My Grandfather's Clock

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
"Grand-Father's Clock" was first published in 1876.

"My Grandfather's Clock" is a song written in 1876 by Henry Clay Work, the author of "Marching Through Georgia". It is a standard of British brass bands and colliery bands, and is also popular in bluegrass music. It has also been sung by male choruses such as the Robert Shaw Chorale.

Storyline[edit]

It was in this Piercebridge hotel that the author encountered a remarkable clock that inspired the song.

The song, told from a grandson's point of view, is about his grandfather's grandfather clock.

The clock is purchased on the morning of his grandfather's birth and works perfectly for ninety years, requiring only that it be wound at the end of each week.

The clock rings 24 chimes when the grandfather brings his bride into his house; and before the grandfather dies, it rings an eerie alarm; the family recognizes that the grandfather is near death and gathers by his bed. When the grandfather dies, the clock suddenly stops, and never works again.

The Oxford English Dictionary says that the song is responsible for the fact that a longcase clock is also called a "grandfather clock".[1]

Sequel[edit]

Work published a sequel to the song two years after, where the clock is shown sold to a junk dealer, its parts sold for scrap and its case burned for kindling. In the grandfather's house, the clock was replaced by a wall clock. However, the sequel never reached the popularity of the original.[2]

Covers and inspirations[edit]

"My Grandfather's Clock" was often played in Britain on Children's Favourites and during that period was recorded by the Radio Revellers. In the United States, a version, without the last stanza of lyrics, was on an extended-play 45 rpm record on the Peter Pan label (the other song on that side was The Syncopated Clock, and the flip side had The Arkansas Traveler and Red River Valley). Johnny Cash covered the song twice on his 1959 album "Songs of Our Soil" and his 1975 album, The Johnny Cash Children's Album. Evelyn Knight recorded the song for Decca Records. Also in 1959, it was included on The Four Lads' album, Swing Along. Other versions became popular in other countries. It is well known to many generations in Japan.

The song was the inspiration for the 1963 Twilight Zone episode "Ninety Years Without Slumbering". A popular clock toy, marketed by Fisher-Price from 1962 to 1968, had a dial on it that, when turned, caused the toy to play the song along with clock-like ticking and moving hands on the face of the clock. An updated version of the toy (which is completely made of plastic and with other activities like a clicking plastic mouse on the side) has been manufactured by Fisher-Price since 1994. Imitations of the toy made by various companies exist and are sold in various countries worldwide.

Frank Hayes recorded a parody version in which the grandfather's wish, expressed in his will, is to be buried in the clock. Unfortunately the clock is too large to fit through the door of the house, and equally unfortunately the grandfather's body gets stuck inside the clock and cannot be extricated; the song culminates with the dead grandfather standing in the clock, in the house's hallway, "making faces at us" and "ringing the blasted chimes/Ev'ry goddamned night".

An obscene parody, sung in various versions, is "My Grandfather's Cock" [1].

Lyrics[edit]

The City Green in Union Park of Middletown, Connecticut includes this bust of the author near his birthplace.

My grandfather's clock was too large for the shelf,
So it stood ninety years on the floor;
It was taller by half than the old man himself,
Though it weighed not a pennyweight more.
It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born,
And was always his treasure and pride;
But it stopp'd short — never to go again —
When the old man died.

Ninety years without slumbering
(tick, tock, tick, tock),
His life's seconds numbering,
(tick, tock, tick, tock),
It stopp'd short — never to go again —
When the old man died.

In watching its pendulum swing to and fro,
Many hours had he spent while a boy;
And in childhood and manhood the clock seemed to know
And to share both his grief and his joy.
For it struck twenty-four when he entered at the door,
With a blooming and beautiful bride;
But it stopped short — never to go again —
When the old man died.

Ninety years without slumbering
(tick, tock, tick, tock),
His life's seconds numbering,
(tick, tock, tick, tock),
It stopp'd short — never to go again —
When the old man died.

My grandfather said that of those he could hire,
Not a servant so faithful he found;
For it wasted no time, and had but one desire —
At the close of each week to be wound.
And it kept in its place — not a frown upon its face,
And its hands never hung by its side.
But it stopp'd short — never to go again —
When the old man died.

Ninety years without slumbering
(tick, tock, tick, tock),
His life's seconds numbering,
(tick, tock, tick, tock),
It stopp'd short — never to go again —
When the old man died.

It rang an alarm in the dead of the night —
An alarm that for years had been dumb;
And we knew that his spirit was pluming for flight —
That his hour of departure had come.
Still the clock kept the time, with a soft and muffled chime,
As we silently stood by his side;
But it stopp'd short — never to go again —
When the old man died.

Ninety years without slumbering
(tick, tock, tick, tock),
His life's seconds numbering,
(tick, tock, tick, tock),
It stopp'd short — never to go again —
When the old man died.[3][4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Oxford English Dictionary" (available online to subscribers, also in print). Retrieved 2009-04-19. "Grandfather's clock [suggested by a song which was popular about 1880], a furniture-dealer's name for the kind of weight-and-pendulum eight-day clock in a tall case, formerly in common use; also grandfather clock (now the usual name): [1876 H. C. WORK Grandfather's Clock, My grandfather's clock was too large for the shelf, So it stood ninety years on the floor.]" 
  2. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQA6SwM8g0M
  3. ^ Grandfather's clock / by Henry C. Work (New York: C. M. Cady, 1876). (From facsimile at http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=sm1870&fileName=sm/sm1876/01800/01869/mussm01869.db&recNum=1&itemLink=D?mussm:2:./temp/~ammem_e78F::&linkText=0 downloaded 5 May 2012)
  4. ^ "History of the Grandfather Clock". The Clock Depot. Retrieved June 29, 2012. 

External links[edit]