“I'll Sing You a Song”


"I'll sing you a song (that's not very long/the days are long) About a woodcock (or cuckoo) and a sparrow." A dog either burns its tail or bites the singer's ear and is to be hanged tomorrow.


Opie-Oxford2: "Since this rhyme dates at least from the eighteenth century, the statement in the last line that the dog must be hanged on the morrow may be based on more than poetic fancy. The trial of animals and the judicial hanging of dogs, although uncommon, appears at one time to have been considered reasonable." - BS

The Baring-Goulds give examples of this phenomenon, noting that it applied particularly to animals which killed or maimed people. They fail to note that this is essentially a Biblical policy: A bull which fatally gored a person was to be stoned (Exodus 21:28). - RBW


  1. Opie-Oxford2 485, "I'll sing you a song" (1 text)
  2. Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #72, p. 80, "(I'll Sing You a Song)"; cf. #256, p. 159, ("I'll sing you a song")
  3. Roud #15095
  4. BI, OO2485


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1784 (Gammer Gurton's Garland, according to Opie-Oxford2)