A Poem and Song called “The New Moon”

It’s always a happy day when I can answer a reader’s question about a song, nursery rhyme or poem. I was recently asked by Marion to help her find “a nursery rhyme my mother used to say to me in the very early 1930’s. Don’t know the name, but the first couple of lines are:

‘Oh Mother how pretty the moon looks tonight
She was never so cunning before,
With her two little arms so sharp and so bright,
I hope she won’t grow any more.’

The end of the rhyme was:

‘I’d sit in the middle and hold by both hands
And on the next rainbow come home.’

Have become a grandmother at last and would so love to tell and teach this to my sweet granddaughter.”

I was able to find the words to this poem. It’s called The New Moon. The poem was first printed in 1832 in a book by Eliza Lee Follen called Little Songs. It was either written by Eliza Lee Follen, or it was traditional at the time she published it. She also printed The Three Little Kittens in the same book (another nursery rhyme which many people attribute to her). It may also simply have been traditional at the time.

Here’s the version of The New Moon from Follen’s book Little Songs:

THE NEW MOON

Dear mother, how pretty
The moon looks to-night!
She was never so cunning before;
Her two little horns
Are so sharp and so bright,
I hope she’ll not grow any more.

If I were up there
With you and my friends,
I’d rock in it nicely you see;
I’d sit in the middle
And hold by both ends;
O, what a bright cradle ‘twould be!

I would call to the stars
To keep out of the way,
Lest we should rock over their toes,
And there I would rock
Till the dawn of the day,
And see where the pretty moon goes.

And there we would stay
In the beautiful skies,
And through the bright clouds we would roam;
We would see the sun set,
And see the sun rise,
And on the next rainbow come home.

That’s a lovely poem! People eventually started singing it as a song in the southern United States. The lyrics to the “song” version are close to this:

How Pretty the Moon Looks Tonight

Oh, Mother, how pretty the moon looks tonight
She was never so cunning before
Her two little horns are too sharp and so bright
I hope they’ll not grow any more.

If I were up there with you and the moon
We’d rock in it nightly, you see.
We’d sit in the middle and hold to both ends
Oh, what a fine cradle ‘twould be!

We’d call to the stars to get out of our way,
‘Lest we should rock over their toes.
And there we would stay ’til the dawn of the day
And see where the pretty moon goes.

If anyone would like to send a recording of this poem being sung or recited, I’d be happy to post it.

Enjoy!

Lisa

This article was posted on Thursday, March 8th, 2007 at 12:11 pm and is filed under American Kids Songs, American Nursery Rhymes, Children's Songs, Countries & Cultures, Eliza Lee Follen, English, English Nursery Rhymes, Languages, Nursery Rhymes, Poems, Poetry, Poets, Questions, The New Moon, 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.

35 Responses to “A Poem and Song called “The New Moon””

  1. Marion Sagan Says:

    Dear Lisa – My sincere thanks for the nursery rhyme, The New Moon. Can hardly wait to introduce my granddaughter to it. If someone sends a recording of it would certainly love to hear it. Do vaguely remember my dear little mother singing it but don’t really recall the whole ‘tune’.
    Thank you again, what a marvelous service you are providing for people of all ages, I’m almost 76.
    Sincerely, Marion Sagan

  2. Lisa Says:

    You’re welcome Marion!

    If you ever remember the tune, we’d love to hear you sing it.

    Enjoy!

    Lisa

  3. Cher Klosner Lane Says:

    Hi Lisa! We are Cher & Gene Klosner and we just ran across your site – we’re actually putting a version of “How Pretty the Moon” (based on “The New Moon”) on our lullaby cd (Stardust) that is coming out in October.
    I’ll send you an MP3 of the final recording of this song in October if you’d like to post it – to where do I send it?

    Sincerely,
    Cher Klosner Lane
    http://www.chergene.com

  4. Lisa Says:

    Hi Cher and Gene,

    I’d love to post your recording!. You can send the mp3 to me by email. I’ll be happy to link back to your site and to where people can buy your CD.

    I can’t wait to hear it!

    Best wishes,

    Lisa

  5. Chaz Says:

    I remember a version of that song. We sang it all the time, but it was sad indeed. I shall send a wav of it if you wish.

    It is sung in waltz time.

  6. Lisa Says:

    That would be wonderful if you could send me a wav of it! I look forward to hearing it.

    -Lisa

  7. Chaz Says:

    To whom do I email the .wav?

  8. karen hunt Says:

    my father learned this from his mother. he was born in 1907 and his mother only lived until he was 8 or 9 years old. he taught it to us. it is very close to the version you have. thank you for research and posting. this song is important to our family. dad died last year at age 99. he remembered this song to the end though he had dementia for the last many years.

  9. Richard Crawford Says:

    I was just playing some old reel – reel tapes, converting them to Wav files. My dear grandfather sang some favorite songs on tape just before he passed away some forty years ago. This was the first song he sang on the tape. Thanks so much for the info. I have bookmarked your website so that I can come back and check it out after I finish this project.

  10. Karen Alvstad Says:

    My mother is 88 years old and sang this song to me frequently and I sang it to my children. I always loved it. I do know the tune, but was looking for a version of it on the internet so I could download it for my new granddaughter. So far I haven’t found it.

  11. Beverly Says:

    My aunt Sudie taught this song to me when I was about 9 years old. She learned it from her mother, my grandmother Emmie Elizabeth. Sudie and my father grew up in the dust bowl era in west Texas, a family of 10 children and whose father died when they were very young. Their lives were bleak during this time but music was what kept them happy. Recently, once of my aunts (her and my father’s elder sister) passed away. At the reception following the funeral Aunt Sudie asked me if I remembered the song and if I would sing it with her. It was such a special moment. Thanks for publishing the lyrics. She taught me a slight variation but I cannot look at a crescent moon without thinking of this song and my aunt Sudie.

  12. mylamor Says:

    This ia a beautiful poem Liza. I wish I could hear the song. I live in Marawi City, in the Philippines, a small country in Southeast Asia and since I haven’t heard the song, i imagine it to be lively if is is taught to kids. Thank you for posting this and the other poems too. I love them all.

  13. Cher Klosner Lane Says:

    Hi all! Just want to let you know we have a recording on our new CD, “Stardust” of “How Pretty the Moon” (The New Moon) – there might be a wav of it here on Mama Lisa’s site, but I can’t get the recordings page loaded for some reason – if you’d like to hear it, and you can’t find it here, visit http://www.StardustLullaby.com
    How Pretty the Moon plays automatically when the site opens.

    Enjoy!
    Cher Klosner Lane

  14. Cathy Threadgill Says:

    What wonderful information to find! I (49) just sang this lullaby to my sons (2.5 and 4) as I put them to bed. The only people I’ve ever heard sing it were my Grandmother and her sister (born in the 1870s). I remember it as the first song I ever learned. I knew it had to have a history and logged onto the Internet tonight to find out more information. So very interesting to see how far yet how close our version is to the origianl poem. Thank you all again for providing yoru versions and family Here is how we learned it:

    Oh, Mama, how pretty the mooon is tonight.
    It was never so lovely before.
    It’s two little horns were so sharp and so bright
    I hope they don’t grow any more.

    If I were up there with you and my friends,
    I’d rock in the cradle you see.
    We’d see the sun rise and see the sun set,
    And on the first rainbow come home (sung long and acending Ho-o-o-home!)

    We’d see the sun rise and see the sun set,
    And on the first rainbow come home.

    What lovely memories!
    Cathy

  15. Dolores Acquista Says:

    I, too, grew up hearing my mother sing this song to me and my brother. My mother is now 82, and still remembers fondly our singing the song together. In my memory, sadly, I understood that the mother had died and the child was singing the song for the loss of her mother. I remember it as follows:

    Oh mother! How cunning the moon looks tonight,
    ‘Twas never so cunning before,
    Her two little horns are so sharp and so bright,
    I hope she won’t grow anymore.

    If I were up there with you tonight,
    If I were up there with you,
    We’d sit in the middle and hold by both ends,
    Oh what a fine cradle ‘twould be, ‘twould be,

    We’d sit in the middle and hold by both ends,
    Oh what a fine cradle ‘twould be.

    I have my own children now, almost four-year-old triplets. I sing the song to them, also, and they love it. Another favorite for them is “The Circle Game,” of course because of the reference to the painted ponies like the ones we ride on the carousel at our local park.

    I love all of the comments above, and enjoy reading about everyone’s experiences. Thanks for sharing your gentle memories.

  16. JAneAnn Says:

    Hello, I just found your site and I ma very interesed in the -to see if the ne tune is the one I lear CD mentioned to see if it is the same as the one I have in my head.
    My Grandmother who was born in Hasting Nebraska around 1900 and Grandfather born in Moravia Iowa in 1900 -would sing this to my 6 siblings and myself when we went camping.
    Oh how I loved that song…. I learned some different lyrics and so I did not understand -till reading today- that it as about the loss of a mother.

    Following are the words I learned.
    OH Mother come out, and look at the moon,…. it was never so pretty before.
    With it’s two little arms so sharp and so long, I hope they don’t grow anymore.
    Oh! if we were there,…. you and my friends – thru the North clouds we would roam, we’d set in the middle and rock to both ends and Down the next rainbow come Ho-o-ome!.
    We’d set in the middle and Ro-o-ock to both ends ,..and D -o-o-wn the next rainbow come home!

  17. Ann Shaji Says:

    Dear Lisa,

    I would like to hear it recited for my child. cud u pls send it.
    thanks,
    ann

  18. Шишь Says:

    А это Вы написали на основе исключительно Вашего личного опыта?

  19. Patricia Says:

    The version my grandmother sang to me was the same as the one posted 3/18/08. I had forgotten some words and was thrilled to fine these versions to sing to my own grandaughter who is 10 months.

  20. Michelle Says:

    I was delighted to find this string. My mother (born in 1931) used to sing me that song before bed. I remember the words and the tune. She sang it to us because her mother had sung it to her. She told me at one time that there were more words to the song but her mother could not remember them. My grandmother has been gone for 8 years now and I thought I’d never find the missing words. This was my lucky day! Can’t wait to show them to MY mother. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  21. Robbie White Says:

    Dear Lisa,
    Thanks for the information. This song was handed down in our family also. My great-grandmother sang it to my grandfather and his eleven brothers and sisters in the 1880’s. No one in my family knew where it came from. Our version is a little different too. Thirty years ago I illustrated this lullaby with watercolor. I recently created an iPhone or iPod Touch App (99¢) with 20 pages and my mother singing the song. For more information or to see some of the pictures go to my website:
    http://sites.google.com/site/walden60

  22. Catherine Says:

    My grandmother, who was born in Mississippi in the 1880’s, used to sing this song to me and my sister whenever we spent the night with her. We didn’t know that anyone else knew this song until I found this web site My sister and I both sang it to our children and grandchildren. The only thing we disagreed on is that she sings it to one tune and I another. Ours was:

    O Mother just look and the moon tonight,
    Was never so cunning before. It’s two little arms,
    so sharp and so bright, I hope they won’t grow anymore.
    If I were up there with you and my friends, we’d set in
    the middle and hold on each end. We’d see the sun rise
    and see the sun set, and on the next rainbow come home.

  23. Lisa Says:

    That’s lovely! If you ever want to sing it for us, we’d love to hear your family’s versions!

  24. Patricia True Overton Says:

    I was looking for words to a chick a dee song and came across this song that my mother used to sing to me also. She even wrote it out along with many other songs she liked to sing. I even remember the tune that it had.
    Now I am wondering if you have ever heard of this one?
    The ground was all covered with snow one day
    When three little children were busy at play
    a snow bird was singing way up in the tree
    so merrily singing a chick a dee
    chick a dee chick a dee and
    away he went singing a chick a dee dee

    Oh mother please make some stocking and shoes
    and a pretty white frock if you chose
    how warm it’ll will make my chick a dee dee
    how happy it’ll make my chick a dee dee

  25. Lisa Says:

    Hi Patricia,

    I never heard that song before, but found these slightly different lyrics you might like to see dating back to 1919:

    The Snowbird’s Song

    The ground was all covered with snow one day,
    As two little children were busy at play;
    While a snowbird was sitting close by on a tree,
    And merrily singing his chic-a-dee-dee.

    He had not been singing that tune very long,
    Ere Emily heard him, so loud was his song.
    “Oh, sister, look out of the window and see,
    There’s a dear little bird singing chic-adee-dee.”

    “Oh, mother, go get him some stockings and shoes,
    A nice little frock and a hat, if he choose;
    I wish he’d come into the parlor and see
    How warm we would make him, poor chic-a-dee-dee.”

    “There’s One, my dear child, though I can not tell who,
    Has clothed us already, and warm enough, too.
    Good morning, oh, who are so happy as we?”
    And away he went singing his chic-adee-dee.”

    If you’d like to sing your version for us, we’d be happy to post it! :)

    Cheers from Mama Lisa

  26. Donna Says:

    Thank you so much for the background on “The New Moon.” My New Hampshire grandmother (born in 1906, and the daughter of a bandleader/composer) used to sing me the first two verses at bedtime, but the tune was very different from the others I’ve heard – less folksy and more of a turn-of-the-century concert version, perhaps. I loved this song as a child. Cheers!

  27. Lisa Says:

    Hi Lisa.

    I have called in to give you the full poem of “The New Moon.” I have it in this book, no date I’m afraid but explanation at bottom of poem. I looked at several sites through the web and most have got it down as a lyric with a tune but not so in this book, and so far I have only found copies with two or three verses. Here is the fourth verse and the explanation of where it came from.

    Lovely to speak with you again Seligor xxx
    aka Dorothy Milnes now Mrs Dorothy Milnes-Simm.

    Here’s the version Dorothy Sent:

    The New Moon

    O mother, how pretty the moon looks tonight!
    She was never so lovely before:
    Her two little horns are so sharp and so bright;
    I hope she’ll not grow anymore.

    If I were up there with you and my friends,
    We’d rock in it nicely, you’d see;
    We’d sit in the middle and hold by both ends:
    Oh, what a bright cradle t’would be!

    We’s call to the stars to keep out of the way,
    Lest we should rock over their toes;
    And then we would rock till the dawn of the day,
    And see where the pretty moon goes.

    And there we would stay in the beautiful skies,
    And through the bright clouds we would roam;
    We’d see the sun set and see the sun rise,
    And on the next rainbow come home.

    [Writer unknown, but copy found in Green’s Scholastic Series of Poetry No. 91. 40 Poems for Junior and Intermediate Classes. Price 1½d, that’s uk old money.]

  28. Betty-Jean Blyth Says:

    I’m an 80 year old great grandmother who learned this from my own mother’s knee in the 1930’s. I have sung it to all my 5 children and 9 grandsons and now have a new little grand daughter to sing it to. Her mother was looking for the origin and since her mother’s family came from the New England area to settle in southern Ontario, I thought it may have come with them.

  29. Carolyn Davidson Says:

    Today (Dec. 28) is my birthday. I was blessed to have dinner out with some of my family and it was great. Dad, who is 90 and remembers poems and songs from long ago started to sing this song to my sisters’ granddaughter. We had never heard it before. I promised Dad I would have the lyrics before bedtime. We want to capture these memories forever! Thank you so much for this blog too.

  30. Bobbie Says:

    My grandmother, my mother sang this to myself and my siblings, I have sung this song to my 4 kids and now my six grandchildren. It has been in my family for many years and my kids have promised to keep it going………a good rock and a few rounds of Oh Mother How Pretty The Moon Is Tonight and they are off to dreamland, especially the youngest, she knows when this is sung to her it’s sleep time! I’ve just got an extra verse so I’ll have to learn it, thanks!

  31. Ronald Illingworth Says:

    I remember my mom singing this song (poem) to my sister and I when we were young children. Later, I sang it to my own kids and, more recently, to my grandkids. It made it down through five generations in my family as my mom told me she heard it from her mom. I’m not sure where they got it originally as none of us are from the South as you select in your notes that it became a song sung in the south. In any case, my granddaughters remember it and, I’m sure, when they have children it will be sung to them as well.

  32. Carrie Says:

    My grandmother sang this song to me and I sang it to my children. My daughter plays piano and would love to learn to play this song. Does anyone know where I could find the sheet music?

  33. Donna Frost Says:

    My dad learned this poem in school around 1929. He had to recite it to the class but his version said We would rock to the east then rock to the west and on the next rainbow go home .my dad is gone now but I still tear up when I remember him reciting it for us thanks for the memory

  34. Marcy Lucas Says:

    I remember my mother singing this song to myself and my brothers when we were small children, in the 1950’s. And it was sang to her when she was a child, being born in 1916. My mother sang it to our son when he was small in the 1980’s. He loved it and would ask his grandmother to sing it to him when she tucked him into bed. Now I have just learned that this son will be giving us a grandchild in the spring of 2018. The first chance I have, this longed for child will hear me sing The Moon Song!

  35. Lisa Says:

    Congrats Marcy! :)

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