Jack be nimble, Jack be quick,
Jack jump over the candle-stick.
The rhyme is first recorded in a manuscript of around 1815 and was collected by James Orchard Halliwell in the mid-nineteenth century. Jumping candlesticks was a form of fortune telling and a sport. It’s has been said, that the kids poem was created to explain the practice of candle jumping, which was famous way 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. Good luck was said to be signalled by clearing a candle without extinguishing the flame.
The most commonly agreed origin for Jack as a person is the connection to Black Jack, an English pirate who was notorious for escaping from the authorities in the late 16th century hence Jack be nimble…
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 sick 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”.
‘Nobody is quite sure about the true origins of Jack Be Nimble, but these theories 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.