There's a Hole in My Bucket

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"There's a Hole in My Bucket" (or "...in the Bucket") is a children's song, along the same lines as "Found a Peanut". The song is based on a dialogue about a leaky bucket between two characters, called Henry and Liza. The song describes a deadlock situation: Henry has got a leaky bucket, and Liza tells him to repair it. But to fix the leaky bucket, he needs straw. To cut the straw, he needs a knife. To sharpen the knife, he needs to wet the sharpening stone. To wet the stone, he needs water. However, when Henry asks how to get the water, Liza's answer is "in a bucket". It is implied that only one bucket is available – the leaky one, which, if it could carry water, would not need repairing in the first place.

Lyrics[edit]

There's a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza,
There's a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, a hole.
Then mend it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
Then mend it, dear Henry, dear Henry, mend it.
 
With what shall I mend it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
With what shall I mend it, dear Liza, with what?
With a straw, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
With a straw, dear Henry, dear Henry, with a straw.

The straw is too long, dear Liza, dear Liza,
The straw is too long, dear Liza, too long,
Then cut it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
Then cut it, dear Henry, dear Henry, cut it.

With what shall I cut it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
With what shall I cut it, dear Liza, with what?
With a knife, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
With a knife, dear Henry, dear Henry, with a knife.

The knife is too dull, dear Liza, dear Liza,
The knife is too dull, dear Liza, too dull.
Then sharpen it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry
Then sharpen it, dear Henry, dear Henry, sharpen it.

On what shall I sharpen it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
On what shall I sharpen it, dear Liza, on what?
On a stone, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
On a stone, dear Henry, dear Henry, a stone.

The stone is too dry, dear Liza, dear Liza,
The stone is too dry, dear Liza, too dry.
Well wet it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
Well wet it, dear Henry, dear Henry, wet it.

With what shall I wet it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
With what shall I wet it, dear Liza, with what?
try water, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
try water, dear Henry, dear Henry, water.

In what shall I fetch it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
In what shall I fetch it, dear Liza, in what?
In a bucket, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
In a bucket, dear Henry, dear Henry, a bucket.

There's a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza,
There's a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, a hole.
Use your head, then! dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
Use your head, then! dear Henry, dear Henry, use your head!

Origins and development[edit]

The earliest known archetype of this song seems to be in the German collection of songs Bergliederbüchlein (c 1700). It is set as a dialogue between a woman named Liese, and an unnamed man.[citation needed]

Wenn der Beltz em Loch hat –
stop es zu meine liebe Liese
Womit soll ich es zustopfen –
mit Stroh, meine liebe Liese.

When the jug has a hole –
stop it up my dear Liese
With what shall I stop it –
with straw my dear Liese.

In later German sources the song is reproduced under the title of Heinrich und Liese and credited as a folk song from Hesse. In the 19th century it was sung as a commercium song and printed in the 1858 Kommersbuch. The renowned song collection Deutscher Liederhort (3 volumes, 1856–1894) edited by Ludwig Erk (de) and Franz Magnus Böhme (de) includes the song, relating it also to the Flemish song Mooy Bernardyn ("Wat doet gy in het groene veld ?"). The German song became even more widespread when it was included in the famous Wandervogel songbook Der Zupfgeigenhansl in 1909.

In George Korson's "Pennsylvania Songs and Legends" (1949) there is a song

Wann der Tschock awer en Loch hot
Liewer Georgie Liewer Georgie,
Wann der Tschock a wer en Loch hot?
Dummer Ding, dann schtopp'n zu!

When the jug has a hole
Dear Georgie, dear Georgie
When the jug has a hole
'Stupid thing, then stop it up!

This was collected in 1940, and is earlier than any known English-language version. This suggests that it might be a traditional "Pennsylvania Dutch" (i.e. German) song. Ed McCurdy recorded it in 1958 on "Children's Songs". Harry Belafonte recorded it with Odetta in 1960. It was in the UK charts in 1961. In his book "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" (1993), Pete Seeger refers to it as an originally German song, "Lieber Heinrich". "Songs Along the Mahantongo: Pennsylvania Dutch Folksongs" (1951), by Boyer, Buffington, & Yoder, has a version

Was soll ich koche, liewer Hei,
Liewer Heinrich, liewer Heinrich?
Was soll ich koche, liewer Heinrich,
Was dann?

What should I cook, dear Henry,
Dear Henry, dear Henry?
What should I cook, dear Henry,
Tell me what. (literally: What then?)

These German-American versions all have Henry as the stupid questioner, and Lisa as the common-sense woman.

In popular culture[edit]

The song in its best-known form is referenced as far back as 1949 in W. V. Awdry's story "Thomas Goes Fishing", from the book Tank Engine Thomas Again.

Burl Ives recorded it in 1959 with the title "There's A Hole in My Bucket". In 1961 a popular version of the song was recorded by Harry Belafonte and Odetta. They reached #32 in the UK Singles Chart. In 1961 the Israeli artists Yosi Banai and Yona Atari (sister of Shosh and Gali Atari) recorded it in Hebrew. The Dutch artist Tom Manders (Dorus) has recorded it in Dutch with the title "Er zit een gat in m'n emmer".

Sesame Street incorporated the song as a comedic skit in the 1970s, with Henry and Liza portrayed by Muppets, except that instead of straw, Liza prescribes fixing the hole in the bucket "with a stick". Billy Joel incorporated some of the song's tune into his song "Two Thousand Years". The song is featured in Carly Rae Jepsen's song, "Bucket", from 2008. Michael Franti and Spearhead incorporated the opening lines into the chorus of their 1994 single "Hole in the Bucket".

In the Sci-Fi television show, Battlestar Galactica, Samuel Anders quotes lyrics from this machine as he is plugged into the hybrid tank.

External links[edit]