The History of Jack Be Nimble

Many poems for kids from long ago have hidden stories behind them. Changing ever so slightly throughout the years, some of the origins of these pieces may surprise you. Jack Be Nimble, is one of many popular nursery rhymes with a tale to tell. The most common theory, is that the poem was originally a tribute to the famous pirate Jack Rackham,  who in the 1700’s landed in Jamaica and had many adventures, until he was captured. It is also said that Jack Be Nimble was written in celebration of a Captain Black Jack.

Another theory for Jack Be Nimble’s origins, is that it was written to tell the tale of an outbreak of yellow fever. Loved ones of the ill would place a candlestick by the patient’s bedside in order to lessen their chances of contracting infections, giving possible meaning to the phrase, “Jack jumped over the candlestick”. It’s also been said, that the kids poem was created to explain the practice of candle jumping, which was famous back in the 1600’s. Generally practiced at festivals in England, young girls would leap over a lit candle, trying not to extinguish its flame.

Nobody is quite sure about the true origins of Jack Be Nimble, but these theories sure make one wonder how the famous nursery rhyme developed over time. It’s a catchy kids poem that’s been used throughout the years at home or in school where some children even make crafts based on the piece – taking construction paper or felt to make pictures of candlesticks in memory of it, for example. There have been a wide variety of children’s shows that have used this rhyme in their programming including Barney, Sesame Street and Mother Goose Club. It has been a very popular Mother Goose poem, that has been sung worldwide and probably will be, for years into the future.