1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Once I Caught a Fish Alive

‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Once I Caught a Fish Alive’ is a popular nursery rhyme in the English language. It is a counting-out rhyme that introduces children to numbers and counting. Through this nursery rhyme, one can teach her child from numbers one to ten. This traditional poem or song for children originated in Britain and was first recorded in 1765. There are two versions of the poem. Moreover, a modern version of the text improvises the older version. Additionally, there are four new stanzas in it. The older version reads as follows:

One, two, three, four, five,

Once I caught a fish alive.

Six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

Then I let it go again.

 

Why did I let it go,

Because he bit my finger so!

Which finger did he bite?

This little pinky on my right!

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Once I Caught a Fish Alive Nursery Rhyme

 

Summary of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Once I Caught a Fish Alive

‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Once I Caught a Fish Alive’ nursery rhyme introduces the numbers one to ten through the story of catching a fish.

‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Once I Caught a Fish Alive’ nursery rhyme begins with the numbers one to five. Thereafter the speaker informs that once he/she caught a fish alive. Then counting the numbers five to ten, he/she says that he/she let it go again. In the following stanzas, the speaker asked himself/herself the reason behind letting the fish go. He/she answers that it bit one of his/her fingers. After asking himself/herself to point out the finger, the speaker shows his/her pinkie finger or the little finger of his/her right hand.

 

Structure of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Once I Caught a Fish Alive

‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Once I Caught a Fish Alive’ nursery rhyme consists of two stanzas each having four lines in it. There are a total of eight lines in this nursery rhyme whereas the modernized text contains six four-line stanzas. Apart from that, the poem contains a regular scheme. Every two neighboring lines of the poem form a rhyming couplet. In the first stanza, “five” rhymes with “alive” and “ten” rhymes with “again”. The first two lines of the following stanza end with the rhyming words “go” and “so”. In the last two lines, “bite” rhymes with “right”.

Apart from that, the first and third lines of the first stanza contain five stressed syllables. The rest of the lines are in iambic tetrameter with the anacrusis in the beginning. The second stanza is composed of iambic trimeter and iambic tetrameter alternatively.

 

Literary Devices in 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Once I Caught a Fish Alive

‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Once I Caught a Fish Alive’ nursery rhyme begins with asyndeton. As one can see there isn’t conjunction in the first line. It is meant for referring to continuity while counting numbers. Moreover, there is alliteration in “two, three”. Here, the “t” sound gets repeated. Likewise, the third line also contains these devices. Here, one can find alliteration in “Six, seven”. In the second stanza, there is a rhetorical question or interrogation in the first line. In the second line, “Because he bit my finger so!” there is personification. One can understand that here the fish is compared to a human being. In the last line, there is a metaphor in the reference to the little finger as “pinky”. Moreover, the use of rhetorical exclamation in this stanza levels up the energy of this nursery rhyme.

 

Analysis of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Once I Caught a Fish Alive

Stanza One

One, two, three, four, five,

Once I caught a fish alive.

Six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

Then I let it go again.

‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Once I Caught a Fish Alive’ nursery rhyme introduces the numbers one to ten in the first stanza innovatively. There is a story as well as learning. Each element goes side by side, be it fun or getting familiar with the numbers. Such a technique eases the burden of learning and makes education a fun-process. However, in this poem, the narrator tells children a simple story of catching a fish alive and letting it go again in the water. In between this, the speaker counts the number up to 10 without breaking the rhythm of the poem.

Moreover, the first-person speaker present in the poem gives the rhyme the quality of a lyric poem. Apart from that, the end-stopped refers that the activity of counting and the imaginary story isn’t connected. They flow separately as if counting numbers is the first activity for the kids and the story comes next as a fun element.

 

Stanza Two

Why did I let it go,

Because he bit my finger so!

Which finger did he bite?

This little pinky on my right!

The second stanza of ‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Once I Caught a Fish Alive’ nursery rhyme shifts from the activity of counting and talks about the rest of the short tale. In this section, the speaker asks herself why she let it go to the water. From the previous one anticipates that the speaker was a kind-hearted person. That’s why she let the fish go. But, it isn’t the case. As it’s a children’s poem, there should be a funny and naughty twist in the poem. Hence, the speaker remarks the fish bit her finger. It led her to free the fish. Otherwise, she might have caught the fish and cooked it for dinner.

Whatsoever, in the next line, the speaker enquires of which finger the fish bit. Then she shows her little finger and tells the children, “This little pinky on my right!” In this way, the teacher also informs her students which finger is known as the “pinkie” finger. Usually, the little finger has a pinkish color. That’s why it’s called a pinkie.

 

Historical Context of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Once I Caught a Fish Alive

‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Once I Caught a Fish Alive’ nursery rhyme is indexed in the Roud Folk Song Index and its number is 13530. The Roud Folk Song Index is a database of around 250,000 references to closely 25,000 songs. The songs are collected from oral tradition in the English language from all over the world. Steve Roud, a former librarian in the London Borough of Croydon, compiled the oral songs and made this list. Apart from that, this counting-out rhyme was first recorded in “Mother Goose’s Melody” around 1765. Like most versions of nursery rhymes until the late 19th century, it had only the first stanza. Surprisingly, the nursery rhyme dealt with a hare, not a fish. The nursery rhyme was:

One, two, three, Four and five,

I caught a hare alive;

Six, seven, eight, Nine and ten,

I let him go again.

However, the modern version of ‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Once I Caught a Fish Alive’ nursery rhyme is derived from three variations collected by Henry Bolton in the 1880s from America.

 

Similar Nursery Rhymes

Like ‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Once I Caught a Fish Alive’ nursery rhyme, here is a list of a few poems that similarly educates little kids with stories or fun elements.

You can explore other children’s poems from A List of Popular Nursery Rhymes here.

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