"Pussycat pussycat, where have you been?"
"I've been up to London to visit the Queen."
"Pussycat pussycat, what did you there?"
"I frightened a little mouse under her chair"
Common modern versions include:
Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?
I've been to London to look at the Queen.
Pussy cat, pussy cat, what did you do there?
I frightened a little mouse, under the chair.
The last line sometimes sung as: I chased a little mouse right under the chair.
The origins of the "Pussycat pussycat" rhyme dates back to the history of 16th century Tudor England.
One of the waiting ladies of Queen Elizabeth Ist, the fifth and last monarch of Tudor England, had an old cat which roamed throughout Windsor castle. On one particular occasion the cat ran beneath the throne where its tail brushed against the Queen's foot, startling her.
Luckily 'Good Queen Bess' had a sense of humour and decreed that the cat could wander about the throne room, on condition it kept it free of mice!
The earliest record of the rhyme is found in the publication "Songs for the Nursery," printed in London in 1805. The melody commonly associated with the rhyme was first recorded by the composer and nursery rhyme collector, James William Elliott, in his "National Nursery Rhymes and Nursery Songs" (1870).
The Queen most often depicted in illustrations is Elizabeth I, but Caroline of Brunswick has also been suggested
Percy B. Green, author of A History of Nursery Rhymes (1899), wrote the following about the Pussycat, Pussycat nursery rhyme: "No doubt the incident giving rise to this verse had to do with the terrible fright Queen Bess (Elizabeth) is supposed to have had on discovering a mouse in the folds of her dress - for it was she of virgin fame to whom pussy-cat paid the visit.
It has been asked again and again, 'Why are old maids so fond of cats?' and 'Why are their lives so linked together?' Maybe it is to scare, as did the cat in the rhyme, 'a little mouse from under her chair.'"
James Orchard Halliwell wrote the following about Pussycat, Pussycat in his book "The Nursery Rhymes of England" (1843): "There is an old proverb which says that 'a cat may look at a king.' Whether the same adage applies equally to a female sovereign, and is referred to in the nursery song, or whether it alludes to the glorious Queen Bess, is now a matter of uncertainty."
While staying at my parents I discovered they were often visited by a cat. He would arrive in the mornings and after a good scratch of his ears and a few cat biscuits he would then roam the house looking for a warm spot to snuggle up in. Sometimes he would go downstairs to where the night store was kept on to dry the clothes and other times he would snuggle down on my mother’s feet as she rested on the couch. On one occasion he slept on my bed.
Dad commented that sometimes he wouldn’t come for a few days and after I had been there for a week I realised he would arrive early on week days leaving as the night drew in and kept away at the weekends. I supposed that perhaps his owners shut him out when they went to work but on weekends he was allowed inside during the day.
Needless to say he would arrive at Mum and Dads, sometimes entering in a downstairs door wondering up the stairs to linger for a while and then disappeared out a front door to proceed across the road and up to another place. They have no idea where he lives or even in which direction he comes from but he sure is happy to stay in the warm with a few snacks on the days he does.
It made me think of the rhyme "Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?" and wondered if its owners had any idea what it got up to when they shut him out.