14 September 2012

On vacation: Way down yonder in the valley

Horses in a valley: detail from a Chinese scroll.
DW collection.

This is a lullaby my mother, Martha Jordan, was sung as a baby in Ozark, Alabama, before 1920 -- a lullaby that she sang to me, that I sang to my daughters and to my grandchildren.  As happens with folksongs, it is a patchwork of other songs.  The "pretty little horses" are found in innumerable variants, especially in Kentucky and Tennessee; the "ol' black birds" are found in the "Twa' Corbies"; and a North Carolina variant was collected by the Library of Congress in 1947 (A8).  I have transcribed it with final consonants, but sometime she sang it with Ol' and singin' which is how I sang it three years ago at a Folklore Festival, and my preference -- it makes for a gentler sound.

* * * * * *

Go to sleep, little baby,
Don't the boogers gonna get you.
Ducks in the pond,
The geese are flying over
All the pretty little horses
Way down yonder in the valley.

Old black birds
A' picking out his eyes,  [edited sometimes to "singing all the day"]
Poor little thing cried "Mama!"
Mama went away
And told me to stay,
And take good care of the baby.
When she came back
She brought a piece of pie
And gave it every bit to the baby,
Way down yonder in the valley.



  1. i did not know the song, and as i found it beautiful :)
    here is an αντίδωρο (sorry don't know the english word for it :( )


  2. An antidoro is a "gift in return."

    That's a wonderful antidoro -- I hope other readers here will take time to listen to another variation of this variation.


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