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Lyr Add: Hush-A-Bye Baby (on the tree top)

Q (Frank Staplin) 20 Jun 09 - 10:57 PM
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Subject: Lyr Add: Hush-A-Bye Baby (on the tree top)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 20 Jun 09 - 10:57 PM

Nursery rhyme, c. 1765

Hush-a-bye baby, on the tree top,
When the wind blows the cradle will rock;
When the bough breaks the cradle will fall,
Down will come baby, cradle, and all.

From Iona and Peter Opie, 1955, "The Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book," p. 18, Oxford Press.

According to *James J. Fuld, the words were first published about 1765 in "Mother Goose's Melody, p. 39 (according to Opie, no copy of the original is known, but there is a reprint c. 1785, Isaiah Thomas, Worcester, Massachusetts; American Antiquarian Society).
*James J. Fuld, 1985, "The Book of World-Famous Music ..," 3rd. ed., pp. 468-469, Dover printing.

The rhyme, according to Fuld and The Traditional Ballad Index, does not seem to have acquired a tune (or at least the current one) until the 1880s. The current tune, according to the Traditional Ballad Index, appeared in a collection of songs as no. 5, "Rock-A-Bye Baby," 1884, crediting words and music to Effie I. Canning (Effie I. Crockett); the earliest copyright being April 28, 1887.

In 1884, sheet music was published with the heading "Lullaby" and this title:

Song by G. L. Spaulding, 1885.

In a little town beside a flowing river,
Stands the cottage where I first beheld the light,
There my mother lives so aged, gray and feeble,
And is waiting for her boy's return tonight,
Oh, how happy were the days I passed in childhood,
In that dear old home I'm going now to see,
Many times I've fell asleep to mother's singing,
Her old familiar lullaby to me.

Hush-a-bye-baby on the tree top,
When the wind blows the cradle will rock,
When the bough bends the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.

Many miles across the country I have travelled,
And I'm going home tonight and hope to stay
With my mother, for she's growing old and needs me,
And she may be taken from me any day,
I will put my arms then tenderly around her,
Gently smooth her silken hair as white as snow,
And I'll whisper then while kneeling there beside her,
"Sing the lullaby you sang so long ago."


Piano sheet music at American Memory. Copyright John Church Co. 1885. The music to the Chorus is close to that heard today. This sheet music does not seem to have been available to Fuld or the compilers of the Traditional Ballad Index.
I have not seen the Canning-Crockett sheet music.

The following is a Christy's Minstrel song of 1852, the sheet music also not available to Fuld, but a song sheet of unknown date was mentioned in the Traditional Ballad Index.
Only the second chorus is of interest, but the entire song is as follows:

Christy's Minstrels, 1852

When but a little fellow, I'd nothing much to do
But run about on errands and black young massa's shoe,
The case is very diff'rent now, I have to hoe and rake,
With scarcely time of mornings for to eat my cornmeal cake.

Chorus to the First four verses.
But I dig, dig, dig, dig dig a dig,
Dig all the live long day,
The worst of all trouble to a darkey is to dig,
Tho' he ain't troubled much with the pay.

Old Missis tried persuading, and old Massa he did fret,
Because young massa was away accumulating debt,
Old massa sent a letter to young massa with advice,
For the future to do better, and to marry something nice.
So my young massa Harry "kinder-sorter" shook his head,
Resolved at once to marry, as he "orter" so he said,
And he found a planter's daughter, very pretty, rich and tall,
Went right away to court her, pleased the lady, friends and all.
The summer had departed, and gone were all the flowers,
Cold autumn had arrived with all its misty, moisty showers,
When home came my young massa with a very sweet young bride,
Far sweeter than the honeycomb, without a bit of pride.
With old familiar faces, young massa stay'd at home,
Never went to balls nor races, never felt inclined to roam,
At last there came a little child in the cosy month of June,
And the old folks and the young folks all began this self same tune,

Chorus to 5th verse.
Hush-a-bye baby up on the tree top,
When the wind blows the cradle will rock
When the bough bends the cradle will fall,
Down comes rock-a-bye cradle and all.

Sheet music at American Memory.
The music of this second chorus is not the same as that of the Spaulding chorus, but the rhythm is the same; it is quite different from the music of the first chorus.
The song sheet at American Memory is titled "Dig, dig, dig, or Hush-a-bye baby" (no publisher or date).

No song with these words has been found with a date between 1785 and 1852.

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