Since it’s the Halloween time of year, and I know that a lot of people out there are interested in the line, “The worms crawled in, the worms crawled out”, I’m going to talk a little more about the earliest sightings of this line in print.
In my last blog entry, I mentioned that a similar line was seen in print in 1796, in a ballad called Alonzo the Brave and Fair Imogine, in a novel called The Monk, by Matthew Gregory Lewis.
There was also a nursery rhyme, which can be found in Gammer Gurton’s Garland’s 1810 edition, that has a similar line. It’s hard to tell if the nursery rhyme came before The Monk, and that Lewis took the line from a rhyme he already knew, or vice versa.
Here’s the nursery rhyme…
There Was a Lady All Skin and Bone
There was a lady all skin and bone,
Sure such a lady was never known:
It happened upon a certain day,
This lady went to church to pray.
When she came to the church stile,
There she did rest a little while;
When she came to the church yard,
There the bells so loud she heard.
When she came to the church door,
She stopped to rest a little more;
When she came to the church within,
The parson prayed ‘gainst pride and sin.
On looking up, on looking down,
She saw a dead man on the ground;
And from his nose unto his chin,
The worms crawled out, the worms crawled in.*
Then she unto the parson said,
Shall I be so when I am dead?
O yes! O yes! the parson said,
You will be so when you are dead.
*The Annotated Mother Goose quotes Gammer Gurton’s Garland, “This line has been adopted in the modern ballad of Alonzo and Fair Imogene.” Which implies that the nursery rhyme came first. Yet, from what I can tell, The Monk has the earliest use of the line in print.
If anyone knows of any earlier sightings of this line, please let us know in the comments below.
Here you’ll find other versions of The Hearse Song or The Worms Crawled In, The Worms Crawled Out. Feel free to add the version you know in the comments.
This artilce was posted on Saturday, October 28th, 2006 at 5:33 pm and is filed under Alonzo the Brave and Fair Imogine, British Children's Songs, British Folk Songs, Countries & Cultures, English, English Nursery Rhymes, Great Britain, Halloween, Halloween Songs, Holiday Songs, Holidays Around the World, Languages, Nursery Rhymes, The Hearse Song, The Worms Crawl In, The Worms Crawl Out, There Was a Lady All Skin and Bone, USA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.