As I Was Going to St. Ives, I met a man with Seven Wives

As I Was Going to St. Ives, I met a man with Seven Wives

Regular price
Sale price

8” x 11”


Robert Pettit

I will forever associate this rhyme with Die Hard With a Vengeance   staring Bruce Willis and Samuel Jackson. 

An explanation of the answer comes from Wiki

The traditional understanding of this rhyme is that only one is going to St. Ives—the narrator. All of the others are coming from St. Ives. The trick is that the listener assumes that all of the others must be totaled up, forgetting that only the narrator is said to be going to St. Ives.[1][6] If everyone mentioned in the riddle were bound for St. Ives, then the number would be 2,802: the narrator, the man and his seven wives, forty-nine sacks, three hundred forty-three cats, and twenty-four hundred and one kits.

This interpretation provided the basis for a verse reply from "Philo-Rhithmus" of Edinburgh, in the September 8, 1779 issue of the Weekly Magazine:[7]

Why the deuce do you give yourselves so much vexation,
And puzzle your brains with a long calculation
Of the number of cats, with their kittens and sacks,
Which went to St Ives, on the old women's backs,
As you seem to suppose? — Don't you see that the cunning
Old Querist went only? — The rest were all coming.
But grant the wives went too, — as sure's they were married,
Eight only could go, — for the rest were all carried.

Owing to various ambiguities in the language of the riddle, several other solutions are possible. While it is generally assumed that the narrator met the man and his wives coming from St. Ives, the word "met" does not necessarily exclude the possibility that they fell in while traveling in the same direction.[8] In this case, there is no trick; just a mathematical calculation of the number of kits, cats, sacks, and wives, along with the man and the narrator. Another possible answer is that the "man with seven wives" might have seven wives, but that none of them were accompanying him on the journey. One way of stating the answer, factoring in these ambiguities, is "at least one, the narrator plus anyone who happens to be travelling in the same direction as him or her".[9] However, still other interpretations concern the phrasing of the question, which might be understood to exclude the narrator. If only the narrator was traveling to St. Ives, but the phrase, "kits, cats, sacks, and wives" excludes him, then the answer to the riddle is zero. If everyone—including those being carried—were traveling to St. Ives, but only the kits, cats, sacks, and wives are counted, then the answer is precisely 2,800.