including “Little Tom Tucker,” “Sing a Song of Sixpence,” and “Who Killed Cock Robin?” The most influential collection was Mother Goose's Melody (1781), including “Jack and Jill,” “Ding Dong Bell,” and “Hush-a-bye Baby on the Tree Top.”

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