Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafemuddy

Post to this Thread - Sort Descending - Printer Friendly - Home


Origins: Merrily We Roll Along

Related threads:
Lyr Req: Good Night Ladies (E.P. Christy) (11)
Merrily we roll along? (9)


GUEST,Bob Coltman 03 Apr 07 - 07:25 AM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 03 Apr 07 - 07:41 AM
masato sakurai 03 Apr 07 - 09:08 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 03 Apr 07 - 01:33 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 03 Apr 07 - 01:58 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 03 Apr 07 - 02:35 PM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 04 Apr 07 - 09:18 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 04 Apr 07 - 12:13 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 04 Apr 07 - 02:42 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 04 Apr 07 - 03:02 PM
Joe Offer 04 Apr 07 - 03:14 PM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 05 Apr 07 - 08:00 AM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 05 Apr 07 - 08:26 AM
Charlie Baum 05 Apr 07 - 08:39 AM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 27 May 09 - 08:20 AM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 27 May 09 - 08:34 AM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 27 May 09 - 08:58 AM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 27 May 09 - 09:04 AM
Jack Campin 27 May 09 - 09:09 AM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 27 May 09 - 10:29 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 28 May 09 - 12:00 AM
Share Thread
more
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:



Subject: Origins: Merrily We Roll Along
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 03 Apr 07 - 07:25 AM

Does anyone know how the old song / nursery rhyme "Merrily We Roll Along" started?
Does anyone know more lyrics to it than the common

Merrily we roll along,
Roll along, roll along,
Merrily we roll along,
O'er the bright blue sea.          [later variant: "deep blue sea"]

Data: it's called an "old folk song" but it sounds pop.

1. Most recently Stephen Sondheim made a 1980 musical by that name from a 1934 Kaufman-Hart play of the same name.

2. In the DT it appears in several threads as a chorus to "Good Night Ladies." (Probably a recent accretion.)

3. Its most commonly known form has the same tune as Mary Had a Little Lamb.
I thought it was a nursery rhyme but, funny thing, I couldn't find it in the Baring-Gould "Annotated Mother Goose."

4. In the Lester Levy collection appears an interesting song, whose lyrics I've copied below. Maybe this is the original. But it has the sound of a quote, breaking the rhythm of the refrain. I wonder whether its authors picked up the "merrily" part from an earlier pop song.

Can anyone provide any older source?   Could it really just date only to 1906? And if so, where did the "bright blue sea" come from, in place of "come take a skate with me"? Bob

COME TAKE A SKATE WITH ME
(?) Browne & Gus Edwards, 1906
From Lester B. Levy Collection

Not long ago when a girl and her beau
Took an arm and arm trip after dark,
They'd go to a play or a dance to be gay,
Or perhaps they'll hold hands in the park,
That's changed nowadays, roller skating's the craze,
And when "he" and"she" meet ev'ry day
His speech is "Hello, are you ready to go?
If she hesitates, then he will say,

CHO
Come take a skate with me, Katie,
Roll me all over the rink,
We'll show them some twirling, some curling and whirling,
We won't even stop for a drink!
Come on, join the bunch where the music so sweet
Will making forget that you ever had feet,
Merrily we roll along, roll along, roll along,
Merrily we roll along, come take a skate with me.

"Bumping the bumps" yes or "jumping the jumps"
As a popular craze are all through,
And automobiles have lost out to the wheels
That can make you think flying's come true,
You don't need the moon for this fine chance to spoon,
For you're arm in arm all of the way,
And if she starts to fall, just get busy, that's all,
It's no wonder that all the boys say:

CHO


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origins: Merrily We Roll Along
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 03 Apr 07 - 07:41 AM

BTW I somehow doubt the attribution of "Merrily we roll along" to "Good Night Ladies" as given in:
http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=47180

I have been unable to check this, though, because I could not find any original of the 1847 E.P. Christy "Good Night Lady?/Ladies?" in Levy or in American Memory at Duke.

My best guess is that the confusion of the two songs dates to the 1915 Chas. K. Harris medley "Pickin' On de Ole Banjo" which uses "Merrily" as a patter sung behind "Ladies."

Bpb


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origins: Merrily We Roll Along
From: masato sakurai
Date: 03 Apr 07 - 09:08 AM

The first printing of it is "Farewell Ladies" by E.P. Christy (New York: Jaques and Brother, 1847). But only the first part is related, and it does not contain the "Merrily we roll along" chorus. According to James J. Fuld (The Book of World-Famous Music, 5th ed., 2000, pp. 255-56), "The first known printing of the complete song as we know it was on May 16, 1867, in Carmina Yalensia, compiled and arranged by Ferd. V.D. Garretson, and published by Taintor Brothers & Co., 229 Broadway, New York, N.Y."

See Carmina Yalensia (1867). "Good Night" (with the "Merrily we roll along" chorus) is on p. 47.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origins: Merrily We Roll Along
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 03 Apr 07 - 01:33 PM

The verse also in Waite, H. R., 1868, "Carmina Collegensia: A Complete Collection of the Songs of the American Colleges...," Oliver Ditson & Co., Boston-NY

Lyr. Add: GOOD NIGHT
(as sung by the Yale Yachting Club)

Good night, ladies!
Good night, ladies!
Good night ladies!
We're going to leave you now.

Allegro-
Merrily we roll along, roll along, roll along,
Merrily we roll along, O'er the dark blue sea.

2.
Farewell, ladies; (2x)
Farewell, ladies; we're going to leave you now.
Merrily, etc.
3.
Sweet dreams, ladies; (2x)
Sweet dreams, ladies; we're going to leave you now.
Merrily, etc.

Not among Yale songs in C. Wistar Stevens, 1859, "College Song Book," Russell & Tolman, Boston.
Included in M. Taylor Pyne et al., eds., "Carmina princetonia," 8th ed., 1894; not attributed to any college.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origins: Merrily We Roll Along
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 03 Apr 07 - 01:58 PM

Song with score included in:
(shareholders), 1892, 3rd. Ed., "Scottish Students Song Book," p. 316 with score, no attribution.
In twenty-five years, more or less, the song seems to have become universal among English-speaking college students.

Not in Academy Songbook (1895) or Franklin Square Song Collection (1881).
Included in "Heart Songs," 1909, p. 144, without attribution.

Haven't found 'bright' blue sea yet.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origins: Merrily We Roll Along
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 03 Apr 07 - 02:35 PM

Confusion with the Gilbert and Sullivan song may have led to dark blue sea shifting in some minds to 'bright' blue sea.
HMS Pinafore-
O'er the bright blue sea, we stand to our guns all day....


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origins: Merrily We Roll Along
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 04 Apr 07 - 09:18 AM

Good work, Masato and Q.

It sounds, then, as if Christy himself did not put "Merrily we roll along" to "Farewell Ladies," but that "Merrily" was added subsequently, perhaps by college singers at Yale.

Does that imply that the Yalies composed it?

Or does "Merrily" have a separate origin in something older?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origins: Merrily We Roll Along
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 04 Apr 07 - 12:13 PM

All printings with 'merrily' from the first in 1867 (see Masato above) lack attribution to a lyricist or composer; "sung by the Yale Yachting Club" is all that is stated (in the 1868 "Carmina col.").

The chorus of the E. P. Christy song "Farewell Ladies" of 1847 (linked by Masato) differs somewhat in tune to the "Good night, ladies!" verse but does seem to be the inspiration for the Yale song.

Fare you well, ladies,
Fare you well, ladies,

Fare you well, ladies, (3x)
We're gwine to leave you now.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origins: Merrily We Roll Along
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 04 Apr 07 - 02:42 PM

A song that might have inspired the 'merrily, merrily,' first printed in 1857, but reprinted, 1885; thus seems to have been popular.

Lyr. Add: MERRILY, MERRILY, OVER THE SEA
A barcarolle, 1857
Words Henry W. Chalis, Music by Wm. Vincent Wallace

Merrily, merrily, over the sea!
Clearing the billows we're bounding along
Waking deep echoes with frolic and glee
Mocking the Syrens with music and song;
We have no fears of the green depths below
More than we feel for the blue sky above-.
All that we care for as onward we go
Is reaching our homes and hearts that we love!

Ah, merrily, merrily over the sea!
Merrily bounding over the sea,
Merrily, merrily over the sea,
Merrily over the sea, over the sea,
Bounding merrily over the sea, over the sea,
Bounding o'er the sea!

Surging around as the foaming waters curl,
White with the spray that is borne on the wind;
Making our track like a pathway of pearl,
Leaving the seabird far floating behind-
So we to our home, and she to her nest
Speed on and on o'er the glittering tide,
Nothing *----------------
O heaven of love and the ---- at our side.

Ah! merrily, merrily over the sea ..., etc.

*Overprinting makes these lines difficult to read.
Printed by Wm. Hall & Son, NY.
American Memory
Digital ID
sm1857 631430 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.music/sm1857.631430


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origins: Merrily We Roll Along
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 04 Apr 07 - 03:02 PM

Several of these merrily, merrily sea songs:

MERRILY, MERRILY, BOUNDS THE BARK
The Poetry from the Lord of the Isles. Written by Walter Scott, Esqr., music composed by Dr. John Clarke of Cambridge. For three voices, score printed by G. E. Blake, Philadelphia, 1815-1819.

http://levysheetmusic.mse.jhu.edu/cgi-bin/display.pl?record=065.068.000&pages=6


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origins: Merrily We Roll Along
From: Joe Offer
Date: 04 Apr 07 - 03:14 PM

Hi, Bob -

Thanks for starting the thread. My hunch is that "Merrily We Roll Along" is a tag that has been used on a number of songs that we have hardly begun to list. As Q has shown above, the tie with "Good Night Ladies" begins in the 1870's or so - but I'm not satisfied that we have found what seems to be an original source.

When I posted "Good Night Ladies" in 2000, I wasn't as careful about attribution as I try to be now. I should have stated where I found the particular lyrics I posted, and where I found the date and attribution to Christy (and now I don't know where I found them). Ah, but now I'm older and wiser.

I see that you're posting as a Guest. That's fine, but if you'd like to log in as a member, contact me by e-mail for login information. I tried to e-mail you, but the address I have for you must be out-of-date.

-Joe Offer-
joe@mudcat.org


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origins: Merrily We Roll Along
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 05 Apr 07 - 08:00 AM

Joe, I think you're exactly right. The "Merrily" trail possibly leads back before 1850, and, I would bet, to England. I have looked into sources on English children's songs and games like Gomme, but without success so far.

This must be one of the earliest songs many of us heard as infants. Lucky me, my babysitter, c. 1942-4, sang me folk songs like "Billy Boy" to amuse me and herself. I have a vague memory of her singing "Merrily We Roll Along" as a separate song, with verses that basically vary the chorus like "Mulberry Bush" (which she also sang, and maybe borrowed from):

Merrily we wash our clothes / hands / face ...
Merrily we ... (can't remember any others at the moment)

-- as if it might have been one of those children's activity songs. Now did she learn that from her mother? On the other hand she was a clever lass and might just as easily have been extemporizing.

***Digressing (not fatally, I hope), I should have noted the obvious as well: rather late in "Merrily"'s life it became the lead line of the theme of Warner Bros.' Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons. The little musical "sting," which then goes off into another melody, was still being used in 1995 for the Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries end theme.
That in turn was based on the 1937 "Merrily We Roll Along" composed by Charlie Tobias, Murray Mencher and Eddie Cantor. Not related to the Kaufman-Hart play of 1934. (Info Wikipedia)***

Back to the search into the deeper mists of time: if anyone knows of ANY use of the phrase "Merrily we roll along" (and/or its tune, apart from Mary Had a Little Lamb and sometimes London Bridge) in more songs previous to 1867 and Yale's adaptation of Christy, cite em please! "Merrily Merrily Over the Sea" and "Merrily, Merrily Bounds the Bark" are a good start. Could it be that they echo an earlier, simpler children's song or stage song with the phrase "Merrily we roll along?"   

Bob


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origins: Merrily We Roll Along
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 05 Apr 07 - 08:26 AM

Incidentally the Wikipedia song search comes up with the following. I quote verbatim:

***
"The related verse portion of "Good Night, Ladies":

Hope you had a happy time
Happy time, happy time
Hope you had a happy time
We had a good time, too"
***

Despite Wiki's casual assurance, this doesn't really appear in "Good Night Ladies" as we've seen it so far. Where could it have come from?

1. Could it be associated with the original "Merrily?"

2. Is it from the Tobias, Mencher, Cantor 1937 (some sources say 1935) "Merrily We Roll Along?" I haven't been able to find a copy of that on the web, so I don't know.

3. Is it what it sounds like, a lame addition somebody thought up at a party post-1950?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origins: Merrily We Roll Along
From: Charlie Baum
Date: 05 Apr 07 - 08:39 AM

When I was but a tyke, the word "merrily" was associated with the verb "row" rather than "roll":

Row row row your boat
Gently down the stream
Merrily merrily merrily merrily
Life is but a dream

(perhaps the first four-part round I ever learned).

Is the association of "Merrily" with the similiarly sounding "row" and "roll" of long-standing vintage?

--Charlie Baum


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origins: Merrily We Roll Along
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 27 May 09 - 08:20 AM

It occurred to me that the title of the song might originally have been "Merrily We Row Along" ? because unless you're a steamboat you don't really "roll" over the water.

But a google of "Merrily We Row Along" produced no results.

Probably "roll" won out because it's more euphonious.

Thanks Charlie for the inspiration. (Though "Row Row Row Your Boat" isn't related, that's another one that sounds like it comes from an early 19th-century pop song.)

So, I'm still looking for the origin of "Merrily We Roll Along," which seems buried in the obscurity of the (pre-?) Civil War era.

Bob


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Lyr Add: Merrily We Roll Along
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 27 May 09 - 08:34 AM

Some fruits of "Merrily We Roll Along" research:

1. A college parody:

MERRILY WE ROLL THE KEG
Found in several places, including Songs for Swinging Housemothers (1961) and the Beer Bust Songbook (1963). I've found no occurrence previous to 1961.

Merrily we roll the keg, roll the keg, roll the keg,
Merrily we roll the keg across the barroom floor,

Tweedlidee we drink it down, drink it down, drink it down,
Tweedlidee we drink it down, until there is no more,

(Slow) Sadly roll it back again, back again, back again,
Sadly roll it back again, because there is no more.

2. A sea shanty:

GOODNIGHT, LADIES
Alternative title, Merrily We Roll Along
From Hugill, Shanties From the Seven Seas, 2ed, Routledge, 1980, p 179.

This is the way we sew the sails! sew the sails! sew the sails!
This is the way we sew the sails on the good ship Shenandoah.

This is the way we heave the lead ....

CHO: Goodnight, ladies, goodnight ladies,
Goodnight ladies, we're gonna leave yer now!
So, merrily we roll along, roll along, roll along,
Merrily we roll along, on the good ship Shenandoah.

This is the way we roustabout ...

This is the way we tuck a splice ...

This is the way we stow a bunt ...

This is the way we heave away ...


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origins: Merrily We Roll Along
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 27 May 09 - 08:58 AM

"Merrily" of course shares its tune with "Mary Had a Little Lamb."

William Emmett Studwell, in The Americana Song Reader, Haworth Press, 1997, writes:

"Only one year after its initial printing, 'Mary Had a Little Lamb' had received enough attention to be set to music (but not the present melody). The marriage of the now very familiar melody and lyrics took place in an 1868 collection of college songs. In that publication, Hobart College in Geneva, New York, was identified as the completed song's place of origin.

"The tune had been taken from an 1867 printing of 'Goodnight, Ladies.' .... The first part of the earlier song appeared in 1847, and 20 years later, another version added a second part, "Merrily We Roll Along." The melody for the new second section was the one used for 'Mary Had a Little Lamb.'"

[Dating "Mary Had a Little Lamb": it had been published in 1830 as a poem by Sarah Josepha Hale, and picked up its repetition lines ("little lamb, little lamb") when given its first tune by Lowell Mason in the 1830s. But as implied above, only in 1867 was it set to the "Merrily We Roll Along" tune.]

So if Studwell is correct (and he seems to have missed the 1867 printing; it should be noted that scholarship on this point is generally very shoddy), it was Hobart College students who married "Merrily" with Christie's show-closer "Good Night" (as it was originally called).

I.e. Christie had nothing to do with it, which makes sense; "Merrily" is very unlike anything in the Christie style.

The above does not answer the question of "Merrily"'s origin. But it makes clear that "Merrily We Roll Along" was known at Hobart College for Men in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York in 1867, where someone had the bright idea to turn it into a medley by joining it with a familiar minstrel song ... implying, perhaps, that it was already a familiar song tag by that time.

Can anyone trace it back into the misty past from there? My personal opinion, based on sound and style, is that "Merrily We Roll Along" is the only surviving piece of an American, or possibly British, popular song of the 1840s or 1850s.

Bob


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origins: Merrily We Roll Along
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 27 May 09 - 09:04 AM

The use of "This is the way we sew our sails" etc. in the Hugill sea shanty version above is an interesting parallel to my memory of my babysitter Althea Grass' singing me (circa 1940) the verses more familiar in "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush" as part of "Merrily We Roll Along":

This is the way we wash our clothes, wash our clothes, wash our clothes,
This is the way we wash our clothes, so early in the morning.

This is the way we wring our clothes ...

This is the way we hang our clothes ...

This is the way we dry our clothes ...

Almost anything you could do with clothes, Althea sang to the "Merrily" tune. I have no idea whether this implies a longer tradition, but if it does, it could suggest at least one possible set of traditional lyrics for "Merrily We Roll Along."

Against this interpretation, though, is the fact that washing clothes hasn't much to do with rolling along o'er the bright/dark/deep blue sea.

Bob


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origins: Merrily We Roll Along
From: Jack Campin
Date: 27 May 09 - 09:09 AM

You aren't looking back anywhere near far enough.

Click on the link for "MIDI arrangement of Prof. Kilmer's transcription" on this page:

The Oldest Song in the World


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origins: Merrily We Roll Along
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 27 May 09 - 10:29 AM

Hah! Good one, Jack. How could I have failed to realize the ancient Sumerians intoned "MER-ih-LY' wE ROL' Al-ONG'" to their bull's head harps?

But the real champion among mankind's primal songs goes way farther back than that ... to the unknown ancient pre-civilization that Egypt and Sumeria palely echoed. Surely in Atlantis the following rang out o'er those storied walls:

children's taunt tune: nyah nyah, na nyah nyah
http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=45873&messages=55

Merrily rolling along,

Bob


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origins: Merrily We Roll Along
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 28 May 09 - 12:00 AM

Reminiscent of the traditional English game "Merry-ma-tansa" has, among many others, these verses (and the tune ain't that far off:

Here we go round by jingo-ring
Jingo-ring, jingo-ring,
Here we go round by jingo-ring,
About the merry-ma-tansa.

This is the way to wash the clothes,
Wash the clothes, wash the clothes,
This is the way to wash the clothes,
About the merry-ma-tansa.

Father and mother they must obey........

Loving each other like sister and brother.....

We pray this couple may kiss thegither......
-------------
A variant:

Three times round goes the gala, gala ship,
And three times round goes she;
Three times round goes the gala, gala ship,
And sinks to the bottom of the sea.
[gallant ship?]
Alice B. Gomme, "The Traditional Games of England, Scotland, and Ireland, vol. one. Nothing before mid-19th c. that is not speculation. Also common in N. Am.

Many similar rhymes and games, e. g. "Here we come gathering nuts in May,.......," "Here we go round the barberry bush,........"

So far, no "Merrily we roll (or row)."


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
  Share Thread:
More...

Reply to Thread
Subject:  Help
From:
Preview   Automatic Linebreaks   Make a link ("blue clicky")


Mudcat time: 21 February 10:10 AM EST

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.