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What Folks Are Made Of

     Two stanzas of this popular rhyme (as marked) are attributed to Robert Southey (1774-1843):  Southey, English poet and historian, became poet laureate in 1813.  He wrote prose (history, biography) and long epic poems, but is more popularly 
remembered for his short poems, ie. "The Battle of Blenheim," and "Inchcape Rock."  Many academics, however, agree with Lord Byron, who was one of the sharpest critics of Southey's poetry, that "Southey's prose is perfect."  Among these works are the Common-Place Book, The Doctor, collected Letters, and biographies of Cowper, Wesley, and Nelson.

     Although the rhyme below cannot be absolutely verified as being by Southey, it is generally thought to be by him and dated 
at about 1820.  It was included in Burton Stevenson's Dictionary of Proverbs with the title "What all the world is made of."  (It 
is sometimes seen as "What Folks are Made of...."  It's omission in his collected works and in his comments on nursery rhymes in 
The Doctor do not necessarily preclude his authorship of the verse.  He may well have considered it a "throw-away" ditty. 
After all, he wrote an enormous amount--his collected verses, with explanatory notes, fill ten volumes, and his prose occupies 
forty.  The ditty is certainly in keeping with the light-handed touch of other pieces of his such as "Ode to a Pig while his Nose 
was being Bored," and "To a Goose," neither of which drifted into Mother Goose territory. 

"What are...made of..." was a favorite of Henry W. Longfellow's, who recited it frequently.A version of "What are little boys made of" appeared in Halliwell's 1842 collection.  In the familiar folk tradition, the popular ditty inevitably acquired additional verses, written by authors unknown, until it became a ballad of some length.

--Excerpted from Mother Goose: From Nursery to Literature,

                                                                                                                                                                    McFarland ©1987/iUniverse ©2000 by Gloria T. Delamar
 
What Folks Are Made Of

          Traditional                                                                                 Original

          What are little babies made of, made of?
          What are little babies made of?
             Diapers and crumbs and sucking their thumbs;
          That's what little babies are made of?

          What are little boys made of, made of?                                        (1. R.S.)
          What are little boys made of?
             Snips and snails and puppy-dog tails;
          That's what little boys are made of.                                              And such are...

          What are little girls made of, made of?
          What are little girls made of?
             Sugar and spice and everything nice;
          That's what little girls are made of.

          What are young men made of, made of?
          What are young men made of?
             Sighs and leers and crocodile tears;
          That's what young men are made of.

          What are young women made of, made of?                                  (2. R. S.)
          What are young women made of?
             Rings and jings and other fine things;                                          Sugar and spice and all things nice;
          That's what young women are made of.                                        And such are...

          What are our sailors made of, made of?
          What are our sailors made of?
             Pitch and tar, pig-tail and scar;
          That's what our sailors are made of.

          What are our soldiers made of, made of? 
          What are our soldiers made of?
             Pipeclay and drill, the foeman to kill;
          That's what our soldiers are made of.

          What are our nurses made of, made of?
          What are our nurses made of?
             Bushes and thorns and old cow's horns;
          That's what our nurses are made of.

          What are our fathers made of, made of?
          What are our fathers made of?
             Pipes and smoke and collars choke;
          That's what our fathers are made of.

          What are our mothers made of, made of?
          What are our mothers made of?
             Ribbons and laces and sweet pretty faces;
          That's what our mothers are made of.

          What are old men made of, made of?
          What are old men made of?
             Slippers that flop and a bald-headed top;
          That's what old men are made of. 

          What are old women made of, made of?
          What are old women made of?
             Reels, and jeels, and old spinning wheels;
          That's what old women are made of?

          What are all folks made of, made of?
          What are all folks made of?
             Fighting a spot and loving a lot,
          That's what all folks are made of.

­­ Except for Southey, Authors Unknown/composited by Gloria T. Delamar
--from Mother Goose: From Nursery to Literature,

                                                                                                                                                                    McFarland ©1987/iUniverse ©2000 by Gloria T. Delamar

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