Simple Simon
Nursery Rhyme from Mother Goose

Top: from Denslow's Mother Goose (W.W. Denslow, illus.); bottom: from St. Nicholas Magazine for Boys and Girls, Vol. 5 (illus. unknown)

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Simple Simon nursery rhyme

First appearance in print: 1764

Interesting: May date from a ballad that dates back to 1685.


  • simple, not so smart
  • ware, goods, in this case pie
  • thistle, a prickly plant
  • dicky bird, a small bird

Humor: It used to be thought that if you put salt on a bird's tail, it wouldn't be able to fly. Of course, this requires catching the bird first!

Was Simple Simon meant to be humor at the expense of the mentally disabled? Probably. That's why I prefer depictions of Simple Simon as "simply" a young child.

Simple Simon

Simple Simon met a pieman,
Going to the fair;
Says Simple Simon to the pieman,
"Let me taste your ware."

Says the pieman to Simple Simon,
"Show me first your penny,"
Says Simple Simon to the pieman,
"Indeed, I have not any."

Simple Simon went a-fishing
For to catch a whale;
All the water he could find
Was in his mother's pail!

Simple Simon went to look
If plums grew on a thistle;
He pricked his fingers very much,
Which made poor Simon whistle.

He went to catch a dicky bird,
And thought he could not fail,
Because he had a little salt,
To put upon its tail.

He went for water with a sieve,
But soon it ran all through;
And now poor Simple Simon
Bids you all adieu.

A Simple Simon story

Author Howard R. Garis was known for his Uncle Wiggily series of books, about an elderly rabbit with a penchant for meeting people and creatures. In Uncle Wiggily and Old Mother Hubbard, among the Mother Goose characters he encounters is Simple Simon, who has dropped out of the pages of a book.

Here's an excerpt from Uncle Wiggily and Simple Simon, followed by a link to the complete text.

Mr. Longears, the nice old rabbit gentleman, had not gone very far before, all at once, from behind a snow-covered stump, he heard a voice saying:

“Oh, dear! I know I’ll never find him! I’ve looked all over and I can’t see him anywhere. Oh, dear! Oh, dear! What shall I do?”

“My! That sounds like some one in trouble,” Uncle Wiggily said to himself. “I wonder if that is any of my little animal friends? I must look.”

So the rabbit gentleman peeked over the top of the stump, and there he saw a queer-looking boy, with a funny smile on his face, which was as round and shiny as the bottom of a new dish pan. And the boy looked so kind that Uncle Wiggily knew he would not hurt even a lollypop, much less a rabbit gentleman.

“Oh, hello!” cried the boy, as soon as he saw Uncle Wiggily. “Who are you?”

“I am Mr. Longears,” replied the bunny uncle. “And who are you?”

“Why, I’m Simple Simon,” was the answer. “I’m in the Mother Goose book, you know.”

“Oh, yes, I remember,” said Uncle Wiggily. “But you seem to be out of the book, just now.”

Uncle Wiggily and Simple Simon at Project Gutenberg.

The Simple Simon nursery rhyme appears in Blanche Fisher Wright's classic The Real Mother Goose collection.

More Mother Goose nursery rhymes.

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