For want of a nail…

Happy Sunday, kiddies.  Auntie here to bring you a new rhyme!  Be sure to stay tuned for April’s A-Z Challenge where I’ll be posting a new rhyme each day (except Sunday). After that I will be taking a break for a while! Don’t worry, we’ll always be posting some kind of art!  Love and Feathers, Auntie Goose

for want of a nail_0001

Original Version


“Knight” Variation

For want of a nail the shoe was lost,
for want of a shoe the horse was lost,
for want of a horse the knight was lost,
for want of a knight the battle was lost,
for want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
So a kingdom was lost—all for want of a nail.

-JLA: The Nail
DC Comics, 1998









“A clever set of lyrics in “For want of a nail” encouraging children to apply logical progression to the consequences of their actions. “For want of a nail” is often used to gently chastise a child whilst explaining the possible events that may follow a thoughtless act.

The History of Obligatory Archery Practise!
The references to horses, riders, kingdoms and battles in “For want of a nail” indicate the English origins of the rhyme. One of the English Kings did not leave anything to chance! In 1363, to ensure the continued safety of the realm, King Edward III commanded the obligatory practice of archery on Sundays and holidays! The earliest known written version of the rhyme is in John Gower’s “Confesio Amantis” dated approximately 1390.

“For want of a nail” American usage
Benjamin Franklin included a version of the rhyme in his Poor Richard’s Almanack when America and England were on opposite sides.

During World War II, this verse was framed and hung on the wall of the Anglo-American Supply Headquarters in London, England.

Nursery Rhymes Lyrics and Origins


The earliest reference to the full proverb may refer to the death of Richard III of England at the Battle of Bosworth Field. This short variation of the proverb (shown to the right), was published in “Fifty Famous People” by James Baldwin. The story associated with the proverb, describing the unhorsing of King Richard during battle, would place the proverb’s origin after the Battle of Bosworth on 22 August 1485. It should be noted that historically Richard’s horse was merely mired in the mud.



2 thoughts on “For want of a nail…

  1. Great post, Sabina. I really like your version. I find it quite fascinating how rhymes like this are changed and reused over the years. 🙂


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