> Folk Music > Songs > Naughty Baby

The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery RhymesNaughy Baby

[ Roud 20649 ; trad.]

Naughty Baby is a nursery rhyme from Iona & Peter Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd ed., 1997, pp. 66-7 (rhyme 16)). Fay Hield sang it in 2012 on her second solo CD, Orfeo. She commented in her liner notes:

Exceptional folklorists Iona and Peter Opie write that the lullaby has been a recognised literary form in England for over six centuries. While many snippets of songs have survived from parent to child, or in the playground between children, I have not come across anyone who has any first-hand experience of this particular song. The baddies in the various collected versions have spanned generations referencing Menshikov, Black Old Knoll (Oliver Cromwell) and Wellington. The earliest reference comes from a corespondent in Notes & Queries who remembers hearing a version 1n 1836. I won't go into an in-depth analysis as the Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore (2000) rightly points out that “Nursery Rhymes have suffered the indignity of having more nonsense written about them than any other folklore genre.” Suffice to say that the text comes from the seminal The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (1951) edited by the Opies. I put a simple tune to it, influenced by the theme tune to I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue which I was listening to while reading the book.

You might notice that Fay's tune is eerily similar to the German national anthem, Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit.

Lyrics

The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes Fay Hield sings Naughty Baby

Baby, baby, naughty baby,
Hush, you squalling thing, I say,
Peace this moment, peace, or maybe
Bonaparte will pass this way.

Baby, baby, naughty baby,
Hush, you squalling thing, I say,
Peace this moment, peace, or maybe
Bonaparte will ride this way.

Baby, baby, he's a giant,
Tall and black as Rouen steeple,
And he breakfasts, dines, rely on't,
Every day on naughty people.

Baby, baby, he's a giant,
Tall and dark as Lincoln steeple,
And he breakfasts, dines, and dinners,
Every day on naughty people.

Baby, baby, if he hears you,
As he gallops past the house,
Limb from limb at once he'll tear you,
Just as pussy tears a mouse.

Baby, baby, if he hears you,
As he gallops past the house,
Limb from limb at once he'll tear you,
Just as pussy tears a mouse.

And he'll beat you, beat you, beat you,
And he'll beat you all to pap,
And he'll eat you, eat you, eat you,
Every morsel snap, snap, snap.

Then he'll beat you, beat you, beat you,
Then he'll beat you to a pulp,
Then he'll eat you, eat you, eat you,
In one mouthful, in one gulp.