Columbus Day Poem – IN 1492, Columbus Sailed The Ocean Blue

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

This article 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.

56 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?


    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”?


    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.


  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.


    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”

    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.

  40. chris Says:

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

    There he enslaved the Taino Indians
    and with the other White men committed many sins.

    He used the land for his own gain,
    Stealing gold to bring to Spain.

    Most of the indigenous people died,
    From violence and disease island wide.

    In some places today is Indigenous People’s Day,
    but in New York City it’s strange since we still say:

    Happy Columbus Day!

  41. Mark Schmidt Says:

    This is awesome! My father used to recite this poem to us. It’s still, and always will be, a wonderful poem. Let the haters hate. Thank you for posting!

  42. Dalia Says:

    Nice poem tho rell nice but how is it lies???? #melody???

  43. Sabrina Says:

    Where is the original song my teacher taught me “In fourteen hundred ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue, It was a courageous thing to do But someone was already here”?
    (A little kid young)

  44. Jordan Pugh Says:

    Christopher Columbus was an ugly h*e here’s the truth. We shouldn’t have this dumb poem of lies.

    “Fourteen Hundred Ninety-Two (The Rewrite),” by Dana W. Hall

    In Fourteen Hundred and Ninety Two,
    Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
    But everything else in the childhood rhyme,
    Ignores the historic details and genocide…

    Read the rest of Fourteen Hundred Ninety-Two (The Rewrite) here.

  45. Haley Says:

    why are we still teaching kids this chant when he was responsible for many deaths and genocides?

  46. I was there in 1492 Says:

    Columbus never set foot on american soil and he killed 75% of the “natives” when he arrived to the Bahamas. Do your research.

  47. Barbara Buskirk Says:

    We call it “There Goes the Neighborhood Day!”
    and include certain pipelines.

  48. Dainna Kirkell Says:

    In third grade I had to memorize this poem, but it was much different. Does anyone have a lead to where I can find the rest of this one?

    In fourteen hundred ninety-two
    Columbus sailed the ocean blue
    He said, “I think the earth is round
    I’ll sail around it; I’ll be bound.”
    But the wise men said,
    “The earth is flat.
    You’ll fall off the edge
    If you sail like that.
    You’ll meet strange monsters
    In the sea,
    And what a calamity that would be!”

    Harrison Township Elementary School
    Mullica Hill, NJ
    Mrs. Craven’s 3rd grade class
    Graduating Class of 1987

  49. Mark Meengs Says:

    A poem taught to me when I was a boy by my great uncle who died in 1966 at the age of 90.

    In fourteen hundred ninety two Columbus sailed the ocean
    He thought to sail around the world but took another notion.
    He sailed for 40 days and nights so history has recorded
    And landed in America and then our country started.

    They came from Spain and Portugal from France and from Germania
    The Dutch soon took New Amsterdam, the Swedes took Pennsylvania
    But soon the British owned it all and there was a revolution
    And just a few years after that they wrote the constitution.

    I hope you like my little poem and keep it in your noodle
    I made the verses up myself
    The tune is Yankee Doodle.

  50. Brenda kennedy Says:

    In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue he sailed so he skinned his a*s on a piece of broken glass.

  51. john Says:

    I’d heard one more along the lines of (not sure how accurate, I’m not from the US, and know very little about Columbus, except that he was a good detective):

    In fourteen hundred and ninety-two,
    Columbus sailed the ocean blue

    In fourteen hundred and ninety-three,
    Columbus sailed the deep blue sea

    In fourteen hundred and ninety-four,
    Columbus was at death’s dark door. [I assume this is a reference to an illness he recovered from – perhaps the disease that wiped out many of the settlers]

    In fourteen hundred and ninety-five,
    Columbus was once more alive.

  52. P Wright Says:

    For those of you who don’t accept that Columbus was not the “hero” we were all raised to think he was… Consider this: It isn’t that you should not teach that Columbus DID sail across the Atlantic, and run into land mistakenly thinking he’d reached India, it is that his treatment of the Taino natives was not benign nor heroic. He also did not “discover” a land that was his to claim for Spain, because it was already inhabited. He was the beginning of the onslaught of the European invasion of the Western Hemisphere, and for life as we knew it. Now, more than 500 years later, what we object to is the glossing-over of the truth about how it was achieved, between the Europeans and the indigenous peoples. I, myself, grew up with the telling and re-telling of a massacre by whites against a sleeping village where about 200 native people were murdered, including old people and children and infants. Their heads were smashed by clubs and axes. This was my bedtime story told by my mother, and it happened in Humboldt County, California, in Feb. 1860. She grew up with her great-grandmother, who was a survivor of that massacre. That truth is not told nor taught in schools. That is our complaint, that the truth is not told. Not about broken treaties, nor the Trail of Tears (there was more than one, you know… several in California, in fact.) nor the acts of genocide, nor the fact that native people were also enslaved. That same great-grandmother was an “indentured servant” since she was a child when she lost her family in the massacre, and she was placed in a home to be a servant, until she was 18.

    The Constitution, under the Commerce clause, recognizes native people as legitimate separate nations, that would negotiate treaties. Every once in a while, cases make it to the Supreme Court, and we actually win one, because the United States made treaties with Native Nations a century or more ago. Today, we theoretically are considered “Sovereign Nations,” but we are still at the whim of Congress. In spite of treaties, our lands continued to be opened to settlers, and laws were passed that made sure we had no rights. In 1924 we actually became U.S. citizens, but it was not until 1957 that all states actually gave us the right to vote. Then, I should mention the government boarding schools. My husband was taken from his family in 1944, and he and his siblings were put into a government school where he was beaten for speaking his native language. He was never able to relearn it. At age 82, he still occasionally has nightmares, thinking he is still in that school in Nevada.

    These are all truths. Not everything happened more than a hundred years ago… Some of it happened and is happening to our people who are alive right now. History cannot be undone, but it would be really decent if these truths were acknowledged. We are working hard to deal with the historical and familial trauma that has resulted from these facts. We are teaching our children to be proud of their heritage. But continuing to teach your children these fairy tales like the 1492 poem and how the nice pilgrims were so nice to the Indians is a disservice to them. Fairy tales, all of it.

  53. Bonnie Says:

    Has anyone heard this one? My ninety two year old mother wants to know…

    Columbus discovered America in 1492 -and I discovered a damn good friend when I discovered you !

  54. woofle Says:

    Hey um Do you have a poem exposing the racist and inumane things he did to the savages?

  55. Colin Says:

    In fourteen hundred and ninety two
    Columbus sailed the ocean blue
    In the Nina, the Pinto and and the Santa Maria
    … … that’s all folks
    Mum sang it to us in the 1950’s and its stuck thus far

  56. big greg Says:

    i like fairy tales. historically this country has offered freedom and a chance for all. it has been an evolutionary process for the betterment of all . not shure where we are right now. thats what i believe.

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