As I did walk by Hampstead Fair
I came upon Mother Goose
So I turned her loose
She was screaming
And a foreign student said to me
Was it really true there elephants and lions too in Picadilly Circus?

Walked down by the bathing pond to try and catch some sun
Saw at least a hundred schoolgirls sobbing into handkerchiefs as one
I don't believe they knew I was a schoolboy

And a bearded lady said to me
If you start your raving, and your misbehaving
You'll be sorry
Then the chicken-fancier came to play
With his long red beard and his sister's weird, she drives a lorry

Laughed down by the putting green
I popped 'em in their holes
Four and twenty laborers were laboring
And digging up their gold
I don't believe they knew that I was Long John Silver

Saw Johnny Scarecrow make his rounds in his jet-black 'mac
Which he won't give back
Stole it from a snowman

As I did walk by Hampstead Fair
I came upon Mother Goose
So I turned her loose
But she was screaming

Walked down by the bathing pond to try and catch some sun
Must of been at least a hundred schoolgirls sobbing into handkerchiefs as one
I don't believe they knew I was a schoolboy


Lyrics submitted by KidArt, edited by jdm2112, DanVitaleRocks

Mother Goose Lyrics as written by Ian Anderson

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management, Word Collections Publishing

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Mother Goose song meanings
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23 Comments

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  • +2
    General Comment

    I saw Ian Anderson live. He said he wrote the song to cheer himself up after writing Cheap Day Return while going to the hospital to visit his father

    elsporkoon April 06, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    Picadilly Circus is a place in London. It isn't an actual circus.

    CHAKAon August 20, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    Fine songs. But it is useless to try to find deeper meaning in there. It's just some funny nursery rhyme, automatic writing stuff.

    haripu69on November 04, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    The song is about some street people that Ian meets as he walks through London. Like Aqualung or Cross-eyed Mary, these sad characters are a bit frightening, a bit amusing.

    offhandon December 02, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    Just a feeling here...

    This song could be from the perspective of the homeless person ian writes about in Aqualung.

    He could be crazy or drunk and seeing things like Mother goose being tied up. A bearded lady. And the chicken fancier with a long red beard (maybe that's Ian) whose weird sister drives a lorry. And a scarecrow having stole something (anyone know what a jet black 'mac is??) from a snowman.

    He could be delusional, thinking that he is a school boy and Long John Silver.

    It's why he makes the school girls cry and why the bearded lady (is she really bearded??) assumes he's going to start raving and misbehaving.

    mettleon September 19, 2008   Link
  • +1
    My Interpretation

    I could be all wrong on this, but I've always heard it as a story of a kid who's leaving little kid things behind (Mother Goose) and entering into the world of his own imagination. Sort of a coming of age story, but the only one I know of that talks about the little kid --> bigger kid transition instead of the kid --> adult transition.

    A mack is a raincoat.

    4 and 20 is a number that appears often in English folk songs and folk tales, where JT gets a lot of their musical and lyrical inspiration. The association with weed is unrelated and wasn't invented until the 70s at UC Berkeley or Santa Barabara, if I remember correctly.

    But yeah, in general it's just a fun song. It also happens to be a great song to learn to play for an intermediate acoustic guitarist.

    Tidycaton April 08, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    This song is about who we are behind the mask, and who can see through the mask. There's plenty of elephants and lions all over the place, if you go looking

    Doesn't matter what age the singer is, the schoolgirls can't tell he's just a mischievous schoolboy, and he's the one they're looking for and mourning. A gentle, wild soul, not unlike Long John Silver.

    The ultimate "straights" or squares, the working stiffs who run away from their families to play golf....they laugh at him...and he tells us that this type, the "suits," deserve the fist. And whilst they're working hard for their gold, the wild child is amongst them, prepared to take their booty, as they laugh at what a fool he is.

    He's really just a trouble maker inhabiting a world where even our effigies are playful spirited scarecrows stealing the hats off snowmen, who can't run after them. A jet-black mac is also a type of hat.

    If you think this is raving, then you're a bearded lady. The Yin and Yang turned against itself. Ian couldn't be more clear than

    This is also NOT a song performed by an intermediate or beginner. At least not well. Martin Barre saw to that.

    StoneCrowon December 12, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    If you read about Hampstead Heath on Wikipedia, you will note that it is a large park in London and for many, many years famous as a "cruising ground" for homosexuals looking for sex partners and actually engaging in sex there. So we should not be surprized that the "chicken fancier" comes to "play" in such a place.

    Fuzzbeanon May 03, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    I think this song is a relatively straightforward account of things Ian Anderson actually encountered while on a walk. While it is "encoded" a bit, it has no particularly deep meaning. Nor is it pure nonsense, as Ian might have suggested in an interview at some point. As promised in the earlier song "Nothing to Say," Ian is really airtight about explaining his lyrics: "So don't ask me will I explain; I won't even begin to tell you why." Indeed he loves to toss out red herrings in interviews to throw us off track.

    Mother Goose may have been a goose that was somehow trapped and Ian rescued. I myself, as an American, have been a bit confused about exactly what "Picadilly Circus" is; possibly folks from non-English-speaking countries might be even more confused. The hundred schoolgirls were probably crying about the breakup of the Beatles, which became official about the same time this song was recorded... shortly after December 1970. Ian calling himself a schoolboy could have several meanings, including that he was still seeking some wisdom such as the meaning of life or the existence of God, or perhaps he was just sexually attracted to the teenage schoolgirls. The chicken-fancier is a homosexual man. The fact that his sister drives a truck, a traditional man's job, seems to indicate some confusion of sexual or gender roles in that family... hence the verbal raised eyebrow we hear in the song as originally recorded. The laborers are knocking themselves out digging a trench or whatever, to get their "gold" paychecks to live off of. Ian is Long John Silver because his recent musical success has given him a huge treasure of money, yet he would not yet be likely to be recognized on sight by the average person. Johnny Scarecrow is a local bum or other poor character who saw a nice mac dressing a snowman and took it for himself since it was better than what he had.

    Fuzzbeanon May 03, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    i love it! can't get tired of it :D

    crying_tree_1979on February 02, 2006   Link

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