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Columbus Day is coming up in the United States on October 13th. It celebrates when Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas on October 12th, 1492.

Here is the most popular Columbus Day poem in the US. It’s used to help teach the history of Columbus.

IN 1492

In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

He had three ships and left from Spain;
He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.

He sailed by night; he sailed by day;
He used the stars to find his way.

A compass also helped him know
How to find the way to go.

Ninety sailors were on board;
Some men worked while others snored.

Then the workers went to sleep;
And others watched the ocean deep.

Day after day they looked for land;
They dreamed of trees and rocks and sand.

October 12 their dream came true,
You never saw a happier crew!

“Indians! Indians!” Columbus cried;
His heart was filled with joyful pride.

But “India” the land was not;
It was the Bahamas, and it was hot.

The Arakawa natives were very nice;
They gave the sailors food and spice.

Columbus sailed on to find some gold
To bring back home, as he’d been told.

He made the trip again and again,
Trading gold to bring to Spain.

The first American? No, not quite.
But Columbus was brave, and he was bright.

If you would like to share any Columbus Day songs or poems, please feel free to post them in the comments below!

Many thanks to Monique at Mama Lisa’s World en français for sending me this poem.

-Mama Lisa

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This artilce was posted on Friday, October 3rd, 2008 at 9:59 am and is filed under Children's Songs, Columbus Day, Countries & Cultures, English, Holiday Poems, Holidays Around the World, Languages, Poetry, USA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

39 Responses to “Columbus Day Poem – IN 1492, Columbus Sailed The Ocean Blue”

  1. Lisa Says:

    Deborah wrote me asking…

    Is there a tune to go along with the “1492″ poem?

    Deborah

    I’m not familiar with a tune for this poem. Is anyone else?

    Mama Lisa

  2. Lisa Says:

    I found this – some of the lyrics are different and the volume is low – but it may inspire someone…

  3. Bob Melver Says:

    Does anyone know who wrote that poem? I’m mentioning it in a paper I’m writing, so the author’s name is important.

  4. Paula Lovell Says:

    I, too, would like a citation as I have used this phrase in a paper I wrote and it is part of my thesis statement. I did not realize it would be so time consuming to find the author!

    Paula Lovell

  5. Wishy Says:

    For Spain! -clap clap- To Gain! -clap clap- Ah, it’s so catchy.

  6. Connie Steinke Says:

    Yes, I remember a tune from when I was in second grade. I still remember the tune, and it fits these words. Thanks for the poem.

  7. Richard Lorenz Says:

    In fourteen hundred ninety two
    Columbus sailed the ocean blue
    He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain
    to get to India from Spain

    He hit Bahama, he was pissed
    His chance at fame and glory missed
    He took it out on the local folk
    He stole their gold, and they were broke.

    He killed their kids and let them know
    Their lives would now be full of woe.
    We honor him, I don’t know why,
    May his soul in hell forever fry.

  8. Isabel Vo Says:

    It is a fun way to learn.

  9. bill Says:

    rofl i agree with Richards poem. in 1492, columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1493 columbus stole all he could see

  10. emma n liz Says:

    In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
    He was a great fantastic man.
    He sailed from Spain and he had a plan.
    He was carried in by the tide with horses and beads by his side.
    He was a hero when he came home everyone loved him even in Rome.
    The Queen and King gave him money for boats and he set to sail with a really big coat.
    He had a big coat because it was col and then he brought back lots of gold.
    He brought back slaves that helped him out they didnt whine or even pout.
    He was a great man without a doubt he caused happiness to the world through out….. by emma an liz! (7th graders)

  11. Lisa Says:

    That’s neat Emma and Liz!

    In the line…

    “He had a big coat because it was col and then he brought back lots of gold.”

    Did you mean it was “cold” or “cool”?

    Thanks!

    Mama Lisa

  12. Kay Says:

    Who is the author of this poem? I’d like to quote it in my theory paper, and need the author for proper citation.

    Thanks!

  13. Lisa Says:

    We’re still looking for the author of the song – perhaps unknown!

    The first part of the poem is listed as a traditional rhyme in 99 jumpstarts for kids’ social studies reports: research help for grades 3-8 By Peggy J. Whitley, Susan Williams Goodwin…

    In fourteen hundred ninety-two
    Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
    He had three ships and left from Spain;
    He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.
    He sailed by night; he sailed by day;
    He used the stars to find his way.

    Can anyone else help out here? Meanwhile, I’ll keep looking, and if you find out anything, please let us know.

    Thanks!

    Mama Lisa

    PS It’s possible Jean Marzollo expanded on the traditional rhyme in her book In 1492 published in 1948.

  14. Lisa Says:

    I found reference to this verse going back to the 19th century…

    In fourteen hundred ninety-two
    Columbus crossed the ocean blue.
    And found a wild and desert shore
    Where never a ship had sailed before.

    From The current, Issues 29-54 (1884)

  15. Kay Says:

    Okay, thanks for your help. :]

  16. Jessica Cohen Says:

    Why are we still celebrating a song that represents a man who was responsible for the death and destruction of an entire people?

    That’s the question I would like to ask. I can’t believe they’re still teaching this song to children.

  17. Pepper Says:

    thank you for posting this… :) this song gave me 3 answers to my world history hw.
    [10th grader]

  18. Erick Says:

    Lisa, can you explain the reference/source you gave: “From The current, Issues 29-54 (1884)”?

    The publication or work is called “The Current”?
    What kind of publication is this?
    Who published it?
    Where can it be found today?

  19. Erick Says:

    Although that phrase appears to be largely credited to Winifred Sackville Stoner, Jr. in her poem from 1919 entitled “The History of the U.S.”, she apparently is not the first to use that phrase. This question appears to have been addressed by the column/Website, The Straight Dope (Cecil Adams).

  20. Lisa Says:

    Erick – I made the specific page linkable above so you can see the exact source (and page). The Current was a weekly paper in Chicago. -Lisa

  21. Johnnie Says:

    Richard’s poem is more accurate than that tripe that is passed on as history.

    Read your history, know your heritage.

  22. Mad At This Peom Says:

    That Was Wack….Please Go Read Yo History Book

  23. Clifton Bencke Says:

    As a sailor, and one who’s taught sailing, nature, and outdoors skills to youth and families for 30 years, on Columbus Day can we not focus on what Columbus accomplished?

    Columbus accomplished a dream despite others telling him no for years. Despite being told by many authorities, “No you are wrong.” “No, you can’t do that.” “We will punish you if you try.” Columbus DID succeed with his dream; voyages of discovery. Did he make mistakes? Uncountably. But who really drove the negative events; slavery etc. Columbus? Or the government and political powers of the time, and those that followed.

    Besides, are we absolved of inhumanities such as slavery? Is it a thing of History? Google search “slavery in the world today” and it appears that today, the time WE are responsible for, there are TWICE as many slaves today as all of the slaves that survived being taken from Africa during the American slave trades. Incredible.

    As for Columbus Day, “In fourteen hundred ninety-two
    Columbus sailed the ocean blue…” Sounds like a great opening for class discussions that are relevant to not just History, but to the Present. An opening for class discussions from K-12, and beyond, with a different perspective and different discussion depth each succeeding year.

    Yes, read your history. Know your heritage. But step up to what WE and OUR governments, and OUR corporations are doing today to the people of the world, and to our environment. Remember what WE are doing to the world each time you stand at your gas pump, or fill your trash can with plastic, cardboard, glass and aluminum.

    I believe there is a lot to admire in the Columbus story. One to be remembered and lived on Columbus Day. Work for your Dreams!

    (stepping off soapbox now… :-)

  24. Jon Says:

    In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue
    and on shore the Indians stood saying,
    “there goes the neighborhood”

  25. Ed Grace Says:

    “In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue” was written by e.e. cummings. I memorized this poem for a class in 1959.

  26. Christopher (age 8) Says:

    Columbus rode the Ocean blue
    He took the people from their land
    He made his fame, that much is true
    but made his mark with a heavy hand.

  27. Melody Says:

    I don’t like that teachers still teach children the lies. Talk about teachers in denial and teaching that racism is okay. I tell my kids not to listen to the lies.

  28. Bill Says:

    The original poem written is from a book titled In 1492, written by Jean Marzollo

  29. Jessica Says:

    How is teaching about Columbus teaching lies? Columbus was not the first Westerner to reach the New Word – the Vikings did it and there’s plenty of evidence that Africans had too. But Columbus did usher in a new era of history – the Columbian exchange is a major part of this. The two hemispheres are forever linked after this event and goods, ideas, people, and yes, diseases will freely travel back and forth. The potato and tomato will be introduced to Europe for the first time. The orange and sugar will meet North and South America. African slavery is expanded (not invented) to cover the globe. Small pox devastates native populations, but I think it’s sophomoric to blame that on Columbus. It’s not like he set out to do that. If it makes you feel better, it’s likely that syphillis and arthritis came from South America to Europe, though obviously not with such devastating effects.

  30. Danil From Russia Says:

    Who knows where find this song in MP3?

  31. Thelma Haselton Says:

    My father used to quote a poem that went something like this—Of think, of all the things at school–a boy has gotta do–that studying hisrory, as a rule–Is worst of all, don’t you?–Of dates there are an awful sight–and though I study day and night–there’s only one I’
    ve got just right—that’s 1492. Columbus crossed the Delaware, in 1492–we whipped the British, fair and square–in 1492 (then it went on in great length with every historical date, totally discombobulated, and ended with) and I think the cow jumped over the moon in 1492. Has anyone ever heard this that could give us the entire poem?

  32. Monique Says:

    I found it here and some other sites

    Johnny’s Hist’ry Lesson by Nixon Waterman

    I think of all the things at school
    A boy has got to do,
    That studyin’ hist’ry, as a rule,
    Is worst of all, don’t you?
    Of dates there are an aweful sight,
    An’ though I study day and night,
    There’s only one I’ve got just right,
    That’s fourteen ninety-two.

    Columbus crossed the Delaware
    In fourteen ninety-two,
    We whipped the British, fair and square,
    In fourteen ninety-two,
    At Concord an’ at Lexington
    We kept the redcoats on the run
    While the band played “Johnny Get Your Gun”,
    In fourteen ninty-two.

    Pat Henry, with his dying breath-
    In fourteen ninety-two-
    Said “Gimme liberty or death!”
    In fourteen ninety-two.
    An’ Barbara Fritchie, so ’tis said,
    Cried, “Shoot if you must this old gray head,
    But I’d rather ‘twould be your own instead!”
    In fourteen ninety-two.

    The Pilgrims came to Plymouth Rock
    In fourteen ninety-two,
    Ab’ the Indians standin’ on the dock
    Asked, “What are you going to do?”
    An’ they said, “We seek your harbor drear
    that our children’s children’s children dear
    May boast that their forefathers landed here
    In fourteen ninety-two.

    Miss Pocahontas saved a life,
    In fourteen ninety-two,
    Of John Smith, an’ became his wife,
    In fourteen ninety-two,
    An’ the Smith tribe started than an’ there,
    An now there are John Smiths everywhere,
    But they didn’t haev any Smiths to spare
    In fourteen ninety-two.

    Kentucky was settled by Daniel Boone
    In fourteen ninety-two,
    An’ I think the cow jumped over the moon
    In fourteen ninety-two,
    Ben Franklin flew his kite so high
    He drew the lightning from the sky,
    An’ Washington couldn’t tell a lie,
    In fourteen ninety-two..

  33. Arnoie Says:

    What a great poem, a true American hero!

  34. Jesus Says:

    This poem is the best poem of history in the world i love ut

  35. Daniel Stewart Says:

    Why don’t you teach the children the real truth about this mass killer and SLAVE trader??? How he brought back Natives to Spain for slaves and KILLED babies to feed his dogs…

  36. Jonathon Bolger Says:

    Why are we teaching children to idolize the man who began, encouraged, and, in certain instances, ordered the killings, raping, enslavement, and desecration of an entire civilization? Why can’t we just start idolizing the Hutu leaders or Hitler or Milosevic? The message Columbus day sends is that it’s acceptable to destroy as long as you’re American. Instead of teaching children these songs, teach them to analyze the songs. Think, don’t follow.

  37. Valerie Says:

    Jean Marzollo wrote this particular poem, although the original two-liner is much older. She should be given credit, as this is a very recent preschool picture book on Columbus that expanded on the original memory verse.

  38. Karen Warvi Says:

    To lisa in answer to Deborah’s question, was there a tune to go with it…Here is what I found….”The Farmer and the Dell”
    http://www.teachingheart.net/columbus.htm

    Karen Warvi

  39. silvan baker Says:

    In the year of 1492 a dago from eye-taly was walking down the streets of spain a yellin hot tomally, he went into the spanish queen and said I need ships and cargo, I’m a rootin tootin sob if I don’t bring back chicago.

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