One, Two, Buckle My Shoe

“One, Two, Buckle My Shoe” or “1, 2 Buckle My Shoe” is a counting song dating back to late 18th century USA.

It was heard for the first time around 1780 somewhere around Wrentham, Massachusetts. However the first published version of this traditional nursery rhyme is found in London in a children songs book called “Songs for the Nursery” that appeared in 1805. A different version of the song appears in 1810 in Gammer Gurton’ Garland aka “Nursery Parnassus”.

The main purpose of the song is to teach kids how to count. Originally the song might describe a regular day of lace-makers who were traditional workers back in the 17th and 18th centuries: 1, 2, buckle my shoe would mean that the workers are getting ready to work; 3, 4 shut the door – the workers are now in their workshop; 5, 6, pick up stick – getting their tools (wooden sticks were tools used at the lance-making machine in the past); 7, 8, lay them straight – fixing the sticks; 9, 10, a big fat hen – one possibility is that is describing a kind of support for the lacework (more like a pillow), or simply it refers at the dinner time as the song continues with references at kitchen and plates.

The lyrics may have much literal interpretation; the truth is that the original meaning of traditional songs like this can be lost back in time, and only suppositions can be made about their real symbols.

“One, Two, Buckle My Shoe” Lyrics

Modern version

One, two,
Buckle my shoe;
Three, four,
Knock at the door;
Five, six,
Pick up sticks;
Seven, eight,
Lay them straight:
Nine, ten,
A big fat hen;
Eleven, twelve,
Dig and delve;
Thirteen, fourteen,
Maids a-courting;
Fifteen, sixteen,
Maids in the kitchen;
Seventeen, eighteen,
Maids a-waiting
Nineteen, twenty,
My plate’s empty

“One, Two, Buckle My Shoe” Original lyrics

Thirteen, fourteen, draw the curtain,
Fifteen sixteen, the maid’s in the kitchen,
Seventeen, eighteen, she’s in waiting,
Nineteen, twenty, my stomach’s empty

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