Sing this bright and bubbly song outside on a beautiful day.


Row, row, row your boat

Gently down the stream.

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

Life is but a dream.

When it comes to children's nursery rhymes that lift the spirits and leave you smiling, it's hard to beat "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," a pleasant little sing-along song with an endearing message about going with the flow and enjoying life.

There's not much to the "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" lyrics. Almost everyone knows at least the first verse, but not many people know where the song first originated.

"Row, Row, Row Your Boat" is credited to Eliphalet Oram Lyte, who is cited as its composer in the 1881 New York publication The Franklin Square Song Collection. The words have likely been around for longer, though. A recording was made in 1852 of a song with strikingly similar lyrics but a completely different tune. One theory suggests the lyrics might have emerged from American minstrel theater, and that Lyte may have been the one who put the words to the melody we know today.

These days, the song is popular among people of all ages. Young children often make a game of the song, pairing off with one another and holding hands, then learning forward and backward to mimic the rowing motion as they sing along to the lyrics. It's a fun activity that helps to exercise both cognitive and motor development.

"Row, Row, Row Your Boat" is also a camp and bus favorite, and many people have made up their own humorous verses to liven things up. With larger groups, it's frequently sung in a round, with smaller groups starting to sing at different times, so that parts of the melody overlap harmoniously. The result is a musical collage that is pleasing to the ear.

As with other nursery rhymes and nursery rhyme songs, many people have sought to interpret the "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" lyrics in hopes of unveiling some deeper meaning. Indeed, it's easy to extrapolate a spiritual or philosophical message, which is perhaps why the song strikes such a chord in so many people. But it could just as easily be that the vision of sitting in a boat, rowing easily along with the current while counting one's blessings, is simply relaxing and pleasing to consider.

Copyright © 2011 Meredith Corporation.

Related Features: