is an English language nursery rhyme
that has appeared in many
anthologies since the nineteenth century. It has a Roud Folk Song Index
The rhyme was first published in its modern form in 1844, although
the rhyming of 'puddle' with 'middle' suggests that it may have
originally been the archaic 'piddle' for a stream and that the
verse may therefore be much older. The first recorded text
Foster went to Gloucester,
- In a shower of rain;
- He stepped in a puddle,
- Right up to his middle,
- And never went there again.
Origins and meaning
It was suggested by Boyd Smith (1920) that the rhyme may be based
on a story of Edward I of
travelling to Gloucester, falling off his horse into a
puddle, and refusing to return to the city thereafter. There is a
rhyme published in Gamer Gurton's Garland
(1810) with a
- Old Dr. Foster went to Gloster,
- To preach the work of God.
- When he came there, he sat in his chair,
- And gave all the people a nod.
This variant and the late date of recording suggest that the
medieval meaning is unlikely.
- I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery
Rhymes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd edn.,
1997), p. 173.