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'When The Bough Breaks The Cradle Will Fall' Collage

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In the olden times and in some places, even now mothers rock their babies in cradles hung on the branches of a tree, the wind would sway them or they would be lulled to sleep.

The first printed version from Mother Goose's Melody (London, c. 1765), has the following lyrics:

Rock-a-bye baby
in the tree top.
When the wind blows
the cradle will rock.
When the bough breaks,
the cradle will fall.
Down will come Baby,
Cradle and all.
The version from Songs for the Nursery (London, 1805), contains the wording:

Rock-a-bye baby, thy cradle is green,
Father's a nobleman, mother's a queen...
Alternate Lyrics as shown in The Real Mother Goose published in 1916:

Rock-a-bye baby, thy cradle is green;
Father's a nobleman, mother's a queen;
And Aggy's a lady, and wears a gold ring;
And Johnny's a drummer, and drums for the king.

The most common version used today is:

Rock-a-bye baby, on the tree tops,
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.
The 'full' version's lyrics are:

Rock-a-bye baby, in the tree tops
When the wind blows the cradle will rock
If the bough breaks, the cradle will fall
Mother will catch you, cradle and all
Baby is drowsing, cosy and fair
Mother sits near in her rocking chair
Forward and back, the cradle she swings
Though baby sleeps, he hears what she sings
“Rock-a-bye baby, do not you fear
Never mind, baby, mother is near
Wee little fingers, eyes are shut tight
Now sound asleep until morning light”


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Thanks suemarie, for your visit, comment and solve. I have thought the
same thing. Have a good week, fall is almost here, and I am looking
forward to working out in the yard in some cool weather.


It’s a relief to know that there’s a full version—I’ve always thought that this was a terrifying song to sing to a baby, with his/her cradle crashing to the ground from the top of a tree. What kind of lullaby is that?! LOL!

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