Doctor Foster is a short and funny nursery rhyme from the 19th century. It consists of just five lines and has an AB rhyme scheme from the second line. The first line, Doctor Foster went to Gloucester has internal rhyming.
But how did this rhyme come about? Who wrote it and when? Does it refer to any specific historical figure?
What do you think, folks? Take a guess and scroll down to find out more about Doctor Foster nursery rhyme and its lyrics. We’ve shared the lyrics for the old and modern versions in this post. Let’s go!
Old Dr. Foster went to Gloster,
To preach the work of God.
When he came there, he sat in his chair,
And gave all the people a nod.
Doctor Foster went to Gloucester,
In a shower of rain;
He stepped in a puddle,
Right up to his middle,
And never went there again.
Click here to download the printable PDF file of Doctor Foster lyrics. Both versions are included in the same file.
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Here’s an animated video of the modern version of Doctor Foster:
Origins and History
Doctor Foster was first published in Gammer Gurton's Garland in 1810. It’s said that the poem is based on a real-life incident of King Edward I in the 13th century. He fell from a horse and into a puddle when visiting Gloucester and swore he would never go back there again. The king indeed never visited the place for the rest of his life.
However, the lyrics of the older version don’t seem to imply the above incident. The poem is more suited to a couple of other incidents, though we cannot say the actual intent behind the original version of the poem. But what are those two incidents?
Here we go:
The first incident is when an emissary of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, visited Gloucester for communion. However, the floods in the region were so severe that he couldn’t reach Deerhurst.
The second incident is in the play The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe. The protagonist helps a person cross a river by turning straw into a horse. However, the horse turns back into a straw in the middle of the river, and the person gets wet.
The modern version of the nursery rhyme has five lines, while the older version has four. The latest version doesn’t talk about God. Instead, it is about a doctor who gets wet and falls into a puddle en route to Gloucester. This version is said to be written in 1844. The word puddle might have been piddle, an old English term for a stream.
Yes, it is. The nursery rhyme is listed at 19288 in the collection. Unfortunately, there is no information about who wrote this rhyme.
Yes, you can. Doctor Foster is a part of The Real Mother Goose. Gloucester is spelled Glo'ster in the book.