A Conversation for Unfinished Business of the Century
Disie Started conversation Apr 12, 2003
I think this article might be a little overdue. But then again deadlines and me have never really got on. I think Douglas Adams would understand. But maybe someone could help me with my little problem anyway. It means you get 97 years to think about it before it becomes unfinished business of the twenty-second century.
I was just thinking about things that confuse me. Which are not usually good things to think about, but anyway, the words to this lullaby came to mind: “rock a bye baby on the tree top. When the wind blows the cradle will rock.” Which is all very nice and calming for the little baby but then suddenly their supposedly loving parent is telling them “when the bow breaks the cradle will fall and down will come baby cradle and all” oh that’s charming, that is! What a lovely image to fall asleep to. I want to know who wrote this and why. My bets are on that child-catcher from “Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang”. Which, by the way, is an awful name. Come on- there has to be something better than that!
But this got me thinking. What about other lullabies; are there more fear inspiring songs out there that just slip by unnoticed? Well no not really. There’s some pretty gruesome stuff in those nursery rhymes though. Take Jack and Jill; what kind of person writes a poem for little children where the main character cracks his skull open? And uses vinegar as a cure. And then lives! Then there’s “Ring a Ring of Roses”, which is about dying of plague. Well all I can say is I’m glad that at least the kids could see the funny side.
But the one that really cracks me up is “Clementine”. I know what you’re thinking; it’s not a lullaby. But it was on a website with other lullabies. And it was an American website. So I’m going to trust it! Now I used to sing this song in school, as a four or five year old, and I remember thinking to myself; but wait- isn’t this about a girl drowning? Which at the time seemed rather odd, because all the other songs were about rainbows and Wombles and bananas in pyjamas who were coming down the stairs. But I remember it ending with the girl drowning. And it just so happened that I was looking up lullabies the other day- just to see if there were any other nasty ones- and this was on the same page. But where I remember it ending, it carries on. And on. I’d like to point out some rather interesting little features:
· Her bereaved boyfriend likes to compare her to a fish. She wears herring boxes as shoes and when she dies she is marinated in brine. I mean if she was ever going to be a source of food I was kind of placing my bets on an orange, not a sardine.
· Her dad commits suicide. Which isn’t very nice if this really is a children’s song. Well it isn’t very nice even if it isn’t.
· There’s a verse that goes; “there’s a churchyard on a hillside, where the flowers grow and twine” now that’s a lovely image. “There grow roses, ‘moungst the posies” right, good “fertilised by Clementine” What the…? That is far too funny to be put in a so-called lullaby! And what about- “though in life I used to hug her. Now she’s dead I draw the line”? This top-class material is going straight over the kiddies’ heads.
· Another verse is; “Now you scouts may learn the moral of this little tale of mine. Artificial Respiration would have saved my Clementine.” Terms like “Artificial Respiration” should not be used in lullabies. And anyway, with the word “scouts” in there, who still thought this should be posted as a lullaby?
· Its no wonder adults complain about kids’ lack of morals when they bring them up on songs that end with “how I missed her, till I kissed her little sister and forgot my Clementine.” Good punch line though.
So I want to know whether this is really a children’s song or not. And have these later, funnier verses been added in afterwards? I’ve tried (but not very hard) to find the origins of the song, but no luck. I’d also like to know who was the evil mind behind “rock a bye baby” was, oh and don’t forget to re-name Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang before you move on. Personally, I think he looks more like a Mortimer.
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