Arthur O'Bower and other Nursery Rhymes

   "Arthur's Bower Has Broken His Band" reportedly was first recorded in a lost letter from Dorothy Wordsworth to Charles Lamb in 1804, and thence into many nursery rhyme collections. It's been suggested that the poem is a riddle and "Arthur" here personifies the wind, a conjecture supported by a letter from William Wordsworth in 1823 in which he recalled that in his childhood the poem was recited at times of high winds. Another theory (J.D. Bruce, 1912) is that the poem provides a reference to Arthur's association with the Wild Hunt. It's most famous appearance is probably its recitation by a character in Beatrix Potter's Squirrel Nutkin (1903).

"Arthur O'Bower has broken his band,
He comes roaring up the land!
The King of Scots with all his power,
Cannot turn Arthur of the Bower!"
   "When Good King Arthur" first saw print in Joseph Ritson's collection of children's verse, Gammer Gurton's Garland in 1784, and was reprinted with some variations in countless collections until the early 20th century. In different versions, Arthur is a "goodly king" or a "thievish king" who "buys" the barley or rules "like a swine." The origins are obscure, and it may have originated as a song in a play. King Henry and King Stephen both appear in variants.