Nonsense Madrigals

Song Cycle by György Ligeti (1923 - 2006)

Word count: 867

1. The Dream of a Girl who Lived at Sevenoaks [sung text checked 1 time]

Seven sweet singing birds up in a tree;
Seven swift sailing ships white upon the sea;
Seven bright weather-cocks shining in the sun;
Seven slim race-horses ready for a run;
Seven gold butterflies, flitting overhead;
Seven red roses blowing in a garden bed;
Seven white lilies, with honey bees inside them;
Seven round rainbows with clouds to divide them;
Seven pretty little girls with sugar on their lips;
Seven witty little boys, whom everybody tips;
Seven nice fathers, to call little maids joys;
Seven nice mothers, to kiss the little boys;
Seven nights running I dreamt it all plain;
With bread and jam for supper I could dream it all again!

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Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

2. The Dream of a Boy who Lived at Nine Elms [sung text checked 1 time]

Nine grenadiers, with bayonets in their guns;
Nine bakers' baskets, with hot cross buns;
Nine brown elephants standing in a row;
Nine new velocipedes, good ones to go;
Nine knickerbocker suits, with buttons all complete;
Nine pairs of skates with straps for the feet;
Nine clever conjurors eating hot coals;
Nine sturdy mountaineers leaping on their poles;
Nine little drummer-boys beating on their drums;
Nine fat aldermen sitting on their thumbs;
Nine new knockers to our front door;
Nine new neighbours that I never saw before;
Nine times running I dreamt it all plain;
With bread and cheese for supper I could dream it all again!

Authorship

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

3. Cantus firmus: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bat [sung text checked 1 time]

Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!
How I wonder what you're at!
Up above the world you fly,
Like a tea-tray in the sky.

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Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

This is a parody of Twinkle, twinkle, little star.


Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

4. Cuckoo in the Pear-Tree [sung text checked 1 time]

The Cuckoo sat in the old pear-tree,
  Cuckoo!
Raining or snowing, nought cared he.
  Cuckoo!
Cuckoo, cuckoo, nought cared he.

The Cuckoo flew over a housetop high.
  Cuckoo!
"Dear, are you at home, for here am I?
  Cuckoo!
Cuckoo, cuckoo, here am I."

"I dare not open the door to you.
  Cuckoo!
Perhaps you are not the right cuckoo?
  Cuckoo!
Cuckoo, cukoo, the right Cuckoo!"

"I am the right Cuckoo, the proper one.
  Cuckoo!
For I am my father's only son,
  Cuckoo!
Cuckoo, cuckoo, his only son."

"If you are your father's only son -
  Cuckoo!
The bobbin pull tightly,
Come through the door lightly -
  Cuckoo!

"If you are your father's only son -
  Cuckoo!
It must be you, the only one -
Cuckoo, cuckoo, my own Cuckoo!
  Cuckoo!"

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Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

5. The Alphabet [sung text checked 1 time]

A B C D ...

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

6. Flying Robert [sung text checked 1 time]

When the rain comes tumbling down
In the country or the town,
All good little girls and boys
Stay at home and mind their toys.
Robert thought; "No, when it pours,
It's better out of doors." Rain it did,
And in a minute Bob was in it;
Here you see him, silly fellow,
Underneath his red umbrella!

What a wind! Oh! How it whistles
Through the trees and flowers and thistles!
Oh! It has caught his red umbrella!
Now look at him, silly fellow,
Up he flies to the skies!
No one heard his screams and cries!
Through the clouds the rude wind bore him,
And his hat flew on before him;
And the hat went up so high,
That it really touch'd the sky.

Soon they got to such a height,
They were nearly out of sight.
No one ever yet could tell
Where they stopp'd or where they fell.
Only this one thing is plain,
Bob was never seen again...

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Based on

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

7. The Lobster Quadrille [sung text checked 1 time]

"Will you walk a little faster?" said a whiting to a snail.
"There's a porpoise close behind us, and he's treading on my tail.
See how eagerly the lobsters and the turtles all advance!
They are waiting on the shingle -- will you come and join the dance? 
Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, will you join the dance?

"You can really have no notion how delightful it will be
When they take us up and throw us, with the lobsters, out to sea!"
But the snail replied "Too far, too far!" and gave a look askance --
Said he thanked the whiting kindly, but he would not join the dance.
Would not, could not, would not, could not, would not join the dance.

"What matters it how far we go?" his scaly friend replied.
"There is another shore, you know, upon the other side.
The [further]1 off from England the nearer is to France --
Then turn not pale, beloved snail, but come and join the dance. 
Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, will you join the dance?"

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Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

View original text (without footnotes)
1Ligeti: "farther"

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

8. A Long, Sad Tale [sung text checked 1 time]

"Off with her head!"
Head, heal, teal, tell, tall, tail...

"Mine is a long and a sad tale!"
"It is a long tail, certainly,
but why do you call it sad?"
Turn witch into fairy.
Witch, winch, wench, tench, tenth, tents, tints,
  tilts, tills, fills, falls, fails, fairs, fairy!

Fury said to a mouse,
That he met in the house,
"Let us both go to law:
I will prosecute you. -- Come,
I'll take no denial;
We must have a trial:
For really this morning
I've nothing to do." 

Furies, buries, buried, burked, barked, barred, barrel...

Said the mouse to the cur,
"Such a trial, dear Sir,
With no jury or judge,
would be wasting our breath."
"I'll be judge, I'll be jury,"
Said cunning old Fury:
"I'll try the whole cause,
and condemn you to death."
Quilt, guilt, guile, guide, glide, slide, slice, spice,
  spine, spins, shins, shies, shier, sheer, sheet...

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Note: this text contains fragments from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland [1] and Lewis Carroll's papers [2], published posthumously in The Lewis Carroll Picture Book, ed. by Stuart Dodgson Collingwood, Unwin, London, 1899, chapter 6, "Games and Puzzles", called "Doublets" also "Word-Links". Line 1 comes from chapter 8 of [1]; Line 2 comes from p. 279 of [2]; lines 3-5 come from chapter 3 of [1]; lines 6-8 come from pages 285-286 of [2]; lines 9-16 come from chapter 3 of [1]; line 17 comes from pages 285-286 of [2]; lines 18-25 come from chapter 3 of [1]; and lines 26-27 come from pages 285-286 of [2].


Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]