“How Many Miles to Babylon?”


Singing game: "How Many Miles to (Babylon)? (Three) score and ten. Can I get there by candlelight? Yes, and back again." The rest of the song may refer to the pleasures of "Babyland" (Henry text), or to courting, or traveling -- or something else


Sam Henry was of the opinion that the original text of this song referred to "Babyland," with "Babylon" as a corruption. Gomme, however, has nineteen texts (though a handful may not be this piece), and seven refer to Babylon, three to Banbury (Cross/Bridge), a couple of others to variants on Bethlehem, a few to London, and none to Babyland.

In defence of Sam Henry, there is a piece called "Babyl-land" with several sheet music settings, by Jeannette Amidon (LOCSheet, sm1877 04182, "Baby-land," Wm. A. Pond (New York), 1877 (tune)) and Gerrit Smith (LOCSheet, sm1884 24704, "Baby-land," Wm. A. Pond (New York), 1884 (tune)). But these really look like by-blows to me. I have to think "Babylon" is original even though it's hard to explain.- RBW


  1. SHenry H40a, p. 12, "How Many Miles to Babyland?" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Linscott, pp. 18-19, "How Many Miles to London Town" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Opie-Oxford2 26, "How many miles to Babylon?" (2 texts)
  4. Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #146, p. 115, "(How many miles to Babylon?)"
  5. Montgomerie-ScottishNR 81, "(How many miles to Glasgow Lea?)" (1 text)
  6. Roud #8148
  7. BI, HHH040a


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1805 (Songs for the Nursery, according to Opie-Oxford2)
Found in: Ireland Britain(England(All), Scotland) US(NE)