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The Lost Verses

April 21, 2010

About a month or two ago, there was a wave of “consignment” sales in the area, and most of these had tons of baby-stuff to peruse through and buy.  (Consignment sales, for those who don’t know, are like super-sized garage sales, where people give their used stuff over to a third party, usually a Church group or community organization, to sell.  The third party takes a cut, sorting out the good-quality used stuff from the junk, and the rest goes back to the seller.)  So, during all of those we picked up a number of books for baby B.T., and as many evenings as we can either I or Dear Wife read to him.

One of the books we picked up has a few nursery rhymes, so we’ve done our best to sing them to B.T.  My mother suggested this was a particularly good idea, because then he’d be familiar with the songs after he was born, and they’d be extra soothing to him.  (One of the songs, though, we usually make up a different tune each time because neither of us is familiar with it.)  One discovery from the two we do know is that these songs have extra verses that we never knew before.  For instance, you all know “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”.  But did you know this follow up verse?

Twinkle, twinkle, moon so bright,

Bring us lots of light tonight.

Up above the world so high,

Like a lantern in the sky.

Twinkle, twinkle, moon so bright,

Bring us lots of light tonight.

While that was a fun discovery, Dear Wife discovered this link just yesterday, and forwarded it to me.  That fun link includes other verses for “I’m a Little Tea Pot”, “Do Your Ears Hang Low”, “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean”, “B-I-N-G-O”, “Baa, Baa Black Sheep”, “A Tisket, A Tasket”, all the verses of “Oh My Darling, Clementine” (but not the soulful refrain that’s sung between each verse), and a very different version of the additional lyrics for “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”.

Some of those are pretty sketchy for “children’s” songs, which gives us a glimpse of the long and sordid history of songs and stories we teach our children.  (See also: the Brothers Grimm, whose fairy tales were actually quite frequently gruesome and frightening, when we explore the original versions and not just the Disney-fied modern takes.)  Clementine for instance, if you didn’t already know, tells the tale of the death of Clementine (I knew it mostly, I think, because I spent some time from my childhood in California, and the song is ostensibly about “A Miner, Forty-niner, and his daughter Clementine”.  Another example (not on the linked page of unknown second verses) is that of “Ring Around the Rosies”, which most of us learned either in Middle School or High School was actually a prescription for trying to ward off the bubonic plague during the Black Death in Europe.

But my favorite “Lost Verses” to songs we sing regularly are ones ultimately of hope and optimism.  When we sing the “Star Spangled Banner”, few people ever stop to wonder that the song ends in a question: “Oh say, does that Star-spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”  This isn’t a triumphal phrase.  It’s uncertain.  Has the American Fort been taken, or did it withstand the artillery barrage?  Will the British troops overthrow the nascent American Government (during the War of 1812, not the Revolutionary War as many might otherwise assume) or will this new country stand free?  It’s an old joke that many Americans seem to think the resounding answer to this question is “Play Ball!”, admittedly a humorous non sequitur that, in a round-about way, does answer the question.  But, in fact, the answer is proclaimed in the following verses to Francis Scott Key‘s famous poem:


On the shore, dimly seen through the glass of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.


O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Happy writing!

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