Ladybird Ladybird Fly Away Home
This traditional verse relates to ladybirds, brightly colored insects commonly viewed as lucky. We’ve all heard this rhyme. There are dozens of different variations. But what does it mean?
The name ladybird contains a reference to Mary, mother of Jesus, often referred to as Our Lady. It is possibly connected with a story that after prayers for help Our Lady brought Ladybird beetle to destroy a plague of plant-destroying pests. According to other lore, farmers recite the rhyme to save the insects who do them this service before setting fire to stubble fields.
The English version has been dated to at least 1744. The verse has several popular forms, including:
Ladybird, ladybird fly away home,
Your house is on fire and your children are gone,
All except one, and her name is Ann,
And she hid under the baking pan.
A shorter, grimmer version concludes:
Your house is on fire,
Your children shall burn!
Among children, it is common to place the ladybird on their hand or blow it from their clothing and make a wish while reciting the rhyme. My favorite variation is this one, written early in the 19th century:
Lady-bird, Lady-bird, fly away home,
The field mouse is gone to her nest,
The daisies have shut up their sleepy red eyes
And the birds and the bees are at rest
Because of the religious connotation, one speculation would date the rhyme back to the 16th century and have it sung as a warning at a time when there was legislation against Catholics.
More variations include the following:
Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home,
Your horse is on foot, your children are gone;
All but one, and that’s little John,
And he lies under the grindle stone.
Dowdy-cow, dowdy-cow, ride away heame,
Thy house is burnt, and thy bairns are tean.
Marybug, fly away,
your house is on fire,
your wee mother weeps
Sky-winger, fly away,
your house is in flames,
your children together in tears
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