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Ride a Little Pony

August 13, 2006

I've been sleeping a lot lately. Not when I'm supposed to, mind you, but soundly, when I can get it. Nothing seems to be able to put me to sleep at the appointed hour, however, when I'm worried about something or someone (mostly someone...things aren't worth the bother).
It might be nice to have the luxury of a lullaby to help me to drift. Frank Dieter's "Fireflies in a Jar" comes closest, so far. I'm constantly in search of others.

Jim Blum introduced us to Dandling Songs - The kind of songs your mother might chant as she bounced you in rhythm upon her knee.
One such example is the lovely "Deandi, Deandi" - Aine Minogue (The Twilight Realm/Little Mil.)

One on which I was raised is a variation of "Ride a Little Pony", and it was a delight:
Ride a little pony (bounce baby on your knee)
Ride to town (continue bouncing)
Ride a little pony (throw baby's arms outward)
DON'T fall down! (lower baby backward, dropping your knee)
In the Middle East a similar ditty has the child riding the ankle on extended leg; riding a camel in slow, galumphing rhythm on pilgrimage to Mecca. I think that's a charming variation, albeit more difficult to do, depending upon the size of the child!

One English speaking woman related to me that, as a young child, her European Spanish Nanny held her in her arms and sang to her traditional Spanish lullabys in rhythm native to that land. As a result, this child, now grown, felt more intimately bonded to the Nanny than to her own kin, and the Nanny's culture became her own culture, down deep, where her soul lives. At the time, she didn't understand the language, but that mattered little; music and closeness has language of it's own.

What are some of your Dandling songs and Lullabys, and in what languages were they sung to you, and by whom?
Have you passed them on, or perhaps created new ones of your own?

Posted by JoLynn Braswell at August 13, 2006 6:22 PM


"Goblins Gonna Gitcha" and "Jack and Jill". Striking terror into me as a child, and teaching me that the world was a dangerous, scary place, full of mean child-eating critters and kids getting their heads busted for being clumsy at their chores. Most instructive, and thank you very much for dredging up those horrid memories of early mental abuse. ;-)

Posted by: Jim Pipkin at August 14, 2006 12:20 AM

Well, geez..sorry, Mr. P., but you don't seem all that worse for ware. And having a slightly twisted sense of humour as a result of all that can be a real benefit in this business, I'd say!

What I really might have relished as a child would have been a painted border banner going 'round the top of the wall of the nursery, beginning with:
"All things bright and beautiful
All creatures great and small", etc., ect... and gradually making it's way 'round the room to corners' end, the verses from Monty Python's:
"All things dull and ugly
The Lord God made the lot", etc., etc.
Ohh, to let the imagination run wild while gazing at that high border!

I've always loved the contrast of the good and the bad and the ugly, and what falls between. I don't think that some things which we'd considered ugly really were, and I somehow felt comforted by the scarey wood as a seemed like shelter and adventure to me. Besides, how could something so freshly scented and quietly still be so very dangerous?

Posted by: JL Braswell at August 14, 2006 5:33 AM

My mother was always singing old cowboy songs and stuff she'd sung as a kid.

The one I remember was "Mockingbird" - not sure of the actual title -

"Hush little baby, don't say a word
Mama's gonna buy you a mockingbird."

Posted by: Don Rosenow at August 14, 2006 10:59 AM

Oh ride a cock (crock?) horse to Banberry Cross
To see a find lady upon a fine horse
Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes
And she shall have music wherever she goes

Oh man, that looks bad . . . somebody help me out here! What WAS that HORSE? I've never seen the words written down before!

Mom taught us 'Turot Mentem' in Hungarian, but always managed to evade a word for word translation . . . the cool thing about folkalley is you can find someone who speaks the language of the song you're interested in researching . . . thanks Lazslo for the translation! I'm still blushing!

Posted by: Robin Roderick at August 14, 2006 7:57 PM

"Ride a cock horse nursery rhyme: origins in history


Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross
To see a fine lady upon a white horse
With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes
She shall have music wherever she goes

Ride a cock horse - English history origins
The lyrics of this nursery rhyme relate to Queen Elizabeth I of England (the fine lady) who travelled to Banbury (a town in England) to see the new huge stone cross which had just been erected. The lyrics 'With rings on her fingers' obviously relates to the fine jewellery which would adorn a Queen. The words 'And bells on her toes' refers to the fashion of attaching bells to the end of the pointed toes of each shoe! Banbury was situated at the top of a steep hill and in order to help carriages up the steep incline a white cock horse (a large stallion) was made available to help with this task. When the Queen's carriage attempted to go up the hill a wheel broke and the Queen chose to mount the cock horse to reach the Banbury cross. Her visit was so important that the people of the town had decorated the cock horse with ribbons and bells and provided minstrels to accompany her - "she shall have music wherever she goes". The big cross at Banbury was later destroyed by anti - Catholics."

Posted by: JL Braswell at August 16, 2006 1:51 AM

Thanks JL!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Robin Roderick at August 16, 2006 7:35 AM

The C word here denotes seniority or, as JoLene says, biggest. I live near Cockfosters. My Grandfather wouldn't say the word in mixed company, calling it Cofosters instead. This is a hoot, because married a girl from Farteg.
Anyway Cockfosters derives from Head Forester, the cock forester for the royal hunting reserve Enfield Chase, was based in Cockfosters.

There used to be lane in Banbury with a name so rude, I can't post it here - I'd get taken down. That was also ruined by puritans.

Banbury had quite a few crosses, and they didn't smash them all. You can see one live here:

Posted by: Huw Pryce at August 16, 2006 11:36 AM

I'm afraid I never sang to my baby. She used to lie on my chest and I'd make a low growling noise in my throat, like a supicious dog, and she'd just doze off.

Posted by: Huw Pryce at August 16, 2006 11:38 AM

You sure you wen't just snoring, already in la-la land yourself, Huw? (Thanks, I need a good belly laugh this afternoon!)

Cool Banbury LIVE cam! Next time you're over there - let us know and we can watch as you do a little jig or wave at us or hold up a Folk Alley placard or something!

Btw, my eyes are somewhat greenish brown, but it is not always raining where I am (JoLene). ;o)

Posted by: JL Braswell at August 16, 2006 4:00 PM

That's about as live as Banbury gets.

Posted by: Huw Pryce at August 17, 2006 2:53 PM

Well, I saw a man with a bright red shirt cross the street there...big excitement.

Posted by: JL Braswell at August 19, 2006 8:16 AM

Would that be a Blood or a Crip?

Posted by: Huw Pryce at August 19, 2006 12:21 PM

Don't tell me...not there too, Huw!
Didn't see any colours hanging out of his back pocket, and his britches were well up about his waist....and he could run between cars without them fallin' off. Think he was just some ol bloke lookin' to cross to the other side.

Posted by: JL Braswell at August 19, 2006 5:23 PM

Btw - if any one has the English translation to that "Ride a Camel To Mecca" dandling song I mentioned - much appreciated if you would post it here. Thanks!

Posted by: JL Braswell at August 19, 2006 5:26 PM

The street gangs of Banbury are not famous, notorious or indeed noticably extant. We have no famous gangs (except the Windsor Hell's Angels, and them mainly because the neigbours complained about their rowdy clubhouse in a rather upmarket suburb). We have a little trouble in the larger cities, but organised criminal gangs generally keep a low profile.
The likelihood of LA style gang violence breaking out in Banbury is not something to worry about when making a tourist itinerary. The fact that making yoghurt is more entertaining than visiting Banbury, however, is. You may have spotted someone walking there, but everyone else is driving past at speed. They're heading in the general direction of away.
The saddest thing about Banbury was that until the mid 20th Century it had a road called Grope***t Lane, which for reasons of taste was changed to something anodyne and inoffensive. Boo Hiss!

Posted by: Huw Pryce at August 19, 2006 5:40 PM

Too messy a proposition, I suppose, to keep that.
Perhaps it was just one of those words, which, if separated into two words, might have a completely different concept?
Btw, your trusty Band of friends and family astounds me, Huw! WoWzers...

Posted by: JL Braswell at August 19, 2006 8:53 PM

Nope, it was a common name back in the day - presumably at a time when such activities, while frowned upon, were not treated with the same Edwardian delicacy we're expected to use now.
There's a street in Southwark called Cardianal's Cap Alley, after the erstwhile brothel of the same name. Their advertising ran: "The Cardinal's cap is always on our coathooks". Given his vows of celibacy, presumably they were darning his socks or doing his ironing...

Posted by: Huw Pryce at August 21, 2006 11:37 AM

My mother used to read to me - Gulliver's Travels, The Pied Piper (she was big on Swift), The Ancient Mariner and Tales of Hoffman - I took her to see Shock Headed Peter by the Tigerlilies ( If you see one show this year - see this one!). After the show (in which a large number of children die horribly) Mum apologized for all the sleepless nights she must have given me! Oh she also read Hillarre Belloc, Cautionary Tales. Is it any wonder I see dead people?

Posted by: Huw Pryce at August 21, 2006 11:46 AM

Oh it's not on. OK look at this instead.

An acquired taste - not for the weak hearted or primagravidae.

Posted by: Huw Pryce at August 21, 2006 11:51 AM

Or those of a sensitive, spiritual nature...

Posted by: Huw Pryce at August 21, 2006 11:52 AM

Or anyone with Rev in front of their name.

Posted by: Huw Pryce at August 21, 2006 11:53 AM

During Shockheaded Peter, there's a moment of mock violence so awful and surreal, that the audience is left silent and stunned afterwards. Into this void one night, came the voice of a small child somewhere in the front stalls (where a change of underwear might be a good precaution even if you're a grownup!). "That's Not Very Funny", squeaked the horrified tot, triggering a guffaw of callous laughter from the rest of the audience. I was sitting in front of Simon Callow (Four Weddings and a Funeral), and his belly laugh parted my hair!

Posted by: Huw Pryce at August 21, 2006 11:58 AM

...such desperately needed relief of tension from an unexpected source; the resulting laughter being close to the same emotional release as sobs and horrified gasps, no doubt.

I witnessed and implied, and particularly brutal rape on an opera stage once, so well and horrifically executed that the frozen and normally politely unaffected big city audience began to shift and squirm in their seats, and there was a low and barely audible and vulnerable sounding sob, "ohh-no..nnnooo....." coming from somewhere front left of me.
The thought occured to me at that moment that the House might want to consider including the services of a phychological counselor somewhere near the wine & coffee bar during intermission.

Once, during the premier of Leonard Bernstein's completed sequel to "Trouble In Tahiti" & "A Quiet Place", I now was the one who had been so very moved that I let out a little sob at one point - there was no holding it back.

At performance's end, a spot light sought the Maestro's form, sitting just a row ahead of me and a few seats down to my right, so I know he heard my little emotive utterance.
As luck would have it, on the way downstairs toward the exit, who was just ahead of me, but the man himself. He graciously turned, held the door open for me and gave me the biggest, kindest, understanding smile. I blushed visibly, thanked him and was greatly relieved that he was still smiling, after my little display in the theatre.
I wish I had a signed poster from that performance, for the memory.

Posted by: JL Braswell at August 21, 2006 4:41 PM

Very cool

Posted by: Huw Pryce at August 21, 2006 7:31 PM

Every night, being sung to by our mother was always a part of the bedtime routine, after a book or two. It was the same set, and while we were little it was in her arms while she rocked in the chair.

When my own children came along nothing else would have seemed right! So my sons, and any friend of theirs who happened to be over, were sung "Hush little baby, don't say a word...etc.", one I've never heard anywhere else, Down in the valley(?):
Down in the valley, the valley so low
Hang your head over, hear the wind blow
Hear the wind blow dear, hear the wind blow,
Hang your head over, hear the wind blow.

Roses love sunshine, violets love dew,
Angels in heaven know I love you.
Know I love you, dear, know I love you.
Angels in heaven know I love you.

Then there was "Oh where have you been, Billy Boy?" which was always funny since my little brother was Billy. Followed by a silly song about trains: "Down by the station so early in the morning, see the little pufferbillies standing in a row...etc."

The only thing I added differently for my children was an angel song that I made up a tune for:
Angel sent by God to guide me,
Be my light and walk beside me.
Be my guardian and protect me,
On the paths of life protect me.

It will be interesting to see if either boy chooses to sing any of these songs to their future children some day!

When my mother died at home with Hospice, our whole family was gathered around, and I led my kids singing the ol' favorite lullaby songs to her. My four siblings joined in. She had such a lovely smile, even though she was so weak she couldn't open her eyes. I know we touched her heart, as she has always touched ours!

JL, thanks for making me think back upon all of this again!

Mary Kay

Posted by: Mary Kay Longwell at August 26, 2006 11:48 AM

Thank you, Mary Kay. I am very moved by your memories and your willingness to share them with us here. We all benefit from your experience I think.

Posted by: JL Braswell at August 26, 2006 6:05 PM

Here's a link for the song, "Down in the Valley":

Posted by: JL Braswell at August 26, 2006 6:10 PM

It should be noted that there is another, more adult themed version of "Down In the Valley" attributed as an "old plantation version", and doesn't exactly lend itself to a children's lullaby! (Seems a fellow is singing it, back to the wall, from inside a Birmingham jail, booze having gotten in the way of his freedom to woo the object of his affection, for the next 21 years....)

Posted by: JL Braswell at August 26, 2006 6:17 PM

Thanks for the link, JL. So many more verses! :)

Posted by: Mary Kay Longwell at August 27, 2006 9:05 PM

Thanks for the link, JL. So many more verses! :)

Posted by: Mary Kay Longwell at August 27, 2006 9:05 PM

J.L., thank you for the kind reference to my firefly song. I'm happy to hear you find peace in the melody.
One of my favorite child songs is "Lullabye" by J.C. Young as performed by Tom Rush. I learned it off one of his first albums and would sing it to my children when they were babies. I still perform it now and then when the listening room and the audience is just right. I know you would like it too.

A dandling song we sang to our kids had many verses and each one required us to step up the speed of the knee bounce. It starts
"This is the way the ladies ride, ladies ride, ladies ride
This is the way the ladies ride so early in the morning."
The last verse referenced jockies and we'd speed off to the races with the child lauging like crazy as we'd bounce them at a rapid pace. Good fun.

Posted by: Frank Dieter at August 29, 2006 3:39 AM

Hey Frank - great to see you again! Thanks for the tip. I'll check out the J.C. Young "Lullabye" by Tom Rush.
Yeah..I go to your "Firefly" song when I need a bit of peace. Thanks so much for making it available here. I plan to learn it.

Posted by: JL Braswell at August 29, 2006 5:02 AM

Saving Great Turtle (a protest lullaby combined with an Owandago Indians creation story):

Posted by: Richard Schletty at September 9, 2006 10:41 AM

Thanks Richard! :o)

Posted by: JL Braswell at September 9, 2006 12:46 PM

You are welcome, JoLynn. And thank you for listening! Final version of "Saving Great Turtle" now posted:

Posted by: Richard Schletty at September 9, 2006 4:02 PM

My grandmother's greatest "dandling" song was "Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree", with appropriate arm motions. Unfortunately I have not had small children in my life to pass it on to.

Under the spreading chest nut tree
Where I held you on my knee
We were happy as can be
Under the spreading chest nut tree

Posted by: Susan Burrows at September 19, 2006 7:43 PM

Me either, Susan. Bummer. Guess we'd better find some quick, so it can be passed along.
Do you hold the child's hands while singing the
"spreading" motion?

Posted by: JoLynn Braswell at September 19, 2006 9:11 PM

Last call -

Posted by: JoLynn Braswell at November 4, 2006 3:24 AM

The final mix of Saving Great Turtle is here:

Again, it is based on the creation story of the Onondaga Indians. Good news -- polluted Lake Onondaga is finally going to be cleaned up:

Posted by: Richard Schletty at November 27, 2006 8:22 AM

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