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Baa, baa, black sheep
Have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir
Three bags full.
One for my master
And one for the dame
One for the little boy
Who lives down the lane

 

We are generally encouraged to assume this poem involves an interested person talking to a subservient sheep whose wool is so plentiful it promises to clothe a pair of farmers as well as a neighbor child.  That view is garbage, as we discover when we diligently read the first two words.

“Baa, baa,” it begins.  The narrator shares a common language with Black Sheep.  They are the same kind of animal.  But they are not neighbors, and they are not friends; if that were so, they’d both have names.

The second line queries, “Have you any wool?”

Forget, for now, the premise that these are literal sheep worried about wool.  Otherwise, this would be a useless question.  Literal sheep aren’t responsible for managing the wool that’s been shorn, and while they wear it, you can see it; you don’t need to ask if they have any.

Forget, also, the possibility that the narrator changes from the second line to the third.  There is nothing in spacing or context to indicate a change in perspective.  Consider instead that these lines represent only one side of a two-way conversation – like an overheard phone call.

We can’t hear the answer our narrator receives.  We can only hear her respond, “Yes sir, yes sir.”

Frankly, all of this sounds military.  “Black Sheep” sounds more like a code name than anything.   It is clear that our narrator (let’s call her “White Sheep”) is addressing an officer of superior rank.  We have no idea what “wool” represents when White Sheep reports, “Three bags full.”  Whatever she’s talking about can fill up bags, and is needed in bulk.

The use of code indicates an operation taking place in a land or territory at odds with their mission.  It may be a plot of violence or terrorism.  My guess?  Three bags full of fertilizer, such as sheep shit, would facilitate the making of explosives.

One for the master – whoever has historically called the shots where all of this is going down.

One for the dame – the partner of whoever calls the shots.

One for the little boy who lives down the lane – because the operatives are definitely terrorists who are fine with targeting children in order to spread terror among civilians.

So who are they?  When and where do they strike?

I know I said before, “forget the premise that they’re literal sheep.”  Now I want you to remember that they might be literal sheep.  Because I can’t for the life of me figure out what that initial “Baa, baa” could mean – unless it’s sheepspeak.

An animal revolt is in the works.  We have been unwittingly preparing our livestock for centuries, ever since the first youngsters overheard half the message and their wide-eyed account was laughed off and passed around town.  We have stupidly trained our children to act as little mouthpieces for the rebellions’ sleeper cells ever since.

Case regretfully closed.