There are different versions of this poem. In early versions it's called "Questions". The earliest version we've found is from 1894. You can find that version in the Notes.


(1) Tar means a sailor. The Jolly Tar also an establishment that opened as an inn in 1855.
(2) A River Head is British English for the source of the river's water.
(3) In Seine (the river) - the pun is on the word "insane".
(4) Lay can refer to a song or tune.


Here's a version from 1894 from "Pick-me-up" (Vol. 5, London)...

Do ships have eyes when they go to sea?
Are there springs in the ocean's bed?
Does a "jolly tar" ooze from a tree?
Can a river lose its head?

What kind of food is a watchman's beat?
Can an old loom sing its lay?
Can a poem trip without its feet?
What notes does a gambler play?

Will a blacksmith's vice condemn his soul?
Can a book be white and read?
To whom does the church bell pay its toll?
Who shingles a watershed?

If a minstrel boy can sing his lay,
Can a ship sing her "lay-to"?
Do tigers ask for grace when they prey?
Can a bugle note come due?

Is "Father Time" a noted thief
For stealing the hours away?
Can you give a window-pane relief?
Can you mend the break of day?

Will a foreign clime make anyone tired?
Is a mountain climb like May?
Can a haul of fish for balls be hired?
Can donkeys feed on a brae?

Is a purchase made when shoes are soled?
Can an axe the rainbow hue?
If I keep on twisting the tale I've told,
Pray what will your readers do?


Check out an American poem with puns called Have You Ever Seen?

Here are the words to the version in the video below, which is sung...

Do ships have eyes when they go to sea?
Are there springs in the ocean bed?
Does the Jolly Tar flow from a tree?
Can a river lose its head?

Could you bring relief to a window pane?
Or mend the break of day?
Would you paint a rabbit on a bald man's head,
Just to give him a bit of hare?

If you ate a square meal would the corners hurt?
Can you dig with the Ace of spades?
Would you throw a rope to a drowning lemon,
Just to give a lemon aid?

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