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Three Wise Men of Gotham Nursery Rhyme

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Introduction to the Rhyme

A nursery rhyme, "The Three Wise Men of Gotham" first featured in Mother Goose's Melody in 1765. Since then, it has been repeatedly published and modified. The nursery rhyme is about the peasants in Gotham, south Nottinghamshire, who outsmarted King John by performing ludicrous activities whenever royal messengers went through the village and pretending to be insane to avoid a royal visit. The villagers sought to avoid having to build a public highway for the monarch to accommodate a royal visit at any cost.

Three Wise Men of Gotham Lyrics

Three Wise Men of Gotham

Went to sea in a bowl.

If the bowl had been stronger

My tale had been longer.

Three Wise Men Of Gotham

Three Wise Men Of Gotham

Summary of the Poem

The two old men in the poem were known to be very wise, and lived in the city of Gotham. One of them, referred to as Socrates, resided by the north gate; was bald, had a long white beard, and was dressed in a black robe. Socrates walked the streets with a stately gait and hardly ever spoke. 

A man by the name of Sophocles resided close to the south gate; he appeared to be very wise and responded to the challenging inquiries that people brought to him. (When a man questioned him about whether or not he would win his lawsuit, Sophocles responded, "If it is not decided against you, you will definitely win your action.")

An elderly beggar woman from the town watched these two and concluded that they were both con artists and stupid. She made the decision to make her unproductive spouse the third smart guy. His name was changed from Perry Smith to Pericles, and the community immediately hailed him as its third wise man after she cleaned his beard till it was white and dressed him correctly.

In the midst of a large crowd of people, the three characters convened at Pericles' hut one day and took seats on stools. Each hesitated to speak out of fear of exposing his true ignorance. Sophocles concluded by declaring that the earth is flat. Since the waters would drain away otherwise, according to Socrates, it is shaped like a dish. Pericles also said that individuals live on the interior surface of a hollow sphere that makes up the world.

To determine who is right, Socrates proposed that they take a boat out to the edge. The other participants agreed. All of the fishing boats were out at sea near the shore. The only available vehicle for the three wise men to travel in was a big old bowl. The bowl started to leak as they were swept by the tide over the horizon.

The three realized they were in trouble too late and each admitted he was a fool. Yet they also ascribed their enhanced reputation to the citizens of Gotham, saying, "The people have slain us!" The bowl quickly disintegrated. And the populace is still awaiting the return of the three wise men.

Three Wise Men Of Gotham 2

Three Wise Men Of Gotham


Rhymes are a concise and interesting form of English literature. Here we have seen about the famous and one of the oldest Three Wise Men of Gotham Nursery Rhyme. The story revolves around three wise men and all of them died in the last due to their foolishness.

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FAQs on Three Wise Men of Gotham Nursery Rhyme

1. Why were residents of Gotham referred to as wise?

The residents of Gotham were referred to "Wise Men of Gotham," due to an incident in which they allegedly pretended to be stupid in order to avoid a royal visit.

2. Where do the three wise men of gotham nursery rhymes first appeared?

We can find this rhyme in Denslow's Mother Goose (1901). The nursery rhyme book, edited by Andrew Lang and illustrated by L. Leslie Brooke (1897), contains the first illustration, The Real Mother Goose (1916), by Blanche Fisher Wright, the second from Denslow's Mother Goose, and the third from The Nursery Rhyme Book.

3. Where is Gotham originally located?

Gotham is originally a village located in Nottinghamshire, England.