Monday, January 12, 2009

Music Monday/Lyric Lundi

When I was young, I loved the great big book of folk songs we had (question to siblings: do we still have that book somewhere in the family? And were there two different books, as I seem to think there were?), with music for piano playing (from the days when people used to gather around the piano and sing). The book was old and losing its binding, but I can remember spending time sitting on our living room couch, poring through it, looking at the pictures, and singing favorite songs (sometimes with my siblings and sometimes alone). If memory serves me right, it was a very politically incorrect book, as far as the illustrations go.


Some of you happen to know that I also love and collect frogs, something I’ve done since I was about five years old or so. It’s no surprise then, that when I was choosing the songs to sing from that book, we’d always turn to “Mr. Frog Would A-Courtin' Go,” although I’m not sure, at this point, if, in that particular collection, it wasn’t “Mr. Frog Would A-Wooin’ Go.” This was a favorite folk song of mine back then, and it remains a favorite of mine today. However, I had no idea it had such a history. As a matter of fact, I always assumed it was an American song, one of African-American descent, because it seems similar to a lot of other African-American songs and folktales about animals.


How wrong I was. In searching for lyrics online for today’s post, I came across this site. What an absolutely fabulous site, the illustrations being much better than those found in the old song book. I never cease to be amazed by what people will spend their time doing online, much to the benefit of those of us looking for this sort of material. Imagine pulling together over 170 verses for this song! And I loved reading the history, the fact that this song was originally a satire of Queen Elizabeth I's habit of referring to her ministers by animal nicknames, which ties in so nicely with the fact that I’m reading The Faerie Queene right now.


I’m not sure what version of this song is the one I sang as a child. My absolute favorite contemporary version is the one by Bob Dylan found on his 1992 album of traditional folk songs called “Good as I Been to You.” Bruce Springsteen also did a fun version for “We Shall Overcome: The Pete Seeger Sessions” (which, incidentally, is a fabulous album musically). There’s a version of Springsteen doing that live on YouTube (sorry folks. Still don’t know how to imbed YouTube video into Blogger posts).


I’m giving you here the lyrics from the oldest known written version from 1611 (at least according to the "Frog Went A-Courtin'" web site, and who am I to argue with that?), as well as Bob Dylan’s (I’m very partial to the “juney bug” and the “bumbley bee”). Like a good old fashioned game of “Telephone,” it’s fun to see how it’s changed, isn’t it?


1611 Version

'Twas the Frogge in the well, humble dum, humble, dum. And the merrie Mouse in the Mill, tweedle, tweedle, twino.

The Frogge he would a woing ride, humble dum, humble, dum. Sword and a buckler by his side, tweedle, tweedle, twino.

When he was upon his high horse set, humble dum, humble, dum, His boots they shone as blacke as jet, tweedle, tweedle, twino.

When he came to a merry mill pin, humble dum, humble dum, Lady Mouse beene you within? Tweedle, tweedle, twino.

Then came out the dusty Mouse, humble dum, humble dum. "I am Lady of this house," tweedle, tweedle, twino.

"Hast thou any minde of me?" humble dum, humble dum. "I have e'ne greate minde of thee," tweedle, tweedle, twino.

Who shall this marriage make? humble dum, humble dum. Our Lord which is the rat, tweedle, tweedle, twino.

What shall we have to our supper? humble dum, humble dum. Three beanes in a pound of butter, tweedle, tweedle, twino.

When supper they were at, humble dum, humble dum. The Frog, the Mouse, and even the Rat, tweedle, tweedle, twino.

Then came in gib our cat, humble dum, humble dum, And catcht the mouse even by the backe, tweedle, tweedle, twino.

Then did they separate, humble dum, humble dum, And the frog leapt on the floore so flat, tweedle, tweedle, twino.

Then came in Dicke our Drake, humble dum, humble dum, And drew the frogge even to the lake, tweedle, tweedle, twino.

The Rat run up the wall, humble dum, humble dum. A goodly company, the divell goe with all, tweedle, tweedle, twino.

Bob Dylan’s Version


Frog went a-courtin' and he did ride, uh-huh
Frog went a-courtin' and he did ride, uh-huh
Frog went a-courtin' and he did ride
With a sword and a pistol by his side, uh-huh.

Well he rode right up to Miss Mousey's door, uh-huh
He rode right up to Miss Mousey's door, uh-huh
He rode right up to Miss Mousey's door
Gave three loud raps and a very big roar, uh-huh.

Said, "Miss Mouse, are you within ?" uh-huh
Said he, "Miss Mouse, are you within ?" uh-huh
Said, "Miss Mouse, are you within ?"
"Yes, kind sir, I sit and spin," uh-huh.

He took Miss Mousey on his knee, uh-huh
Took Miss Mousey on his knee, uh-huh
Took Miss Mousey on his knee
Said, "Miss Mousey, will you marry me ?" uh-huh.

"Without my uncle Rat's consent, uh-huh
Without my uncle Rat's consent, uh-huh
Without my uncle Rat's consent
I wouldn't marry the president, uh-huh".

Uncle Rat laughed and he shook his fat sides, uh-huh
Uncle Rat laughed and he shook his fat sides, uh-huh
Uncle Rat laughed and he shook his fat sides
To think his niece would be a bride, uh-huh.

Uncle rat went runnin' downtown, uh-huh
Uncle rat went runnin' downtown, uh-huh
Uncle rat went runnin' downtown
To buy his niece a wedding gown, uh-huh.

Where shall the wedding supper be ? uh-huh
Where shall the wedding supper be ? uh-huh
Where shall the wedding supper be ?
Way down yonder in a hollow tree, uh-huh.

What should the wedding supper be ? uh-huh
What should the wedding supper be ? uh-huh
What should the wedding supper be ?
Fried mosquito in a black-eyed pea, uh-huh.


Well, first to come in was a flyin' moth, uh-huh.
First to come in was a flyin' moth, uh-huh.
First to come in was a flyin' moth
She laid out the table cloth, uh-huh.

Next to come in was a juney bug, uh-huh
Next to come in was a juney bug, uh-huh
Next to come in was a juney bug
She brought the water jug, uh-huh.

Next to come in was a bumbley bee, uh-huh
Next to come in was a bumbley bee, uh-huh
Next to come in was a bumbley bee
Sat mosquito on his knee, uh-huh.

Next to come in was a broken black flea, uh-huh
Next to come in was a broken black flea, uh-huh
Next to come in was a broken black flea
Danced a jig with the bumbley bee, uh-huh.

Next to come in was Mrs. Cow, uh-huh
Next to come in was Mrs. Cow, uh-huh
Next to come in was Mrs. Cow
She tried to dance but she didn't know how, uh-huh.

Next to come in was a little black tick, uh-huh
Next to come in was a little black tick, uh-huh
Next to come in was a little black tick
She ate so much made herself sick, uh-huh.

Next to come in was a big black snake, uh-huh
Next to come in was a big black snake, uh-huh
Next to come in was a big black snake
Ate up all of the wedding cake, uh-huh.

Next to come in was the old gray cat, uh-huh
Next to come in was the old gray cat, uh-huh
Next to come in was the old gray cat
Swallowed the mouse and ate up the rat, uh-huh.


Mr. Frog went a-hoppin' up over the brook, uh-huh
Mr. Frog went a-hoppin' up over the brook, uh-huh
Mr. Frog went a-hoppin' up over the brook
A lily-whit duck come and swallowed him up, uh-huh.

A little piece of cornbread layin' on a shelf, uh-huh
A little piece of cornbread layin' on a shelf, uh-huh
A little piece of cornbread layin' on a shelf
If you want any more, you can sing it yourself, uh-huh.



7 comments:

Courtney said...

Oh my goodness, I loved this song when I was younger too (surprise, surprise). What a fascinating post - thanks so much for sharing the site and the lyrics. Hope your week is off to a lovely start!

Make Tea Not War said...

Fascinating!

honeypiehorse said...

I had a favorite book of illustrated songs too with total 50's illustrations. All the kids were happy and beautiful and not very culturually diverse but what beautiful dresses the girls wore! The songs were much more simple than the frog song, however, it was more like ring around the rosies. Wish I still had it for my kids.

Pete said...

I love the Dylan version - he's a master of surprising and quirky lyrics. Thanks for posting this - one of my favourites. I started a version with our soon-to-be-president Jacob Zuma (he of the shower and also corruption charges fame) as the Froggy that went a-courtin. Will have to find it now.

Emily Barton said...

Court, once again, you prove you have impeccable taste.

Ms. Make Tea, I thought so, too.

Ms. HPH, you'd think we'd be able to find these old things online, but I don't even know where to begin.

Pete, I'd love to see your version!

Susan said...

I used to sing the Bob Dylan song to my son when he was very young and couldn't actually ask me to stop singing!! I love this song. No one likes me singing it though. Even though I sound like Bob D singing. Maybe if I change my hairstyle? I'm kind of hippie-like anyway....thanks for the lyrics, and I am glad to know that I'm singing a song the greats sing, although I'm pretty sure I ruined it for my kids.

Emily Barton said...

Susan, how cool that you sang that version to your son. I doubt you ruined it for you kids (kids are very, very forgiving when it comes to singing voices, although you won't find out until they're thirty and reminisce about how you used to sing that "froggy" song to them).