Children’s Songs

After reading David’s post about his experience with “All Around the Mulberry Bush” I feel inclined to comment on children’s songs.

Both songs I’m thinking about are ones that my parents sang to my brothers and me.  When I have brought them up in conversation with other adults, they do not know them, though I have found some obscure references in various books.

We went to the animal fair/The birds and the beasts were there/By the light of the moon/The old racoon/Was combing his long gray hair/The monkey he got drunk/And sat on the elephant’s trunk/The elephant sneezed/And fell to his knees/And that was the end of the monk/The monk, the monk, the monk

In singing this song to my own children, it strikes me as odd that we sing a song about monkey’s getting drunk, elephant’s sneezing, and monkey’s being killed.  Disturbing thoughts.  I’m sure there is some meaning behind it.  I’ll have to go look for it.

The second song is more of a poem, though to my young ears, it sounded musical.  And no one I have ever spoken to has heard it before.

“To bed to bed,” said Sleepyhead/”Let’s wait awhile,” said Slow/”Put on the pot,” said Greedygut, “we’ll eat before we go!”

This poem/song was recited each night on our way to bed.  As we got a little older, my brothers and I each took a line.  I was Sleepyhead, my middle brother was Slow and my youngest brother was Greedygut.  For a long time I just assumed that we said them in the order of our birth.  Now that I am older and looking back, I think each of those personas were appropriate for us.  I was (and still am) a sleepyhead, my middle brother is the slowest person I know, and my youngest brother can out eat anyone I know.  I once asked my mom where it came from and she said that her grandmother taught it to her.  Maybe I’ll have to look for that too.

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17 Comments

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17 responses to “Children’s Songs

  1. You do?!? I have had several people know the Animal Fair song, but not the other! 🙂

  2. i have heard them recently these are really good , i like these!

  3. i like that , have you seen , simpu ?he is really rocking !

  4. Both of these are new to me … and from an adult perspective,mildly disturbing. 🙂

  5. Griangath

    I have heard of both of these from my Father growing up.
    The second one was read to me as this (in a Scottish accent)
    “Off to bed” said Sleepyhead
    “Let’s wait awhile” said Slow
    “Put on the pot” said Greedyguts
    “We’ll eat before we go!”

    I remember begging my father to say this to us as we went to bed as children.

  6. I find it interesting the way people react to these songs. While I agree with David that there is a part of me that finds the content mildly disturbing, they bring about a very comforting and loving feeling. We were talking about these songs (and others) at my parents house this past weekend and how connected they are with our memories of childhood. My dad remembers his mother singing the animal fair song to him as a child.

  7. Mark Duntley

    My wife and I remember both of these songs.
    My mother, a great fan of the Scottish Poet Robert Burns, would recite it this way ( Let’s wait awhile said Slow- to, – Let’s tarry awhile said Slow).

  8. I do remember those songs. All things considered, this probably means that those who have feelings of concern and disquiet in regard to those songs are quite justified in having those uneasy feelings.

  9. My father (born 1899 in rural Georgia) used to recite “To bed, to bed.”

    Do you know the Opie book on children’s rhymes?

  10. Trace

    My Grandma used to sing both of these to me, and a number of others…I hope one day to teach them to my Grandchildren as it makes me so happy to think of them x

    • Monica McDermid

      My mum at 95 always recited this going to bed in Scotland.Thanks for the memories,it makes me both sad and happy.I will now teach my three year old granddaughter.

  11. roger

    I learned this and many other nursery rhymes andchildrens songs when I was at my firsrt school, a village school in Yrkshire.
    the words we learnt were :-
    Let’s off to bed said said sleepyhead.
    Tarry a while said slow.
    Put on the pan said greedy Nan
    Let’s sup before we go.

    At least it scans properly, but I came to the spontaneous conclusion that there was political or antiroyalist lampoon involved [Brandy Nan?]
    What do you make of ‘Mary, Mary quite contrary…..
    Can someone give me some links to understanding Mother Goose not just knowing when the ditties were first observed?

  12. roger

    Let’s off to bed said sleepyhead.
    Tarry a while said Slow.
    Put on the pan
    Said greedy Nan,
    Lets sup before we go’

    It’s always seemed to me that this was some lampoon on the royal family and the reference may be to Brandy Nan.
    What do you think?

    In the version of the Animals Fair that I remember the monkey slid down the elephant’s
    trunk.The elephant sneezed and fell on his knees ,
    But what became of the monkey,monkey monkey…… It was a campfire song in tthe Boy Scouts

  13. Manxmargie

    I know the “to bed, to bed” poem. My grandmother had it said to her from her parents. They were both Manx (from the Isle of Man, which was under Scottish rule for centuries). I also know another Manx women who had her Manx parents recite the peom to her as well.

  14. E. Doll

    I have heard the rhyme “To bed, to bed, said sleepyhead….” My grandmother used to recite it to me. She was from eastern Kentucky.

  15. Ed

    Just did a search for the “Let’s go to bed said sleepy-head” rhyme and it led to this page. My dad & mom used to recite it to us when I was a kid back in the 60s in rural South Texas. He and my mom were reared in rural OK, AR & MO in the depression days. They undoubtedly learned it from their parents. And yes, I’ve recited it many times to my (now adult) kids. Nothing like passing along such warm traditions. :o)

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