Appalachia Rhymes

Polly Put The Kettle On

Polly put the kettle on

The rhyme Polly Put the Kettle on was first published in 1797. The history behind this nursery rhyme is my favorite so far!

According to the website Nursery Rhymes Lyrics and Origins, the rhyme was written by a father who had five children: 2 boys and 3 girls. As will often happen with a group of children-the girls and the boys had differing opinions when it came time to decide what they would play-the girls wanted to play house and the boys wanted to play soldiers.

In this family the girls were a little sneaky. If the girls wanted those rambunctious brothers out of their hair they would act as if a full fledged pretend session of house was about to commence with the sisters singing “Polly put the kettle on” as Polly pretended to put the kettle on. Once the brothers had skedaddled Sukey (Susan) took the kettle off and the girls proceeded to enjoy their time without their brothers butting in! The father was so amused by the little back and forth he wrote the poem Polly Put the Kettle On.

Polly put the kettle on,
Polly put the kettle on,
Polly put the kettle on,
We’ll all have tea.
Sukey take it off again,
Sukey take it off again,
Sukey take it off again,
They’ve all gone away.

Somewhere along the way, Polly Put the Kettle on became a fiddle tune with many variations.


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  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    April 12, 2014 at 7:23 am

    I love the story, isn’t it wonderful that the father paid such close attention to his children, including how they plaid?

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    April 11, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    Tipper a father to write such great rhymes we all love so much, he had to felt his writing and you can just guess he enjoyed life. God given talent are a treasure. Some poets write by putting down words great talent and some feel their poems or rhymes.Talents are from God He uses every talent He gives for people to enjoy no doubt.

  • Reply
    April 11, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    Goodness I haven’t thought of that old rhyme in years. Glad u shared it.

  • Reply
    April 11, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    I liked that story! I have enjoyed the nursery rhymes and their histories.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    April 11, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    I came from parents that had all boys.
    After I grew up and had youngin’s of
    my own, it was a thrill to watch my
    girls at play. And now I got six
    granddaughters and one Great Grandgirl.
    Ain’t a boy gene in my body, but maybe
    girls are smarter anyway.
    That kettle above looks familiar!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    April 11, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    What do you think of this old NC folk song…attuned to someone we know?
    Oh, we miss Cindy
    We wonder where’s she’s been.
    We hope she’s home by now,
    And not a’travelin’!
    Git along home Cindy, Cindy
    Git along home.
    Git along home Cindy, Cindy,
    You have a lot to say!
    I have more….chortle, chortle..

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    April 11, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    I had not researched the origin of “Polly, Put the Kettle On,” before! What a delightful story of its origin. We used to sing it in Choestoe when I was growing up, and our kettle looked exactly like the iron kettle you picture! And now that old kettle (which came into my possession from my father and mother’s ‘things’) is now in my former house in Epworth, in the mountains, where my son Keith and his wife Debbie now live. It sits on a cupboard my Dad made away back in 1916. I’m glad Keith and Debbie like and appreciate old-timey furnishings, for that cupboard and kettle–and a few other items–still greet me when I go back to the mountains to “visit” now in the house I loved and lived in for years before moving to Middle Georgia. Oh! the pull of things inherited that had a story and meaning!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 11, 2014 at 10:27 am

    I hope this ain’t the same Pretty Polly that got murdered by Judy Collins and Ralph Stanley. Stringbean might have been in on it too.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    April 11, 2014 at 9:41 am

    I would love to have a cup of hot tea while it is cool this mornin’. With sugar and cream of course! I learned to drink it that way years ago from a “yankee” friend, who learned to love hot tea, from her grandmother. As you know here in the South, we love our tea in a tall glass, iced and sweet, with a sprig of mint hanging on to the rim, and I also like it with a slice of lemon!
    I remember singin “Polly Put The Kettle On” when I was in elementry school. We acted it out as we sang it. I thought there were more verses, and also that there was company coming. When the company didn’t show or left, Sukey took the kettle off. I didn’t know about the brothers!
    My book doesn’t have the rhyme, I think the author is holding back a few rhymes for her new book. I have been watching for it!
    It is going to be a beautiful, warm day, maybe even hot! Big R, my better half, has gone fishing!
    I’m gonna go outside later, kick back, watch the grass and flowers grow, “watch n’listen” to the “birdies” sing their little lovin’ hearts out, and drink me a big glass of cold sweet tea!
    “Never do today what you can put off til tomorrow!”
    Thanks Tipper, Great post, and have a great day!

  • Reply
    April 11, 2014 at 9:11 am

    It’s great to know the story behind the rhyme. Thanks!

  • Reply
    April 11, 2014 at 9:10 am

    I’d always assumed the “take it off again” phrase meant the guests and departed. The explanation you found is much more charming!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 11, 2014 at 8:18 am

    Yep, it just goes to show that girls are smarter than boys….wonderful story!

  • Reply
    Darlene Debty Kimsey
    April 11, 2014 at 7:24 am

    That is so cool! Thanks.

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