“Old King Cole (I)”


Cumulative: "Old King Cole was a merry old soul, and a merry old soul was he. He called for his pipe and he called for his bowl and he called for his --- three." Sundry (soldiers/courtiers) are called in, make suitable remarks, and wait for the next rank


Randolph-Legman I has a bawdy version of the drinking song and nursery rhyme. - EC

Various explanations have been offered for "King Cole." Colchester is said to have been named after a third century kinglet named Cole (Geoffrey of Monmouth's history, v.6, describes a "Coel Duke of Kaercolun/Colchester" as living in the time of Constantius the father of Constantine the Great -- but Geoffrey made up most of his history. He also gave us King Lear and much of the basic story of King Arthur).

Scotland had a King Colin (967-971). Various merchants and minor noblemen have also been suggested. Needless to say, none of these identifications is convincing. - RBW

Parody: Bodleian, Harding B 11(2809), "Old King Cole," J. Sharp (London), c.1845 - BS

Same tune

  • Old King Cotton (Fred W. Allsopp, Folklore of Romantic Arkansas, Volume II, p. 199)


  • Bodleian, Harding B 20(269), "Old King Cole," J. Harkness (Preston), 1840-1866 ; also Harding B 11(2808), "Old King Cole"


  • Martin Gorman, "Old King Cole" (on Voice07)


  1. Kennedy 302, "Old King Cole" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Ford-Vagabond, pp. 151-153, "Old King Coul" (1 text)
  3. Chappell-FSRA 107, "Old King Jimmy" (1 text, in which the same first stanza is repeated several times: "Old King Jimmy called for his wine And called for his fiddlers three," "Old Farmer Jimmy called for his wine..." "Old Preacher Jimmy..." "Old Sailor Jimmy...")
  4. Randolph-Legman I, p. 158, "Old King Cole" (1 fragmentary text, 1 tune)
  5. Chappell/Wooldridge II, pp. 171-173, "Old King Cole" (1 tune, which may or may not be related as no text is given)
  6. Creighton-NovaScotia 91, "Old King Coul" (1 text, 1 tune)
  7. Opie-Oxford2 112, "Old King Cole" (2 texts)
  8. Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #206, p. 143, "(Old King Cole)"
  9. Silber-FSWB, p. 278, "Old King Cole" (1 text)
  11. Roud #1164
  12. BI, K302


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1776 (Herd); the nursery rhyme form is quoted in William King's "Useful Transactions in Philosophy" (1708/9)
Found in: US(SE,So) Britain(England(North,South),Scotland(Aber)) Canada(Mar) Ireland