Forty-eight hours ago, it was -20C and a north wind blew. Today it is +13, the wind is from the west, and almost all the snow has disappeared. JoAnn spotted three robins yesterday, and today we saw a large porcupine high up in a tree, basking in the morning sun. Spring is here. I hope.
This being the case, I have been thinking the last couple of days about a little poem my mother used to recite. It went like this:
The spring has sprung
The grass has riz
I wonder where the birdies is.
The bird is on the wing -
Now isn’t that a silly thing
The wing is on the bird.
What a wonderful bird the frog are.
When he run, he hop almost.
When he hop, he jump almost.
He ain’t got no sense, hardly.
I am not sure why I remember this so clearly, but I do, and it is clearly associated with spring in my mind, at some cellular level. For many years I thought Mum made it up – but it seems to me that I discovered somewhere along the way that she was quoting it. So I’ve done a little research.
The author most commonly listed is our old friend Anon., also known as Untitled Traditional. Several websites display emails with variations of this poem, at least the first four lines of it. It is often written as if spoken with a Brooklyn accent, thus:
Spring has sprung, the grass has riz,
I wonder where de boidies is?
They say de boid is on the wing
but that’s absoid
becuz the wing is on the boid!
The attribution of this poem is very interesting. Suggestions gleaned from the internet are:
- e. e. cummings (Archie and Mehitabel)
- A. A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh)
- Spike Milligan (Said Hamlet to Ophelia, I’ll draw a sketch of thee, What kind of pencil shall I use? 2B or not 2B)
- Ogden Nash (The rain it falleth all around, upon the just and unjust fella, but more upon the just, because – the unjust hath the just’s umbrella).
I’m going to go with Ogden Nash, who seems to be the most likely possibility after Anon.
The last stanza – regarding the frog – is an entirely different poem. Perhaps Mum quoted the two together when in a nonsensical mood, or perhaps I put them together in memory. It too is attributed to Author Unknown, and is much quoted in websites.
A universal theme for the bird (or boid) poem is that people remember their father or their mother reciting them at this time of year. I am certainly not alone in this. They seem to be sort of a comedic Rite of Spring, a memory enjoyed by most though decried by a few writers who wish their parents had uttered these lines. It seems they can’t stop remembering it every year. I, on the other hand, cherish the memory as Mum always seemed in good cheer when reciting the lines. And why would she not, if it was finally spring in Saskatoon/Lethbridge/Calgary.
So that’s that. The mystery is not solved, but my curiousity is satisfied. And in the process of research, a bonus. I encountered the following piece of wisdom.
Reasons for Drinking
If all be true that I do think,
There are five reasons we should drink;
Good wine — a friend — or being dry –
Or lest we should be by and by –
Or any other reason why.
I don’t much care who wrote it, or why. But I think it is time for a beer…