“A Horse Named Bill”


"I had a horse, his name was Bill And when he ran, he couldn't stand still. He ran away one day And also I ran with him." Nonsense verses about the singer, his girlfriend, her cat, birds, balloons, and all else that comes to mind


Sandburg describes the tempo of this as "with lucid intervals if possible." The tune is the same as the first part of "Dixie." - RBW

I incline to the opinion that Sandburg wrote most of these verses. - PJS

Certainly a fair possibility, though he clearly started with some piece of craziness which he amplified (compare the "Crazy Song to the Air of 'Dixie'") - RBW

Verse 1 of Sandburg is similar to verse 4 of Opie-Oxford2 355, "There was a monkey climbed a tree" (earliest date in Opie-Oxford2 is 1626).

Sandburg: "I had a horse, his name was Bill And when he ran, he couldn't stand still He ran away, one day And also, I ran with him"

Opie-Oxford2 355: "There was a horse going to the mill, When he went on, he stood not still."

Unlike "Horse Named Bill," all of Opie-Oxford2 355 is of this type. For another example, "There was a crow sat on a stone, When he was gone, then there was none." - BS

Cross references

  • cf. "Dixie" (tune) and references there


  1. Sandburg, pp. 340-341, "A Horse Named Bill" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Lomax-FSNA 69, "The Horse Named Bill" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Pankake-PHCFSB, p. 174, "A Horse Named Bill" (1 text, tune referenced)
  4. Silber-FSWB, p. 241, "A Horse Named Bill" (1 text)
  6. Roud #6674
  7. BI, San340


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1927 (Sandburg)
Keywords: animal nonsense
Found in: US(MW,SW)