One For Sorrow

The magpie is a bird that has a curious connection with superstitions, being viewed as sinister in Europe but a positive omen in other countries such as China and Korea. One for Sorrow is a nursery rhyme that attributes a meaning to the number of magpies that a person sees. 

The rhyme first appeared in 1780 when an English clergyman, John Brand, made a note in the Observations on Popular Antiquities. The saying was then passed into folklore and in 1846 it was published in “Proverbs and Popular Saying of the Seasons”.

The 1978-1980 children’s TV show Magpie used a large chunk of this nursery rhyme, which may help to account for its continued popularity and many people remain superstitious about these birds when they see them in their path. The ‘Good Morning Mr. Magpie’ saying is attributed to this rhyme and the fact that magpies mate for life, making a lone magpie an omen of bad luck.

One For Sorrow Lyrics

One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret,
Never to be told,
Eight for a wish,
Nine for a kiss
Ten for a bird
You must not miss.

One For Sorrow Music Sheet