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September 13, 2005

Dives and Lazarus
Posted by Teresa at 03:55 PM * 173 comments

If ever there were an oracle that could answer this, it would have to be you lot.

My question concerns Dives and Lazarus, a traditional ballad, which rhymes (or almost rhymes) the second and fourth line of every stanza—except when it doesn’t. Here are its last four stanzas, two of which don’t even pretend to rhyme:

Then Dives lifted up his eyes And saw poor Lazarus blest:
“A drop of water, brother Lazarus,
For to quench my flaming thirst.

“If I had as many years to live
As there is blades of grass
I would make it in my will secure
That the devil should have no power.

Oh, hell is dark, oh, hell is deep;
Oh hell is full of mice,
It is a pity that any poor sinful soul
Should depart from our saviour, Christ.

And now my carol’s ended,
No longer can I stay.
God bless you all, both great and small,
And God send you a happy New Year.

Anyone know what’s going on there—alternate versions, regional pronunciations, famous typos?
Comments on Dives and Lazarus:
#1 ::: janet ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 04:21 PM:

Hell is full of mice? Does that mean that all good cats go to hell?

#2 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 04:22 PM:

The last stanza, except for the final phrase, is almost identical to the last stanza of some May Day carols, in which it rhymes perfectly (together with two beautiful internal rhymes):

My song is done, I must be gone,
No longer can I stay.
God bless you all, both great and small,
And send you a joyous May.

So I think that has to be the original source of that stanza - it's a case of what Harry Smith called a 'folk lyric' being moved from one song to another with the minimal change to make it fit.

#3 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 04:24 PM:

A second thought: could 'pass' (n) have been the original word in place of 'power'? Was it not once very close to a synonym for power?

I'm still confused about the mice, myself.

#4 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 04:25 PM:

Googling it produces several versions where lines 2 and 4 are more-or-less rhymed in each stanza, but the one about hell having mice didn't show up. The sources included the Childe ballads and the Oxford book of folk songs.

I can see Hell having mice, but are the mice using it as a really big nest or tormenting the inmates?

#5 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 04:30 PM:

Teresa, the solution to the mystery of stanza two may actually be in the version to which you have linked, which gives stanzas 14 and 15 thus:

15. Oh I had I as many years to abide
As there are blades of grass,
Then there would be an end: but now
Hell's pains will never pass.

16. Oh! were I but alive again,
For the space of one half hour,
I would make my peace and so secure
That the Devil should have no power!

...or is there a reason we should discount this? Is this a later retrofit or something?

#6 ::: Slothrop ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 04:33 PM:

If "hell is full of mice" is the worst you can say about hell, then hell's not as bad as I thought.

When you have to go to the "mice" word to rhyme with "Christ," you're REALLY stretching.

I prefer "hell is full of lice" in a perverse and unhelpful way.

#7 ::: Phil Palmer ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 04:34 PM:

What did the mice do? Is it somehow connected with "Blessed Are The Cheese Makers"?

#8 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 04:42 PM:

A missing verse:

All things bright and beautiful
All creatures great and small
All things wise and wonderful
Except mice.

#9 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 04:44 PM:

Hell is full of mice, eh? Hell just got a lot cuter.

#10 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 04:48 PM:

Perhaps "Hell serves Diet Slice" ?

Eeew.

#11 ::: Lizzy Lynn ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 04:48 PM:

Final stanza, try:

And now my carol's ended,
I cannot tarry here,
God bless you all, both great and small,
And God send you a Happy New Year.

I made it up. Works.

#12 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 04:49 PM:

Ah, but what if they're vengeful mice? Much of current pharma research uses mice at some point in the pre-clinical stage.

#13 ::: Brooke C. ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 04:52 PM:

Well, mice in this life don't seem to find any difficulty in both nesting and tormenting nearby humans. I kind of like the images this suggests. It can make Hell that much more repellent or kind of adorable, depending on your frame of reference. Maybe Tantalus is extra upset about being unable to reach the fruit above his head because the mice are swarming all over the tree.

In regard to cats, though: while certainly it'd be like a cat to not mind if humans were being tortured all around it as long as it had food and sources of amusement, most of the cats I've known would be rather annoyed by the constant shrieks of agony. To say nothing of having to pad across a firey or ice-enshrouded landscape. I've always assumed that, like fairies, cats had Other Arrangements, and wouldn't deign to be involved in silly human eschatology.

Hm. Nine lives...the Tithe to Hell...hm.

#14 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 04:53 PM:

No, no, you cannot dissuade me. I shall sit here, in lotus, and contemplate hell-- endlessly vast, furry, and squeaking.

Om.

#15 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 04:59 PM:

Hell is full of mice because all the cats have gone to heaven.

But I suppose mice are a real curse if you happen to base your diet and livelihood on keeping grain in huge barns. It's weird enough that it might well be early. Don't the changes in these things tend to involve twisting them so they make sense, and never mind the rhyme?

That would be the principle behind 'pass' going to 'power'. Do you mean like 'compass', Clifton?

#16 ::: janet ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 05:01 PM:

Hmm. I guess hell being full of mice doesn't negate the possibility that other sectors of the afterlife also contain mice. No reason there shouldn't be enough of the critters around to stock cat heaven, bird-of-prey heaven, and so forth.

#17 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 05:06 PM:

"Now lithen, thon, I'm tellin' you that there'th a giant mouthe thittin' right nextht to Mithter Thcratch over there."

"My father, on the verges of the Styx,
His fur gone white with what he knoweth not,
Pape Silvestre, canst not slay a mouse?"

"I see I'm not gettin' through to you. Hey, you! Poetic tour-guide guy! Gimme thome help over here."

"Ehhhhh . . . what's up, Dante?"

#18 ::: Tracie Brown ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 05:08 PM:

O hell is deep and hell is dark,
And hell is full of mice,
So we'll do as much for our saviour,
As he has done for us.

I know this verse from the ballad "Christ Made a Trance", as well as the better rhyming:

Oh Hell is deep and Hell is dark
And Hell is full of moss
What shall we do for our Saviour
That he has done for us.

But mice seem more hellacious than moss.

Andrew beat me to the conflation of two verses explanation.

When I sing "Dives and Lazarus" I use a condensed version that ends with:

And it fell out upon one day,
Rich Dives sickened and died.
There came two serpents out of Hell
His soul therein to guide.
"Rise up, rise up, brother Diverus,
And come along with me,
There is a place prepared in Hell
For to sit upon a serpent's knee."

Pretty precarious seating indeed, seeing that serpents ain't got knees.

A good song to remind folks to remember the poor.

#19 ::: Slothrop ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 05:15 PM:

Kind of reminds me of that Wilson Pickett line in "Mustang Sally" where he sings

"I bought you a brand new mustang 'bout nineteen sixty five
Now you come around signifying a woman, you don't wanna let me ride."

Same sort of issues involved.

#20 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 05:22 PM:

I can imagine a dialect that would drawl away the "r" in thirst (half my family speaks one like that, after all), and from there it's a short step to twitching the vowels into a sort-of rhyme.

#21 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 05:27 PM:

Also, that full of mice thing? I've seen the episode of Crocodile Hunter* where they encounter the farm with a major rodent infestation, and in really large numbers, they aren't all that cute.

*Let's not get into horror movies with vast numbers of rodents, either. #shudder#

#22 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 05:46 PM:

Mice are surprisingly fragile (having stepped on one in the hall while trying to round it up - the cat brought it in).

#23 ::: alex ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 06:19 PM:

A couple possiblities present themselves.

1. Hell is full of all the bad mice. So I guess you can expect mouse poop in your cornflakes for eternity.

2. Those Buddhists that believe in reincarnation are right, and you're going to be reborn as a rodent. On the bright side, it sounds like you'll have lots of company.

#24 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 06:55 PM:

Folk Process produces downright gibberish sometimes. It's not unusual for it to wreck a rhyme here and there.

#25 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 07:23 PM:

Linkmeister, lots of little genetically-engineered mice died to produce the med that saved my life during the second renal failure. I thank them all.

#26 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 07:23 PM:

One of my favorite "Aha"s about a folk transformation was from The Incredible String Band's version of an old English religious ballad 'I Bid You Goodnight':

John the wine, he saw a sign, goodnight, goodnight
John said I've seen a number of signs, goodnight, goodnight

30-some years after I'd first listened to it, I got the album on CD and was listening to it again when I suddenly thought: that had to originally be "St. John Divine" and it must have been scrambled in handing it down orally. And so, on some investigation, it appears to have been.

#27 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 07:42 PM:

Marilee, don't misunderstand me. I do biz research for pharma companies. I'm fully in favor of medical research, and animal models are fine by me. I was just thinking cross-species for a moment.

#28 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 07:44 PM:

Try:

Hell is full of ice.


That's Dantesque, and for someone living in a cold climate, nasty all on its own.

#29 ::: Zander ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 07:51 PM:

(Ganked from the comment I left in the LJ feed):

A verse from a popular version of Tam Lin springs to mind:

And she will change me in your arms
Into a wolf or a snake
But hold me tight and fear not
I am your baby's father.

It's pretty obvious (to me anyway) that "snake" should be "adder," to rhyme with "fader" (= archaic form of "father"). Similarly one could find ways of reworking some or all of those verses to rhyme ("Oh Hell is full of mist" to rhyme with the older pronunciation of "Christ," for example) but I wouldn't know whether that would be more "authentic" or less so.

#30 ::: Greer Gilman ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 08:23 PM:

Upstream, Tracie Brown has quoted a verse from the carol "Christ Made a Trance":

Oh Hell is deep and Hell is dark
And Hell is full of moss

A version I know has:

Oh Hell is deep and Hell is dark
And Hell is full of mist

Darkly evocative: but it's a poetry of metamorphosis, I think, a sort of cat's cradle between the singer and the listening ear.

There's a neat discussion of that carol in a review of Fragments and Meaning in Traditional Song from the Blues to the Baltic by Mary-Ann Constantine and Gerald Porter:

"If we look at Christ Made a Trance as a performance, rather than a piece of literature, even the most 'disrupted' form makes perfect sense in the context of its use. The point of such carols in performance is not to set theology to music but to get listeners to part with cash. Especially if sung at Christmas, a Travellers' text...contains a good enough selection of key words and phrases to be recognisably a carol and earn a penny."

Greer

#31 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 08:31 PM:

The explanation I remember is that "mice" included rats as well in that period. Rats are rather worse than mice; closer to even competitors for the stored grain, and all that. Lots of history of strong distaste for rats -- gnawing on children and all that.

#32 ::: Matt McGrattan ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 08:34 PM:

There's a couple of the rhymes would work better in a Scots accent: by which I mean the pronunciation one would use when speaking Scots dialect, not the pronunciation a Scot would use speaking English.

e.g. "secure" and "power" rhyme properly in a traditional Scots accent.

However, in a few of them adopting a Scots accent (or in my case using the one I already have) makes the rhymes worse rather than better. e.g. mice would become meese ...

#33 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 09:28 PM:

The folk process= "I forgot the words, who the hell cares, I'll just make something up."

Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs has a discussion of a modern instance of this procedure wherein an undecipherable line becomes "gonna railroad high tonight." For that matter, he also suggests that the first line of the Beach Boys' "Help Me Rhonda" goes

Well since she put me down
There's been owls pukin' in my bed...

There ya go.

#34 ::: Greer Gilman ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 09:42 PM:

David Dyer-Bennet writes: "The explanation I remember is that 'mice' included rats as well in that period."

Do you have a reference for that? Or a century?

The OED distinguishes between "mouse" ("an animal of any of the smaller species of the genus Mus of rodents ... as a type of something small or insignificant") and "rat" ("a rodent of some of the larger species of the genus Rattus ... used as an opprobrious or familiar epithet").

Vermin tend to be listed as "rats and mice," as domestic creatures are "cats and dogs."

Mice tend to be seen as "wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous" little nuisances; rats as something burlier and menacing.

Now, "deer" could mean simply "beast." The word could include both rats and mice, and did proverbially. The 15th-century jingle, "Ratons & myse and soche smale dere" was remembered by Shakespeare, remembering poor Tom: "But Mice, and Rats, and such small Deare, Haue bin Toms food, for seuen long yeare."

#35 ::: Greer Gilman ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 09:43 PM:

I would venture that "mice" in this lyric is a canonical Mondegreen.

#36 ::: Lizzy Lynn ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 09:45 PM:

Owls puking in my bed...yes! Brian Wilson rocks.

#37 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 10:03 PM:

It's all coming together.

If being dumped means owls puking, then as being dumped is hell, hell would necessarily be full of owl puke. Hence the mice. It all makes sense now.

Are there any other deep questions we can clear up for the world, Teresa?

#38 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 10:03 PM:

John M. Ford -- thank you, thank you for planting the idea in my mind of Bugs as Vergil, Elmer as Dante. Such a cartoon would be the Greatest Thing Ever. Now I'm not one randomly to endorse interminglings of klassic kartoon karacters; but I think Sylvester has to show up briefly in one of the early circles, chasing Sisyphean after his nemesis, getting clobbered eternally with Tweety's silver hammer.

#39 ::: Kieran ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 10:52 PM:

Might Hell be full of vice?

#40 ::: Kieran ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 11:26 PM:

Some say that hell is filled with tires
Some say with mice
The bards I think have crossed their wires
I hold with those who favor pliers
But if I had to sing it twice
I think I too might go astray
And say that for damnation mice
Are also grey
And would suffice.

#41 ::: Carl ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 11:38 PM:

I still think it has something to do with that Eisner guy. Yes hell, like Anaheim, Orlando, and Hong Kong, is officially one of the Happiest Places in eternity.

"It's a world of pitchforks,
a world of mice.
It's a world of sulphur,
and dwarves on ice..."

#42 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 11:43 PM:

The mental pictures resulting from this thread are, well, leaving me LOL.

#43 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 11:52 PM:

This is just to say

I have tortured
the souls
that were in
the ice blocks

and which
you were probably
saving
for mouse food

Condemn me
they were hellacious
so wracked
and so cold

#44 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 11:54 PM:

Hell is full of owls puking mice now?

Disengage lotus.

Mo.

#45 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 12:09 AM:

I remember sitting in a movie theater and seeing the version of "The Pirates of Penzance" with Kevin Kline as the head of the pirates. I was becoming bored with the film in the scenes he wasn't in when I realized his part could be played by Daffy Duck. Suddenly the film was much easier to take.

Clearly the Modern Major General would have to be Porky Pig, his daughter would have to be Petunia (sorry all you Linda Ronstad fans out there) and so on. The major problem was that I couldn't squeeze in Bugs--nobody in the film was smart enough--or the Roadrunner or Wile E. Coyote.

#46 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 12:18 AM:

IJWTS that Kieran Healy's comment is worthy of Mike Ford, and I can barely think of higher praise.

Now I have to lie down.

#47 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 12:21 AM:

No, the Modern Major General is Elmer Fudd, because it's much better to give the patter song THAT speech impediment, and Bugs Bunny always plays a drag role in G&S productions, so I believe he'd do rather well for Mabel. Although not a bad choice for Ruth, either.

Daffy Duck also has to play Ko-Ko in The Mikado. Just turn your mental ear to him singing "Tit-Willow."

#48 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 12:46 AM:

I'm just imagining Pooh-Bah's look of wet disdain after Daffy speaks some of Ko-Ko's lines.

#49 ::: Elaine ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 12:48 AM:

Kieran: Good one.

Speaking as one who is phobic about mice, I don't really have a problem with the lyric. Oddly enough, I had a cat who was also phobic about mice, and would come and complain to me in the middle of the night that the mice were eating her kibble. I don't know what she thought I was supposed to do about them.

The mice phobia is usually not a big problem, despite my occasional embarrassment about being the stereotypical woman standing on a chair. There was the time that a mouse in the dog food bin (kept in the garage) ran over my hand as I scooped out the chow. I screamed loudly for a while, and then went into the kitchen and inquired why Jack hadn't come to my rescue. Jack said: I figured it was either a mouse or a mountain lion, and I didn't think I could do anything in either case. (We live in Colorado, slap up against the Rocky Mountain National Forest. We have lots of wild life, that is much BIGGER than mice, but don't worry me nearly as much.)

#50 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 01:06 AM:

I will go to bed now, and think about this in the morning. Right now I'm too frail for how hard I'm laughing.

#51 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 01:38 AM:

I have a standard poodle who is far better fit for Heaven than I am. But I always knew that Hell is the absence of dog.

#52 ::: Marna ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 02:00 AM:

After a lot of pondering on that lyric, I once emailed the Oysterband, and Ian Telfer kindly mailed me back.

His answer was, roughly, no, I had not heard it wrong, yes, it's mice in the RVW version, yes, it's almost certainly an oral transmissionism, and they couldn't either find a version with anything more sensible, nor think of anything more sensible and probable, so mice it was and they left it mice.

He added that June Tabor blew the first five takes due to cracking up spectacularly everytime she got to that line.

#53 ::: Lea ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 02:04 AM:

Pretty precarious seating indeed, seeing that serpents ain't got knees.

Hee! This is the version Steeleye Span sings, too, and it's always made me giggle.

I've been laughing myself sick at this thread since "Hell serves Diet Slice."

Daffy Duck also has to play Ko-Ko in The Mikado. Just turn your mental ear to him singing "Tit-Willow."

Or "The Criminal Cried" --

"Ath he thquirmed and thtruggled and gurgled and guggled
I drew my thnickerthneeeeeeeeeeeee!"

#54 ::: Vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 03:16 AM:

Fidelio wrote:
*Let's not get into horror movies with vast numbers of rodents, either. #shudder#

I haven't seen any of those movies, but I've looked at some cover art, and it did not impress me.

Rodents don't have canines. They have incisors and molars, but no canines.

That is exactly why I didn't rent the videos.

#55 ::: Alison Scott ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 04:42 AM:

OK. The Bodleian has half a dozen different broadsides but they clearly all fall from the same tree; they're all pretty similar. None of them have the mice, and most don't have the serpent's knee. They stop after the description of hell.

It's Child 56, only two versions which is not that many, and only minor differences (but the serpent's knee!). I suppose serpent could have been a mondegreen for servant at some point, but I never like to speculate on these because of the tendency for such speculations to be wholly wrong. Again, they don't include the coda section; which appears to be solely from Vaughan Williams' collection.

There may have been some corruption, or it may have been a conflation of two songs. Or it may of course be that they caught some genuine oral tradition that never appeared in the broadsides. But the fact that the final section lacks the rhyme structure of earlier versions might indicate it's a later addition.

I have relatively few versions of this song; the Oysterband one was the first I heard. The first time I saw the Oysters live was the Freedom and Rain tour, because I was a June Tabor fan (I did have a few Oysterband songs on compilations). So Dives and Lazarus is on my list of "extraordinary songs I first heard live". I did wonder, leaving the gig, whether I had heard 'mice' correctly.

I also have a version by Nic Jones, with text very close to this. I'm going to put in a plug here for the two collections of Nic Jones rarities -- unlike his original albums, Nic Jones makes money out of these. Available here. And they are fabulous; anyone who likes English folk music at all should listen to Nic Jones. (A cheap and easy way to start is that emusic has Penguin Eggs, in my opinion one of the finest folk albums ever).

In the list of things I wish people had told me when I was growing up is the fact that we don't know anything about the past; that we will never know how these songs were written, and how they spread, and what caused somebody somewhere to think of that very urban, English Hell.

#56 ::: Alison Scott ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 05:04 AM:

Zander: the problem with 'obvious' corruptions in folk songs is that they often turn out to be wrong. Though in the case of Tam Lin there are several versions that rhyme adder with father. The thing that amazes me about Tam Lin is that the story is that of Thetis and Peleus (broadly speaking he holds her fast while she turns into multiple forms before becoming a naked woman and he wins her). We must either assume that the ballad writer knew it, or that it passed through oral tradition for thousands of years.

Greer: Thank you for reminding me of "Christ Made a Trance"; I knew I had a song with 'hell is full of mist' but I couldn't track it.

Of course, now I have all my album art, iTunes introduces a lyrics tab. 15,825 songs, that's not too many. And surely someone will quickly design an automated lyrics grabber that will find the lyrics for at least a third of my music on the Internet?

Arrgh. Except that the iTunes search doesn't appear to search in 'lyrics'. Doesn't come up in Spotlight either. Excuse me, I just need to whine in Apple's support forums.

#57 ::: tamaranth ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 05:33 AM:

I've always wondered about the mice, and recently I concluded that it's a problem of metrics.
The London Underground is dark, the London Underground is deep, the London Underground is full of mice simply doesn't scan.
But the Underground can be easily mistaken for Hell, especially in the summer.

#58 ::: Paul Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 05:56 AM:

Some say that hell is filled with tires
Some say with mice

Eventually I will stop re-reading this and will get some work done this morning.

Eventually.

#59 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 06:44 AM:

Up much too late. Much, much too late.

Virgil is laughing and shaking his head
Can you point out the way through the land of the dead?
Cause this all was commanded where whats said is said
To the very last stop out of town
On the Northern Line train going down.

The guard with the pitchfork does not fear the sack
You are still on the Circle Line, there is no way back;
You must change at Embankment, your colour is black,
The alternatives once more around,
To the Northern Line train going down

Satan is chewing on paisley and cress
Please keep Damnation tidy, lets not have a mess
And theres no absolution at St Pancrass
Dont the mice make a murdochy sound
On the Northern Line train going down

#60 ::: windypoint ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 06:44 AM:

Mice plagues are disgusting. Never seen one in person but I've a bunch of friends who experienced one. Mice in all the food. Mice in your clothes. Mice in your bed. So many mice the cats and dogs don't bother with them any more. Mice urine and feces everywhere. All your possessions nibbled or shredded for food or bedding, or at times it seems just for the sake of nibbling. Can't keep them out, they sqeeze through the smallest gaps. So many mice, and they are so vile, that parents stop telling their kids not to be cruel to them... if little Tommy wants to collect a bucket of them and play stomp the mouse with his friends, well good, less mice and at least some fun will be had amidst the disgustingness.

Hell might very well be full of mice.

Or ice. Which is more painful and traditional but not half as revolting.

#61 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 07:22 AM:

Okay, it's not that late.

Finally pulled Freedom and Rain off the shelf, where I'm sure it was getting very impatient, and the lyric there is:

Hell is dark, Hell is deep
Hell is full of mice
It's a pity that any poor soul in Hell
Should be barred from a second rise.

Now, this version also has "Dives" as "Di-ver-es" (long i, same scansion as "Lazarus") throughout, which As We All Know, Mr. Lomax, is a perfectly acceptable folk tactic, especially when the audience is blocking the exits. But it is also a Useful Reminder that anybody who speaks of the O-verbal-infix-riginal of Ane Folke Lyrick is talking through his liripipe.

#62 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 09:20 AM:

Surely "Hell is full of mice" is poetic shorthand for "In Hell you have to use Windows or some Satanic GUI that's even worse"?

It's not so much a mondegreen as prescience on the part of the songwriter.

#63 ::: MLR ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 09:56 AM:

If the question here is mice, I believe Alex is right with his poop in the cornflakes comment. I've seen video of a mouse infestation in a grain silo that would give Willard the creeps. I can't find a similar photo now, but here's a small clump of mice.

Hell is full of mice must mean something like no edible food and total devastation of your livelihood.

#64 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 10:05 AM:

I've seen the word "reptile" used to refer to small mammals, such as mice, rats, etc.

Not much on topic, but still kind of interesting.

#65 ::: Tracie Brown ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 10:41 AM:

Allison Scott wrote:
I suppose serpent could have been a mondegreen for servant at some point

I think it was originally serpent, since serpents (or at least, The Serpent) appears to have once had legs:

And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life (Gen 3:14 KJV)

This sounds like an angel with a weird sense of humor. And speaking of weird, I really need to stop reading this thread for a while, since I haven't had any coffee yet for fear of snorting it out my nose.

#66 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 10:55 AM:

Some say that hell is filled with tires

Kieran, that's wonderful.

#67 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 11:25 AM:

I thought Hell was other mice.

#68 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 11:26 AM:

Kieran and John Ford...THANK YOU for the first multiple batch of belly laughs in a week full of minor disasters.

#69 ::: Piers Cawley ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 11:29 AM:

The version of Tamlyn that rhymes 'lion or a snake' with 'father of your child' seems to have conflated two versions. The version I sing rhymes 'snake' with 'one of God's own make' and 'lion roaring wild' with 'father of her/your child'.

#70 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 11:30 AM:

Tracie, Milton arranges things so that the serpent never had legs. His serpent, in the early days of Eden, uses the rear half of his body for locomotion, with the fore half raised up so that his head stands well above the ground, probably something like this, but all the time instead of just occasionally.

#71 ::: janet ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 11:36 AM:

Speaking of unlikely knee anatomy, I always wondered about the carol "Balulalow":

O my deir hert, young Jesus sweit,
Prepare thy creddil in my spreit,
And I sall rock thee in my hert
And never mair from thee depart.

But I sall praise thee evermore
With sangis sweit unto thy gloir;
The knees of my heart sall I bow,
And sing that richt Balulalow!

The knees of my heart sall I bow,
And sing that richt Balulalow!

I suppose that if you were going to rock Jesus in your hert, having knees there might be useful

#72 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 11:49 AM:

Mike, you said it was late so this is probably a typo: "Satan is chewing on paisley and cress" (should that be parsley?). But I like the strangely psychedelic image. Incidentally, paisley is coming back into fashion. It was all over a catalog of women's clothes I saw last week.

#73 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 12:07 PM:

I don't think the rules for rhyming are too terribly ironclad. Blake has gotten away with rhyming "eye" with "symmetry" for a good long while now and some of Shakespeare's sonnets push the bounderies of "near rhyme" about as far as they can go. There also could be dialect issues that we aren't aware of here. perhaps if you read it like a drunken Saxon, it rhymes better, but then, everything does...

#74 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 12:14 PM:

The poet was disappointed by his Orlando vacation, perhaps?

#75 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 12:16 PM:

Oh, but trading ay for i is one of those pervasive folksy witticisms: "Away Rio," "Californ-i-o" and a bunch of other things I can't think of at the moment.

#76 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 12:28 PM:

Larry Brennan, do you by chance have a little book of poetry entitled, _Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle_?

If so, there's this little rhyme about plums in the refrigerator...

Lori Coulson

#77 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 02:47 PM:

LOL, Kieran!

#78 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 03:08 PM:

Faren, that is not a typo. Think about what, or to be more precise, who, The Bad Man is chewing on in Dante.

But I'm glad you noticed.

#79 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 03:12 PM:

On mice in hell: this could be one of those ironic punishments, where Dives is sitting down to a nice big meal, and the mice come dashing over the table and eat all the food.

Like what's-his-name and the Harpies.

#80 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 03:22 PM:

This is Just to Say

I have trapped
the mice
that were in
the underworld

and which
you were probably
anthropomorphizing
for tv.

Forgive me
they were bothersome
so squeaky
and so pestilent.

#81 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 03:25 PM:

Aagh, now I look back and see Larry Brennan had already done it! Nevermind please.

#82 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 03:27 PM:

Lori Coulson - I refer you to No ideas but in pieces (scroll down in the comments) and Yo, Wocky Jivvy, Wergle Flomp (pretty much the whole thread) for more of the same, only different.

#83 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 03:53 PM:

(ROFLMAO)

I think my brain just fried.

Still, imagine my befuddlement when a parody of one of my favorite poems pops up here.

Need to get another copy of that book. The one I bought from Scholastic long ago vanished into the mists.

Thanks for the pointers, Larry!

#84 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 05:02 PM:

I finally got around to finding the May Day carol I wrote about at the beginning of the thread. It seems to be called simply the "May Day Carol" or the "Mayers' Song". Here's a version that gives the final verse I remember:
http://ingeb.org/songs/themoons.html

Some other info here:
http://www.thebookofdays.com/months/may/1.htm

#85 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 05:16 PM:

Thanks to Disney's Sir Hiss, I can perfectly well envision sitting on a serpent's knee. Or, really, close enough for bizarre folk lyrics and whatnot.

#86 ::: Leslie ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 05:47 PM:

Lori Coulson,

I'll have to dig out my copy of _ROAGOWP_ and look through it again; it's been a long time. Thanks for the reminder.

#87 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 06:24 PM:

Mice can be pretty scary, particularly if they are thirsty or hungry mice. Cannibalistic too.

#88 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 06:35 PM:

Keith Kisser:Blake has gotten away with rhyming "eye" with "symmetry" for a good long while now

That would be because "eye" was pronounced "ee." As in "daisy": "day's eye."

#89 ::: flaring ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 08:11 PM:

Jeremy: the more the merrier!

#90 ::: Piers Cawley ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 08:51 PM:

Bill Norrie has some rather spiffy rhymes in it. Particular favourites are rhyming 'silver grey' with 'young Billy'; 'womb' with 'stone'; 'virginity' with 'young Billy' and, possibly most spectacularly of all, 'door' with 'in'.

It all hangs together wonderfully well though.

#91 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 09:38 PM:

since I haven't had any coffee yet for fear of snorting it out my nose.

I was reading and chortling, reading and giggling, reading and .... coffee out my nose! That comment condensed all the hilarity into one glorious mental picture, and I pretty much would have done coffee out my nose if I'd been drinking any.

#92 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 09:45 PM:

If y'all really want owl puke, you can get some here.

#93 ::: Kat Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 10:11 PM:

As minor pimping, I wrote my undergraduate thesis on the folk process and whacky modern uses of it. Can't claim it for brilliance, but might be a cozy read.

Sadly, I did not mention any reinterpretations of the icebox poem. Dammit.

#94 ::: Paula Kate ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 11:11 PM:

Mine own favorite version of Dives and Lazarus is that by Sneak's Noyse (also the di-ver-us pronunciation) but they don't do any of the verses under discussion.

#95 ::: Lizzy Lynn ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 12:54 AM:

Cannabilistic mice? Kabbalistic cats! Also, my hovercraft is full of eels.

My ribs hurt.

#96 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 03:37 AM:

What we obviously need is a new lyric that puts the wee timorous-my-aunt-Gracie beasties in some kind of neofolky context.

Hell is small and the lighting's poor
Hell is awfully cold
The mice all gray are allowed to stay
For Hell is rent-controlled

Too urban.

Some dwell here for their mortal sin
Some for lying or rage
And hungry mice eat the gluttons thin
While Dives runs in his cage

Way too specific.

Hell is dark, Hell is deep,
Hell is full of mice,
And Nixon's underneath mousie dung

Uh-uh.

#97 ::: JM ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 03:39 AM:

I beg pardon, for I am about to go off-subject...

Young fantasy writer here. Recently read through most of your site(s) and found loads of useful publishing information. For that, thank you. Truly.

Sapere Aude!
~JM

#98 ::: JM ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 04:15 AM:

Forget Google. Welcome to the JSDC 1-minute-rhyme edit:

Then Dives lifted up his eyes
And saw poor Lazarus blest:
A drop of water, brother Lazarus,
For my heart burns in my vest.

If I had as many years to live
As there are blades of grass
I would make it in my will secure
To kick The Devils ass, Sea Bass!

Oh, hell is dark, oh, hell is deep;
Oh, hell, it tries to seize us,
It is a pity that any poor sinful soul
Should depart from our homeboy, Jesus.

And now my carols ended,
No longer can I stay.
God bless you all, both great and small,
And God send you a happy New Year.

Edit notes:

Vests are timeless. Even more timeless than ones own chest, which could have been my choice, but was not. This is mostly because chests dont come in paisley. (I have heard that paisley was in style before I was born. Im going to need visual confirmation on that, people.)

If you know where I snagged Sea Bass, then you are clearly smart & smarter than most.

As for mice Weak. Frankly, (and this note is for you, Mr. The Devil,) hell should upgrade to rats if it intends to be taken seriously.

Christ vs. Jesus was an obvious replacement. Kanye West chose Jesus, and that guy definitely Knows something. I can see it in his bling.

The final, non-rhyming line is too hilarious to be touched. Try it: You will fail.

#99 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 05:44 AM:

Quoth JM

The final, non-rhyming line is too hilarious to be touched. Try it: You will fail.

Not at all. Scots readers know all you have to do is move the date back one day and you have:

And now my carol's ended
No longer can I stay.
God bless you all, both great and small,
And God send you a happy Hogmany

(For non-Scots: Hogmany is New Year's Eve, and is pronounced hog-man-AY.)

#100 ::: Madeline Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 06:03 AM:

PiscusFiche said: Mice can be pretty scary, particularly if they are thirsty or hungry mice. Cannibalistic too.

If Hell is full of cannibalistic mice then there's nothing to worry about, since they'll only be eating each other.

#101 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 07:37 AM:

Maybe people who get sent to hell are also turned into cannibalistic mice as part of their punishment? So it's not just in heaven that we get to have spiffy new bodies.

#102 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 08:57 AM:

You guys are killing me. I will never again be able to read that plums poem with a straight face.

Another shout out from here for _ROAGOWP_ which I own and love.

Re: Mikado, I highly recommend Elmer Fudd's voice for "Tit Willow". Try it. It's fun. You will get interesting looks from passers-by. The more soulfully you can sing it, the better.

Also: Katisha's song, "The Hour of Gladness is Dead and Gone" fits very nicely to the tune of "The Phantom of the Opera". I made the mistake of pointing this out backstage to the woman who was playing Katisha in a community theater production, and it messed her up badly.

#103 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 10:01 AM:

Sorry to go off topic by not mentioning mice or plums; but: I have written a ballad to the tune of an existing folk ballad; my problem is I don't know what the original song is. I'd like to but all I have is the tune. I know if I could just hum it for you or sing you a verse one of you would be able to tell me off the top of his or her head, what's the original song. So here's my idea: I will type out the words to one verse of my song, describe the directions of the melody, and hope that the one of you that has ballads on top of his or her head will just know. And hope that if not, nobody's time is too wasted by it. Full lyrics are at my blog (which is however down at the moment).

Elaine says I How came ye here,
You never did look finer,
But you've been lying ten long years
In a grave in Carolina.

Melody directions: First line is a curve concave downward. Second line is generally sloping upward with a little zig zag toward the end. Third is generally sloping downward. Fourth is zig zaggy and generally level.

#104 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 10:52 AM:

Jeremy,

I don't know that the melodic directions fit, but it does work well to "Barbary Allen"

#105 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 10:58 AM:

No, same meter, different tune.

#106 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 11:09 AM:

Not at all. Scots readers know all you have to do is move the date back one day
or for anybody, moving it back a week:

And now my carol's ended
No longer can I stay.
God bless you all, both great and small,
And God send you a happy Christmas Day.

#107 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 12:43 PM:

Jeremy, can you write the tune out in letters/notes? That is, "A-B-Bsharp-Eflat" type thing?

#108 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 01:08 PM:

I can but not until tonight when I get home so I can play it on my violin and see what the notes are.

#109 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 01:35 PM:

The first line is


D D F G A-G- F D
Elaine says I How came ye here

If my perceptions are accurate. "A-G-F" is a quick run, the other notes are probably all quarter notes.

#110 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 01:45 PM:

It works to Yankee Doodle as well, but this is the Dark and Eldritch* Mystery of Popular Song.

*See also "If I Were Eldritch Man."

#111 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 02:22 PM:

OK, server's working again. Here's the link to full lyrics, I'd love to know what people think of them.

#112 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 03:07 PM:

Mike:
Given your work on the previous verses, it seems to me the clearly appropriate revision of the last verse would be:

And now my carols ended,
No longer can I stay.
God bless you all, both great and small,
And God send you a happy - Fourth of July, We're Number One! America rules! Yay!

Also, while you're speaking of musical isomorphisms, for a truly mind-breaking experience did you know you can sing the words for any of:

  • Clementine
  • The Ode to Joy
  • Deutschland Uber Alles
  • "Life presents a dismal picture..."
to the tune of any of the others? Your friends will be clutching their heads like the proverbial stunned monkeys.

#113 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 03:10 PM:

for a truly mind-breaking experience did you know you can sing the words for

Deck the Halls, to the tune of the Marines' Hymn (you will have a merry Christmas)?

#114 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 03:52 PM:

At World Fantasy Con in Minneapolis, weren't people in the music room doing a disturbing number of songs to the tune of "Gilligan's Island?" (And other such like things).

My favourites are the single lines of melody that are identical one to the other. For instance,

"Sing us a sing, you're the piano man"

and the Arrogant Worms'

"I've heard the screams of the vegetables"

Are the same melody, though the rest of each song is different.

This leads to odd things coming out of my mouth when I mean to sing one or the other, like:

"Sing us a song, you're the vegetable"

and

"I've heard the Screams of the piano man"

#115 ::: Tracie Brown ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 04:05 PM:

Ah, but did you know that you can sing anything you want to "Alice's Restaurant"? F'rinstance,
"As it fell out upon one day, rich Dives made a feast ..."

We've booked Arlo and the Alice's Restaurant 40th Anniversary Tour for this season. (Oh, nooo! You mean it's been 40 years!?!)

In an inspired marketing moment, we put it on our "Showtime" series, usually the province of jazz, showtunes and otherwise difficult to categorize attractions. So we'll sell tickets to all the regular subscribers, about half of whom will exchange their Arlo tickets for something safe, and then we'll pack the hall with every left over hippie in Athens, Georgia (which is a lot), most of whom would otherwise never think of coming to one of our Showtime series concerts. Inspired.

#116 ::: Lizzy Lynn ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 07:20 PM:

Check out The Weavers at Carnegie Hall, (December 1955) in which Lee Hays sings the first verse of "Greensleeves" ("Alas, my love, you do me wrong") to the tune of "Rock Island Line."

If you haven't listened to the album recently, you should. Yes, it's on DVD.

#117 ::: Fred ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 08:20 PM:

The mice would not be in hell if they had come to cheeses.

#118 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 08:39 PM:

Perhaps this is well known, but I remember being very impressed when Armando Ianucci pointed out that the first line-and-a-half of Paradise Lost could be sung to the Flintstones theme (but you have to start by stressing 'Man'):

'[of] Man's first / disobedience / and the fruit of that forbidden tree...'

#119 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 09:32 PM:

Check out The Weavers at Carnegie Hall, (December 1955) in which Lee Hays sings the first verse of "Greensleeves" ("Alas, my love, you do me wrong") to the tune of "Rock Island Line."

For that matter, you can sing Jeremy's lyrics to "Greensleeves".

I suspect one can sing almost anything to "Greensleeves". Or "Yankee Doodle". Perhaps not simultaneously, though.

(Also, I would just like to say that it is positively wicked to point out how lyric X can be sung to the theme songs of Flintstones, the Jetsons, or Gilligan's Island. God will surely punish begetters of earworms.)

#120 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 09:50 PM:

OK, I have writ down the notes of the melody. Please let me know if you recognize them.

#121 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 09:59 PM:

I can make it rhyme (if not scan well), and include a reference to a dirty joke at the same time

Hell is cold, Hell is deep
Hell is full of mice
'Tis a pity when any poor sinner
Disdains Our Lord's sacrifice

But now that the tune is in my head, I can't stop thinking of Kolob.

#122 ::: grackel ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 12:37 AM:

of course the verse may merely refer to the southern grasshopper mouse: "The Southern Grasshopper Mouse, like its relatives, is primarily nocturnal and is active throughout the year. The home range of the male extends up to 8 acres (3.2 ha), an unusually large area for a small rodent. Although this species eats small amounts of seeds, its diet consists almost entirely of animal material: scorpions, beetles, grasshoppers, and other small mammals, especially harvest and pocket mice. Like the large carnivores, grasshopper mice have developed efficient strategies for dispatching prey. When capturing certain beetles that produce a defensive secretion from the back of the abdomen, grasshopper mice hold the beetles in their forepaws and jam the abdomen into the sand to avoid the secretion. They kill small mammals with a bite through the back of the neck. Before killing scorpions, they immobilize the deadly tail. The Southern Grasshopper Mouse either digs its own burrow or appropriates the burrow of another small mammal. The social unit includes one pair and its offspring per burrow system. The male and female both actively care for the young, although the male is excluded from the nest by the female for the first three days after birth. The highly territorial male employs a high-pitched, wolf-like call to ward off other males."
reference -

#123 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 02:22 AM:

Of course, there's always room for a cut-up:

Amazing Grace in New Orleans
That saved the Rising Sun
It's been the ruin, but now I'm found
Was blind, I know I'm one

There is a house, beginning
They call a wretch like me
It's been the Spirit, Whispers,
And God, but now I see

My mother taught my heart to fear
Where Grace did not extend
My father was a gambling peer
Where Hours and matter end

'Twas Grace that was a tailor
And Grace, my new blue jeans
How precious was the gambling man
That hour in New Orleans

There is no end to matter
My race is almost run
There is no end to being
Beneath the Rising Sun

Great; now I have the Danites, the Methodists, and the folkies after me. Will lawyers, guns, and money be enough to deal with them, or will we have to break out the habaneros?

And so, to bed.


#124 ::: Jen Birren ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 06:36 AM:

You can sing Gilly Gilly Ossenpffeffer Katzenellenbogen by the Sea to the tune of the William Tell Overture, too. (And The Funky Gibbon to the Ode to Joy). Both these delights were vouchsafed me by the One Song To The Tune of Another round on I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, the second best radio show the BBC has ever made (the original Hitchhiker's series has the edge, but only just). The difficult concept of singing one song to the tune of another is explained here, and you can listen to the show itself on the Beeb's Listen Again page here - choose "comedy and quizzes" under "listen by Genre" at lower right. (You do need realplayer, but I haven't found it too obtrusive.) One Song isn't in every week's show, but Pick Up Song is nearly as good a round.
Warning: ISIHAC will also introduce you to Mornington Crescent, the very nearly explicable game. If you become addicted, the board can be found here and an encyclopaedia of some aspects of play here.

#125 ::: ken ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 07:24 AM:

Apparently, in Slovenia the devil is known as the Shepherd of the Dormice.

#126 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 10:30 AM:

Not to start a tangential flamewar, but the Goon Show is the best thing the BBC ever did---either Ayn Rand said that, in which case it's Objectively and unconditionally true, or (more likely) she would have violently disagreed with the statement, which is often all the proof I need.

#127 ::: Jen Birren ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 11:16 AM:

Ah, well, the Go On Show is sui generis, or to put it another way, I forgot about them. (Also available on the Listen Again page, by the way.)

#128 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 12:15 PM:

Pam and I've been listening...last week's "Whistling Spy" included a five-minute door gag that could only be possible on radio, and only funny if done by the likes of Harry, Peter, and Spike (a comedian with a soul). It will be available via
http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbc7/listenagain/monday/
until next Monday.

Now if they had done a version of Lazarus and Dives....

#129 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 02:14 PM:

If you hate Realplayer [and there are reasons, and I'm sure someone can go into detail as needed] there is a freeware goodie called "Real Alternative." I haven't tried it much nor long, so all I can really say is "It exists and the Penny Arcade people like it."

#130 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 07:27 PM:

Sorry, Jeremy, doesn't ring any bells for me.

#131 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 11:28 PM:

IJWTS that, as of right now, this is the Making Light thread that I would have engraved onto an interstellar probe, to represent all that is best in Making Lightdom.

#132 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 11:45 PM:

Well, on hell being full of mice, a snip here from Longfellow's "The Children's Hour":

They climb up into my turret

O'er the arms and back of my chair;

If I try to escape, they surround me;

They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

If you check the story of Bishop Hatto, a hell filled with mice seems more than appropriate. [For those not up on the legend, Bishop Hatto, 12th century German miser, had a whole bunch of starving poor people hit him up for grain in the middle of a famine. Rather than siccing dogs and S&M partygoers on them like Dives {note that all the guests at Dives' party apparently brought their own whips, which makes one wonder exactly WHAT sort of party this was}, Bishop Hatto instead threw open the doors of his granary and invited everyone inside--then shut and barred the door and set fire to the whole thing. His cackling over his own wickedness/cleverness, however, was cut short when all the mice in the granary, who didn't mind a barred door, seethed out and chased him all the way to his toll house tower on the Rhine, where finally in the highest room, they caught up and ate him.]

There's long discussions of alternate version of this hymn at www.mudcat.org if you go there and run a search for the title.

As for the last four stanzas, they do rhyme, just not in the usual places. L2 of S1-S3 of the final four rhymes blest/grass/mice, which echoes thirst/christ. With S3/L3, the "soul" sets you up for the leonine rhyme in S4/L3 of "God bless you all, both great and small," plus the "secure/power" rhyme sets you up for the close with "year."

#133 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 11:49 PM:

Jeremy - it reminds me vaguely of "Searching for Lambs," but isn't. So it sounds familiar to me but I don't think I actually know it. Sorry! Now I have "Searching for Lambs" stuck in my head (the Renbourne group version; a pleasant earworm really).

#134 ::: B. W. Schulz ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 12:28 AM:

It's not unusual to find alternate versions of traditional tunes. The reference to mice is probably derived from I Samuel chapters five and six. It is logical to see an alteration to a song based on a Bible parable as coming from the Bible too. In the story, the Lord plagues the Philistines with "emerods" [hemorrhoids or boils] and mice.[really Jerboas] The Philistines return the captured Ark of the Covenant and include golden mice and "emerods" as an atonement. Their priests advise them to do this, because "the plague was on you all."

The last verse seems to be an adaptation of the song to Christmas time. The song is called a "carol" and the verse includes wishes for a happy new year. Best guess? I'd date the language of this version to the 1830s-60s and place it in the American South or far West.

#135 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 01:46 AM:

Maybe Dives' guests were all wealthy enough to drive carriages or own their own horse to ride to the party? Or would they have them to encourage their personal slaves with the occasional light flick?

#136 ::: oursin ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 05:30 AM:

I wonder if these mice are the mice about whom the hymn asks 'pity mice implicitly'.
In case anyone doesn't know 'Gentle Jesus Meek and Mild:
'Gentle Jesus Meek and Mild
Look upon a little child
Pity my simplicity
Suffer me to come to thee'
Long generations have heard l3 as asking GJM&M to pity mice, and if they are in hell this makes total sense.

#137 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 06:44 AM:

Mary -- glad to be of service in the earworm dept. I don't know that song but will look it up and see what it does for me. My dad gave me a Renbourne album a while back which I haven't really listened to yet, perhaps it includes that song.

#138 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 10:46 AM:

I think it's on the album "A Maid in Bedlam."

#139 ::: Vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 10:53 AM:

windypoint wrote:
All your possessions nibbled or shredded for food or bedding, or at times it seems just for the sake of nibbling.

Just for the sake of nibbling is correct. Rodents' front teeth grow constantly, and they need to wear them down or they can't eat. Completely awful if they're unwelcome rodents, of course.

Custard, the domestic rat down my shirt at present, is grinding his teeth contentedly as I type this, in the rat equivalent of a cat's purr. It's called bruxing, as with other species' teeth-grinding. I long for the opportunity to use that word in Scrabble one day.

By the way, Michael Turyn, Jeremy Osner, Larry Brennan, John M. Ford and Kevin Andrew Murphy (for that Longfellow quotation) have between them shut my brain down entirely.

#140 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 11:04 AM:

I've met some very nice rats - Masterson is still a favorite, and she's been dead more than twenty years - but my favorite rat story is about the rat my sister and her then-husband bought. They thought they were getting a fat rat, named it Templeton, and came home one day to find that they'd gotten Mrs Templeton. They found places for the pups.

#141 ::: Paula Kate ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 01:55 PM:

Back in the day, Paula Sigman would sing a great version of "Jabberwocky" to the verse-tune of "Greensleeves", on many solemn occasions.

Whatever would we do without fandom.

pk

#142 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2005, 04:14 PM:

By the way, Michael Turyn, Jeremy Osner, Larry Brennan, John M. Ford and Kevin Andrew Murphy (for that Longfellow quotation) have between them shut my brain down entirely.

I am hoping that's not a bad thing for us to have done. If it was, may I extend my apologies and fervent hopes for a rapid return of function. If not, well, party on!

#143 ::: Heather Wood ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2005, 01:09 AM:

Maybe instead of "mice" read "ice" -- isn't the Scandinavian Hel cold rather than hotter than?

And most of Emily Dickinson can be sung to "The Yellow Rose of Texas."

BTW, the tune to the version of "Dives & Lazarus" that Royston Wood sang on the first Young Tradition album belongs to the family of tunes known as "The Star of the COunty Down."

#144 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2005, 06:52 AM:

I believe this poem was in fact an act of prophecy foreseeing the existence of Walt Disney. That is all.

#145 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2005, 07:24 AM:

I'm surprised no one here has gone from "you can sing song x to tune y" to the true, official names of the various meters involved. Because that's what we're saying, when we say we can sing Jabberwocky to Greensleeves (a trick I shall now have to go try).

I can't do it. I don't know the names of the English poetic meters, but I can't imagine, with all those academics looking for thesis topics, that someone hasn't given them names.

I am vividly reminded of the term I studied medieval Latin poetry (heavy on the Carmina Burana, of course). We were taught the names of a number of meters, including Goliardic. The handy hint was that anything in Goliardic meter can be sung to the tune of "Good King Wencislaus". (Steeleye Span's Christmas carol, Gaudete, is a good example.) During the exam, we were asked to identify the meter of a given poem, and you could hear the faint strains of GKW in the classroom as everyone got to that question.

#146 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2005, 07:27 AM:

Quoth bryan:

I believe this poem was in fact an act of prophecy foreseeing the existence of Walt Disney. That is all.

Oh, no it's not. Now I have a Disney remix mental image, of what happens when Cinderella's fairy godmother ends up down in hell. Suddenly hell is full of white horses with little pom-poms on top of their heads.

I suppose I really have myself to blame, having bought the sproglets the DVD.

#147 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2005, 08:49 AM:

Strictly speaking, most of the interchangeable lyrics are in ballad meter (alternating lines of iambic tetrameter/trimeter), but really that's just a boundary condition. The tunes tend to impose their own sort of meter on whatever you sing to them, and shorter lines can be bulked out with melismata, e.g.: the alphabet to "House of the Rising Sun"; "Old McDonald" to "Amazing Grace" (which produces very soulful choruses of "E-I-E-I-O").

#148 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2005, 09:05 AM:

Hymnals have metrical indices (at least some do), but they tend to be based on the number of syllables in a line, so you see things like '8.7.8.7 with alleluias'. I think if it's the same meter, it's interchangeable, but the results can be interesting when the alternate is really unfamiliar and the main tune is very familiar. (Some hymns have two or three accepted tunes.)

#149 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2005, 12:31 PM:

I get the alternate tunes thing, having moved from the US to the UK. The first time I sang "Sing a Song of Sixpence" to my son, my British mother in law stared at me - they sing the descant to the version I know. And Christmas carols frequently have entirely different tunes. (Actually, sometimes they are entirely different carols with the same names, which is why I tend to join in on the second line, or in extreme cases, the second verse.)

The idea that English-language songs vary so little in meter flummoxes me a little - Latin meters are the product of long and short syllables rather than emphasis, and syllable length often conveys meaning. So you can't just merrily move a short syllable into a long position to fit the tune. I had pretty much always assumed that it was the same for English stress-syllables as well.

Learning this is another reason that this thread rocks.

#150 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2005, 05:12 PM:

I'm surprised no one here has gone from "you can sing song x to tune y" to the true, official names of the various meters involved. Because that's what we're saying, when we say we can sing Jabberwocky to Greensleeves (a trick I shall now have to go try).

I can't do it. I don't know the names of the English poetic meters, but I can't imagine, with all those academics looking for thesis topics, that someone hasn't given them names.

Whoops, sorry for being lax in my pedantry. Emily Dickinson made heavy use of the Hymnal Stanza (iambic 4/3/4/3, rimed ABAB) which is the same stanza used for Amazing Grace, The Yellow Rose of Texas, I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (or Buy the World a Coke), and the Gilligan's Island theme song.

Gilligan's Island is actually just regular Ballad Stanza (4/3/4/3, rimed ABCB), but it can be easily swapped in and out with the stricter Hymnal Stanza. It's all part of Common Measure, and the short form can be extended to the long with the quatrains as tetrameter (4/4/4/4), which is why Jabberwocky is interchangeable with Greensleeves.

Stanzas are interchangeable that way. Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" can be sung to the tune of "Hernando's Hideaway" from The Pajama Game, and as the formalist poet gossip goes, supposedly once was by the Yale glee club at a convocation in Frost's honor. (Frost was not well pleased, from what I heard.)

You can even mix and match the lyrics and have it all work:

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me:
"I'D LIKE TO BUY THE WORLD A COKE
AND KEEP IT COMPANY."

#151 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2005, 05:18 PM:

"Praise God from whom all blessing flow" can also be sung to Hernando's Hideaway. I got that (secondhand) from a church organist. It would tend to break up a chruch service quite well.

#152 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2005, 07:02 PM:

Apropos of melody-swapping: Long ago, in a fit of summer-tv boredom, my brother and I discovered that you can hum the theme to underdog and the theme of the the old tarzan show (the Ron Ely one, in the seventies), as a 2-part harmony and they sound very nice together.

#153 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2005, 07:36 PM:

"Praise God from whom all blessing flow" can also be sung to Hernando's Hideaway. I got that (secondhand) from a church organist. It would tend to break up a chruch service quite well.

Yes! and "Creator, Christ and Holy Ghost" == "You're in, Hernando's Hideaway". Do you say "Olé" after?

#154 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2005, 07:56 PM:

If those last two notes are "Ol" you use them for "Amen" - I don't know the words for Hernando's Hideaway; my high school didn't do 'Pajama Game' the years I was there, at least not that I remember.

#155 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2005, 10:12 PM:

"Amen", of course, yes, it serves a similar semantic function in the doxology to what "Ol" is doing in HH.

#156 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2005, 11:00 PM:

In the room the women come and go
Vaster than empires, and more slow

#157 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 03:50 AM:

Will no one tell me what she sings?
She's coming 'round the mountain,
A trip to the moon on gossamer wings,
Down by St. Agnes's fountain.
I dream of Jeannie with the light brown hair,
Everybody's out on the run tonight, but there's no place left to hide;
He whistled a tune at the window, and who should be waiting there --
Jeannie needs a shooter, a shooter on her side.

-- The Magnetic Palgrave:
Now, You Too Can Move Rigorous Lines in an Unknown Power's Employ!

#158 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 08:51 AM:

When something can be sung to Greensleeves, we call it "Greensleeves Complete". (Black Sabbath's Paranoid, for example, is Greensleeves Complete.) Same goes with the Ode to Joy, the Battle Hymn of the Republic (Poe's "The Raven" goes ever so well to that, if you don't mind a rousing chorus of "Never, never nevermooooore!") and the song bit of Holst's Jupiter. Armed with those, it's possible to sing most things.

Pretty much all sonnets can be sung to the bridge from Stairway to Heaven. ("If there's a bustle in the hedgerow").

Sasha, who grew up believing that Clementine was always sung to the Ode to Joy, spent quite a long time trying to find a tune to which it's possible to sing the beginning of Coleridge's Kubla Khan. The eventual winner was "Come on Baby, Light my Fire", though it requires an additional "yeah" after "Down to a sunless sea".

Also, W.S. Gilbert's Etiquette goes beautifully to the verse tune of "Ghost Riders in the Sky".

Oh, and I should mention the highlight of the ISIHAC summer season one-song-to-the-tune-of-another, "I'm a Little Teapot" to the tune of "O Sole Mio".

#159 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 11:24 AM:

Pete Seeger used to do these demonstrations that there were only really (five?) tunes in the world. He get up there with his banjo and play these tunes and tweak them ever so slightly and they'd all come out "Old Joe Clark" or something. I can't remember the other ones. Not "Twinkle Twinkle," because that's "Old Joe Clark," I think.

Pete Seeger, my hero.

#160 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 04:03 AM:

Actually, I think the formal definition of Greensleeves-completeness is a bit stronger: not only must you be able to sing the song's lyrics to the tune of Greensleeves, you must also be able to sing the lyrics of Greensleeves to the song's tune.

#161 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 09:35 AM:

Mike: You are wonderful.

David: Works for Black Sabbath's Paranoid. Oddly, sung to Greensleeves it turns into a plaintive ballad, while Greensleeves sung to it turns into a typical metal whine about being dumped. There's more to tunes than you'd think.

ISIHAC once sung "My Old Man's a Dustman" to the tune of Scarborough Fair. (This one doesn't work the other way around.) Listening to it to that tune, I realized that being a dustman and living in a council flat wasn't in fact inherently amusing, and in fact had the same kind of folkish dignity of labour that such melodies give to older work situations like servants getting work at hiring fairs.

#162 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 11:43 AM:

Jo -- I'm trying to sing "Paranoid" to "Greensleeves" with mixed results -- the verse seems to work pretty well -- though I need to insert "I'm" at the beginning and stretch out a lot of vowels:

Alas my love you do me wrong
(I'm) finished wi-ith my wo-oman, cause she

to cast me out discourteously
Wouldn't he-elp my with, my mind

When I have lov-ed you so long
(beat) People sa-ay I'm cra-azy, because

Delighting in your company
I am frow-owning all, the time

But the chorus? Not so much:


Greensleeves, was my heart's desire
Greensleeves, was my lady fair
Greensleeves, was my heart of gold
And who, but my la-ady Greensleeves

and

Can you help me, help me with my mi-i-ind

Just don't fit into the same tune, nohow noway. Did the test only apply to the verse? The chorus of Greensleeves can actually be sung to the verse of Greensleeves, and I guess the chorus of Paranoid is more of a bridge than a chorus though I don't totally understand the distinction.

I'm having less luck with singing "Greensleeves" to "Paranoid" but that's probably just me.

#163 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 11:47 AM:

Just now reading my comment and I thought, "Finished with my woman cause she cast me out discourteously" And suddenly I could see how singing Greensleeves to the Paranoid tune works.

#164 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 12:24 PM:

Jo: A useful mathematical term is "isomorphic", meaning identical in structure. "-complete" also kinda works, though it's more from the world of algorithmic analysis, where it means "solve this and you have solved an entire class of problems."

#165 ::: Menolly ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2005, 03:07 PM:

I have now heard Clemtine to Ode to Joy so often that I have to work to remember the Clementine tune.

Here's an odd one; you may have to be of a certain age (late 20s/early 30s, I'm thinking) to experience:
The Grease theme song consistently mutates into the 3-2-1 Contact theme in my head, like so:
Grease is the word
Is the moment
When everything happens
Contact!

Most people look at me funny when I mention this but I recently found another person who experiences the same phenomenon.

I can sing Amazing Grace to Giligan's Island and The Flintstones; I've heard it sung to both Ghost Riders in the Sky and the Hawaii 5-0 theme.

#166 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2005, 03:48 PM:

Personal faves:

The Doxology to the tune of the Jeopardy theme

Amazing Grace to the tune of the '70s Coca-Cola song ("I'd like to teach the world to sing")--and vice versa.

The Beverly Hillbillies end theme ("And now it's time to say goodbye to Jed and all his kin...") to the tune of Ghost Riders in the Sky.

Peter Schickele pointed out recently on his radio show that Frost's "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" will go to the tune of "Hernando's Hideaway" from The Pajama Game.

#167 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2005, 04:07 PM:

The Doxology to the tune of the Jeopardy theme

For some reason while reading this just now, my mind mapped it onto the theme from My Three Sons. That one works, too.

#168 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 09:53 AM:

In the room the women come and go,
God bless the weary gigolo.

#169 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2006, 10:45 AM:

The words relate to a traditional Christmas song called "Dives and Lazarus". It's based on an old story about a rich man called Dives who turns away a starving beggar called Lazarus when he comes to the door of Dives' house during a feast that Dives is holding for his cronies. They both die and Dives goes to Hell and Lazarus goes to Heaven. Dives sees Lazarus wining and dining in Heaven and is jealous of him. He asks for a drink of water - only to be told that he can't have one because he is now going to be treated the same way he treated Lazarus when they were both alive. See:

http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/dives_and_lazarus.htm

for a link to the full lyrics.

#170 ::: Mike Kevane ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 01:27 AM:

Hi,

Great thread. Here is what i know about the ballad and if i am repeating someone then i missed it and i am very sorry. This carol is drawn out of a biblical parable which some think is a true story and most think is just a story that jesus told. there does not appear to be any dispute that jesus told it. during the time this carol was developing they would have thought it was a true story and that lazarus was a real man. there were two lazarus in the bible, one was raised from the dead by jesus, but we are not told what his eternal destiny was ... the other is this one, the poor man. We know where he goes which makes him unique. we are told where he goes by jesus hmself. That is why his name is invoked at graveside after a requiem mass "et cum Lazaro quondam paupere aeternam habeas requiem" ("and with Lazarus, who was poor, may you have eternal rest").

Moreover, this parable, and likely along with this ballad, are the roots of halloween. Jesus states that even if someone comes back from the dead to warn the living, people will not listen. (The rich man wants to warn his family). There is only a small leap between that and the idea that souls would come back from the grave on the eve of "all saints" or "all souls" depending upon tradition... So the idea that the carol ends with reference to, or warning about, hell is most likely on target.

Mice. The weasel and mice (or rats) are unclean (see leviticus). That means they should not be eaten, to do so is an abomination under the levitical code. Now the mouse comes back in Isaiah 66 (the last chapter of Isaiah). The people who are righteous essentially will flourish like grass, but god's foes will see fury. Then in verse 17 the following is about those who follow pagan ritual:

"17."Those who consecrate and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following the one in the midst of those who eat the flesh of pigs and rats and other abominable things--they will meet their end together," declares the Lord." NIV

The words "rats" is still translated as the word "mice" in many translations incuding the King James. So it is likely that the eating of mice (or rats), or even just their presence, would have symbolized much to the mind of the middle ages. Remember Lazarus was asking for food and drink from the rich man. Well here now is the rich man's food and drink. Mice and their blood.

Also, cross refernece the pied piper who would have been a "type" of Jesus in legend. Leading sin away and making it no more .... Jesus commands his followers to feed the poor to pay him back (they are to treat the poor as if they were jesus himself), the rich man does not do this and their is a retribution. There is also retribution in the pied piper legend when the villagers refuse to pay him back. The villagers children are even taken when the villagers are in church. Mice and rats were a big deal in the middle ages.

A Serpent's knee (which obviously does not exist except when we realize the words serpent and satan would have been exactly equal in their minds) would be the antithesis of abraham's bosom where Lazarus is placed. "Rock-a my soul in the bosom of abraham..."

#171 ::: David Kilpatrick ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2010, 07:55 AM:

Came across this thread (and site) looking more for the Nic Jones tune than for the words. Great thread, and a real antidote to my folk club members who care not a jot for tradition and think that any interest in the origin or meaning of songs spoils the party.

I was messing around with some chord fingerings on a drop-D tuned guitar with very dead strings when I made an E7th/G# shape which instantly recalled Nic's haunting harmonic sequence. So I started working out a version, but not satisfied, so went hunting dots or chords.

If I ever sing this, the words will change a bit because they always do.

And ref 'secure' in Scots - from the supposed early origins of D&L, the Scots word would have been 'siccar' with the emphasis on the first syllable. Used as 'sure' or 'certain' as well as 'secure' or 'safe'.

Don't know if Dives or Divers would have been a generic handle for someone wealthy, but Lazarus was generic for beggar or poor man - 'lazar', as in lazar-house.

I go with ice not mice, or just shortening the song by missing a verse or three.

David

#172 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2010, 08:11 AM:

Welcome, David! Lazar-houses were actually leper-houses, though of course all lepers were beggars.

#173 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2010, 01:54 PM:

"Dives" is of course Latin for "wealthy". The original Greek translates as "There was a wealthy man" (Ἄνθρωπος πλούσιος).

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