A quite contrary poem

By: Annie Blakeley - Contributing Columnist

“Mistress Mary, Quite contrary, How does your garden grow? With Silver Bells, And Cockle Shells, And so my garden grows.” — Tommy Thumb Pretty Song Book

This nursery rhyme has been shrouded in mystery ever since its probable creation. Just as this rhyme suggest it is “quite contrary.” From religious standpoints, the rhyme can be considered to be both a praise to Catholicism and a wish for its end.

However, most would agree that it is a nursery rhyme that can be misinterpreted in multiple ways.

In fact, it seems that the nursery rhyme has become the very definition of the word contrary.

This tune was not a tune that I remembered my mother repeating to me, which is why I picked it up only a few years ago when reading a book entitled “The Secret Garden.”

With the help of the plot of the book this became one of my very favorite poems.

The reason that I liked this poem so much is because of its flexibility. Even in the context of the novel, the poem had endless meanings behind it.

What I realized was that the author of the poem somehow made the poem have no meaning — as well as every meaning.

This poem can be interpreted in any way that you choose, which also means that the author was unable to establish a true meaning behind the poem.


Annie Blakeley is a student at Richmond County Ninth Grade Academy, is a band and chorus student and a member of First United Methodist Church in Hamlet.


Annie Blakeley

Contributing Columnist