J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Wednesday, June 05, 2013

The “Too Obscene” Verses of “Yankee Doodle”

Earlier this spring, while searching for uses of the phrase “King Hancock,” I skimmed a 1909 report from the Library of Congress. Oscar George Theodore Sonneck analyzed the histories of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “Hail Columbia,” “America,” and “Yankee Doodle” for the U.S. government.

On the last song, Sonneck quoted a British broadside from the late 1770s headlined “Yankee Doodle, or (as now christened by the Saints of New England) The Lexington March.” He reprinted six of the verses and added, “Stanzas sixth and seventh are too obscene for quotation.”


As a public service (albeit one already performed by other, more recent books and websites), Boston 1775 presents the verses that a century ago were too obscene for government work:

Seth’s mother went to Lynn
To buy a pair of breeches,
The first time father put them on
He tore out all the stitches;
Dolly Bushel let a fart,
Jenny Jones she found it,
Ambrose carried it to mill
Where Doctor Warren ground it.

Our Jemina’s lost her mare
And can’t tell where to find her,
But she’ll come trotting by and by
And bring her tail behind her.
Two and two may go to bed,
Two and two together,
And if there is not room enough,
Lie one a top o’ t’other.
The name “Doctor Warren” offers a whiff of contemporary political significance to the first verse, but the second appears to be just general naughtiness. Still, we value a complete historical record.


Rob Velella said...

"General naughtiness" indeed!

John L Smith Jr said...

John Adams would have condemned it (and the author); Washington would have been embarrassed by it; and Dr. Warren would have appreciated the PR for "the Cause".