Two lovers lay / In a field of tall wheat / Quietly comes the combine
July 21, 2013 1:46 PM   Subscribe

The "sadistic verses" are a genre of Russian schoolyard rhymes marked by extremely dark humor. For example, "Two lovers lay / In a field of tall wheat / Quietly, quietly comes the combine / Grandmother spits out the cloth / She has found inside her bread." Unfortunately, English compilations are a bit hard to find. Here's a blog post by a Georgian (US state) who moved to Moscow and collected a few, and here's a more scholarly PDF which also quotes many examples. posted by d. z. wang (45 comments total) 67 users marked this as a favorite
 
Little boy
Sits on his father’s knee
What a lovely red button, he says
Madagascar was a nice island



Well, that's one solution for Pandemic.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:51 PM on July 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Man, calling these "dark" is really under-selling it.

Also don't miss the "Read more about the Couplets" link at the bottom of the first article.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:55 PM on July 21, 2013


Correct pdf link.
posted by kenko at 2:12 PM on July 21, 2013


Combines are quiet?
posted by telstar at 2:17 PM on July 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


This one was because otherwise there's not much of a joke and it turns into "two lovers lay / in a field of tall wheat / but then they heard the combine coming so they got up and left to go home and everything was fine"
posted by titus n. owl at 2:19 PM on July 21, 2013 [15 favorites]


Oh, I dunno, calling these things dark is like calling Robot Chicken dark: only partially true. The humor is in the incongruity.

What really struck me about these is the amazing lifespan of these things. At one point I brought one home from the third-grade schoolyard and my mother and aunt completed it for me. Apparently, I was missing a couple verses.

There is also a huge number of the things in active circulation, although they obviously get updated and revised in the telling. But that may not be especially surprising given the much larger role of poetry in Russian culture, compared to poetry in English.
posted by Nomyte at 2:28 PM on July 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


[Fixed the link! ]
posted by restless_nomad at 2:31 PM on July 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


The ones in the .pdf seem to have been coerced into rhyming in English, which seems to me a pointless and distorting exercise.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:39 PM on July 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


That doesn't seem so different from the gruesome poems kids have been reciting in America for over a century.

Little Willie pushed his sister Nell
down into the drinking well.
She's there yet, 'cause it kilt her
now we have to buy a filter.
posted by happyroach at 2:41 PM on July 21, 2013 [23 favorites]


That doesn't seem so different from the gruesome poems kids have been reciting in America for over a century.

Could you please share more? They're a little tough to google for.
posted by Nomyte at 2:50 PM on July 21, 2013


Could you please share more? They're a little tough to google for.

This might be a good place to start:
http://ruthlessrhymes.com/
Or do a search for "pushed sister Nell"

And one of my favorites:

Little Willie in thirst of gore
nailed the baby to the door
Mother said with humor quaint
"Willie dear, please don't mar the paint"
posted by happyroach at 3:02 PM on July 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Searching for "now we have to buy a filter" got me to this lovely little page and some similar ones.
Willie found some dynamite.
He couldn't understand it quite.
Curiosity seldom pays.
It rained Willie seven days.
Has the obvious Russian analog of
Маленький мальчик нашел динамит.
Вон его челюсть на ветке висит.
This is found on page 74 of this 93-page collection of "little boy" rhymes.

The "mar the paint" and other variations suggest that these (a) are typically transmitted orally, (b) are quite old, and (c) may not necessarily be American, but possibly originate with English-speaking immigrants. I wonder if there is a tradition of these things in Ireland.
posted by Nomyte at 3:06 PM on July 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


Wait, is this the Russian version of that whole "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells" genre of American schoolyard verse?
posted by Sara C. at 3:45 PM on July 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


We had a little Willie,
Now Willie is no more,
'Cause what he thought was H2O
Was H2SO4.
posted by leahwrenn at 4:03 PM on July 21, 2013 [12 favorites]


My dad used to recite "Willie found some dynamite" to me when I was a kid. He learned it as a kid himself, in the 50's in Greater Boston, though he always said "curiosity never pays." I don't remember him saying any others, but that might have to do with the subject matter and my age at the time. I'm definitely going to try to remember to ask him if he knows more.

These sorts of organic, mouth-to-ear schoolyard transmissions fascinate me. I can't wait to bring up "Willie Found Some Dynamite" the next time Marty Farty has a party.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:23 PM on July 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Did you mention Little Willies (First link on Google)
posted by kewb at 5:45 PM on July 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sara C.: To be honest, "Jingle bells, Batman smells" is the only example of its kind I've ever heard. Speaking of willies, I think the Russian genre goes a little beyond the schoolyard. Googling around for another one of these, I found an interesting variation that, sadly, requires languagehat-level talent to translate accurately.

    Раньше были времена,
    А теперь — мгновения.
    Раньше поднимался х*й,
    А теперь — давление!
posted by Nomyte at 6:33 PM on July 21, 2013


That doesn't seem so different from the gruesome poems kids have been reciting in America for over a century.

As a kid I found a book on my dad's bookshelf which was, essentially, this same thing as this post but for American kids' folk rhymes. Not all of them were gruesome, but I brought this one with me to school, where it became wildly popular:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the burning of the school
we have tortured every teacher, we have broken every rule
we hung the secretary and we'll drown the principal
our truth is marching on!

Glory, glory hallelujah
teacher hit me with a ruler
I bopped her on the bean
with a rotten tangerine
and she ain't gonna teach no more


Of course the chorus lends itself to improvisation, like "I hit her in the attic with a semiautomatic" and so on.

Oh, sweet, innocent child that I once was!
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:02 PM on July 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


These American songs get sung at Summer Camp. I love these Russian ones. They are so delightfully morbid.
There is a tradition of street rhymes in Ireland, mainly in the English language. It's an urban thing. Some of these rhymes are morbid, many are satirical.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:18 PM on July 21, 2013


That doesn't seem so different from the gruesome poems kids have been reciting in America for over a century.

Little Willie pushed his sister Nell
down into the drinking well.
She's there yet, 'cause it kilt her
now we have to buy a filter.


Hunh. The version I know was tighter and, to my thinking, more world-weary:

In the drinking well
(Which the plumber built her)
Aunt Eliza fell;
We must buy a filter.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:25 PM on July 21, 2013


There's also

Annabelle, where are you going?
Upstairs to take a bath.

Annabelle, with legs like toothpicks,
and a neck like a giraffe.

Annabelle stepped in the water.

Annabelle pulled out the plug.

Oh my goodness, oh my soul!
There goes Annabelle down the hole!

Glug glug glug

(Which I think is the classic song your parents sing to you in the bath, or at least mine did. I was a skinny and nervous little girl and it always made me feel vaguely uncomfortable.)
posted by Sara C. at 9:10 PM on July 21, 2013


Can someone explain the first one in the blog post?
posted by justkevin at 10:14 PM on July 21, 2013


Can someone explain the first one in the blog post?

Inexplicably, it's actually a combination of the punchlines to three separate rhymes.

Lines 1-2 are originally something like "Добрый прохожий спичку поднес." They come from rhymes in which little boys go snooping around construction sites and fall into barrels of gasoline or something else flammable.

Lines 5-6 are originally "Долго я буду помнить во сне / Ее голубые глаза на сосне." They come from rhymes of the form "A little girl/old woman/whoever goes to the woods/fields/meadows and finds/stumbles upon/steps on what turns out to be some explosive/land mine."

Can't quite think of the middle couplet.
posted by Nomyte at 10:42 PM on July 21, 2013


A chaperone on a high school trip to Russia taught me this one.

Sasha the dog lies dead in a bog
The children cry over the carcass
A mist fills my heart, covers the mourners
At least, this year, we eat.


I always wondered where the hell that came from.
posted by rouftop at 11:11 PM on July 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


My favorite is:

Little Willie with a shout
Fell in the fire and put it out
Though the room was growing chilly
We couldn't bear to poke poor Willie.,
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:19 PM on July 21, 2013


I knew one as a kid:

Heigh ho, heigh ho!
It's off to school we go
With hand grenades and razor blades
Heigh ho, heigh ho!

It was sung to the tune of the song the Seven Dwarves sing in Snow White. That was the only verse I ever heard although Google tells me there were a couple more.
posted by deborah at 1:05 AM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


showbiz_liz: "Of course the chorus lends itself to improvisation, like "I hit her in the attic with a semiautomatic" and so on.
"

We sang, "I hid behind the door, with a loaded .44."
posted by Chrysostom at 5:46 AM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Little Willie with a shout
Gouged the baby's eyeballs out
Stamped on them to make them pop
Said his mother, "Stop, Will, Stop!"
posted by kinnakeet at 6:04 AM on July 22, 2013


Kids love dark humor! I remember lots of "gross-out" jokes during the 60s, along the lines of:

Mrs. Smith, can Freddy come out to play?
You kids know very well that poor Freddy has no arms or legs!
That's okay, we just wanted to use him for first base.

Also

What's worse than sliding down a banister and having it turn into a razor blade?
I give up.
Landing in a tub full of rubbing alcohol.

These jokes were told by kids to kids; I'll bet there are versions of these still floating around bus stops and playgrounds today.
posted by kinnakeet at 6:10 AM on July 22, 2013


A popular form when I was a kid were the "You know it's gross when..." variety.

You bight into a hotdog, and find veins.
You throw your underwear against the wall, and they stick.

Etc etc.
posted by Goofyy at 6:19 AM on July 22, 2013


Glory, glory hallelujah
teacher hit me with a ruler
I bopped her on the bean
with a rotten tangerine
and she ain't gonna teach no more


I remember this one from the mid70s,
Before the Interwebs.

I reckon things don't grab currency anymore, so they get forgotten.
posted by Mezentian at 6:58 AM on July 22, 2013


I reckon things don't grab currency anymore, so they get forgotten.

Also, we're in the age of zero tolerance, so you're less likely to hear other kids singing songs about violence against teachers or morbid little ditties. Such stuff now means expulsion, therapy, maybe even criminal charges.
posted by kewb at 7:12 AM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ours was "Hit her in the bank with a US Army tank."
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:22 AM on July 22, 2013


Um, can someone explain the Madagascar one? I don't get it at all.
posted by threeants at 8:45 AM on July 22, 2013


My wife sings that bathtub song Sara C mentioned to our 2 and 4 year olds. They think it's hilarious. The oldest also really enjoyed breaking his leg and dying in Oregon Trail.

yes, I play Apple II emulators with my kids, and yes I know that's kind if weird
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:10 AM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, we're in the age of zero tolerance, so you're less likely to hear other kids singing songs about violence against teachers or morbid little ditties. Such stuff now means expulsion, therapy, maybe even criminal charges.

FWIW we NEVER ever sang these songs or told these jokes around teachers or any other authority figures in school. They were for the far corner of the playground at recess, the back of the school bus (or unsupervised waiting for the bus in the morning/walking home in the afternoon), and other minimally supervised spaces. And anytime an adult heard this stuff -- usually parents, usually at home -- we'd get an earful about how morbid/awful/tacky/obnoxious it was.

From an American context, half the fun of this stuff was transgressing the rules and not getting caught. It's something I remember in the same world as looking up "anus" and "sex" in the dictionary in the school library, dirty jokes, and whispered swear words.
posted by Sara C. at 9:43 AM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Um, can someone explain the Madagascar one? I don't get it at all.

Wikipedia article on russian jokes has something similar:

A missile silo officer falls asleep during his watch, with his face on the control board and hits the "red button". As the colonel comes in, the officer snaps up and proudly reports: "Nothing to report during my watch, comrade Colonel". "Nothing to report, you say? Nothing to report?! Then where the hell is Belgium?!!"
posted by ringu0 at 9:54 AM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


S'more Little Willy verses:

Willie, in a rage insane,
Threw his head beneath the train.
All were quite surprised to find
How it broadened Willie's mind.

Dr. Jones fell in the well
And died without a moan.
He should have tended to the sick
And left the well alone.

Little Willy took the garden shears
And cut off both of baby's ears.
On seeing baby so unsightly
Mother raised her eyebrows...slightly.

Little Willy on his bike
Through the village took a hike.
Mrs Thompson blocked the walk...
She will live but still cant talk.

I especially like this twist on the classic version, by Jesse M. Hays:

A crocodile swimming with Will in the Ganges,
Deprived him of radius, ulna, phalanges;
Said Will as the creature swam off with his humerus,
“I fear that my bones are becoming less numerous.”

–Jesse M. Hays
posted by misha at 10:22 AM on July 22, 2013


Oh, and for a data point, we had as kids
Glory, glory, Hallelujah
Tracher hit me with a ruler
Shot her in the butt
With a rotten coconut
And we didn't go back no more (or there ain't no school no more).

Deplorable, I know. The poor grammar bothers me more than the imaginary violence. Also, LOLBUTTS.
posted by misha at 10:45 AM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


The poor grammar bothers me more than the imaginary violence.

Hmph, it's a perfectly acceptable alternate English dialect I'll have you know!
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:04 AM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


On top of Old Smokey
All covered in blood
I shot my poor teacher
With a 44 slug

I went to her funeral
I went to her grave
everybody threw flowers
I threw a grenade
---

That's the version I recall from elementary school days. Nowadays singing that would likely land one in prison.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:03 PM on July 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Aren't you forgetting the last verse?

I shot her with pleasure,
I shot her with pride,
I couldn't have missed her
she was forty feet wide

posted by showbiz_liz at 12:07 PM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Shot her in the butt
With a rotten coconut


Where I grew up it was "Met her at the door/With a loaded 44". Nowadays we'd all be expelled, if not arrested.
posted by Daily Alice at 1:29 PM on July 22, 2013


I actually taught my kids some of these, either while jumping rope or swinging on the swing set trying to tip it over. No way would I teach them to my grand-kids in this day of zero-tolerance for over-the-top kid humor.
posted by BlueHorse at 5:06 PM on July 22, 2013


Aren't you forgetting the last verse?

There actually was another verse as I recall, but that doesn't sound like it... time to delve deeper into weird children's rhymes.
posted by FatherDagon at 8:50 AM on July 23, 2013


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