100 Days Of Blogging #24 – All The Pretty Little Horses

Whenever I put my daughter to bed, one of the two lullabies she requests is All The Pretty Little Horses. I can’t remember if it was sung to me as a child. I’ll have to check. Anyway, being a curious so-and-so who’s well aware that lullabies, more often than not, have sad or dark origins, I went searching for some backstory.

As it turns out, it’s an African-American lullaby from the mid-1800, likely earlier. It was originally sung by an African slave who had to leave her child (the lambie in the meadow) unattended to care for her master’s baby. 

To begin with, I was only aware of the two verses I’d been taught, though there was more. Of course, there were. The two verses I sing to Saga are as follows:  

Hush you bye, don’t you cry,

Go to sleep, little baby.

when you wake,

You shall have,

all the pretty little horses.


Blacks and Bays,

dapples and grays,

Coach and six a little horses.

Hush-a-by, Don’t you cry,

Go to sleep, my little baby.

Though the following additional verses exist too: 

Way down yonder

In the meadow

Poor little baby crying momma

Birds and the butterflies

Flutter ’round his eyes

Poor little baby crying momma


Down in the meadow

a wee little lamb

poor thing crying mama

birds and butterflies

flutter round its eyes

poor things crying mama

The above two verses have been adapted to make the song less ‘violent’ for the kids. The somewhat more grim version goes as follows:

The buzzards an’ the flies- A-pickin’ out his eyes, 

 An’ the poor li’l lamb say, Mammy, 

 An’ the poor li’l lamb say, Mammy.

A lot of people have been inspired by this song. Go look at the lengthy Wikipedia list; it’s impressive. I’ve enjoyed two adaptations recently, from Nick Cave & Current 93 and Coil. Both are perfectly morose, naturally. 

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