“Little Bo-peep”


Shepherdess Bo-peep can't find her sheep. When she finds them they are without their tails. One day she finds the tails hung on a tree to dry. She "tried what she could, as a shepherdess should, To tack again each to its lambkin"


The Baring-Goulds note occurrences of the name "Bo-peep" before the 1810 edition of Gammer Gurton's Garland, which is the first date they mention. But no one seems to be able to trace the song earlier than this.

I'm amazed no one has tried to find a political interpretation. Were the piece earlier, one would be tempted to the English Civil War and Restoration. Or maybe the Stuart monarchy and the Jacobite rebellions. Given the early nineteenth century date, one thinks of the French Revolution, the guillotine, and perhaps Bonaparte's restoration of monarchy.

Or not. I don't really believe it. But it sounds so "folk-plausible." Even the name is right.... - RBW


  1. Opie-Oxford2 66, "Little Bo-peep has lost her sheep" (1 text)
  2. Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #112, p. 93, "(Little Bo-peep has lost her sheep)"
  3. cf. DT, MERRYLND
  4. Roud #6487
  5. BI, OO2066


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1806 (Monthly Literary Recreations, according to Opie-Oxford2)