Row, Row, Row Your Boat

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"Row, Row, Row Your Boat"
Roud #19236
Row your boat.svg
Song
Written USA
Published 1852
Form Nursery rhyme
Writer(s) Traditional
Language English

"Row, Row, Row Your Boat" is an English language nursery rhyme and a popular children's song. It can also be an "action" nursery rhyme, whose singers sit opposite one another and "row" forwards and backwards with joined hands. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 19236.

Lyrics[edit]

The most common modern version is often sung as a round for four voice parts (About this sound play ). A possible arrangement for SATB is as follows:

Soprano Contralto Tenor Bass
Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream. Row, row, row your boat,
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, Gently down the stream. Row, row, row your boat,
Life is but a dream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, Gently down the stream. Row, row, row your boat,
Life is but a dream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, Gently down the stream.
Life is but a dream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.
The text above is often sung multiple times in succession to allow for the different voices to interweave with each other, forming four-part harmony.

Origins[edit]

It has been suggested that the song may have originally arisen out of American minstrelsy. The earliest printing of the song is from 1852, when the lyrics were published with similar lyrics to those used today, but with a very different tune. It was reprinted again two years later with the same lyrics and another tune. The modern tune was first recorded with the lyrics in 1881, mentioning Eliphalet Oram Lyte in The Franklin Square Song Collection but not making it clear whether he was the composer or adapter.[1]

Additional or alternative verses[edit]

People often add additional verses, a form of children's street culture, with the intent of either extending the song or (especially in the case of more irreverent versions) to make it funny, parody it, or substitute another sensibility for the perceived innocent one of the original.[2] Versions include:

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
If you see a crocodile,
Don't forget to scream.
Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Throw your teacher overboard
And listen to her scream.[3]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Studwell, S. M. (1997). The Americana Song Reader. New York: Haworth Press. p. 82. ISBN 0-7890-0150-0. 
  2. ^ Johnson, B. & Cloonan, M. (2009). Dark Side of the Tune: Popular Music and Violence. Aldershot: Ashgate. p. 98. ISBN 1-4094-0049-2. 
  3. ^ Lightfoot, C. (1997). The Culture of Adolescent Risk-Taking Culture and Human Development. New York: Guilford Press. p. 78. ISBN 1-57230-232-1.