The Worms Crawled Out, the Worms Crawled In

Tue Feb 15 05:29:41 UTC 2005

        You may recall that we earlier discussed "The worms they crept in, and the worms they crept out," from the poem Alonzo the Brave and Fair Imogine, by Matthew Gregory Lewis (1796), and the apparently related line, "The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out," from a children's poem usually called The Hearse Song or The Infirmary Song.  The natural supposition is that the children's poem, which exists in many forms, was influenced by the 1796 poem.  However, I have recently come across an 1810 children's poem that includes the line about the worms crawling, and it may well be that the children's poem is older and influenced Lewis.  The children's poem, of course, was collected, not written, in 1810; it is older than that, though exactly how much older it is impossible to say.  This is from The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes 260 - 61 (I. & P. Opie 1951), citing Gammer Gurton's Garland (1810):

<<There was a lady all skin and bone,
Sure such a lady was never known:
It happened upon a certain day,
This lady went to church to pray.

When she came to the church stile,
There she did rest a little while;
When she came to the church yard,
There the bells so loud she heard.

When she came to the church door,
She stopped to rest a little more;
When she came the church within,
The parson prayed 'gainst pride and sin.

On looking up, on looking down,
She saw a dead man on the ground;
And from his nose unto his chin,
The worms crawled out, the worms crawled in.

Then she unto the parson said,
Shall I be so when I am dead?
O yes! O yes, the parson said,
You will be so when you are dead.

_Here the lady screams._>>

John Baker

More information about the Ads-l mailing list