Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 17: Nos 1-2) >> Simms's Unpublished Rhymes >> Page 43

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Page 43

Secondary Scholarship | 2009
Transcription 43 THE SIMMS REVIEW

the midland speech areas of Philadelphia and western Pennsylvania (Hall
Simms also writes lullaby songs. One in particular that he cre-
ates echoes what is undoubtedly the most well-known lullaby in Europe
or America—"Hush-a-bye, baby, on the tree top"—which ends with the
ominous warning, "When the bow breaks the cradle will fall, / Down
will come baby, cradle and all" (Opie 61). Simms's lullaby song takes the
same familiar form, but his version tenderly reassures us that the child is
safe and protected from all harm:
Hushabye, Baby, upon the tree top;
Never you fear that your cradle will drop:
The breeze, will rock, and the leaves will shade,
So, hushabye, Baby, and don't be afraid.
Mama is right there and watching to Sea,
And the mocking bird sings in the very next tree.
So, hushabye, Baby, upon the tree top,
And never you fear that the cradle will drop.
In rhymes like this one, it is not difficult to imagine Simms singing to his
own children as they drift off to sleep. Another category that frequently
appears in the collection is the alphabet rhyme, which Simms often casts
in the form of a riddle as in the following rhyme illustrates:
I'm in your hat. I'm in your head,
But you never catch me in your bed.
I'm in your cat, I'm in your cream,
Not in your sleep, yet in your dreams.
("The Letter A.")
Simms includes a rhyming riddle for every letter in the alphabet, and
he includes some number rhymes as well. These types of rhymes are
common throughout the Mother Goose canon and are designed to teach
young children their alphabet and numbers.
Since Simms himself was a father, it is not hard to imagine that
many of the rhymes in the collection reflect his experiences at Woodlands
and his relationships with his own children. One rhyme clearly is shaped
by a personal reminiscence from his own home:
Hey! Ling-a-ling, hey ling-a-ling,
I'm away for the grape vine swing.
It needs but a single spring,