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|One of the favorite folk songs that American children learn either from their families or on the playgrounds deals with the gruesome subject of decomposition. The song's origins go back to the 19th century, at least, when it was documented among British soldiers serving in the Crimean campaign. The catchiness of the melody and the rare opportunity to speak humorously about the ugly side of death doubtlessly has ensured the ballad's survival into the 21st century. Like most folk songs, there is no definitive version. Here are a few I have collected.|
Growing up, I learned this version:
First you're sick and then you're worse And then it's time to call the hearse They put you in the cold, cold ground with all your relatives standing around. The worms crawl in The worms crawl out The worms they crawl all about The worms crawl in The worms crawl out They play pinochle on your snout!
A taphophile reader contributed this:
If you ever laugh when a hearse goes by, then you will be the next to die. They wrap you up in a bloody sheet and drop you six feet underneath. The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out. They play pinochle at your snout. A big, black spider from Paradise goes in your liver and out your eyes.
Another learned this in Iowa:
Did you ever think when a hearse goes by that you might be the next to die? They wrap you up in a dirty sheet and bury you down about six feet deep. The worms crawl in and the worms crawl out the ants play pinochle in your snout. Then you turn a mushy green and pus squirts out like whipping cream. -- And I without my spoon but with a straw!
|Byron Lee Bozeman sent this:
Did you ever think as a hearse drives by That you may be the next to die The wrap you up in a big white sheet And throw you in six feet deep The worms crawl in the worms crawl out In your ears and out your snout Your eyes fall out, your teeth decay A rotten end to a lovely day
|Lota submitted this:
Oh never laugh when the hearse goes by or you'll be the one who's next to die They'll wrap you up in a bloody sheet and bury you six feet deep Worms crawl in and worms crawl out Worms play pinochle on your snout They'll put your guts on a piece of bread and that's what you'll eat when you are dead!
Summer Raye shared this:
Don't ever laugh as the hearse goes by For you may be the next to die. They put you in a big black box then cover you up with dirt and rocks. All goes well for about a week and then your coffin begins to leak. The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out The worms play Pinochle on your snout. They eat your eyes, they eat your nose They eat the jelly between your toes. A big green worm with rolling eyes crawls in your stomache and out your eyes. Your stomach turns a slimy green and puss pours out like whipping creme. Spread it on a slice of bread, that's what you eat when you are dead.
Eliza Fegley learned this at camp:
Did you ever see a hearse go by And wonder what it's like to die? I-ho, I-ho I-ho, I-ho How happy we shall be Bum bum They put you in a long black box And then they cover you up with rocks. I-ho, I-ho I-ho, I-ho How happy we shall be Bum bum The Worms crawl in, the worms crawl out, They eat your guts then spit them out. I-ho, I-ho I-ho, I-ho How happy we shall be Bum bum And when your bones begin to rot The worms are there but you are not. I-ho, I-ho I-ho, I-ho How happy we shall be Bum bum The moral of this is very creative. Don't get buried but be cremated. I-ho, I-ho I-ho, I-ho How happy we shall be Bum bum
|Finally, there is this version reported by Kenneth Iserson:
Did you ever think when a hearse goes by, That you may be the next to die? They take you out to the family plot, And there you wither, decay, and rot. They wrap you up in a bloody sheet, And then they bury you six-feet deep. And all goes well for a week or two, And then things start to happen to you. The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out, The ants play pinochle on your snout! One of the worms that's not so shy, Crawls in one ear and out one eye. They call their friends and their friends' friends, too, They'll make a horrid mess of you! And then your blood turns yellow-green, And oozes out like whipping cream. [Spoken] Darn, me without a spoon! Your eyes fall in, your teeth fall out, Your liver turns to sauerkraut. So never laugh when a hearse goes by, For you may be the next to die.
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