Old King Cole is an old English nursery rhyme that was first published in 1708. There is very little reliable information known about the identity of King Cole.
Illustrations of Old King Cole most often include the basic elements enumerated in the first six lines of the rhyme – king, pipe, bowl, and fiddlers three. Although artists have offered many different visions of the king, he is usually portrayed as obese, sometimes with an upper torso very large and a lower torso very small, making him a close kin of Humpty Dumpty. The pipe, which could as easily have been referred to as a musical instrument to allow him to join in the music-making of the fiddlers, is almost always pictured as one filled with tobacco. Often the pipe appears to be symbolic of the king’s comfort as he is seen relaxing and blowing smoke into the air. The fiddlers provide perhaps the greatest latitude for artistic interpretation as will be seen in the images below. All in all, Old King Cole is a walking/dancing health hazard with his obesity and his smoking.
Old King Cole Lyrics
Old King Cole was a merry old soul,
And a merry old soul was he;
He called for his pipe,
and he called for his bowl,
And he called for his fiddlers three.
Every fiddler he had a fiddle,
And a very fine fiddle had he;
Oh there’s none so rare,
As can compare
With King Cole and his fiddlers three.