The Glow-Worm

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

"Das Glühwürmchen", known in English as "The Glow-Worm", is a song from Paul Lincke's 1902 operetta Lysistrata, with German lyrics by Heinz Bolten-Backers. In the operetta, it is performed as a trio with three female solo voices singing alternately and the women's chorus joining in the refrain. Rhythmically, it is in the form of a gavotte.[1] The song, with its familiar chorus, was translated into English and became an American popular song.

It was originally translated into English by Lilla Cayley Robinson, in the early 20th century, and was used in the 1907 Broadway musical The Girl Behind The Counter.[2]

American lyricist Johnny Mercer later expanded and greatly revised Robinson's lyrics, for the 1952 recording by the Mills Brothers.[3] His version was a hit for the Mills Brothers, and it has been performed by several others.

The tune is also quite popular as an orchestral instrumental.


Robinson's English-translation lyrics (circa 1905):

Verse 1:

When the night falls silently,
The night falls silently on forests dreaming,
Lovers wander forth to see,
They wander forth to see the bright stars gleaming.
And lest they should lose their way,
Lest they should lose their way, the glow-worms nightly
Light their tiny lanterns gay,
Their tiny lanterns gay and twinkle brightly.
Here and there and everywhere, from mossy dell and hollow,
Floating, gliding through the air, they call on us to follow.


Shine, little glow-worm, glimmer, glimmer
Shine, little glow-worm, glimmer, glimmer!
Lead us lest too far we wander.
Love's sweet voice is calling yonder!
Shine, little glow-worm, glimmer, glimmer
Shine, little glow-worm, glimmer, glimmer
Light the path below, above,
And lead us on to love.

Verse 2:

Little glow-worm, tell me pray,
Oh glow-worm, tell me, pray, how did you kindle
Lamps that by the break of day,
That by the break of day, must fade and dwindle?"
Ah, this secret, by your leave,
This secret, by your leave, is worth the learning!
When true lovers come at eve,
True lovers come at eve, their hearts are burning!
Glowing cheeks and lips betray how sweet the kisses tasted
Till we steal the fire away, for fear lest it be wasted!"

Johnny Mercer kept the original chorus basically intact and added 3 new "verses" to that same tune but did not use music from the original song's verses at all.

Renditions and other appearances in popular culture[edit]

  • Probably the best-known recording of the song was done by The Mills Brothers with the Hal McIntyre Orchestra in 1952. Their version spent 21 weeks on the charts, including 3 weeks at #1.
  • DTV set the Mills Brothers version to the Nutcracker Suite segment (Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy / Waltz of the Flowers) from Fantasia and one bit from The Fox and the Hound.
  • The great ballerina Anna Pavlova performed an orchestrated version of "The Glow-Worm".
  • Spike Jones released a version of the song in 1946, replete with his typical comic sound effects.
  • Allan Sherman parodied the song as "Grow, Mrs. Goldfarb."
  • The song was heard throughout the I Love Lucy episode "The Saxophone" (1952), as it was the only song Lucy Ricardo knew how to play on the saxophone.
  • Jean-Jacques Perrey used the song to make "La Gavotte Des Vers Luisants" (1960) for his album, Mister Ondioline.
  • In the 1960s, the soft drink Dr Pepper used the tune of the song's chorus in their "It's Dr Pepper Time!" ads.
  • In one of the appearances of The Muppets on The Ed Sullivan Show (November 27, 1966), Kermit the Frog sits on a wall and hums "Glow Worm". Kermit sings the song in a 1971 episode of The Dick Cavett Show.
  • Mel Tormé recorded a version with alternate lyrics for his 1992 Christmas album, Christmas Songs.
  • An orchestral arrangement of the song is used in McCain Foods's "Good Unlimited" ads, which first aired in November 2009.[4]
  • In an episode of the spoof comedy series Police Squad! (1982), officer Nordberg, played by Peter Lupus sings the chorus whilst under the influence of narcotics.
  • Chas Hodges and Dave Peacock perform a boogie-woogie instrumental version entitled "Rockin' Gloworm" on the 2013 Chas & Dave album "That's What Happens" and regularly feature the song in their stage show.


  1. ^ Piano-vocal score at IMSLP
  2. ^ "The Girl Behind the Counter" opened October 1, 1907 -
  3. ^ Furia, Philip (1992). Poets of Tin Pan Alley. New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 282. ISBN 0-19-507473-4. 
  4. ^ "McCain's "Good Unlimited" ad". 2009-11-12. Retrieved 2011-06-08. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
I Went to Your Wedding
Cash Box magazine best selling record chart
#1 record

December 6, 1952
Succeeded by
Why Don't You Believe Me?